“More People Need to Play Ys”, and Other Things I Read In A Fortune Cookie Once

Earlier this week, LimitedRunGames made several announcements regarding their upcoming releases. In case you’re unaware, LimitedRunGames is a small operation that makes a single print run of indie games, or otherwise digital-only games, that are available for a very short period of time, never to be reprinted again. Hence, “Limited Run.” They typically sell out in a matter of minutes, and it’s rare that a game is available after the fifteen-minute mark.

Among the announced games were Risk of Rain, Mutant Mudds, and the kicker: Ys Origin. All three games are being released physically for Playstation 4 and PSVita, but as icing on the cake, Ys Origin will have a boxed collector’s edition! This is a pretty big deal, as the Ys series seems to be blowing up lately in the west. With the impending release of Origin on the Vita in digital form, fans of the series were keeping their ear to the ground awaiting an announcement on a physical release, since the only other physical release is a boxed PC copy from Japan.

oath-in-felghana
Ys: Oath in Felghana gameplay.

While I’m personally very excited for this news, I’d like to use it to advertise this game series a little bit, as the next installment to the series is coming to North America and Europe later this year, and in sexy collector’s editions to boot! If I can convince just one person who’s never played anything in the series to jump into it, I’ll be happy. That’s what happens when you find something great, you want to share it! It truly surprised me how unknown this series was. I thought, there have to be other people out there that love action-RPGs… right?

What the heck is Ys and why haven’t I heard of it?

While the story-telling and character design elements in Ys have everything in common with a JRPG, the series is completely different in the sense that it isn’t turn-based. Nope, this is a fast-paced, energetic and ridiculously FUN action-RPG series, one of which crept right into my top 5 games of the year last year, following a random purchase before I even owned a Vita.

celceta-banner
The characters in this series are awesome.

First off, you may be wondering “how do I pronounce ‘Ys’? Do I say ‘why-ess,’ reading the letters aloud? Or is it pronounced ‘wise’?” Well, I had to Google this myself, and I still say “Y-S” aloud, but the proper pronunciation is “Ees,” or “fleece” without the ‘Fl’. The more you know!

There are tons of games in the series, but most of them were practically unavailable in North America until the late 2000s, unless you imported them, and also could read Japanese. Following a string of unlicensed fan translations of several key Ys installments released only in Japan, localization company XSEED purchased the script from the translator himself.

In May of 2010, XSEED announced plans for and got to work on localizing all of the Ys games that were released in Japan at the time on the PSP, including Ys: I & II Chronicles, Ys: The Oath in Felghana, and Ys Seven. Within the year, all official translations were released in North America. This trend continued into 2012 when Ys Origin was published to Steam, along with the other translations they had already completed.

In a few short years, Ys exploded into North America thanks to the efforts of translators and XSEED alike. While the series is practically ancient in terms of video games, with the first installment from 1987, it has evolved at a rapid pace and kept the signature style it is known for, while still improving the gameplay.

That’s a lot of words – how about a summary?

Sure thing! I’ll do you one better – here’s a list of all the things about Ys that make it a blast to play.

  • Lightning fast combat
  • Leveling up and RPG elements
  • Epic boss battles
  • Tons of difficulty modes that range from piece of cake to complete insanity
  • Some of the greatest video game music ever composed
  • Recurring characters throughout the series, most of whom you can control

If you like Zelda games, and smoking crack… well, let’s just say that Ys games have been dubbed “Zelda games on crack” on more than one occasion (seriously though, please don’t smoke crack). But add in the RPG elements and a leveling system and you have yourself a JRPG, just with quick action as opposed to slower cutscenes and turn-based random encounters.

Sounds great! Where do I start?

Good question. My answer? Start anywhere in the modern games! These games are:

  • Ys: The Ark of Napishtim (PC, PS2, PSP)
  • Ys: The Oath in Felghana (PC, PSP)
  • Ys Seven (PC, PSP)
  • Ys: Origin (PC, PS4, Vita)
  • Ys: Memories of Celceta (Vita)

Truthfully, it depends on what consoles you have available. You’ll notice all but one are on PC. They are all relatively cheap to purchase for PC, around $15 each, and you can pick up the full collection on GOG for around $30 when it goes on sale. If you do not have a Vita, I advise starting with Ys: The Oath in Felghana on the PC. It’s the most approachable and you don’t require prior knowledge of the series to get into it.

However… if you have a Vita, I would recommend playing Ys: Memories of Celceta, then going back to The Oath in Felghana or Origin afterwards once you’ve got it down. Watch some gameplay videos and figure out if it’s your jam or not. The gameplay is very fast paced and if you dawdle about and complete all quests, the game will run you about $25 and make 30 or so hours of your life amazing. The music alone is reason to play!

