[Anniversary Feature] Michael Cunningham and Ys

My next post in my anniversary feature series will be featuring Michael Cunningham, the Editor-in-Chief of RPGamer.You can also find and chat with him on twitter, at @FinalMacstorm

While Ys has been around for twenty-five years now, I didn’t have my first experience with the series until just recently. I’m not typically a fan of action RPGs, and those with only one playable character tend to turn me off even more. The series had not really even caught my eye until the PSP era. My first serious experience with the Ys series was in 2010 with the North American release of Ys Seven by XSEED Games.

The party system of Seven was a perfect fit for me. Not only did Adol have two other characters assisting him in battle, but I could swap between them on the fly. The combat was quick and easy to pick up, and it never felt like the mindless button-mashing I’d found in other action RPGs. This made normal encounters enjoyable and helped elevate boss fights to a new level of challenging without ever being annoying. I had a few nitpicks that I talked about in my RPGamer review of the game, but overall I really enjoyed it and considered it one of my favorite games of the year.

Before Ys Seven, I had only played a couple other Falcom games to any extent. Between Gurumin and two of the Bandai Legend of Heroes PSP ports, I wasn’t very enamored, especially since Bandai butchered the Legend of Heroes games. I had not been interested in going back to play any of Falcom’s earlier releases either and bailed on Legacy of Ys: Books I & II after only a short time. After Seven, however, I was a fan. It helps that most of the games I played afterward had actually been developed by Falcom instead of ported by another developer.

The next game I tackled was Ys: The Oath in Felghana for PlayStation Portable. While many fans praise this game and claim it as a favorite, I was less than enamored with it. Yes, it was more challenging than Ys Seven, but the platforming sections often made it more irritating as well. I also missed the variety of having a party, but that aside, I enjoyed it for its outstanding soundtrack, great boss fights, and clearly see why others loved it even if I didn’t.

XSEED’s trio of Ys releases seemed to just fly into my hands, and soon I had worked my way back to the start of the series with Ys I and II Chronicles. Despite having very briefly tried Ys I as part of the DS release from Atlus, I still wasn’t sure about these two games. I knew that the PSP version was actually a Falcom-developed release, so I was willing to give it another chance, especially after having developed a love of the series. I was glad I did.

These first two games are rather obtuse at times, but with enough patience (or a FAQ) both are actually fantastic little games. The bump system was not only easy to adapt to, but it actually made the games more fun for me than Felghana. While both games were pretty short, but I highly enjoyed them for the classic games they were.

After the initial flood of releases ended, I was only left with Ys: The Ark of Napishtim to play, and sadly I did not enjoy it enough to finish it. Thankfully, the Ys drought did not last forever, and XSEED has just recently released Ys: The Oath in Felghana and Ys Origin on the PC via Steam. While I did not jump back in to replay Oath, I eagerly dove into Origin. This prequel, with its collection of new playable characters, quickly shot up to the top of my favorites list. It is more streamlined than other games in the series and not playing as Adol did not bother me in the least, as Hugo’s style more than made up for it. Much like Ys I and II, Origin is short, but to the point. It didn’t overstay its welcome, but left me wanting more.

Sadly, I’m going to have to wait a little while longer to play anything else new in English, as the Vita remake of Ys Celceta is coming out in Japan this September. Hopefully, Falcom and XSEED can team up once again for this localization, as this looks fantastic. It also brings back the party system, and I’m a huge fan of that.

So Ys has changed me. Where I typically dislike action RPGs, especially those with only one character, Ys has toppled me at almost every turn. The action-packed combat, fantastic soundtracks, and fast pace of most of the Ys games is just a perfect balance. This was a series I had ignored most of my life, but I now get excited when I hear that Falcom is working on something new or when XSEED announces a new localization. I thank both companies for finally making a fan out of me almost twenty-five years after the creation of the series.

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Kirsten Miller
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The webmaster, creator, and administrator of Endless History and all the sites located on esterior.net. Web developer and designer by day, translator, Kiseki crack theorist, and game streamer by night. Also, apparently a very floofy guy.

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