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.
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.
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!