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Yimothy

Red Plane
(he/him)
Ys is a series of games by Falcom that started back in ‘87 and has seen continued releases (and rereleases) down to the present day. Mostly the games revolve around largely-silent adventure nerd Adol Christin as he wanders around fantasy not-Europe-but-yes-it’s-Europe. He shows up in a new area, sometimes by shipwreck, sometimes with amnesia, and gets involved in some local situation that escalates rapidly. The gameplay is generally action-rpg, usually at a pretty snappy pace. Sometimes there’s platforming, sometimes there’s a combo system and multiple selectable characters, sometimes you attack enemies by walking into them slightly off centre. In the early games getting levels is a big deal - take on a boss at too low a level and you won’t be able to damage it. Get one level and the fight is tough but doable. Get another and it’s a cakewalk. This gets less pronounced in later entries but it’s still there.

Ys: The Vanished Omens, aka Ancient Ys Vanished was the first game in the series and probably the one with the most releases. I could get it on the phone I’m writing this post on, if I wanted. I’ve played it for PSP, Sega Master System, and Turbografx CD (via Wii VC). Despite the wide variation in capabilities of those systems, all versions are basically the same: Adol arrives on the island of Ys, which has two towns and three dungeons, solves a few problems for the locals, helps a goddess find her harmonica, and winds up in a massive tower for the back half of the game. Combat is bump style: walk into enemies, and if you do it right they’ll take damage and you won’t. It’s a fairly short game and pretty fun.

Ys II was originally going to be part of Ys I, and plays pretty much the same as the first game, with the addition of a magic system. It’s had fewer ports than the first game, but the two are often released together. I’ve played it for PSP and TGCD, but it wasn’t released for SMS. Adol is transported to an island floating in the sky above Ys, where demons have taken over the Solomon Shrine. It’s a bit bigger than the first game, the puzzles are a bit tougher, and you can talk to the enemies. Actually that might be in the first game too, I don’t remember.

Ys III: Wanderers From Ys takes the series from its top-down roots to be a side-scroller. Adol visits his buddy Dogi’s hometown, where the imperial governor is up to no good. You fight a dragon in a mine and a demon on a tower. I’ve played this one on Mega Drive, and I’ve also played the remake, Oath in Felghana, on PSP. The remake goes back to a more top-down perspective, though the camera moves around a bit and in several areas drops to a side view for levels with layouts recognisable from the original version. Oath uses the engine from the sixth game in the series, which I think is my favourite type of Ys. Adol moves quickly, has a basic attack combo and a few different moves activated by jumping and attacking or attacking after stopping moving, as well as a few options for magical attack which also extend his movement options, allowing gliding or breaking through walls so that it becomes worthwhile to revisit earlier areas. There’s also a double jump, which as usual is the best. The game has a single town whose residents have something new to say after each major event. The writing reminded me of a Trails game, which I guess isn’t surprising since it’s from the same developer and localisation publisher.

Ys IV was originally released in two versions, for PC Engine and Super Famicom, produced by different teams following the same basic story. Neither got an English release, so I haven’t played them, but the Vita remake, Memories of Celceta, did and I have. It takes place in not-Spain where the Romun empire’s expansion has been halted by a mysterious forest. Adol shows up and goes exploring, but winds up back at the opening town some time later with amnesia and that’s where the game starts. It uses an updated version of the Ys VII engine, so you build a party who you can switch between to access different attack types and traversal skills. It also means, crucially, that there’s no jump button, which makes it plainly inferior to the Ys VI engine games. Still, it’s pretty enjoyable. I particularly liked the start, where you’re essentially told “there’s a mysterious forest, go explore it”, and that’s what you do for quite a while.

Ys V is a SFC game that hasn’t been released in English. I think there’s a translation hack, but I haven’t played it.

In Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim, Adol washes up on a remote island after a shipwreck, with the Romun army on his tail. I don’t actually remember the main plot of this one all that well, but it’s the first game using my preferred Ys engine and I remember enjoying it. I played it on PSP, which is a supposedly inferior version to the PC and PS2 ones, but aside from a few issues with loading times (I think the game paused briefly to load the level up sound each time you got a level) it was all good. The PSP version has sprites instead of 3D models, which I don’t mind, and no voice acting, which I see as a plus. There are a few spots where the 3D platforming is kinda frustrating and Felghana’s option to send you back to the start of the area when you fall down a big hole instead of potentially a long way back in the dungeon would have been nice to have, but for the most part it’s an enjoyable explore-em-up hack and slash.

