Ys : From the father of adventures to generic JRPG side character

Oh Adol, what happened to you? What happened to Ys?

For those of you who don’t know, the 9th mainline game of the Ys series released and it’s…mediocre. Normally that’s not huge news or worthy of attention but that’s a common thing for the Ys series these past few years starting with the Vita game Ys : Sea of Trees of Celceta / Memories of Celceta and continues to this day, almost a decade later. Ever since that game, the series has focused way too heavily on story, story content(as in dialogue content, side quests with tons of dialogue and story sequences) and people that aren’t Adol. The irony is that Celceta focused way too much on Adol and just threw his character to the trash by overshooting what they set out to do. Now anyone not familiar with the series would probably think that’s a good thing or the new fans coming in with the XSEED licensed games will think this is normal but that’s unfortunately not the case. See, Ys has always been a very action based Action RPG, leaning far more heavily on the action side of things, rather than the RPG side of things. it was kind of similar to the most hardcore of entries of the Tales series, where the combat system would be so combo heavy and deep, that crazy japanese guys would make videos out of it :

Now though? Now the Ys series is built upon that base of depth but instead of building on it, it instead has developed utterly broken and exploitable ablities that render everything useless :

And that’s not to say that guarding and dashing are broken abilities because older games had that :

They didn’t have all that broken shit like Flash Move having the character move and recover faster while the enemy is basically so slowed down he might as well be immobile and you can start a flash move as easily as in the first video while Flash Guard restores a fair amount of Extra Points for the big moves and has you deal critical damage on all your hits for a short period of time while the player takes no damage no matter how serious the hit is. Contrast that to how it used to be with the Origins video, where it’s instead a magic attack, a dash that doubles as a short guard but at a price, having the player wait to recover MP before abusing it and it didn’t give you all these disgusting benefits. Ys used to be a series where speed, mobility and positioning were the keys of victory since it was the player’s agility and spatial awareness that ade them capable of landing countless combos on an enemy boss. It’s not unlike something like Monster Hunter or Toukiden. The sad thing is, I know what the inspiration for Flash Move and most importantly, Flash Guard are, since Flash Guard’s been there ever since Ys 7 :

The difference here is that while that feat requires amazing expertise and countless hours of practice to pull it off since it’s a completely unconventional way to play, especially when aiming for no damage. Ys basically hands you all the benefits of those countless hours on a platter with a pretty generous window and a tell from the bosses along with buffs to accomodate you to victory. Instead of having the player move around and dart on the boss, the goal now is to stand still and counter everything. I think I know why this happened though but be warned, this is pure speculation : back when the Vita was coming out, Falcom reached mainstream status in both Japan and the West, in Japan thanks to their resurgence to the mainstream market thanks to good ports of their good games on the PSP and even new games on that portable console and in the west thanks to the localization done by XSEED and the rise of Steam and their PC games available there for everyone. So an all new audience was introduced to Ys and most importantly, the Kiseki / Trails series, the later of which became more mainstream and sought out for the new Falcom fans. An RPG with a fairly big world and the ideas to expand it, not unlike what happened with the Persona series of Falcom. And as people know, eventually the Persona series overtook everything Atlus did and they became the sole moneymaker of the company, not unlike how Marvel made its cinematic universe out of comics that struggled for years to take off. So, you have these new fans and at the same time you want to please the old hardcore audience of Ys so on hand you fill the game with loads of story and give everyone new tools for flashier combat and more options. The tools are busted though and now, even the highest difficulties aren’t that difficult.

The idea behind the Flash Move and the Flash guard allude to very closely to other action games and they could be used in Ys. In fact, in Ys vs Sora no Kiseki, the player had both a guard and a dodge that operated under regenerating stamina. In fact, when Flash Guard was first introduced in Ys 7 the player was given the option to actually guard against otherwise unavoidable hits but if a player tried to play that game defensively, then they’d just draw out the boss battle, something that was a complaint for Ys7 by the western audience because everybody tried to treat it like Dark Souls. However, if one uses all of the tools given to them, and dodge and guard, things would take less time, unless the player is going for a no damage run :

Even when the player on this video is trying to bait the boss into attacking in order to flash guard and gain a chance to land a critical hit, he’s still far more mobile than later games(to be fair to the guy, he’s trying to win the fight with no damage, something a lot of Ys7 players can’t say). Also, the dodge was different in Ys7 : when a character starts dodging, they do a very fast forward leap very far away that clears them of any danger but if the player kept spamming the dodge then the character revert to dodge rolling that was faster as a dodge but didn’t have i-frames, covered far less distance and wasn’t useful in avoiding really big strikes from bosses. Even without a stamina system, there was a general idea as to how this could work in a balanced setting.

