Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys
  • Genre:
    • Action RPG
  • Platform:
    • PC Engine CD
  • Developer:
    • Hudson
  • Publisher:
    • Hudson
  • Released:
    • JP 12/22/1993
Score: 75%

This review was published on 05/24/2014.

Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys is an action role-playing game developed and published by Hudson Soft for the PC Engine CD in Japan on December 22, 1993. The Ys series was created by Falcom, but the company decided to license development of Ys IV to two outside companies, Tonkin House and Hudson Soft. Tonkin House made Ys IV: Mask of the Sun for the Super Famicom, which is fairly different from Hudson Soft's Dawn of Ys. Mask of the Sun was accepted as the more canonical version of Ys IV, but fans preferred The Dawn of Ys interpretation. Elements from both versions were combined in a PlayStation Vita remake that came out many years later called Ys: Memories of Celceta. Similar to Mask of the Sun, Dawn of Ys never got released outside of Japan. Luckily, the game eventually got an English fan translation by NightWolve. This fan translation is more extensive than the typical one, because in addition to translating all the text in the game, it even translates the voice acting! It's one of the first video games to have a full fan dub. Not only that, but the fan translated game actually works on real PC Engine CD hardware, complete with the dubs. That just goes to show how dedicated Ys fans truly are. Between the two 16-bit versions of Ys IV, Dawn of Ys is vastly superior.

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Chronologically, the story of Dawn of Ys takes place two years after Ys II, but before the events of Ys III: Wanderers from Ys. Protagonist of the Ys series and hero extraordinaire, Adol Christin, returns to the place where all his adventures began. That place is the town of Minea in the land of Esteria. It's there that he decided to celebrate his past victories with many of his old friends. During the fanciful reunion, Adol visits Sarah, the fortune teller woman that helped him on his previous adventures. Sarah tells of a worrisome tale that a new evil is brewing, one that is much greater than anything Adol has faced before. This new evil is located in the land of Celceta. The panicked fortune teller advises Adol to go there right away, else all will be lost. Never one to back down from a challenge, Adol agrees to go on another journey. After a night of raucous partying, Adol secretly snuck away from the commotion to get on a ship headed for Celceta. On the way, he'll be dealing with all sorts of trouble, like evil empires and evil wizards, basically anything that's evil. This story is pretty similar to Mask of the Sun, but there are a bunch of differences, some small, some big. Though it's nothing fancy, the plot is presented very well. The characters have better characterization and many events were added to help flesh out the plot.

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Right off the bat, the game boots up with a long intro cutscene showing Adol in his past exploits. This introductory sequence pulls out all the stops to show what the PC Engine is truly capable of when paired with its CD add-on. The intro is littered with awesome Red Book audio, tons of voice acting, and beautiful anime art. This is indicative of the rest of the game, really. The Red Book audio gives rise to some killer rock tunes that will blow anyone away. Voice acting is particularly prominent in Dawn of Ys, which is quite impressive for a game released in 1993. As a result of that vocal prominence, the fan dub is pretty much essential to comprehending the game's plot. All the shops in the game feature full screen anime art, on top of the anime cutscenes that play during pivotal moments in the story. The one snag with the anime scenes is that, while they are incredibly well drawn, they aren't well animated. Those anime scenes are still pretty impressive, though. Large scale portraits of major characters sometimes show up during voice acted scenes, and these also look rather nice. The rest of the game's graphics aren't nearly as impressive, but that's to be expected. It's sometimes hard to remember that this is still a 16-bit game made in 1993, and the in game graphics certainly look it. Take away the anime art and this game doesn't look much better than an SNES game. However, it can't be denied how much all those bells and whistles add to the game. The voice acting helps add personality to the story, the Red Book audio is amazing, and the anime art is pretty.

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Dawn of Ys undoes just about everything Ys III did and brings the series back to its roots. The game is shown in a top-down perspective, complete with the customary Ys borders around the screen. Combat also reverts back to the way it was in the first two Ys games, eschewing a dedicated attack button for more simplistic means of dishing out damage. To inflict physical damage unto enemies, you must use the directional pad to ram into them from behind or the sides. Ramming into foes from the front typically results in Adol's death, unless he is strong enough to withstand a full frontal assault. The tricky part is that enemies move around rapidly, and they almost always face you. As Ys veterans know, you deal with this by ramming into those baddies at a slight angle, which counts as having hit them from the sides. As in most Ys games, HP can be recovered by standing still outside of dungeons, or by using items. It's a simple battle system that gets right to the heart of the matter while wasting minimal time. However, as with all Ys games with these mechanics, not everyone will be able to stomach the lack of a dedicated attack button. Pressing buttons is a fun way to make a game more interactive, so this is perfectly understandable. All things considered, these mechanics are still way better than what was attempted in Ys III. Long time fans of the series will delight in the return of the traditional Ys mechanics.

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There are a lot of places to be in Celceta. Adol will explore serene forests, fiery caverns, icy mountains, arid deserts, ancient tombs, and countless towns on his adventure. Celceta isn't the only place Adol explores in this game, though. At some point, Adol returns to the land of Esteria and revisits many of the old locations from there, including places like Darm Tower. Considering these locations were in the first two Ys games, this return trip should be a boon for fans of the series. Adol spends a lot of his time in this game exploring dungeons, as he usually does in most Ys games. Dungeons have an interesting effect in which multiple rooms can be traversed with no screen transitions. This effect makes dungeon crawls more like a brisk jog. Most of the dungeons are mazes, though, and that can be frustrating. Adol eventually receives magic that allows him to warp to towns instantly, which makes travel convenient. The only problem with this is that it costs MP, so that can be annoying if you ever run out. The world in Dawn of Ys is a lot bigger and more varied than the one in Mask of the Sun.

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Magic in Dawn of Ys works similarly to the way it did in Ys II. A short ways into the game, Adol will be given the ability to use magic via the use of mystic wands. From this point on, Adol will find different wands that he can then equip and use in battle to cast spells. All it takes to cast a spell is the mere press of a button, and viola, you've got magic! Holding down the button for a brief period of time will charge up the spell, which allows Adol to cast a drastically more powerful version. Magic doesn't do a whole lot of damage, but it's extremely useful for its long range capabilities. The extended range is particularly useful against bosses, where avoiding damage is paramount to success. Many of the later bosses can only be damaged by magic. Not all spells are offensive in nature, though. There are a few spells that have unique effects, like one that temporarily transforms Adol into a monster, which is a nod to Ys II. When in monster form, Adol can safely speak to other monsters and swim in bodies of water. It's a pretty creative use of magic that differs from the boring same old same old. Some of the monsters have funny things to say, too. Using magic consumes MP, but MP is plentiful in this game, so you don't have to worry about it too much. Dawn of Ys has a simple magic system, but simple isn't always a bad thing.

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Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys is pretty nice. This version of Ys IV feels like it had a lot of love and care put into it, with amazing attention to detail, nods to previous games in the series, lots of personality, and great characterization. Another sign of the developers' dedication comes in the form of a staff room that becomes accessible after beating the game. It's similar to the staff room in Chrono Trigger, in that it has a lot of personal messages from people who worked on the game. They're a swell lot. There's also the stupendous Red Book audio soundtrack, great artwork, and tons of voice acting to take into account. Because of these reasons, many fans prefer Dawn of Ys to Mask of the Sun, even if Mask of the Sun is more canonical. It's not hard to see why; this game rocks. If you're only going to play one version of Ys IV, then definitely make it Dawn of Ys.

Word Count: 1,650

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