Alright, so I’m a little late to hop onto the Ys bandwagon. The long-running (at least in Japan) series debuted back in 1988 when I was just old enough to hold a controller, but still too young to comprehend the complexity of action RPGs. Even Ys Eternal, a remake of first game, isn’t exactly spankin’ new. However, old age wasn’t a much of a hindrance when I got into Ys Eternal, since the wonderful simplicity took precedence. It’s just too bad that the “wonderful simplicity” had to share the stage with some annoying backtracking.
The game opens up with the crimson-haired Adol being shipwrecked, washed ashore, and hospitalized. When the hero comes to, he learns that he is on the island country of Esteria. Much like Link, our hero has no dialogue, but that doesn’t seem to bother anybody that talks to him. Despite his silence, Adol finds out that monsters have recently appeared out of nowhere. Even worse, the Storm Barrier that has formed over the sea, secluding the people of Esteria from the rest of the world. It’s a miracle that Adol was able to get through the Storm Barrier without dying.
“The plot is simple, which is good considering the entire game is in Japanese.”What’s truly miraculous, and wholly predictable, is that Adol is some sort of chosen hero that can rescue the island from peril. By traveling to a few dungeons, stabbing lots of baddies, and solving some simple puzzles, Adol might be able to liberate Esteria’s inhabitants from monsters and the mysterious black-caped man that is occasionally spotted doing ominous things. The plot is simple, which is good considering the entire game is in Japanese. Don’t worry: an excellent unofficial English patch has been released.
The bare-bones plot isn’t really a problem since the easy-to-grasp gameplay compliments it nicely. Initially, Ys Eternal appears to be a Zelda knockoff, complete with the same view, a comparable world to explore, and a similarly stout sword-wielding character. However, the fast-paced combat is what stands out. There’s no attack button: all you need to do is approach the enemy and the sword swings automatically. Sprinting into an enemy head-on isn’t too effective since Adol gets hit with some heavy damage, so moving at just the right moment to hit the enemy in the side is the way to go. This battle system makes for some speedy fights, since I basically held the sprint button the entire game. Although it looked a little silly to sometimes circle a baddie a few times before landing a strike, I appreciated how it was so easy to speed along after getting a kill.
“When I got to the repetitive end I just wanted to be done with Ys Eternal“The fast-paced combat also makes for some pleasantly frenzied boss fights. Although these epic battles don’t require much strategy or planning, they do require quick reflexes. Running around like a mad man will only get you so far, so striking at the right moment and dodging blows is the way to go. Although the boss fights are brief, there’s a nifty time attack mode where you can fight all the bosses with a timer keeping track of how long it takes to defeat each boss.
It’s a good thing that the combat is so quick, because due to the excessive backtracking, getting through some of the areas would become excruciating. The final dungeon is a massive 20-plus storey tower, and to advance the narrative, you constantly have to climb up and down the building to the point of frustration. There’s some other backtracking in the game, but there isn’t anywhere near as much as there is at the end. It’s really a shame because I was enjoying the game greatly, though when I got to the repetitive end I just wanted to be done with Ys Eternal.
One good thing about the backtracking is that it does extend the length of an otherwise incredibly brief game. Considering the short length and blisteringly-fast combat, playing through Ys Eternal is not only an interesting diversion, but a throwback to the simpler days of RPGs. Forgive the cliché, but even though Ys Eternal may not have aged like a fine wine, it’s certainly drinkable.