The lights are on
One of the questions readers ask me most is whether they might
like a particular series. As a way to provide the answer and celebrate beloved
franchises, RPG Spotlight gives a concise overview of the elements that give a
franchise its heart and soul.
In this edition, I take a look at the Ys (pronounced "ease")
games from Nihon Falcom. Ys requires plenty of twitch gaming skills with its
fast-paced combat, but still has the heart of an RPG with its expansive world,
a focus on statistics, and a valiant protagonist, Adol Christin.
Claim To Fame
Ys is to Action-RPGs as Mega Man is to side-scrolling
platformers: the epitome of precision is required in the hunt for victory. A
few pixels in either direction can mean death to our red-headed hero. Falcom
has succeeded in providing its games with tight controls and frenetic combat.
Most titles start with Adol washing up on shore extremely confused and appearing in some new land. Perhaps
he's had some bad luck, but for whatever reason he
never knows exactly where he is.
What Adol never forgets, however, is his awesome
swordsmanship. Ys doesn't feature a whole lot in the way of bells and whistles
during fights, but most everything is tuned just right, so a basic attack,
special attack, and jump are more than enough for Adol.
Not to be left out of the picture is Adol's steadfast
companion, Dogi. Dogi is not only Adol's best friend, but also an asset in
battle. He's so muscular that he earned the name, "Wall-Crusher." Now Dogi
isn't involved in every single one of Adol's adventures, but after saving the
world and wooing the local girls, it seems that at the end of every journey,
Adol wanders into the sunset with Dogi in tow. Now that's true friendship.
Ys is also known for synth rock music that adds to the
pulse-pumping, high stakes battles. These tunes are complemented by a classical
score that adds personality to towns and specific locales. The music has helped
define the series, making it a key part of its identity.
Play If You Like
Fans of classic, pattern-based side-scrollers like Mega Man
and Castlevania will find themselves right at home with Ys' challenge, while
Diablo aficionados will eat up the skill-based combat. Ys is much faster than most RPGs out there, and
even Kingdom Hearts doesn't hold a candle to its smooth action combat and solid
Understanding the history behind the Ys series is
complicated, to say the least. Originally launched for the NEC PC-88 (a popular
Japanese home computer) in 1987, Ys I made its way to a variety of systems and
has been remade almost as much as Square's Final Fantasy titles. Indeed, Ys I
& II can be found on several recent systems, including a release on Steam.
Here's where things start to get complicated, though. Ys III: Wanderers from Ys
was released in 1991, but has been replaced in the Ys canon by Ys: The Oath in
Felghana, the 2005 remake from Falcom.
Confused yet? Because
that's just the beginning. There are two different games with the moniker Ys
IV, neither of which were actually developed by Falcom themselves. Ys IV: The
Dawn of Ys was made for the PC Engine (AKA TurboGrafx 16) by Hudson, while Ys
IV: Mask of the Sun saw development by Tonkin House for the SNES and a remake
on the PS2. Neither of these games are considered canon in the world of Ys,
either, though. The latest vita release, Ys: Memories of Celceta replaces both
of them as official, being a Falcom-developed remake of Ys IV.
Luckily, things slow down from there with the Japan-only Ys
V, followed by the PC/PS2/PSP Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim, localized by Konami.
It was here where fan-favorite publisher XSeed took over, localizing the
aforementioned The Oath in Felghana, another
remake of Ys I & II, and the PSP debut of Ys Seven, which introduced new
elements to the series like multiple playable characters. Xseed is often
praised for bringing literal, solid translations to the U.S. Previously,
localizations didn't measure up to what Japan received.
Good Starting Points
Depending on whether you're an action fan or an RPG fan,
certain games are better starting points.
Should you want to jump immediately into combat, skipping a meaty story,
Ys Origin on Steam is a great introduction. The Adol-less prequel story, Ys
Origin takes place entirely within a tower and is almost nothing but Ys' famous
RPG fans may want to start with Ys Seven for PSP or the recently released Ys: Memories in Celceta. While the fights remain, both of these games
feature multiple characters and less ephemeral stories, bringing in the best
from both action and RPG. They're also what I consider the more
newcomer-friendly entries in the series.
Older versions of Ys are tough to play for many newcomers,
specifically because of the combat systems in Ys I and Ys II. Rather than
attack with button presses, Adol hits his enemies by ramming directly into
them. Do it from the wrong angle, and you take the damage instead. It's more
than a bit esoteric, but many games that age are.
For recent games, stats can often play much too large of a
role. A level or two might mean all the difference between doing just a few
damage to a boss versus rolling over him with the might of 1,000 warriors.
Luckily, the combat is very entertaining, so the grind never becomes
Those who enjoy a solid battle system and fight are sure to
walk away pleased, but if you're looking for an original RPG story, Ys isn't
your best bet. The narratives use many RPG clichés (the majority of the plots have amnesia); however, a good degree of humor and charm exists
in some of the dialogue.
On The Horizon
The horizon isn't far away with today's release of Ys:
Memories of Celceta for the PlayStation Vita. A reimagining of Ys IV, where you
take control of Adol and try to, unsurprisingly, regain his memories while
exploring a huge forest and reporting your discoveries. Check out our review to see if it's for you.
While Falcom hasn't announced any new games, it's not a
stretch to think that more Ys is likely on the way. The question is whether or
not North America continues to see these games brought over, but Xseed hasn't
missed an entry yet since it took over localizing the series.
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.