January 2019 in Summary: Into the Thick of Things

Hope all of you are doing well in this new year so far! Now that the Oscars are around the corner, I’ve been running around attempting to see and review all of the nominations. As a result, when it comes to reviewing games, I had to make a lot of last-minute changes. I intend to complete everything I set out to do in short order, though.

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Ys III: Wanderers from Ys

Introduction

With Ancient Ys Vanished and its sequel, Nihon Falcom had a franchise that eclipsed Dragon Slayer in terms of popularity. Though Dragon Slayer helped codify the action RPG, the Ys duology was what helped it truly soar in popularity. Despite the second title being dubbed The Final Chapter, the team began work on a sequel in response to its immense popularity. This new installment, Ys III: Wanderers from Ys, was released on the PC-8801 and MSX2 in 1989. Within the next few years, it would see additional ports on the prominent fourth generation consoles, including the TurboGrafx-CD, Super NES, and Sega Genesis. The TurboGrafx-CD port was particularly timely, being released in North America two years after the international debut of Ys Book I & II, a remake that combined the series’ first installments. Because of this, many versions of Ys III were translated into English despite the series’ obscurity abroad. Those who have played Ys III consider it an overlooked gem in the fourth-generation library. With a pair of impactful predecessors, how does Ys III hold up?

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Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished – The Final Chapter

Introduction

Nihon Falcom’s Ancient Ys Vanished was a resounding success in Japan when it launched in 1987. Much like their earlier effort Dragon Slayer, Ancient Ys Vanished was an instrumental step in introducing action elements to the role-playing game genre.  However, this game differed from Dragon Slayer in one instrumental factor: it ended on a cliffhanger. As such, to an even greater degree than usual, fans clamored for a sequel. Fortunately, they were in luck. Believing the story of Ancient Ys Vanished could not be contained in a single game, Nihon Falcom were in the process of developing a resolution. It was released one year after its predecessor for the NEC PC-8801 and PC-9801 under the name Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished – The Final Chapter. Even for those who enjoyed the original Ancient Ys Vanished, Ys II was considered a vast improvement in every significant way. What did this highly anticipated sequel bring to the table?

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Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished – Omen

Introduction

In 1981, a man named Masayuki Kato founded a video game developer. Calling it Nihon Falcom, his company released its first game in 1982: Galactic Wars. Over the next few years, they released a slew of other games for the PC-8801– part of a popular series of home computers manufactured by Nippon Electric Company (NEC). Their first true success came in the form of their 1984 release Dragon Slayer. It was groundbreaking at the time for providing a dungeon crawling role-playing experience that took place in real-time. As a result, it laid the foundation for what is now known as the action RPG. With a gigantic success on their hands, Nihon Falcom became one of the country’s big-name developers alongside Nintendo, Namco, and Taito.

In 1987, they released a different kind of action-RPG called Ancient Ys Vanished – Omen. Like Dragon Slayer before it, Ancient Ys Vanished proved to be very popular upon release, garnering significant critical acclaim from many publications. Despite its domestic success, this game didn’t fare as well internationally. It received ports on the Master System and TurboGrafx-16 CD – neither of which even came close to approaching the popularity of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). When a port for the game appeared on the Famicom, the original Japanese version of the NES, not only was it a vast departure from the original, it never received an official localization. Because of these factors, Ancient Ys Vanished never had a strong following abroad despite having a reputation comparable with Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest in its native homeland. What kind of game was left to fall by the wayside?

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