Ys IV: Mask of the Sun - Staff Retroview  

Rhymes With Sneeze
by Mike Moehnke

Click here for game information
Less than 20 Hours
+ Ys action is still addictive
+ Another great Ys soundtrack
- Touchy about precise enemy contact
- Lots of backtracking near the end
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   The story of Ys IV is an odd one. In 1993 two games by that name were released: Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys on the PC CD (aka the Turbo Duo) and Ys IV: Mask of the Sun on the Super Famicom. These games share the same overall plot but had different developers and vary in numerous aspects, including plot details. While Ys I, II, and III had all made it into official English, such was not to be the case with this entry in the series. The Turbo Grafx was essentially dead in North America, and Ys games had not sold well enough to interest a North American publisher in localizing a new one on Super Nintendo. Ys IV: Mask of the Sun is not a game that would coerce new fans to the series, but it does epitomize the appeal of Ys in the 16-bit era.

   The plot is set between the events of Ys II and Ys III. Adol Christin, the redheaded star of the series, is on another adventure. Lilia from the second game is tagging along with him because of infatuation, which results in her being kidnapped. Adol must dispense justice to the nasty Romun Empire, which is just doing what Empires usually do in RPGs and causing trouble. The Romuns are allied with Ethlin, a winged fellow with his own trio of trouble doing what they're good at. This tale takes up a fair amount of time, making its lack of translation bothersome.

   Ys IV returns to the overhead combat system seen in the first two titles, abandoning the side-scrolling view of III. As in other titles in the series, Adol combats monsters by colliding with them. There is a system to this, as having Adol hit a monster head-on will usually result in Adol suffering intense pain and then keeling over dead. Guiding Adol toward the opponent from its side will result in Adol smacking it repeatedly until dead. When outdoors, Adol's hit points will automatically regenerate if he stands still. Killing enemies nets experience and money, both of which are vital in a game that requires being at a certain level and being in possession of the latest equipment to stand a chance.

After being at sea for weeks, Adol is prone to falling over before his land legs return. After being at sea for weeks, Adol is prone to falling over before his land legs return.

   The particulars of Ys IV's combat system are somewhat problematic, however. There is no diagonal movement and its lack is annoying. The guidance of Adol must be directly on-target because enemies will take considerably less damage if not struck in just the right manner, or they will hit Adol instead. The magic of II, which featured wands that could be equipped as items and then used, has been replaced with Adol needing to switch between swords in order to use magic.

   The menus are simple to use, at least. Equipment is arranged in order of effectiveness and the stat changes are displayed on the menu screen, eliminating any source of confusion. Shops have a very nasty bug to mention however; if the player decides to purchase something but does not have quite enough money, the shop will take all the gold Adol has without giving him anything. The gold total is also not displayed when Adol looks through the market wares, meaning a good short-term memory is vital.

   Visually, Ys IV is unfortunately lacking. The absence of any character portraits except in the beginning and ending cinemas makes this Ys compare unfavorably to others in the series. For a 1993 Super Famicom title, the game looks adequate but no more. There is a lack of color in most of the environments and the bosses do not look particularly impressive. Regular enemies do not have attack animations; they simply move around and damage Adol.

Look!  Sinister backstory!  Look! Sinister backstory!

   The sound, on the other hand, is another testament to the composition skills of Falcom's veterans. Numerous memorable rocking tunes are cranked out of the Super Nintendo's sound chip, and though the lower tempo music is not as memorable, it is at a similar quality. The sound effects are unimpressive but not enough to drag down the overall listening experience.

   The ability to save anywhere and regenerate hit points in most areas makes regular combat a breeze. Bosses are another matter, as most of them have magical attacks that ignore Adol's defense and cut him down in less than a second. This ability of bosses makes fighting them require considerably more skill, and thus the game packs a noticeable challenge. Similar to previous Ys games, this one is not very long and can be completed in under 10 hours. The brevity may inspire repeated plays, but it is the only thing to inspire such as there are no optional areas or new material available upon completing the game.

   Ys IV: Mask of the Sun is not going to change the mind of anyone who already dislikes this series. Its chief attributes are those that already defined Ys, and their execution is far from flawless here. To anyone already interested, however, Ys IV is a good Falcom title well worth playing.

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