Ys (イース Īsu ) is a Japanese computer and console role-playing video game series, and Nihon Falcom corporation's flagship franchise. It started on the NEC PC-8801 in 1987, created by Masaya Hashimoto (director, programmer, designer) and Tomoyoshi Miyazaki (scenario writer). In terms of the number of game releases, Ys is second only to Final Fantasy as the largest eastern role-playing game franchise. Ys is particularly popular in Japan and Korea.
Ys titles have appeared on the Sharp X1, MSX2, FM-7/77, NEC PC-9801, X68000, Sega Master System, Sega Mega Drive, Sega Saturn, Famicom, Super Famicom, Nintendo DS, PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Playstation Vita, TurboGrafx/PC-Engine CD-ROM, cellular phone, SNES, and on the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console service.
The Ys series chronicles the adventures of Adol Christin, a young man with a zest for adventure and an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the wrong time. Gameplay usually revolves around Adol, though his comrade, Dogi, is a frequent companion in his travels. Thus far, Adol has visited the regions of Esteria, Celceta, Felghana, Xandria, the Canaan Islands, Altago , and Isle of Seiren.
In early games, the player uses solely the directional pad to fight. The player must literally run Adol into enemies, hitting them on the side, back or slightly off-center of the front. This was created with accessibility in mind; while other RPGs at the time had either turn-based combat or a manually-activated sword, Ys had Adol automatically attack when walking into enemies off-center, furthering the accessibility concept that Falcom had in mind. While not every Ys title has used the 'bump attack' system, this has become one of the series' defining features. Falcom staff have compared this style of gameplay to the enjoyment of popping air bubble sheets, in the sense that it took the tedious task of level-grinding and turned it into something similar to a high-score-based arcade game.
Ys II introduced several additions to the series. These additions include magic spells, such as shooting fireballs, and the unique ability to transform into a monster, which allows the player to both scare human non-player characters for unique dialogues as well as interact with all the monsters, many of whom often mention "that pesky red-haired swordsman" (referring to the protagonist Adol) to the player (when in monster form). This is a recurring highlight in the series, offering the player insight into the enemies, to an extent that very few other games allow to this day.
Ys III: Wanderers from Ys adopted side-scrolling action-adventure gameplay, similar to Falcom's own Dragon Slayer series and Nintendo's Zelda II, with an attack button and a variety of different attacks. The classic control scheme returned in Ys IV: Mask of the Sun. With Ys V: Kefin, the Lost City of Sand, the game adopted a top-down viewpoint. Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim graphically departed from its predecessors, using three-dimensional graphics and hack-and-slash gameplay.
The Ys series has its roots in the Japanese computer system, the NEC PC-8801. Each of the first three games was released on that platform first. Ports of the game series to console platforms have usually been handled by various other licensee companies, such as Hudson Soft, Tonkin House and Konami.
The first two games in the series were originally intended as a single game, but the creators Masaya Hashimoto and Tomoyoshi Miyazaki eventually decided to split it into two separate games: Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished (1987) and Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished – The Final Chapter (1988). They were later re-released together as an early enhanced remake Ys I & II (1989). It was one of the first video games to use CD-ROM, which was utilized to provide enhanced graphics, animated cut scenes, a Red Book CD soundtrack, and voice acting. Its English localization was also one of the first to use voice dubbing. The Sharp X68000 remake of Ys I released in 1991 was notable for its early use of 3D pre-rendering for the boss sprites. An MS-DOS remake called Ys II Special was also released exclusively for the South Korean market in 1994; it was a mash-up of Ys II with the anime Ys II: Castle in the Heavens (1992) along with a large amount of new content.
After completing Ys III (1989), Hashimoto and Miyazaki left Falcom and founded Quintet. Two particular versions of the fourth game were released, and Falcom licensed both versions out: the Super Famicom version to Tonkin House (who had handled the Super NES port for Ys III), titled Ys IV: Mask of the Sun; and the PC Engine version to Hudson Soft (who had ported all three previous games to that platform), titled Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys. Hudson Soft took certain liberties with the latter, and as a result, the two games are very different. They share the same setting, cast, and much of the basic plot, but the actual structure of the story plays out in a completely different manner, as do the game's levels and enemies. Despite being non-canonical, Hudson Soft's Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys is considered one of the best entries in the series.
