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A Vanished Omen, Indeed
Falcom’s Ys series, beginning in 1988 with Ys: The Vanished Omen, developed a decent following in Japan, although hardly any of the series’ titles and innumerable ports have reached American shores. This particular port for the 8-bit Sega Master System was a rare exception, being released the same year as the Japanese Famicom port, which never reached America. Just how does the first installment fare?
Most of the Ys games, unlike many other action RPGs, have a rather different system of attacking foes, one that involves charging into enemies rather than hacking and slashing at them. This system requires quite a bit of getting used to, and can get troublesome at points. Attacking foes directly from the front will incur the most damage, whereas attacking from a different line, from the sides, or from behind yields the best results, though your character may still take some damage in the end. Some enemies are impervious to your attacks until you’ve either reached a certain level or received a better weapon. Unfortunately, levels have a relatively low cap, so enemies late into the game can become tedious.
The strongest part of the first Ys is the interface, with a downright conservative menu system and the ability to save anywhere, which can really come in handy since you will die a lot should you choose to play this game. As for the dungeons, they’re downright labyrinthine, and losing yourself is very easy.
As for originality, this Ys is a remake of the Japanese Famicom version, although its dungeons and fields are completely different. Some have called this series a “Zelda clone,” although the Ys games play nothing like the games in that series.
Story? What story? You don’t even get so much as an introduction explaining the game’s background, but rather are forced straight into the game. The protagonist is a redhead named Aron (*chokes translator* Adol!) searching for the six Books of Ys. Just who is this redheaded hero? Why is he searching for the Books of Ys in the first place? Unfortunately, the game explains none of that.
The music, though, was excellent, with many a memorable tune, such as the town of Minea’s theme and the jazzy tune played in the mines. Sound effects, though, as one can anticipate from an 8-bit game, were clearly archaic and unrealistic.
The graphics, moving on, are a heavily mixed bag. The portraits seen throughout the game were decent, although the field graphics and sprites were a bit sloppily designed. All in all, they aren’t the prettiest visuals in the world, but they aren’t the ugliest, either.
The difficulty of the first Ys game is truly unbalanced, fluctuating constantly throughout the game and being hard overall, especially towards the end. Still, the title can very easily be beaten in one sitting, requiring as little as four hours to finish.
Overall, the first Ys game is definitely an average title. While its relatively low playing time may be a lure for modern RPGamers, really, you won’t gain or lose anything should you try it out or not.
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