Ys Origin is a bit of a departure plot wise, in that it doesn’t feature Adol. Instead it’s set on Ys hundreds of years before the first game. The entire thing takes place in the big tower from the first game, though the layout is pretty different. There’s sort of a town and a fair bit of story, but for the most part it’s a dungeon crawl using the Ys VI engine. It’s great. There are three playable characters, each with a different story path. One of them is basically Adol, gameplay wise, but the others are different. Unfortunately the tower remains pretty much the same for all three characters, so replaying with them gets a bit repetitive. It originally came out on PC, but I played it on Vita. I think it’s the only Vita game I’ve played that doesn’t use the system’s default touch-only save interface, instead using the buttons like a normal game. I tend to forget the vita has touch and always get annoyed at the save interface, so this was a big plus for me.

I’ve just started Ys VII, so no real opinions on it yet, but the opening quest is “we’ve just found a mysterious ruin, please explore it”, so I’m hoping it will follow the direction of its successor Celceta. It’s set in Afroka, aka not-Africa, and starts in the city of Altago which has recently been at war with the Romuns, which is presumably Carthage.

There are also an eighth and ninth game out there, the latter of which isn’t in English yet, but I haven’t played either.

In summary, Ys is a series of decreasingly efficient action rpgs where you explore an area, gain levels and abilities, and generally have a good time. The recent ones for me capture some of the feeling of a Trails game in their NPC interactions, but are much briefer. I think the Vita is probably the best system for them at the moment, having access to I, II, III, and VII through their PSP ports (I don’t think VI PSP is available, sadly), and IV, VIII, and Origins as native Vita games. They’re probably mostly on PC too I guess.
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
I got a VitaTV some months ago and when brainstorming what I could actually put on the thing that's worth it, I realized the Ys series is a perfect choice. I beat VII when it came out but that's the latest Ys release I've played. Which means I could put VIII, Celceta, and Origins on there and have a good time (I've already played the 1-3 remakes on PSP).
 
I got a VitaTV some months ago and when brainstorming what I could actually put on the thing that's worth it, I realized the Ys series is a perfect choice. I beat VII when it came out but that's the latest Ys release I've played. Which means I could put VIII, Celceta, and Origins on there and have a good time (I've already played the 1-3 remakes on PSP).
They do play wonderfully on the TV though I'd recommend Switch or PS4 for VIII if you have them.
 

Yimothy

Red Plane
(he/him)
I reached the first boss in Ys VII and was doing so little damage that I thought it must be a fight you’re intended to lose. After dying I reloaded my save, got a level and bought a shield, and beat the boss on my next try. It’s an Ys game, alright. Sadly when I returned to the boss I learned that you can’t skip cut scenes. Boo.
 

Mommi

Miss or be made.
(She/Her)
You can hold R or triangle I think to fastforward, hold it longer and it goes so fast it's essentially a skip.

I love the characters and locations of Ys VII a whole lot, I think you're in for a treat.
 

Albatoss

Assassin
(He/him, they/them)
I like Ys a whole lot! I've played most of them in some form except for IV and VIII, and since they're both on Steam I'll probably end up getting them at some point.

Something that has somehow gone unmentioned is that these games all have really good soundtracks. I'm a big fan of VI's in particular, which goes in a more electronic direction instead of the high-energy rock that Ys is known for. Here's a few of my favorites from it:



 

Kishi

Little Waves
(They/Them)
Staff member
Moderator
To me, Ys is first and foremost a series of three games developed for PC-88 computers by the original staff at Falcom—particularly writer Tomoyoshi Miyazaki and programmer/director Masaya Hashimoto. Their first game, 1987's Ys: Ancient Ys Vanished: Omen, was a giant leap forward for the nascent action RPG genre—the first "full package" combining fast-paced gameplay, mechanical depth, and a detailed story. 1988's Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished: The Final Chapter expanded the design in all directions and completed the "Ancient Ys Vanished" plot as intended. 1989's Wanderers from Ys (note it had no number in the title when first released) is the oddball, having begun development as an unrelated project born from the team's desire to create a game in the same style as Nintendo's The Adventure of Link. Adol, the main character of Ys, was used only as a placeholder at first, but once it was pointed out that making it an Ys game would maximize sales potential, it was fashioned into the next entry in the series.





