Ys 3 - Wanderers from Ys - Falcom 1989
PlayStation 2 remake by Taito 2005
Ys has been one of my all-time favourite RPG series. Ever since I played Ys 2 – The Final Chapter on my MSX2, I was hooked. In the beginning, I didn't understand a thing of the story, as the Ys games weren't translated back then. Although there are quite some disadvantages to not being able to understand what the NPC's are saying in a role playing game, there is a more positive result of this: you get to use your own imagination to fill in the blanks. That might be one of the great advantages of playing retro RPG's anyway.
Ys 3 – Wanderers from Ys
This article is about the PlayStation 2 remake of Ys 3 – Wanderers from Ys. Not because I am trying to make the MSX Resource Center more MSX related than MSX, but because I felt I had to. Both as an MSX user and as an Ys fan. You'll be reading later on what I mean.
Ys 3 is definitely the most special part of the series, just because the action does not take place in birdsview 3D perspective, but in side-view 2D. Thus, at first glance, the game seems to have more in common with Vampire Killer (or CastleVania, for you MSX analphabets) than with any part of the Ys series.
If you play the game for a while, however, you really feel like you're playing an Ys. Falcom did manage to create a game world in 2D with Adol as a main character that really gives you the feeling you're playing a part of the Ys series. It's hard to tell what it is that makes this atmosphere. Probably it's the combination of graphics, music, gameplay and story.
Let's suppose you are all familiar with the MSX2 version of Ys 3 (that's why I didn't send my review to Edge or something). I will not have to explain what the game is all about, I will not have to explain in what way this part of the series differs from the other parts, etc.
The PlayStation 2 remake (which was developed by Taito, by the way) comes in the package that is common for PS2 games. Inside, there's a small booklet, which is quite something different from the extended hard-cover book that came with the MSX2 version (let's not mention all the other extra's that were supplied with the MSX2 version). Inside the manual, everything is described quite briefly and therefore the manual could as well go without mentioning.
After booting the game itself, a SNESish intro demo appears and a familiar tune can be heard. It's not much of an intro demo; pictures of the main characters appear on the screen along with their names. No prologue, and worse, no multi-layer scrolling pillars that make you feel the atmosphere even before playing the game.
The intro demo ends quite abruptly (even the music just suddenly stops) and the title screen appears (and Taito thought that the map BGM of Ys 3 fit perfectly behind it – not). There are only little options to select, so let's proceed to…
The game starts just like the MSX2 version – Adol and Dogi approaching the town of Redmond while walking on a large bridge. After arriving at the gate, they start to talk. Why mention that, you'd say, but what I mean is: they talk. They talk! The on-screen texts are accompanied by voices that actually say the texts. Which is quite nice, on itself – it enlivens a game to my opinion. However, I must say it's quite odd to hear Adol and Dogi actually talking after knowing the game for about fifteen years.
Just as was the case in the MSX2 version, Adol and Dogi proceed through the town of Redmond, but what catches the eye is that the town hardly scrolls. The town is now divided in different sections, each to be selected by a map. If you leave a section (doesn't matter in what direction), you are re-directed to the map. I really don't get what made Taito do something like this. The town can hardly be seen as a unity anymore.
Apart from that, I can do nothing but talking in the town. I can't jump, I can't crouch and I can't hit. Which neither is necessary in a town, but it was fun to do.
The scenario seems to be literally the same as the scenario of the MSX2 version, although a church and a fortune teller have been added. The latter was simply necessary because there's a fortune teller in the prologue of the original game and as Taito decided to skip any form of prologue, they had to find another solution. Not that this satisfies me, but ok.
The scrolling problem is not just limited to the town. Taito apparently hated scrolling (or they didn't even know how to code it on a PS2). After entering the quarry (first location you can go for action), I find myself confronted with another flip-screen system. I enter the quarry, leave the screen rightwards and I enter a new screen (indeed, just like Vampire Killer). After three or four screens, I find myself in the large cave in the centre (you know what I mean – the part with the club ogres). And finally, some scrolling is added to the game.
