The first game in Falcom’s venerable Ys series, this particular release has the distinction of being the first version of the game to appear on U.S. consoles. Ys is a simple RPG focusing on the adventure of the red-haired swordsman Adol as he tries to discover the vanished land of Ys. It breaks down the action RPG to its simplest form, with combat conducted by bumping into enemies and no real character customization outside of buying better armor and weapons, and selecting from several magical rings that alter Adol’s stats or let him heal inside dungeons. The game only has three dungeons, one of which takes up most of the game, and a healthy dose of backtracking. Originally released on older PCs and eventually ported to many systems, the game is much better served as an opening to its more in-depth sequel, which is why most rereleases pair the two games together.
So, with no version of Ys II on the Sega Master System or even the Genesis, this already puts this port at a major disadvantage, and it only gets worse from here. The best versions of Ys are fast-paced and allow you to plow through monsters quickly to gain levels, which are needed to fight the many nasty bosses. Sadly, the Master System version suffers from not only being relatively slow, but in addition the early game enemies give tiny amounts of experience that make early grinding excruciating.
There’s really no way around grinding in the game, either. Though you can wander around the game’s small world easily enough avoiding enemies, without proper level gains and money to buy better equipment the bosses would be impossible. It’s a shame, as the game is relatively well represented on the system otherwise. The sprites and animations all look decent, and the game’s classic soundtrack even manages to shine through despite the limitations of the hardware. It isn’t the worst version of Ys, and much of its classic charm is able to shine through for those who are patient. The dungeon layouts are even changed up a bit.
For its time it was a relatively decent port, certainly providing a better experience than the poor Famicom port. The problem is that with Ys I & II being ported and updated so often, there’s really little reason to play this port. Even some of its contemporaries provided a better experience, with the brilliant Turbo Duo version coming out a mere year later. Indeed the only real lasting legacy from this version is the horrible misprint of the game’s title on the box, calling it “Y’s” instead of Ys.
Article by Michael Apps
GameSpite Journal 12: Ys (aka Y’s)