Now, if you want to get all that you can out of the story, well, starting at the entry point, Ys I & II Chronicles is your best bet. I played these one the Nintendo DS and while they are definitely showing their age at this point, it’s a good entry point into the series for story purposes, and they aren’t very long time commitments either. They are also much slower, but for a Ys game, “slow” is still faster than most.


I haven’t written a whole lot about Ys aside from Memories of Celceta, but since accidentally discovering the series last year, I’ve been completely enamored with it. I highly recommend you check it out!

Are you already a fan of the Ys series? Any other thoughts that a newcomer might appreciate? Post them in the comments!

 

14 thoughts on ““More People Need to Play Ys”, and Other Things I Read In A Fortune Cookie Once

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  4. Imtiaz Ahmed

    Never heard of this game, I checked out a quick top 10 compilation of songs from the series since you mentioned the soundtrack, it’s really cool! Combine a soundtrack like this with epic bosses, I’m sold!

    If I can manage to cut my backlog down I wouldn’t mind trying this series out. Thanks for sharing this!

    Like

  5. kresnik258gaming

    Nice write-up on one of my favourite series ever.

    If you’re a newcomer, I’d honestly say Oath in Felghana or Origin should be your starting point. Although I still love Seven and Memories of Celceta, I feel like those games were the pinnacle of the series – I wasn’t such a fan of the move towards team-based weakness combat. The sense of exploration and the glorious boss battles from OiF and Origin are just something else.

    Still, super excited about Origin this year and the eventual release of Ys VIII on Vita, eep!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Always amazes me how no one in the west seems to know about this series, and I think it 100% has to do with the title that says nothing about the game.

      Currently I’m playing through Oath in Felghana and one thing that’s frustrating is the boss difficulty spikes. From experimenting and getting better at the game, I’ve concluded that grinding up levels and money to buy better gear is a necessary part of the game. This wasn’t the case with Celceta but certainly was with Book I & II. Am I correct in this assumption? Only on the third boss and getting absolutely annihilated in about 20 seconds.

      The second boss took me around 50 tries. It’s fun though because of how you have to get the fight “perfect” to win. I’m also playing on Hard mode which with Ys is apparently pretty rough, compared to other games.

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      1. kresnik258gaming

        It’s been a couple of years since I played it, but what I remember is that it’s mostly about “perfecting” the fight as you say – you just have to learn the pattern and adapt to it perfectly to win.

        I loved that level of challenge, even if I found it incredibly frustrating at the time. It’s certainly left me with fond memories anyway 🙂

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        1. Absolutely! It’s very satisfying once you master it. The thing that makes it so addicting is the sheer speed – I was pulling about 3 attempts per minute for a good 10 minutes or so before I figured out the best way to dodge incoming attacks. Next thing you know I finally pulled it off without getting hit even once. MAN that is satisfying!

          Oath in Felghana is terrific so far – can’t wait to jump into Ark, and then Origin on the Vita when it releases!

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Robert Ian Shepard

    I’ve played one Ys game (I still keep thinking “wise” – I’ll probably never say it right) and that was the very first one. It’d be interesting to see how the series has evolved compared to my first experience, but I only have the PS4 as far as being able to access any of the titles.

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    1. Wooo boy, that’s an interesting one to start with, because those games haven’t aged well at all! Although I did enjoy playing them.

      If you’ve only got a PS4, you have access to Ys Origin already, but if you wait till the end of the year, Lacrimosa of Dana is coming out which looks to be totally incredible.

      Of course, that is dependent on whether or not you like fast paced action-RPGs 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Robert Ian Shepard

        I generally prefer turn-based strategic experiences, but I have enjoyed certain action-RPGs in the past. Quality of storytelling is paramount for me in a game, so if they story is solid and the gameplay is fun enough that it doesn’t hinder me from wanting to play out the story then I’d probably enjoy it.

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  7. I’ve played a few YS games and I’m not into them :). They’re actually quite generic in my opinion. I’ve never played one all the way through. I had no idea the series was so old though. It’s impressive that it’s managed to stay around for so long. Not many games can do that. A nice a game that used to be a traditional JRPG, but changed to a action RPG is the Phantasy Star series.

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    1. The thing about Ys that resonated so well with me is how simple the gameplay is. I understand this can seem generic to some, personally I’ve never played a game before Ys that had such simple and fast paced combat. It also feels very satisfying. Of course, this is all subjective so it’s not everyone’s cup of tea! The west tends to favor action-RPG however, so I’m surprised it was ever popular at all in Japan.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I play some of everything. My favorite genre is strategy games. I love them to death. I might give the series another go once I shrink my backlog of games a little. I think there’s a new one in the works. I might just wait for that and check it out whenever it releases.

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