YS STRATEGY / Falcom / Nintendo DS
 
 
The Ys series has built a strong cult fandom that enjoys its fast action, anime art and wailing butt rock. Ys Strategy has none of those things ... well, save a little butt rock, in the form of tunes remixed from classic Ys games. It's a very strange release -- did anybody ever WANT an Ys strategy title? Even stranger that it rolls with an RTS style, instead of the turn-based SRPG style that games that share the Ys aesthetic usually go with.

Ys Strategy patterns itself after the roots of the genre, the most basic PC RTS titles like Dune 2 and the very first Warcraft. In certain ways, it's even more primitive, however. Our story is that Adol Crispy (here called Abel Oven Baked for some unknown reason) once again has washed up on some land with amnesia, and this time he gets himself entangled in a search for Five Mystical Gems that a number of kingdoms are vying for. It's a multiplayer title with various factions, though, so the campaign mode actually finds ways to jump between them and give you a chance to play them all as a sampler.
 


The mystery of this title's existence might be solved by simple economics; there was a dearth of RTS games on the DS when it was released in 2006. My cursory research reveals that Ys Strategy was the first "real" fantasy-themed RTS available for the system (there's an oddball game called Magnant that was technically first), beating Heroes of Mana to market by almost a full year. So in all likelihood this was just a rushjob to be the first into an empty category, and Falcom just slapped the Ys coating on it since they felt that was their strongest franchise.

Whatever the case, it's slow and not much fun. The "campaign" mode actually turns out to be a really, really long tutorial, with very long talking-head sequences stuffed between battles designed around teaching only one or two basic mechanics at a time. And the story is boring, hopping between a cast that reaches Game of Thrones-ian quantities (but never quality) and spending so little time with each that you never have any reason to care about anything that's going on.

So that leaves you with just the gameplay, and that doesn't stand up either. The core problem is that the pace of the game is just too slow -- it takes pissing forever to build anything new, and the sub-Sega Genesis graphics do nothing to help hold your interest while you're sitting around twiddling.


                     Better than this game is gonna do



If you manage to slog through the insanely long tutorial and get to the handful of actual battles at the end of it, you'll find that you can simply Tower Defense your way to victory against the computer every time, and in fact that's the best play since you have to spend so much time sitting and watching stuff build anyway. Ys Strategy lets you win by wiping out the enemy in most maps, but there's always an alternate victory condition of building a thing called an Emlas Tower. Build this somewhere behind all your defenses and keep it intact for a few minutes and you win the map. Between the computer's lack of aggression, predictable unit attack patterns, and godawful pathing it's trivial to win every map this way. I suppose this could all get a little better in multiplayer, which the game seems a bit more geared to, but as with all oldschool DS games you'll have a time getting that set up these days.

The one point of interest I could see here for the solo-playing Ys fan is that it expands the lore of the universe somewhat, letting you get up close and personal with some factions that appear in the mainline games like the Rommun Empire and the Vikings. Nothing really interesting ever happens with them story-wise though, and the spartan production values again don't do anything to fire the imagination here. The whole thing actually feels kind of divorced from the mainline Ys universe, like it's a fan-made game.
 
 
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