With the advent of the wider audience and the bigger stories Falcom wanted to tell but their side games like Tokyo Xanadu couldn’t tell because of name branding, Ys became this new generation’s big story ARPG and thus a heavy emphasis on story and those big epic gameplay moments was emphasized, along with a move to HD and bold new ideas…like Adol not being in armour anymore…Adol not being so much of the focal point anymore…Adol being prettier(wtf?) and more serious(I almost never see Adol smile in his latest adventures)…Adol being voiced by a popular young actor in Japan…Adol’s adventures not being adventures anymore but something closer to a Final Fantasy plot. There’s so much wrong here, Adol’s adventures are supposed to be these one-off adventures with the wonder of discovery and almost classical sense of heroism, think the first Star Wars film. Just that as an adventure, the young adventurer finds a ship, saves the girl, defeates the bad guy and blows up their fortress THE END! Now this is the setting and the main story is instead the rest of the Star Wars saga, something that I found very off putting with Ys VIII : : Lacrimosa of Dana. In that game, Adol and his friend Dogi are shipwrecked in the ancient island of Seiren with the rest of the passengers and crew of that ship, so they gotta survive, built a boat and get off the island. The island however is full of old beasts like dinosaurs and the savage nature of both the flora and fauna along with the rescue missions make it a thrilling adventure in the same vein as L’Île mystérieuse de Jules Verne / The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne. That’s great! But noooooo, we gotta have another extra character that has their own plot to fill(seriously, Dana’s plot and dungeons are enough to fll an Ys game, just like Ys Origins did) and it takes away from that innocent feeling of adventure since now the focus shifts away from the island to having the island being the sidequests and the dungeons of Dana being the main quest and worst of all : the game has multiple endings. And for the best one, you gotta do base defences, all the quests, do all the personal quests of every NPC etc. IT’S BORING AND TEDIOUS! The sense of action and avdneutre is squarely out of the window and the player is left with the same grind except now the audience likes it. Which is ironic, since they were complaining about Ys 7 “I have to switch characters and level them up / play as them / equip them / leel their skills UUUUUUGGGGHHHH” yet they do that and far more grindy things on these new games and they eat it up. Go fucking figure.

That would be the end of it but there’s another layer to it : the old guard of Falcom, the people who used to make those games, program them and even make music for them have gotten old. Very old. And some of them started “teaching” the new generation by helping them make games, like Nayuta no Kiseki and Tokyo Xanadu, two games that were made as experiments by the new staff guided from the old ones to take the ropes in the future and the second of those games was a surprise hit along with the Trails series. The new and far younger staff can’t be blamed for just taking advantage of what’s selling and making more games to cater to that. It’s a very unfortunate reality and no matter how much it pains me, I’m starting to think that Ys is no longer for me. No longer is Ys a rock’n’roll action game that tried its best to overcome the crappy technology it was given in order to move a genre Falcom invented, in order to give us a fun time. Now, it’s an epic JRPG game with modernised action. There is a place for those games, even in Falcom and it didn’t have to be Ys. But maybe if a series needs to survive nowadays has to conform to those new standards and tastes because no matter how I wish for it, the age that inspired Adol and its forefather, Dragon Slayer and the Record of the Lodoss War, is past and other franchises inspired by that are either dead or have moved on to be something completely different, like Fire Emblem is today. Maybe that age was truly a period of deviation and the old guard in Falcom knew it and that’s why they made Ys7 and ported the previous games on PSP while updating their PC releases. Maybe they knew.

And that is a little painful. And I can only say this : Happy 10th anniversary Ys7 and happy 32nd anniversary Ys series.

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