After the incredible success of the first two, the third game's bold departures were met with harsh criticism. But it didn't matter to the staff, who had decided to leave Falcom before the game had even been completed. They had long yearned to create games for home consoles, but Falcom management refused, probably owing to the low barrier to entry for PC development (a reality that distinguishes the two markets to this day). So Hashimoto, Miyazaki, and others left to form their own company, Quintet. They easily found a supportive partner in Nintendo and also collaborated with Ayano and Yūzō Koshiro, who had provided art and music to Ys and Ys II before also leaving Falcom for their new family business, Ancient. Of Quintet's first two games, Actraiser succeeded the side-scrolling action of Wanderers from Ys, while Soul Blazer was patterned after the overhead angle of Ys and Ys II. However, both games were defined by the fresh ideas they introduced—Actraiser with its town-raising "god game" simulation and Soul Blazer with the very Shintō concept of reviving the environment by liberating the spirits of individual people, animals, plants, and objects. Quintet's subsequent projects like Illusion of Gaia and Terranigma would continue to explore unmarked creative territory, but their Ys DNA never lay far from the surface.

Of course the Ys brand itself was too valuable for Falcom not to continue the series without the original staff, but it actually didn't happen until several years after Wanderers from Ys—practically an eternity at that point in gaming history—and not without interference from an outside party. But I'll save that story for the next post.
 

4-So

False is the dawn that promises anything
I love Quintet games but didn't know that piece of history. Cool beans.

I've played a few Ys games - Wanderers is actually my favorite; pure nostalgia reasons - but which ones are better than the others? I have Ys 1 & 2 on Steam and picked up Ark of Napishtim on PS2 back when it was new. But I haven't played any others. Which ones are worth digging into?
 

Mightyblue

aggro table, shmaggro table
(He/Him/His)
They're all pretty good; Ys I and II haven't been remade like III and IV, but all of the post-00 games are very solid mechanically. III's remake (Oaths in Felghana) is probably the best "classic" style game that's built off of VI's engine. VII, VIII, IX (not loc'd yet) and IV's remake (Memories of Celceta) are all based off a 3-man party system, and VIII is probably the best Ys game since Oaths dropped.
 
I love Quintet games but didn't know that piece of history. Cool beans.

I've played a few Ys games - Wanderers is actually my favorite; pure nostalgia reasons - but which ones are better than the others? I have Ys 1 & 2 on Steam and picked up Ark of Napishtim on PS2 back when it was new. But I haven't played any others. Which ones are worth digging into?
I would dig into Ys 1 & 2!

In rough generality, one can divide the Ys series into genre/style groups: there's the retro Ys games (Ys 1-5, pre-2000 versions), there's the first 3D, top down RPGS (Ark, Oath, Origin), and there's the more fully 3D, party based action RPGs (Ys 7, Celceta, Ys 8, and the upcoming localization of Ys 9). The remake of Ys 1 & 2 (which is the Steam version) is closest to the retro bunch.

I feel playing the pre-2000 games for the first time is like exploring any retro library. You gotta look at them individually and see which ones have art and gameplay that motivates you to play them. When playing to the other two groups, I would try entering with the most recent 1 or 2 games.
 

Yimothy

Red Plane
(he/him)
You can hold R or triangle I think to fastforward, hold it longer and it goes so fast it's essentially a skip.
Rockin’, thanks for the tip. I tried pressing everything but I guess I didn’t hold long enough.
 

MetManMas

DNM-123
(He, him)


Never approach enemies directly from the front.

This is how you end up with a dead Adol.

To attack, bump the enemies from the side...

...or the back...

...or kind of to the side of the front.

Also enemies explode in some versions. This hair didn't get red on its own!
 

Beowulf

Let the Mystery Be
(He/Him)
Ys 5: Kefin, Lost City of Sand

(A detailed review, originally written by me in 2013.)

Adol the Red, famous swordsman, gets off a boat in Xandria and is accosted by the overzealous guards--seems they don't like foreigners. But little things like that don't stop an adventure searching for the legendary Phantom City of Kefin, which holds the secret of alchemy and might stop the spreading desert sands from overwhelming the local cities.

Ys games tend to be formulaic and this is no exception: Adol gets off a boat in a new area, discovers an ancient mystery that recently resurfaced and the locals are embroiled in, exercises his chronic hero syndrome, grinds, gathers a stack of 5-6 weapons and magic he'll lose before the next game, and goes to a giant final dungeon to fight space fleas from nowhere. There aren't any real surprises to the plot or the flow of the game.

