The cooler autumn weather brings a different mood to every aspect of life, and to counteract the oncoming gloom of winter’s shorter days and my disappointment about having to actually put on pants to go outside, there are some good things about it, too. I get to bust out my trusty old leather jacket, myriad delicious Oktoberfest beers appear on store shelves (especially here in Wisconsin), and my dogs love running through the leaves and, eventually, the snow.
Along with all the bundling-up and hunkering-down comes a change in my gaming mood, too. Yes, ’tis the season of RPGs, when a nice, long quest to save some crystals or prevent the destruction of the world or some such nonsense is just what the doctor ordered to get us through the months that end in “-ber” and “-uary.”
Lately, after doing some thinking about it and with no new games catching my interest, I’ve wandered back to the Ys series.
It started innocently enough, when I realized that Ys IX: Monstrum Nox had come out in Japan in 2019 and was scheduled for a 2021 release here in the US, and started to think about how little of the Ys series I’d really experienced. I’d played I and II on multiple platforms (most notably the beloved TurboGrafx-CD version, but also the Nintendo DS edition), finished Ys VI: Ark of Napishtim on PS2, and went through Ys Origins on PS4 with one of the characters. Other than dabbling with Ys III on SNES when it came out and not really getting into it, and watching some friends play some of either IV or V on the Super Famicom way back in the day, that was about it.
So a couple weeks ago, I decided to revisit Ys III on the SNES. Although I remember not liking it all that much when it came out, I knew that my appreciation for different styles of games has matured in the past 30 years, especially having learned so much about the history of Japanese computer games and action RPGs through the Untold History of Japanese Game Developers series of books.
Firing up an emulator (I wanted the convenience of playing on my laptop with save states), I was pleasantly surprised to find that I now actually really liked the game. Back then, I think I was put off by the less-than-smooth “action” portion of this action RPG; it’s clunkier than your typical sidescrolling platformer, but the limited action has a dated charm of its own. I also thought the graphics were great in an early 16-bit kind of way.
Right around this same time, I was thinking that I wanted to revisit Ys Origins again. I had played through it with Yunica back when I got the PS4 physical edition from Limited Run, but I’d heard that you don’t see the true last boss and “canon ending” unless you finish it with the third character, Toal, which you unlock by playing with the other two characters. I certainly didn’t want to repeat the game right after I finished it, but it’d been a couple years now and I was ready to get back to it, so off I went with Hugo to climb Darm Tower once again. I found his quest to be actually a little more fun than Yunica’s, due to his magic projectile combat as opposed to Yunica’s more traditional melee style.
So there I was, playing through two Ys games at the same time. Ys has always been a very “grindy” game, so I tend to spend lots of time leveling-up to make the rest of the game more fun. One thing that really struck me, though, was that with 2020 having been the kind of year it has — my own personal issues adding to the same general bullshit everyone is experiencing right now — grinding levels in both games has proven to be a really nice way to kind of zone out and meditate away some of the stress of the world, thereby signaling to me that yes, this is exactly the right time to be playing these games.
On top of that, I really wanted to revisit Ys I and II again, but rather than do the Turbo and DS versions again, I decided to check out the Ys Chronicles+ version on Steam, which contains the 2001 Ys Complete and 2009 Ys Chronicles PC versions. And it’s only 15 bucks! I usually wait for Steam sales to buy games, but $15 for Ys is totally worth it.
Recognizing that I must be officially on an “Ys kick,” I started seeking out some of the other missing pieces in my history with Adol. I knew about the two different versions of Ys IV, Dawn of Ys (PC Engine) and Mask of the Sun (Super Famicom), but I learned a little more about why that was done (Falcom had a general outline of the fourth chapter, but Hudson developed the PCE version and Tonkin House developed the SFC version independently of each other, resulting in very different games). I knew very little about Ys V or Seven, and I’d played the demo of Ys VIII on PS4 but wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. And I learned about the other titles that are remakes/re-dos of earlier games (Oath in Felghana is the remake of III, Memories of Celceta is the new “officially canon” version of IV, and V has not been remade or revisited yet).
As you can see, this is becoming an ongoing story at this point, so I think my plan for the winter is to tackle a few more Ys titles. Having finishied Ys III and my second run through Origins, I have now started the English fan translation (and dub!) of Ys IV: Dawn of Ys, and maybe I’ll play through I and II on the PC again (although it’s tempting to fire it up on my PC Engine Mini too). Then, if I’m not sick of Ys yet, maybe I’ll check out the Steam version of Ys Seven since the PSP version is outrageously expensive. From there, who knows? Maybe I’ll try VIII again and see if it agrees with me (although the physical edition is also already hard to find and climbing in price too). At that point, I’ll be just about caught up and maybe I’ll even get IX when it comes out.
It’s funny how sometimes, when you’re a long-time gamer, there’s a game or series that’s flown just barely below your radar for years or even decades, and suddenly you just know that it’s time to bring it into your life. I’ve always appreciated the long-running Ys series (it started in 1987 on the PC-88) and the works of its veteran developer, Falcom. I haven’t given it as much attention as I’d always wanted to, but I guess now’s the time.
I’ll let you know how it goes!