Ys III: Wanderers from Ys
  • Genre:
    • Action RPG
  • Platform:
    • TurboGrafx-CD
  • Developer:
    • Alfa System
  • Publisher:
    • NEC
  • Released:
    • JP 03/22/1991
    • US 1991
Score: 65%

This review was published on 05/30/2014.

Ys III: Wanderers from Ys is a side-scrolling action role-playing game developed by Falcom and the third game in the somewhat obscure Ys series. It originally released in Japan on the NEC PC-8801, NEC PC-9801, and MSX in 1989 and the Sharp X68000 in 1990. The game then came out on consoles like the Famicom, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis, and TurboGrafx-CD in 1991 and 1992. Of all the console ports, only the Super Nintendo, Genesis, and TurboGrafx-CD ones got North American releases. The most well known version of Ys III is the SNES one, but the TurboGrafx-CD version has added anime cutscenes, voice acting, and Red Book audio, making it the far better choice. Besides the flashy stuff that was added to the TurboGrafx-CD version, all ports of the game are basically the same, barring slight differences in graphics, music, and translation. Obviously the 16-bit versions of the game are going to look and sound better than the 8-bit versions. Ys III is notorious for being the worst in the series, hated by fans and non-fans alike. Part of the reason for this is because the game is a vast departure for the series, in the same vein of Zelda II. The real reason is that the game just isn't very good. While Zelda II had some redeeming qualities about it, Ys III is irredeemably bad.

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Adol, the red headed hero of the first two Ys games, is back to fulfill his role as the protagonist of Ys III. Three years after the events of Ys I and II, Adol sets sail with his best friend, Dogi. Despite his name, Dogi is not a dog. The two young adventurers are headed to Dogi's hometown of Redmont, located in the province of Felghana. There Dogi introduces Adol to friends and family, and all is well. That's until all isn't well, of course. It turns out that there's trouble afoot in Felghana. The townsfolk of Redmont are being subjugated by men from the nearby Valestein Castle. Lord MacGuire, King of Felghana and resident of Valestein Castle, has sent his men in search of mysterious statues. To what end he does this, nobody knows. The only thing that's certain is that this MacGuire fellow is up to no good. Because Adol is such a fine, upstanding citizen, he decides to lend the townspeople a hand. Adol then sets off for another adventure, this time to halt a greedy king's ambitions. In amidst all this, there is also a situation involving Dogi's two childhood friends, Elena and Chester. Elena is a sweet girl, whereas Chester, her brother, works for the greedy king. The two are at odds with each other and drama ensues. With all that said, the plot in Ys III serves nothing more than to act as a vehicle for Adol's adventure. That tends to be the case with most Ys games.

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Nearly everything from the first two games is thrown out the window in Ys III. The most significant change is that this game is viewed in a side-scrolling perspective, as opposed to the top-down perspective used by almost every other game in the series. That means Adol finally learned how to jump. Adol's jump feels a little weird, but it works. This is far from a platform game, though, as the jumping isn't the game's main focus. Jumping is merely a way to get around easier in the side-scrolling environment. The other crazy change is that this game has a dedicated attack button, so you no longer hurt monsters by running into them, a la Ys I and II. Holding down the attack button makes Adol swing his sword continuously, kind of like rapid fire, except with a blade. The one thing kept from previous Ys games is that Adol can still regenerate health by standing still outside dungeons. Sadly, this feature isn't too useful in Ys III, because Adol is almost never outside a dungeon. In the few instances Adol finds himself outside a dungeon, he can simply return to town to restore HP, since the town is accessible from all dungeon entrances. The serious mechanics changes angered a lot of fans, but there's nothing wrong with the new mechanics conceptually. Side-scrolling action RPGs have the potential to be good, like the Wonder Boy series. Honestly, Ys III has tight, responsive controls and satisfying movement. There certainly are serious problems with the game, but it being side-scrolling isn't one of them.

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The most significant issue with the game is that Adol has almost no invincibility frames when injured. This coupled with the fact that enemies move very rapidly leads to many frustrating situations. There's also very little knockback when Adol gets hit, which would normally be a good thing, but kind of sucks here due to the lack of invincibility frames. Knockback can actually be beneficial in some games, as it positions the player away from the enemy that did damage, preventing the enemy from repeatedly harming the player. Due to these things, Adol's life drains incredibly fast whenever he so much as grazes past an enemy, usually killing him in the process. It's like he's getting hurt a million times per second, so what should have been one point of damage ends up being a lot more. Another major problem is that there is barely any feedback for attacking enemies. Monsters don't get knocked back when Adol slashes them; they simply pass through the blade and continue hurtling towards him. The only way around this is to do a lot of level grinding. Once Adol is high enough level, enemies do next to no damage and die in one hit. Still, this is a poor solution to the problem, akin to sweeping dirt under a rug. When combined, these problems make the game a nearly unbearable experience.

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Unlike practically every other Ys game, Ys III only has one town in it. This town acts as the central hub area by which the player can access all of the game's other locations, those other locations being dungeons. The usual stuff is available in town, such as shops to buy things and useless townies to talk to. Leaving town gives you access to the game's world map, which is really just a list of dungeons you can select. It's the kind of world map you'd expect to see in a generic platform game. The good thing about this is that it enables Adol to instantly travel anywhere with no downtime whatsoever. Unfortunately, the world map is super linear, with new dungeons only becoming accessible one at a time. This cuts out the fun of exploring new areas and visiting different towns, something that the other Ys games do well. The dungeon design isn't too great, either. That's pretty bad, considering dungeons are practically a hundred percent of the game's content. Straightforward design isn't necessarily bad, but the dungeons are a little too straightforward. Many dungeons in the game are nothing but a series of hallways with monsters strewn about them. The few dungeons that deviate from this are just flat out mazes. On the bright side, the simplicity in dungeon and game design ensures that players will rarely get lost. Whether linear or nonlinear, a game needs good level design to prosper, and Ys III lacks that.

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Rings can be equipped on Adol to bestow upon him different effects depending on which ring he has equipped. Instead of MP, these ring effects consume something called ring power. It basically works like MP, but a key difference is that ring power can be slowly regained by killing enemies. That's actually a pretty cool feature, since it solves the problem some Ys games have in which MP restoration is scarce. The problem here is that this game doesn't really have magic in the traditional sense, at least, not like the other Ys games. Almost all the rings do buff effects, like increase Adol's attack, defense power, or grant temporary invincibility. The most useful ring in the game lets Adol regenerate life even when inside dungeons, but this comes at the cost of ring power. There are no offensive spells like a fireball projectile or anything like that. The closest thing to an offensive ring is the time ring, which slows down all enemies, but that's a poor substitute. Rings are basically the equivalent of accessories, except they can only be equipped for short periods of time. Without a doubt, rings are useful, but there's nothing exciting about them.

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Ys III: Wanderers from Ys has many crippling issues that prevent it from being enjoyable. It had the potential to be good, but that potential was squandered due to the broken mechanics. The lack of feedback when attacking and being attacked by enemies, the boring dungeon design, and reliance on grinding make this game a complete chore to play through. It's also extremely short, though that's more of a blessing in disguise. One thing this game does get right is the music. Ys III is known to have some of the best music in the series, and if you're playing the TurboGrafx-CD version, then that music gets even better. Too bad such an amazing soundtrack was wasted on this game. While the TurboGrafx-CD release of Ys III is the best, it doesn't remedy any of the game's severe problems. You're better off not playing any version of Ys III.

Word Count: 1,578

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