Oh look at that, more Ys. Here's a review of the PC update of the PSP remake of the first Ys game, Ancient Ys Vanished: Omen. Yeah, weird choice for a title. In the body of this review I'll just call it Ys I.
I won't bore you with my personal history of Ys, because I covered it in my review for The Oath in Felghana and it's only been about 4 months since I've ever seriously tried an Ys game. Just check the "Why Yes" label on this post and you can find all of the posts related to Ys. That'll work. So yeah, I played Oath in Felghana two months ago, and I liked it so much that I picked up the Ys Chronicles+ collection (containing Ys I and II) and Ys Origin (a standalone prequel taking place 700 years prior to Ys I) on a Steam sale. Here's the review for Ys I, which I finished in late November; reviews of those other two are forthcoming. Hopefully.
Look, I won't sugarcoat it - Ys I shows its age... a little too obviously. Its basic framework is similar to Oath in Felghana, in which Adol finds himself in a mysterious new land and eventually becomes its destined hero. He interacts with NPCs, fights monsters, finds magical artifacts, and crashes through dungeons to save the day. It's more than a little generic, but there are a few fun characters along for the ride. That part is fine. However, Ys I uses "bump combat" in which Adol attacks enemies by running into them. If he hits them directly, both Adol and the monster take damage. If Adol hits them at an angle, only the monster takes damage. If a monster hits Adol from the side or rear, Adol takes huge damage. If Adol's attack or defense is too low, he won't do any damage at all and might get pushed away from an enemy even on a safe hit. It encourages Adol moving around and getting good position, but it also feels like gameplay tradition that should have died two decades ago. It lives on in this remake package.
Now, the remade nature of the package is actually pretty nice. You can toggle between the visuals and audio of the 2001 PC version or the later PSP version, which this recent Steam release is based on. The sprites look clean and the music is quite nice indeed. The anime cutscenes at the start and end of each game look great. There are even subtle sword strike animations that pop as you run through your enemies. There are a ton of small things in Ys I that are pleasant indeed, but it's hard for me to get past that bump combat.
The gist of Ys I is a common thread into Ys II and The Oath in Felghana - you run through dungeons, find items, and talk to NPCs, triggering new plot events and new information of the world of Ys. This event flagging was a slightly irritating part of The Oath in Felghana, and in Ys I it dictates the flow of the game in a major way. You can't get item A until you talk to every NPC in the first village; you get item X by finding item Y and giving it back to NPC Z and talking to the giant Roda Tree; it's a little annoying and it's not always clear or logical what the next order of business is. I used a guide to beat Ys I in large part because the event flagging was so obtuse.
Ys I's dungeons are a little less unique and interesting than the dungeons in The Oath in Felghana (or Ys II for that matter), but they get the job done and are honestly as good or better than the settings of its contemporary RPGs, i.e. the first few Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest games. The bosses in Ys I are... a mixed bag. They're distinct from one another, but run the gamut between laughably easy (3 out of the 6) to tricky roadblocks that are impossible without the proper equipment (2 out of the 6) to complete insanity with victory more based on chance than player skill (the final boss). Seriously. Fuck Dark Fact.
But hey, did I dislike the game despite the bump combat, weird event flags, and unfair final boss? Mostly. Ys I is beatable in 4 or 5 hours, and there are only three dungeons, three towns, and six bosses. It's a game of its time (the late 80s), but it's decent history lesson if you're interested in the Ys series or have an appreciation of oldschool RPGs. I'm definitely both of those.
Games Beaten: 2013 Edition
1. Persona 4
2. Pokemon White Version 2
4. Persona 4 Arena
5. Persona 3 FES: The Journey (NG+)
6. Hexyz Force
7. Persona 4 (NG+)
9. Tales of Vesperia
11. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
12. Final Fantasy VI Advance
13. Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4
14. inFamous 2 Evil Finish
15. Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis
16. Torchlight II (Classist)
17. Donkey Kong Country Returns
18. DuckTales Remastered
19. Ys vs. Sora no Kiseki: Alternative Saga
20. Diablo III
21. Ys: The Oath in Felghana
22. Ancient Ys Vanished: Omen
23. Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness
24. Ancient Ys Vanished: The Final Chapter
25. Ys Origin
I only have a few more days before 2013 is over, and I have enough time to beat Metroid Prime. I think. I hope. I should probably be writing. Or playing.