[Editorial] Happy 25th Birthday, Ys!

Onthis day, 25 years ago, computer game players got to experience their first adventure with Adol Christin, a redhaired teenager, shipwrecked upon Esterior that was pulled into the end of the legacy of an ancient kingdom. Its pre-story actually foretold the upcoming adventures in a way, even- some of Adol’s journals were listed in it: Ancient Kingdom Vanished, The Darkness of Felghana, The Great Celceta Forest, Kefin the Lost City of Sand, and the Five Great Dragons of Altago.

This game was somewhat unique in its own way, and it created a speedy action RPG that was played without the use of any buttons- the ‘bump systems’ as fans would grow to lovingly call it.

If you’ve never seen the original incarnation of the first title of one of Falcom’s flagship series (best viewed in full screen. The PC88 images cause scanlines when viewed at lower resolutions.)

Falcom sure has changed a lot since then. They’ve had their ups and downs, and finally they are preparing to bring out their first ‘next gen’ title with Sony’s newest handheld.

But one of the most sure fire things is to watch the demo of the incarnation of that very same game that was rereleased over 20 years later:

Since then, not only had Falcom had its own share of ‘adventures’ over its relatively popular, yet niche status… but Adol has seen much of the Eresia Continent.

Ys I, of course, leads into Ys II. That was released on 4/22/1988 – and actually decided to bring in a new piece of the puzzle from Ys I’s bump system: the ability to use magic. A button is finally added to the mix. It was a good mix as well. Adol traveled on through the ancient kingdom of Ys, to finds its mysteries, and to solve the problem that was not solved 700 years ago.

Which brings us to 7/21/1989: the release date of Wanderers of Ys. Falcom made a drastic change from the original ‘top down’ format and created a sidescroller RPG.

This game became kind of the ‘dark horse’ of the series, despite its many rereleases (PCE, NES, Genesis, SNES). People either loved it or hated it. That’s why, 15 years later, this game also got overhauled into a completely new remake as well:

The next game of the series we get to is Ys IV. Two incarnations were released a month from each other: one on the SNES called Ys IV the Mask of the Sun on 11/19/1993, and The Dawn of Ys on the PC-Engine on 12/22/1993. These games would go on as a strange topic, as neither one was developed by Falcom themselves. Rather two companies developed the games with scenario planning from Falcom.

Falcom seeks to rememdy this situation this September with the Playstation Vita release of Ys Celceta, the Sea of Trees.

On 12/29/1995, Falcom released Ys V: Kefin the Lost City of Sand on the SNES, and Ys V Expert on 3/22/1996. Of all of the fan translation work that has been done and the official releases, this is the only title that is not readily available in English.

Ys V brought in a new approach to the top-down action RPG, where not only do you control movement, jumping, and attacking, you also have a command for Adol’s shield to defend yourself. Adol’s quest to find Kefin, a prosperous kingdom with roots in alchemy, brings him to use a wildly different form of magic as well. Collecting elemental stones throughout the game, you can have them merged into a single stone to allow Adol to cast magic through his sword. This is done through keypresses (the L button, I think?) rapidly to charge it, then using the attack button to fire it when the spell is prepared. There are two sets of levels- one for physical combat and one for magical combat.

Though many players don’t end up using the magic system in the game, I found it to be a completely innovative sort of work, and that was part of what made Ys V a unique and fun experience to me.

What happened afterwards was a bit of silence regarding the series. There was a rerelease (a rather incredibly major overhaul, in fact) of the original two Ys games in the form of Ys I and II eternal, then Ys I and II Chronicles, between 1998 and 2002, but beyond that, things were very quiet regarding the series.

That’s why it was huge shock when the Buyer’s Guide video for Ys VI came out in 2003. The Ark of Napishtim was the first new Ys title in 8 years.

This was Falcom’s first jump into developing games with 3D graphics, on top of other things. The Napishtim was a huge change to the series, and one that would be expanded upon for other games afterwards.

