Better than the Original
Download Size: 1.3 GB
Time Played: 7.4 hours
Levels Completed: 3 / 5
What I'd Pay: $20
Steam Price (4/1/12): $15
Over a decade ago, I bought the official Nintendo Power Super NES game guide. One of the games covered in it was Wanderers from Ys. It looked good, I was hungry for an action RPG, and it was available at my local game rental store. I rented it, took it home, popped it in... and quit after about 3 hours. All you could do was swing a sword, many of the enemies moved too fast for the sword, and overall it was boring grinding to avoid frustrating deaths. When I recently saw this remake of it released on Steam, I decided to try it out.
I've played it for 7 hours and I still want to keep going. I'm pretty sure that beats my old playtime by a mile.
The story's standard "save the world" and the graphics, although decent, look like they belong on a handheld (mainly because the game's a PSP port from a few years back), which leaves the gameplay to reel you in. It's solid Japanese isometric fighting, the same stuff you might've seen in Recettear except with tighter controls and more moves. You use the mouse cursor to point in the direction you want to move, then hold the left mouse button down to run. The right mouse button jumps, while the ZXCV keys take care of sword swings, jumps, magic, and activating Focus. It feels a tad awkward first, but soon I was dashing and slashing with very little trouble. It's a good thing too, because this game is hard.
Let me elaborate: when you first enter a new area, you are underleveled and underequipped to deal with the monsters there. Trying to finish the entire level led to swift deaths; instead, I had to withdraw whenever I got too low on health, take my new loot to buy & refine equipment, then keep burrowing deeper and deeper into the dungeon until the standard monsters were no longer a problem. Then I would hit the boss, which usually made mincemeat out of me. By this time, I had gotten all the XP and gold I could out of the dungeon (unless I spent several hours grinding pocket change), so my only choice was to hurl myself at the boss over & over again, slowly memorizing his patterns and weaknesses until I could hack off several thousand HP while only taking a half-dozen hits. Then I would take my shiny new reward and quickly run back to the Save Point before I got killed by a minion.
You can't get sloppy with this game; you don't store any HP-restoration items, you only restore HP from Save Points and the herbs enemies occasionally drop, and the few damage-nullifying items you get can't be used in boss fights. (Oh, and their cost increases exponentially each time you buy one, so don't expect to spam them unless you want to stay broke.) At least the game is kind enough to let you retry bosses without going through their cutscene each time.
The game adds a little spice to the combat to keep it satisfying. In addition to your sword, you also get 3 magic bracelets you can use to cast spells (and eventually charge up). Some enemies are nearly immune to your sword, but weak to magic, and others are vice versa. Most of the time, it's easier to just use your sword than magic, but I'm glad it mixes it up a bit like that. That addition, plus the improved music/graphics and a fleshed-out storyline, might explain why I'm still interested in this game, compared to my quick dismissal of the original.
Initially, I thought about only giving this game 3 stars. Sure, I was enjoying it, but it seemed a lot like the other action RPGs I had played. But when I thought about it, there were only a few action RPGs I had played, and many of them had felt more awkward and clumsy than this one. That, and the fact I still wanted to play this after 7 hours when I was ready to hang up most games at the 4-hour mark, nudged it into the 4-star category for me. It's a pleasant surprise for fans of the genre, or old-timers that remember the original but never finished it. Who knows, in another 6 hours I might actually complete it.