Ys III: Wanderers From Ys - Reader Retroview  

It's Not Easy Being Ys
by JuMeSyn

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Less than 20 Hours
+ Awesome soundtrack
+ Viscerally pleasing
+ Very fast-paced
- Old-school style means leveling is vital
- Very short
- Equipment management is a pain
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   The Ys games have always flown somewhat under the radar even among RPGamers. I had never played one prior to Ys III for the Genesis, but after taking it for a spin will most definitely be exploring other entries in this series. Ys is definitely not for a player concerned with great plot or deep play mechanics, for it possesses neither. But it does tap into the reptilian brain zone some players possess quite successfully, along with the ancient draw of killing a few more enemies to obtain that additional level that might make the difference between victory or death.

   The plot is inconsequential, as inferred above. Resident red-haired do-gooder of the Ys series, one Adol, starts to become involved in his trademark do-goodery against some evil people in a neighboring kingdom. The evil people are seeking to resurrect an ancient demon with great power for their own designs upon the world. Along the way Ellen, sister of Chester, commander in the evil kingdom, falls for Adol in a G-rated way. This is not original in the slightest and the early-90's translation doesn't help matters. Fortunately the plot doesn't take up much time, leaving the player free to kill things.

   The action in Ys III takes place in a side-scrolling perspective that any player of video games will immediately recognize. Adol moves quickly, can duck and jump, and simply by holding down the attack button will repeatedly swing his sword to strike enemies. No deep combat system exists here; Adol either kills the enemy with a few hits or it takes the hits and gets in close enough to hit him. Jumping attacks are particularly difficult to time correctly, leading to many hits upon Adol that could be construed as cheap. Kill enough things and Adol will go up a level, leading to increases in his statistics and making him far more likely to take enemy hits instead of dying quickly. There is no real magic; instead Adol will gain certain rings over the course of the game that can be equipped to use his magic meter up (quickly) in return for granting doubled attack power, defense, slowing everything onscreen down, or all of the above.

Adol is mistaken for a door-to-door missionary yet again. Adol is mistaken for a door-to-door missionary yet again.

   Interaction in battle is simplicity itself. Adol swings his sword, it connects. Enemies connect with Adol, his life meter goes down. There is almost no invincibility time after taking a hit however, so an inattentive player will see the Game Over screen often. Menus are unnecessarily irritating however, particularly equipment management. Each slot of equipment (and items to be used get their own slot) must be separately navigated on a large screen with multiple boxes, one not only for each piece of equipment Adol currently possesses but also for all the equipment that can ever be possessed. If Adol gains a stronger sword, the player must move around to the sword portion of the screen and shift over to the new sword, then make certain the correct box is flashing red or else Adol will have just rendered himself unable to attack because the player had unequipped his weapon. Particularly when using rings, where quickly turning the effects on and off is necessary from time to time, this setup is inconveniencing in the extreme.

   Challenge is quite uneven, in that Ys III adheres to old-school methods of RPG tactics. A level makes all the difference in this game, and trying to take down a boss without gaining a level or two can be an exercise in frustration. Skill, in other words, will not win the day - save perhaps for the final boss which requires a few tricks to defeat. Even with restarts aplenty necessary, Ys III is quite short (four hours is enough time for most people to finish) and the ability to save anywhere save in the actual room of a boss alleviates most of the frustration.

   The visuals are not too bad considering that this is a port of a PC-CD title as an early Genesis game. Certainly nothing looks outstanding but all the enemies are easy to spot and nothing looks too garishly ugly. Music, on the other hand, is undeniably fine. This is my first exposure to Ys music and it piques my interest in hearing more. The Genesis turns in a strong performance of the tunes and their compositions are very worthy of listening to for the game's entirety.

   For some reason the Genesis version of Ys III seems to be the most expensive to obtain nowadays. Whether it is worthwhile I cannot say, not having played the Turbo Grafx or SNES versions. The game goes by very quickly (the top level is 12) and is an exercise in frustration for any RPGamer who despises play concepts that have long since been outmoded. As one of the finer examples in why those play concepts were appealing to players of prior eras, however, Ys III succeeds in being a worthy title.

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