21 - Ys I&II Complete (PC)

Ys came along at a time when I was really at a low in gaming, and it pretty much single-handedly revitalised my passion for the old days - or at least it made me realise I was looking for my gaming fix in the wrong places.

My only previous experience with the series was a few hours with the Master System version when it first came out. Since then Falcom has done its level best to avoid releasing or promoting the series in Europe (at least in the US they got a few more installments). Being a fan of videogame music, it was that which brought me to the games themselves.

No strangers to reinventing and remaking their classics, Falcom have released Ys I and II on many formats, but their primary concern in Japan is the PC market (console versions are normally handed out to other developers). Ys I & II Complete is obviously a remake of the first two games in the series, and things are actually very similar to the original incarnations. They went with the overhead 2D look, and the structure and control of the game remains intact. That said, the visuals have naturally undergone a transformation, making the game one of the most visually attractive RPGs out there. I don't mean in terms of graphical extravagance though - this is very much in traditional bitmaps and sprites territory - I mean that there's a charm here that the vast majority of games lack.

The attention to little details is wonderful, from grass and trees blowing in the wind to the animations of characters and animals. The large-scale character portraits used in conversation are done in a classic Anime style and are very accomplished. This being an Ys game again the music is unequalled. Perhaps not as exhilarating as the score for Oath in Felghana, but it has a different, gentler style that fits the simpler gameplay.

And the gameplay is quite simple. There is no attack action - combat is carried out by simply bumping into opponents. There's a bit of skill involved in attacking from the side or back (in which case Adol takes no damage in return), but on the whole it's more about being well equipped enough to take on whatever is around. You'll swiftly find out if you've strayed too far from the path you're supposed to be on at any given point.

It's this combination of simple gameplay, lovingly-drawn graphics and wonderful music that sold me on Ys. I find the game infinitely replayable because it's so relaxed and fun to play (that's not to say it doesn't hold a challenge - boss battles are usually quite difficult and there are a number of difficulty modes to play on). It took me back to more enjoyable time and type of game, unburdened by complicated controls, time investment and the demands of modern systems.

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