If you couldn’t guess from the title, this little game serves as a prequel to the entire Ys series. It sets the backdrop for all of the games that follow, taking place hundreds of years before any other entries in the franchise. As this game originally released on Japan way back in 2006, one would think that it would be severely dated by today’s standards. However, if you approach the game for what it is – a simple and fun hack n’ slash action RPG – you will not be disappointed.
The game begins by explaining the Darm Tower and how it was created. Demons and darkness were invading the world, so the twin goddesses sent their palace high into the sky to escape the destruction. Following suit, the demons constructed a tower, The Darm Tower, to chase after them. Once this new tower of evil was built, the twin goddesses were lost, nowhere to be found.
The game lets you choose between two characters at the start – Yunica, an axe-wielding warrior, or Hugo, the mage character of the game. This is nice, as it bucks the usual stereotype of boy = warrior, and girl = mage. The game starts out with five difficulties to choose from, ensuring a play-style suitable for any gamer.
For those familiar with the series already, you may notice these are both new characters, seeing as how the game is a prequel set hundreds of years before the other games. Depending on which character you choose, the game will actually end up being quite different. Each characters back-story is unique, they have their own dialogue, NPCs interact with them differently, etc. This adds an extra layer of depth to the story that isn’t really found in these types of games often.
Gameplay generally consists of exploring the tower (where the entire game takes place,) mashing buttons to fight enemies, leveling up, learning new abilities, etc. There is nothing revolutionary here, but it does everything very well. You can also jump, which is a feature lacking from many games in this genre sadly enough.
While the gameplay is as tight as you could want, and there are plenty of enemies to kill and loot to collect, there always just feels like something is missing. Whether it be voice acting, a more robust leveling system, a more involved story, better graphics, or what have you – everyone that plays this game will probably find one thing that they feel should have been included. This is probably solely due to the fact the game is old, but seeing as it how it is just now releasing in the US, disappointment is understandable.
With that being said, what is there, is quite solid. The environments do tend to get repetitive, as you literally spend the entire game inside one tower, but every now and then you go out on a ledge, or cross a bridge, that gives you a really nice shot of the outdoors. This was just enough to keep me from getting completely tired of the gray environments.
The graphical quality of the game is fine, even if it does really just look like a fancy PS1 game for the most part. The style definitely suits the genre well, and the particle effects are very impressive. It will often feel like you’re playing a shoot ‘em up at times with all the colors flying everywhere – this is definitely a good thing. The music in the game is definitely top notch. It changes tempo often to match the mood, and some of the boss battles would have been far less intense if it were not for the superb soundtrack. As is usually the case with most RPGs, the music definitely does not disappoint here.
You can play the game with the mouse and keyboard or a gamepad, but I recommend using a gamepad if you can. Any pad will do, there are really only a few buttons you press. But given the hack n’ slash nature of the game and lack of need for a mouse pointer, it makes a lot of sense to just use a gamepad in this one.
At just $20, you really cannot go wrong here. If you’ve played an action RPG before, you know exactly what you’re going to get, but you can rest assured that it is well worth the money. With all of the unlockables and hours of looting at hand, this one is worth at least two playthroughs. What else do you want out of a game for $20? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
This review was based on a retail download copy of the game for the PC provided by XSeed Games.