Mask of the Sun is the official continuation of the series. The Dawn of Ys takes several different turns, plot-wise, including some significant inconsistencies with the canonical storyline. For this reason, The Dawn of Ys is essentially an "alternate universe" take on the events in Celceta. A PS2 remake of Mask of the Sun was released in May 2005, further subtitled "A New Theory".
When Falcom released Ys V, it came out on only a single platform: the Super Famicom. As a stand alone title, it was one of many late generation games that took advantage of the true abilities of the SNES, partially due to the liberties it took with the gameplay (in particular, giving Adol a jump and making him swing his sword). It was considered very easy; in response to this, Falcom soon put out Ys V Expert, a harder version of the game. A PS2 remake of Ys V by Taito was released March 30, 2006 in Japan.
After this, the series sat dormant for eight years (except for remakes such as Ys Eternal), during which time Falcom abandoned console development altogether, choosing instead to focus on the Microsoft Windows platform. Out of nowhere, they announced a new game in the series, entitled Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim, which was released on September 27, 2003. It took what Ys V had done and refined it, turning it into a very fast-paced action-RPG, which was generally well-received.
In early 2005, a new title in the series was announced, this one titled Ys: The Oath in Felghana, which is a top-to-bottom "re-imagining" of Ys III, covering the same plot as the original, but expanding on it greatly. It could be considered a retcon, but a rather minor one, as it basically clarifies and expands on events in Ys III, rather than overwriting them entirely. In spite of how much has changed, it is not "Ys VII." It was released on June 30, 2005.
A spinoff game called Ys Strategy was released on March 16, 2006 in Japan for the Nintendo DS. Unlike the rest of the series, this game is a real-time strategy game instead of an action-RPG. It received lackluster reviews and general disdain from fans.
Ys Origin was released in December 2006. It takes place 700 years before the events of the first game, just following the separation of Ys from Esteria. The two initial playable characters are Yunica Tovah and Hugo Fact. The two characters' stories play out somewhat differently during character interactions. Adol does not appear aside from being a hidden bonus character. Falcom has since released a new version of the game that required a copy's registration serial number sent to Falcom along with shipping charges to get an extra enhancement disc for the game. With this disc the player would be able to play as Adol, along with various other new features.
Ys Seven was released in Japan during 2009 for the PlayStation Portable, and was ported to PC in 2017 for North America only. It is the latest game in the canon Ys timeline chronologically, taking place about a year after Ys VI and two years after Ys VIII. This is the first entry to feature the party system, which allows the player to switch between characters that accompany Adol Christin on his journey. In order to encourage the player to utilize this system, damage types were introduced: slash, pierce, and strike, Adol always being the player's first slash damage-dealer in their party.
The new party system was favorably received overall, but some fans complained about it forcing them to play as characters aside from Adol, the main protagonist.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana was released on July 21, 2016 for Japan and September 22, 2017 for America for the Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita Console. Its stories cover Adol Christin's Diary "Periplus of the Gaete Sea". The latest entry of Ys Series that features a vast island to explore and additional gameplay features. It introduces the Flash Guard and Flash Move skill. Another feature is the raid battle, quest, and character event for all of the casts. The gameplay is still the same however added two new attack attribute called "Shoot" and "Break".
The difference of the party system from the Ys Seven is that Adol can be removed and be placed as a reserve. Some hidden quest however will be given to players by talking to characters or by locating a place that may have a side story.
The elements of the story revolves from the history Ys' and destruction of an ancient civilization. The game received great game critic scores for its good gameplay. However, its story features did not have the heavy elements seen on the Ys Seven.
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox was released in Japan on September 26, 2019 for the PlayStation 4. It will focus on the adventurers of Adol as he is falsely accused of an unusual disappearance and is now intermingled with the strange events occurring within the infamous Prison City and the monstrum.
