Ys Series Review Part 2: Wanderers From Ys and the Oath in Felghana
Welcome to the next part of the Ys Series Review. Last time, we discussed the first two entries in the series and how they were essentially a single adventure that was split into two separate games and then bundled together. Today we will be looking at Adol Christian’s next adventure, Ys III: Wanderers from Ys. Story spoilers lie ahead, so proceed at your own risk.
1. Wanderers from Ys
Wanderers from Ys was released by Nihon Falcom in 1989 on, you guessed it, the PC-8801 like the first two Ys games. Though unlike the first game, there weren’t nearly as many ports made. The game was ported to the PC-9801 and MSX2 like the first two and was also ported to the Sharp X68000 in the same year. By 1991, the game had been ported to several consoles such as the Famicom and Super Nintendo, TurboGrafx-CD, and Genesis. As you can tell from the system names used, the ports for the latter three consoles made their way stateside. There was one more port made many years later on the PlayStation 2 (Which did not make it out of Japan) and there have not been any ports of Ys III since, or at least not as Wanderers from Ys, and I will be explaining why there aren’t any newer releases later in the article.
Right off the bat, it may seem that Ys III’s gameplay is different from that of the first two. The first two games were top-down games whereas Ys III is a side-scroller much in the vein of Falcom’s 1985 title, Xanadu. Gone are the days of ramming into enemies to kill them, at least for now, as you now have an attack button and since this is a side-scroller, you can even jump. However, even though the game looks different at first glance the gameplay is in a way very much like that of the first two games especially in combat, and still feels like an Ys game. In the 8 and 16 bit ports of Ys III, if you hold down the attack button and move, Adol constantly swings his sword and lets you bulldoze your way through enemies which is an awful lot of fun, not to mention you’ll have to do it for the purposes of grinding to the maximum level to stand even a remote chance against the final boss.
The area types are not all that different from the second game as it has a few dungeon-like areas, an underground fire area, and a snowy mountain area that refines elements found in the previous game. Outside of the individual areas, gone is the aspect of exploration as you get to everywhere you need to go via a map that serves as a stage select screen.
Also, there is only a single town that serves as a central hub between stages where you can purchase weapons, armor, shields, and other items while talking with the townsfolk. This is in contrast with the first game that had two towns, three if you’re going by any releases Eternal on up, and the three towns in the second game. It doesn’t make the game any less fun, though. In fact, it keeps the plot focused in a way and does not over complicate things.
Speaking of the plot, the game takes place a few years after Adol’s adventures in Esteria as he and his friend Dogi travel to the latter’s hometown of Redmont in the land of Felghana. Shortly after their arrival, they find it is overrun with monsters and meet Dogi’s childhood friend, Elena Stoddart, and learn that her older brother, Chester, has been missing for about six months. Adol then has to go to a nearby mine after a cave-in to save the mayor.
Along the way, he encounters a sorcerer named Dularn along with a creature deep in the mine, receiving a statue upon defeating it. After running into Chester in some nearby ruins, Adol learns that he is now a soldier of Count McGuire, an official from the Romun Empire. The Romuns, loosely based on the Roman Emore, are a group that Adol will have some further run-ins with in later games, namely the fourth and sixth games. McGuire rules Felghana and is not exactly viewed highly by the locals. Especially after he ordered
the closure of the mines that served as Redmont’s primary source of income while searching for the statue there.
He is trying to gather four statues that keep the seal on an ancient evil named Galbalan intact so he can set him free. Chester, as it turns out, is helping the Count because he wants the creature to destroy him as payback for an order he gave many years ago to wipe out everyone living on Genos Island where he was born, mainly because the inhabitants of the island were descendants of a legendary warrior who defeated Galbalan long ago. Chester and Elena were the only survivors.
After Adol discovers that a dark priest named Garland has been the true mastermind behind the events in and leading up to the game, including the destruction of Genos Island, he goes to the ruins of Genos Island for one last battle against Garland and the newly awakened Galbalan, slaying the former and weakening the latter.