Though some games in the series just have Adol wandering into trouble, this game actively figures him into all sorts of prophecies as the "red-haired swordsman" whose presence will cause no end of trouble. Turns out that if you stumble into enough legendary situations, fate will find ways to incorporate you into new ones. Either that, or the timey-wimey ending caused to you set up your own hero-hood; it's not entirely clear.

I had been hoping for a fan translation of this for quiet some time, despite being told it's the worst of the series, because it was the only one not available in English at all. Aeon Genesis released their patch on Thanksgiving! The complaints seemed to be based around it being relatively easy, which I can't say that I mind. I play the other games on Easy mode, anyway. There were two versions of this game for the Super Famicom in Japan; the second was Ys 5 Expert, released a year later as basically a hard mode cart. The version I played was clearly the original easier version, from the fact that it doesn't make me cry.

In a lot of ways, this is a "missing link" game between the early generation "ram enemies to hurt them" games and the 3D "jump and swing your sword" games. The graphics are later-SNES quality (as is the play control), and they're definitely trying new things with top-down jumping and slashing mechanics. They also added some features that didn't survive into later games, like enemies dropping vendortrash gems instead of money (and different stores give different exchange rates for them), different XP/level tracks for fighting and magic, and a strange cross-key submenu that seems inspired by the Mana series' ring menus.

The fact that you can jump, of course, means they needs to add different levels you could jump to (which makes some maps very confusing, because the faux-3D makes it hard to tell how high any given ledge is and edge gravity is only sometimes present), and they added platforming puzzles. The waterfall segment is rather irritating in how careful you have to be about precise jumps lest you be sent back to the beginning.

Different weapons have different attack arcs, which is an interesting touch. This would be a more interesting feature if there were more than five swords (with obvious improvements in attack power over each other) in the entire game.

The ability to restore your HP in the field by standing still returns from other games, and it's lovely. (Though it doesn't work in dungeons, again as usual, until you get a ring in the final area.) The counterpoint of this is the poison ailment, which makes your HP drain incredibly quickly and is fairly easy to contract starting mid-game.

The magic system is a bit dodgy--you need to hold R to charge spells, can't use them on many bosses (as usual for these games), and MP doesn't recharge automatically. I'm amused that there is actually an in-game explanation for why you can't use magic in some boss battles: Using magic near the macguffin crystals causes no end to problems, and this figures into at least one cutscene. You assemble the spells yourself from "elements" found throughout the game (though there are many-many more in the final dungeon than anywhere else) so you basically choose which spells to use; I picked a couple of fire spells I liked to grind with but generally ignored the system.

Overall: This follows the classic Ys formula and presents it with standard late-SNES quality. If that sounds good to you because you like Ys games or SNES-era action-rpgs, go for it. If you've never played an Ys game before, one of the PSP remakes is probably a better starting point.
 
With the context of Kishi's history lesson behind the original staff leaving after Ys 3, I can't help weave a "possible narrative" for the sequels: First they decided that Ys 4 (both versions) should be made by contracting out to other companies because that was easier than diverting staff from other projects. And then Ys 5 turns out the way it is (noticeably different, and more conventional) because it was the first Ys game for that new development team. I have no idea if this is actually true, but its intriguing to think about.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Not only is Ys Origin coming to Switch in scant weeks, but it’s also got a 20% discount if you preorder it!

It’s a Ys financial choice to make!
 

Yimothy

Red Plane
(he/him)
I’ve been rushing through Ys Seven for the past couple weeks because I’m away for a week from tomorrow and I don’t want to take my PSP because of its poor battery life. I was hoping to finish it before going, and my current save is at the start of the final dungeon, but I don’t think I’m going to find the time to wrap it up before tomorrow morning. Oh well. I’ll do it after.

I think rushing it has been detrimental to the game, because there’s so much in it and I’m the kind of nerd who will run around to every NPC after each event to see their new dialogue (still managed to miss one of the quests, though). I think if I were taking it easier and taking my time more, or if I were just going to places I actually need to go, I’d probably enjoy it more. I am still enjoying it, though. I like how the story gives you each of the characters individually for a while so you get exposed to each but there aren’t too many at a time, and then lets you choose freely later on. I have now kind of settled in to the three I’ve used exclusively for the last couple of dungeons, but I’m still upgrading the others’ weapons and armour now and then in case I’m forced to use them later on or something. I could kind of do without the crafting, which is pretty grindy if you do a lot of it. Also I wish the item that draws enemy drops towards you were always on instead of needing to be selected instead of other items. Even better, if it didn’t exist and you just got the drops all the time. Running around in little circles picking stuff up is nothing but wasted time.
 