Until 2005, only the first three Ys games were available in North America: Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished, Ys Book I & II, and Ys III: Wanderers from Ys. The original PC-8801, PC-9801, X1 and MSX2 versions, as well as the Famicom ports remain exclusive to Japan. English ports of the Japanese PC game Ys VI: Ark of Napishtim for the PS2 and PSP were released by Konami in 2005 and 2006 respectively, marking the first English release of the series in thirteen years.
At one point, NEC Interchannel proposed bringing Digicube's Ys Eternal Story to North America, but the idea was rejected by Sony Computer Entertainment America, commonly thought to be because of their prevailing attitude toward the viability of 2D games in the North American market; but as more small profile 2D games have been released in the PS2's lifespan, the decision was more likely due to numerous technical issues with the port itself including: long load-times (even for a PS2 game), frequent lock-ups, resolution flickering during menu or screen transitions and an abnormally large save file, clocking in at 1MB (1/8 of a memory card) whereas most, and much more recent RPGs average 100–200KB is size compared to a PC game. Many of these problems are associated with the game being quickly ported and released as Digicube was partially going out of business.
The original Windows PC remakes were Ys Eternal and Ys II Eternal. Later, there was a compiled re-release, which bumped up Ys Eternal's visuals to Ys II Eternal's level (more color depth, primarily) and made the soundtrack sound more cohesive between the two. This was released as Ys I & II Complete. Later, once this was out of print, Falcom began selling the two separately again, as Ys I Complete and Ys II Complete. Falcom complicated the issue by changing the "Eternal" to "Complete" on all external packaging and advertisements, but not in the actual games themselves. In one of the English patches, the internal bitmaps are edited to reflect the external change for the packages.
Nintendo added Ys Book I & II to the US Virtual Console Service on 25 August 2008. The Virtual Console allows owners of the Nintendo Wii to download classic games. This marks the first release of the Ys series on a 7th Generation home console. Atlus released the games in one package entitled Legacy of Ys: Books I & II on 24 February 2009 on the Nintendo DS.
In May 2010, XSEED Games announced plans to localize the PlayStation Portable games Ys I & II Chronicles, Ys: The Oath in Felghana, and Ys Seven in North America. As of 2011, all games have been released.
In 2009, Ys Online was released as an open beta for European players. The setting is centuries after Adol Christin's adventures.
There are two separate OVA anime series of Ys, with the first spanning seven episodes and covering the events of the first game, and the second spanning four episodes and loosely covering the events of the second game. The first anime expands on the relatively thin storyline of Ys I including a retelling of the prologue, previously only told in text in the original Japanese manuals.
Both series were released on DVD in English by Media Blasters' anime label "AnimeWorks". They can be purchased separately, or in a three-disc box set, entitled Ys Legacy. The dubbed/audio tracks have changes to some character names ("Dark Fact" becoming "Dark Factor", "Adol" becoming "Adle", and "Lilia" becoming "Lillian," for instance). Pronunciations of various names are inconsistent, sometimes within the same scene.
Included on one of the discs is what appears to be a preview for an anime based around Ys IV. This was created by Falcom as a "pitch" trailer to shop around to various animation studios, to see if anyone was interested in producing the series. They had no takers, however, so this trailer is all that exists of the rumored Ys IV anime.
The Ys series is particularly known for its original music soundtracks by Yuzo Koshiro, Mieko Ishikawa and Hideya Nagata. The composers' works have been remixed for each subsequent release of Ys I and II, most memorably by Japanese computer musician Ryo Yonemitsu for Hudson Soft's Ys I & II and Ys III: Wanderers from Ys releases for the PC Engine CD-ROM. Combining Yuzo's composition and Ryo's arrangement abilities, this arrangement found itself introducing video gamers, for the first time, to video game soundtracks that can stand on their own as full orchestral pieces of music. The TurboGrafx versions are also notable for their very early use of Red Book audio in video games. The Ys soundtracks are today regarded as some of the best video game music ever composed.
Consequently, the Ys series is seen in the video game music industry as some of the finest and most influential role-playing video game scores of all time, demonstrated by an extensive series of CDs based on the series' music, with numerous variations on its themes. The only other series with similar impact on the video game music industry at the time were Dragon Quest and Falcom's own Dragon Slayer action RPGs (also composed by Yuzo Koshiro and Mieko Ishikawa).