In short, only those parts that really couldn't do without scrolling scroll, every other part is just a combination of screens in which you enter on the one side and leave on the other side. One of the greatest consequences of this is that the game became even shorter than it already was. I did nothing funny, but I completed the game in just four hours of playing.
The game itself differs little from the original. The maps are roughly the same; the horizontal scrolling (non-scrolling in this version) parts are much shorter, some sideways are just skipped (there are no stairs or anything in the Ilbarnz Ruins), some parts are made a little shorter for your convenience (the clock tower, for example, is way more complicated and extended in the MSX2 version). Nothing has been added, though.
The fighting is also something that is different from the MSX2 version. It's hard to explain, but I'll give it a try. If you hit an enemy in the PS2 version, it's paralyzed for a short moment, giving you the time to hit again and again until it dies. In the MSX2 version, the enemies didn't stop moving at all, making the game more difficult. There's also no HP gauge for the enemies, so you can't see how much damage you actually do (damage is only displayed with numerical values that appear above the enemy) and how long it takes to kill an enemy. Above all, the ‘feel' of the Ys 3 battle system is totally gone. If you hit an enemy, you hear a ‘clunck' like sound, as though you are hitting something hard. In Ys 3, you hear a decent ‘chop'. If an enemy is destroyed, it explodes with some very cheap effect, whereas the color fade effect in Ys 3 perfectly fit the game.
Let's say something about the graphics now. Although the graphics are not bad, they lack every sense of feeling. Again something that is hard to describe, but they're cheap. Background graphics are just repeating patterns and where they aren't, they're too static, or something. Too slick. I can't tell what it is exactly, but the graphics don't create an Ys atmosphere at all, not to mention the fact that the graphical potential of the PS2 isn't used at all. This game could have appeared in the exact same way on the SNES if you ask me. Like I said – they're not bad, for a straightforward action game a la Megaman or something, but they definitely are not Ys 3.
The graphics are far little detailed than those of the MSX2 version. The clock tower is simplified, for example, but there are no clouds behind the windows in the castle either, the revolving stairs at the end of the game at Galvalan's Island has made place for some very simple platform jump scene, lacking all atmosphere, the great waterfalls in the quarry are gone…
Sound and music
The same goes for the music. All of you will probably agree with me that the background music of Ys 3 was simply great. Although only PSG was used on the MSX2, the tunes were just phantastic and they certainly contributed to the atmosphere of the game. The music in this PS2 remake, however, lacks any emotion as well. They're just cheaply arranged versions of the original, sounding all artificial. There was not even one tune of which I thought 'nicely done' or something.
I already said something about the sound effects previously. The sounds are cheap as well and don't fit the game in my opinion.
Finally, there's the voice acting. Although I do like voice acting in a game, the voice acting of this Ys 3 remake is bad. Really bad. For the record, I played the Japanese version (I don't know if an English version will ever appear). There are no emotions in the voice acting and the pictures on the screen and the setting of the story seem to have no influence on the way the characters talk. They're just flat, just as though someone's little brother and sister were asked to read the texts aloud.
Now you probably know why I felt I had to write this article. The PS2 remake of Ys 3 is bad. They managed to create a very small action game without much charm, which obviously had to be released as soon as possible. The MSX2 version of Ys 3 had everything – atmosphere, charm, detailed graphics, phantastic music, fine gameplay… The remake has lost all of that. Technically, the MSX2 version was quite surprising as well at that time – multi layer scrolling, animating backgrounds etc. Things like that can hardly be called spectacular on a PS2, yet half of them is not implemented in the remake.
I honestly don't know why Falcom entrusted the PS2 remake of this game to Taito. They should have known – don't let the company that makes games like Arkanoid and Sweet Acorn suddenly challenge an Ys game ;).
On the other side, I am a big Ys fan and only because of that there's no way somebody's review could keep me from buying this game. But don't say I didn't warn you!