Ys V: Lost Kefin, Kingdom of Sand - Staff Retroview  

I Don't Like Sand
by Mike Moehnke

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Very Easy
Less than 20 Hours
+ Action on the field is quick & easy
+ Nice variety of enemies and locations
- Magic system is annoying
- Fairly short with no reason to replay
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   Ys V: Lost Kefin, Kingdom of Sand stands out among the Ys games as an experiment by Falcom. Ys V abandons the usual bump attack mechanic in what may have been an attempt to broaden the series' audience. The result is not a bad game, but it lacks any standout element to attract new fans to the series.

   Ys series star Adol Christin is back again for this game, and veterans of numerous other action RPGs will have no problem guiding him around. Wandering around the environments, Adol can swing his sword to attack and kill the numerous creatures that want him dead. He can also hold up a shield to guard many attacks, though anything that doesn't hit him in the front bypasses that defense. Jumping is also something Adol can do in Ys V, which is necessary for environmental navigation and also to strike a few enemies in the air. The jump mechanic is somewhat stiff and Adol can only jump a set distance instead of the player being able to determine how far he goes, but the game is forgiving in the few places where jumps are required so this issue is minor. The game is fairly forgiving with regard to physical strikes and the traditional series method of recovering hit points by standing still is intact, which keeps things simple and enjoyable.

   Adol also has access to magic as the game progresses, and this is where the major problem with combat lies. Magic spells are learned as various elemental stones are found dotting the landscape, and by going to certain persons around the land three stones can be combined into a magic spell. Three spells can be affixed to Adol's current sword, which is the first problem. When Adol acquires and equips a new sword, the magic that was part of his old weapon is no longer usable. The player must seek out another person who serves as a magic mixer in order to kit out the new sword with spell slinging skill.

   Separate from the system of setting spells up on swords, magic is still an annoyance. In order to cast a spell, the player must hold the R button until a gauge reaches 100. At that point hitting the attack button will cast whatever spell is currently ready instead of striking with the sword, and after each cast the gauge will go down a bit and must be recharged for a few seconds to use another magical strike. If the gauge is already at 100 but the enemies in the area are immune to the current spell, it takes several seconds to start going down when the player releases the R button, during which time enemies will likely be aggressive. The variety of spells in the game is impressive, but since they are rarely necessary thanks to most enemies succumbing to physical strikes just fine, the entire magic system can be ignored with no loss.

Common sense might dictate running away instead of trying to fight a spider your own size, but Adol will not be dissuaded. Common sense might dictate running away instead of trying to fight a spider your own size, but Adol will not be dissuaded.

   Ys V does have an unusual mechanic in its leveling system. Experience gained by killing foes accrues in one of two meters, depending upon whether Adol used his sword or magic to end the enemy's life. Leveling up will increase the statistics of whichever method was used considerably more than the other, though all attributes will go up. This system is a fairly effective means of encouraging some magic use, though focusing purely on physical strikes is still easier.

   Instead of dropping money, enemies drop precious stones when killed with physical strikes, though they drop nothing if killed via magic. These precious stones are subject to various exchange rates at the shops throughout the game, though it is never difficult to get around a cheap shop operator simply by killing a few more enemies. Shop menus are simple enough to navigate, and though new equipment's effects are never displayed, the series tradition of new weapons instantly making old ones outdated is intact, so this lack is not a problem.

   The story of Ys V breaks no new ground in the RPG genre, but seems competently told through the language barrier. Once again on the move to lands that mysteriously need his help, Adol happens upon a land where the mysterious city of Kefin vanished over five hundred years prior. It quickly becomes apparent that nefarious persons wish to bring Kefin back, and Adol accepts the task of besting their villainy with his usual stoicism. Plot has never been the primary reason to play an Ys game and that continues to be the case in V, but the story does not detract from the overall value of this game.

What a terrible name for a mermaid is Ned, yet this one somehow got stuck with it. What a terrible name for a mermaid is Ned, yet this one somehow got stuck with it.

   The Ys series has a reputation for aural excellence that is not really met here. V varies the symphonic palate of the series to more orchestral fare, some of which is quite good, most of which is unremarkable. The visuals do not quite reach the apex of the Super Nintendo's abilities, but many of the spell effects and enemy animations are quite impressive, marking a definite success by the artists at Falcom.

   Ys games have usually offered powerful bosses that require memorization of attack patterns to defeat. This game is a definite change from that pattern, as it is frequently possible for Adol to trade hits with bosses and emerge victorious without needing to heal. The lack of difficulty was so pronounced that Falcom subsequently released Ys V Expert for all the veterans of the game who sought a challenge. The original game might prove troublesome for anyone unaccustomed to action RPGs, but can be played on cruise control by others. The game's short length is the primary reason to bemoan its easy nature, since tougher parts would have eked the time for completion beyond seven or eight hours. No hidden areas or optional content exists to entice replays either.

   Ys V feels like an effort by Falcom to broaden the series' appeal by making it more homogeneous. In the process most of what made Ys games distinctive was sidelined, leaving a game that is not terrible but fails at standing out from the crowded SNES action RPG market. Ys V will serve for a quick, breezy romp through a moderately entertaining world full of annoyances, and nothing more.

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