Regulus

Risen Again
I just finished Ys VIII for the first time. I picked it up around the PC launch, delayed playing it while they fixed it, then ended up drifting away from it after about 35-ish hours. I picked it up again last weekend and played another 30 hours over the course of the week (yikes).

Thoughts:

  • I enjoyed it overall, but it's too long. I miss when Ys games were 10-20 hours long. There's just too much extra crap to deal with, and a lot of it is boring. I really liked dealing with the castaways (the variety of unique NPCs who react to the events of the game is one of my favorite things about the Napishtim era Ys games, and this has a similar feeling), but things were starting to drag in the mid game. Raids and Hunts and the like are tedious and not very exciting.
  • The stories in these games keep escalating, lol. This one is particularly batshit, too, though more entertaining than Celceta's messy story. So much new context in the 11th hour. Never expected to kill evolution and natural selection itself, then accidentally wake up The Creator, causing the world to end because it's just a god's dream. Where could they possibly go from there?
  • The expansion of the character base movesets was nice. Adding jumping back into the series is good, and finding ways to string skills together in cool ways is fun, sometimes (even if just spamming Force Edge is usually the best option). Similarly, there is some fun to be had with character builds using accessories.
  • They really need to get rid of Flash Guard/Dodge and start designing bosses around carefully dodging attacks again. Most of the bosses are forgettable because they're all dealt with in exactly the same way. I was really excited once the Carvalos boss started up -- the battlefield, camera angle, and even its attacks made it look like it was going to play like a classic Ys boss. In practice... I just ended up having to flash 'n spam to beat it. The bullet patterns were too dense and its HP too high to fight "conventionally".
  • Dana's solo bonus dungeon was a real highlight. A good example of "less is more", design wise, I think. Instead of 6 characters with a dozen skills each, Dana has 3 styles with 3.5 skills each. The purpose of each skill and style is much stronger as a result (because you're guaranteed to have them). Playing through the dungeon was kind of reminiscent of climbing Darm Tower with Yunica in Origin.
  • Par for the course, but the music was good. Next Step into the Unknown is probably my favorite. That said, I'm hoping we eventually see some live covers of the sample-heavy tracks. Ys Seven had a lot of tracks that I didn't like very much until I heard them with live instruments.

In any case, I'm still looking forward to the adventures of Adolucard in Monstrum Nox next year.
 

Wolf

Ancient Nameless Hero
(He/him)
I seem to recall that Dana's dungeon was also an addition to tbe PS4 version. I didn't complete it, but that's because I was starting to get fatigued about the game. Still, I love Ys VIII, and I think it's probably my favorite of the party-based games. The addition of jumping and the adventure tools probably helps with place it where it is in my personal ranking. They give you more variety in how you tackle navigating the world, which helps with the game's surprising (for an Ys game) length.

Soundtrack-wise, I think Sunshine Coast is my favorite song that I can easily recall, but I heard a lot of it early on, so it probably impressed itself on me for that reason.
 

Kazin

did i do all of that?
(he/him)
Ys Origin is well liked, yes? I'm enjoying it on Switch at the moment. About an hour and a half in, just beat the spear wielding boss in the water area. I'm on Normal as well. Music rules.
 

Wolf

Ancient Nameless Hero
(He/him)
Origin's a little different in that it uses the basic Ys game mechanics and design sense and makes something more like a dungeon-crawler out of it. I've heard varying opinions on it, and its ranking compared to the rest of the series. It feels overall a little less like an adventure, since it all takes place in a single location, with no town or exploration between dungeons or anything like that. It's just all dungeon, all the time. But it does that very well, in my opinion.

I sprang for the physical version of it on Switch through Limited Run, because we had the money, and I thought "why not?", so I haven't played the Switch port myself yet. But I've got it on PC, and PS4/Vita. Any word on how it compares to those?
 

Kazin

did i do all of that?
(he/him)
Seems fine to me - I have it on PS4 and from what I recall of the few hours I spent with that version, it plays well.
 

Yimothy

Red Plane
(he/him)
I played Origin on Vita and loved it, though I do think it gets a bit repetitive when you play through all the characters, since the dungeon doesn’t change much even if the story does.
 
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