Ys VI, released on 9/27/2003 (which will be the same day as Celceta’s release this year, in fact) also marked a major point in the storytelling of the series. It introduced the element that bound all the games together into one continuous story. All of these games are episodic, and still are to this day, but there are elements that tie them all together, and show that Adol’s been following the remnants of the Eldeen civilization. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the storytelling of the games, much of the information was not actually IN the game, but rather published outside of the game in a book called Ys Perfect Data I ~ VI.

The development of the “Napishtim Engine” was not only used with other Ys titles, but it would go on to define the look of one of their other major series with its first title: The Legend of Heroes Sora no Kiseki. (Trails in the Sky, from XSEED and Ghostlight’s releases.)

Soon after Ark of Napishtim, came the aforementioned Oath in Felghana… but what followed that was released as Falcom’s 20th anniversary title of the series: Ys Origin (Released on 12/21/2006).

This is the first title of the series to feature main characters other than the series’ iconic redhead. Yunica Tovah and Hugo Fact are involved in the exploration of the Devil’s Tower during the disaster that pre-dates the events of Ys I by 700 years. This game finally details the events that lead up to Adol’s first two stories. If you haven’t yet, you should purchase it on Steam, as XSEED has recently released it.

On 9/17/2009, Falcom released Ys Seven. This game also marked a change for the company, as it was when Falcom chose to step away from the PC and release the game to PSP only.

Ys Seven is another milestone in the series. Up to this point, every journal listed in Ys I’s pre-story has been shown, save for ‘The Five Great Dragons of Altago.’ Ys Seven marks the decision to finally tell that story, as many of the fans had wanted to know. This game also takes a step away from Adol being a lone adventurer and sets him up with a party of six others. It will also be the first game where you can control Dogi, Adol’s best friend. (Well, outside of derivative titles).

For 25 years, fans have followed the adventures of one remarkable redhaired swordsman as he challenged history, demons, and ancient artifacts. Adol worked alongside thieves, goddesses, princesses, and other close allies to see many aspects of his world that few ever had the opportunity to see. Both Ys I’s pre-story and Falcom’s president, Toshihiro Kondo, have stated that Adol, over the course of his adventures, wrote well over a hundred journals of the things he saw and experienced, which leaves room for many more years of adventurers.

I can’t wait to see what we have coming next with this series. Beyond Celceta, of course. :)

2 Replies to “[Editorial] Happy 25th Birthday, Ys!”

  1. I remember the days of early EGM and GamePro, I would see ads and little write ups about Ys. At the time, and also as a youngin, I always thought that it was just another Final Fantasy clone. It was a prime time for RPGs, it was easy to see a game like Ys to get swept away with the NA audience.

    It was not until the release of Ys: Oath in Felghana where I would actually sit down, pay proper attention to the series, and realized “holy crap, I missed out on all of this?”

    I didn’t just get wound up on Felghana, I went back, checked out Chronicles and loved the hell out of the unique mechanics. Even checked out Wanderers of Ys and uh… yeah, it had good music.

    Perhaps what really held me so close to Ys was not only the music but just how amazing and diverse it all sounds coming out of so many different sound chips. It really does bring a level of nostalgia, despite me never hearing the music prior to the past decade.

    I still have a lot of catching up to do with the Ys series. Origin is next on my plate and I suppose it would only be proper if I spent the day playing through it.

    1. Interesting that you say that. My first experience with the Ys series made me hate it. So much. (It was Ys III on the SNES).

      I couldn’t stand it. …but I still had an inkling of interest and wanted to try it again at some point, but I didn’t want to dare give anything a try if it was anything like that game that I had played.

      …until a friend left his CD’s at my apartment in the late 90’s. I listened to them. Fell in love with them. Almost never gave them back.

      That, alone, convinced me to look up more on the series and eventually give it a try again- a good /proper/ try.

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