In a final act of self-sacrifice and to atone for everything he caused with his petty revenge, Chester activates the island’s self-destruct mechanism and destroys the island along with Galbalan. With the land saved, Adol leaves Felghana to find his next great adventure.
Given the gameplay differences between Ys III and the others mainly from a cosmetic standpoint, it is sometimes seen as a black sheep of the series. While I don’t personally agree with that and think there is another Ys game far more deserving of that accolade, Falcom it seems is not deaf to criticism. If you remember, I mentioned earlier in the article that the last release of Wanderers from Ys was on the PS2 and that there was a reason why it hasn’t been rereleased since.
2. The Oath in Felghana
The reason is that in 2005 Falcom released a game called The Oath in Felghana, a remake of Ys III that took the side-scrolling gameplay and translated it into 3D, adding some extra gameplay features such as three magic bracelets that are collected throughout the game that give Adol different abilities, similar to a gameplay feature that would appear in the sixth Ys game. This only makes sense since Oath in Felghana was made using the engine for that game. Oath in Felghana was ported to the PSP in 2010 followed by a U.S. release in the same year and a European release in 2011. The original PC version followed suit and got a worldwide release in 2012. The PSP version made some additions such as voice acting, though the quality of some of the voice performances are questionable, and a nice feature borrowed from Ys Chronicles in the form of selecting music tracks from some of the original releases of Ys III. As usual with Falcom games, the music is outstanding in all versions of the game, save for some sound quality issues a few old Ys III ports, and the old music tunes have been rearranged for The Oath in Felghana.
All the areas from the old game are present, though many of them have been altered or expanded upon and in some way to work within a 3D space all while retaining the 2D feel of the original version. The same goes with the bosses as just about all of the ones from the original are present, though the battles have been changed to fit with the new engine and the appearance of some have been some have been changed such as Galbalan. That’s not all, though. A few new bosses have been added to spice things up and to aid the story.
The story is pretty much the same as Wanderers From Ys, only some parts are expanded upon and some changes are made to add continuity with the later games, specifically the fourth and sixth games for reasons that will be explained in the articles for both of those games.
Some of the characters are more fleshed out as well and as a whole enhance the presentation of the story. There are even a few new characters such as the Count’s family along with characters who seem new at first when they really are not. One of the major changes I could find in the plot is the role of the sorcerer Dularn. In the original, Durlan simply serves as the first boss and was slain during the fight. In Oath in Felghana, the wizard has a far greater role and shows up throughout the game and so does Garland to a lesser extent.
Ys: The Oath in Felghana takes the already great Wanderers from Ys and brings the series to the modern age while maintaining the classic charm, and is my personal favorite in the series. If you wish to play Ys III, there are a few options. The original version is not that accessible these days especially in the America, where it was last released on the Super Nintendo, Genesis, and TurboGrafx. Oath in Felghana is far more accessible to modern gamers and is the game I’d recommend starting out with if you wish to try the series out. Both are available in the same places as the Chronicles release of the first two. The PSP version is on the PlayStation Store and is accessible on the Vita and PlayStation TV, and the PC version is on Steam and GOG. It is challenging for me to recommend one version over the other since both are good, though the PSP version is a little better since it is more refined than the PC original and contains the extras mentioned above. Just get the one more accessible to you. My final verdicts for both versions of Ys III are:
Wanderers From Ys: 8/10 (Great)
The Oath in Felghana: 9/10 (Near Perfect)
While the multiple ports of Ys III, especially the ones that made it out of Japan, looked like a beacon of hope that the series was starting to gain momentum in the West with regular releases, unfortunately the opposite of the case and marked the beginning of a drought of new releases that would last for about thirteen years. A drought that did not end until the release of the sixth game on the PS2. The next two games in the series did not make it out of Japan at the time. While one of them has made its way out of the land of the rising sun in some form, the other still has not to this day and that game is largely responsible for the Ys drought. Ys III was also the last game in the series to end up on a wide assortment of consoles. All future installments would only be on a few different consoles at most. Join me next time as we look the fourth game and the story behind why three completely different games are called Ys IV. Well, until then.