Ys III: Wanderers from Ys (pronounced like “Ees”) is an action RPG and, as you probably guessed, the third in the series. After playing Lagoon and later hearing that it was a Ys clone, I was worried about starting it. However, I soon realized I had nothing to worry about. While Ys shares many design choices with Lagoon, it’s gameplay is much more polished and approachable.
Story and Chartacters – Minor spoilers
The story of Ys III begins with Adol and Dogi traveling through a market square approximately three years after the events of Ys II. They see a fortune teller and Dogi asks to have his fortune read. While reading Dogi’s fortune, the fortune teller’s crystal ball explodes and she gives him an ominous warning about his hometown. Since Adol seems to have nothing better to do, they head back to Dogi’s hometown of Redmont.
After arriving at Redmont, they learn of a plot by Lord McGaya to revive a powerful demon called Galdbalan. Adol must stop Lord McGaya from using the demon’s power to take over the world. Adol must collect five magical statues to keep them out of the hands of Lord McGaya. Opposing the hero are the sorcerer and Chester, a man from Redmont with mysterious motives.
I was actually impressed by the amount of story that came out of this game. While a fair bit comes from dialogue with other characters, the game features a surprising number of cutscenes. These scenes provide something that has been lacking in the last several games I have played: character development. Both Adol and Chester in particular have well-developed characters considering the game’s short length. I thought it was interesting that Chester turns out to be an anti-hero rather than a villain, and it was surprising to see Adol break down after failure to save Ellena.
Looking at previous games, Lagoon is much more similar to Ys I and II than Ys III. While the first two titles feature a top down view, Ys III features a side-scroller view very similar to that of Zelda II. While there is a significant focus on defeating enemies, there are also many instances where it is more advantageous to evade them, making platforming a bigger part of the game than I had expected.
Viewed on its own, the combat is pretty good. After Lagoon, it was phenomenally better. The games two combat mechanics are your swordplay and your collection of magic rings. While very basic, I found that the combat was very engaging and fun. I noticed that I didn’t use rings very much at the beginning of the game, but towards the end you will need to take care to reserve your ring power for important fights. I found that the boss fights took a great deal of determination to defeat but were extremely fair. A majority of the bosses use easily identifiable attack patterns and are more a test of patience than raw skill.
A lot of the fairness in Ys comes from the games save system. It gives you the ability to save anywhere outside of a boss fight, and even better, you get three save slots. I typically used the first slot to save before entering, the second slot periodically as I progressed through a dungeon, and the third slot right before a boss. This dramatically cut down on the amount of replaying that I had to do.
Graphically, Ys III is not very impressive. There are a LOT of recycled character resources considering that there is only one town. I will say that boss and enemy sprites, while not great, were good enough to appear formidable. Overall, I would say that the graphics are good enough to get the job done but not great. As a whole, graphics are not that important to me so long as they are not so bad that they take away from the storytelling aspect of a game.
I thought that the music in the game was very good, but admittedly low tech. I haven’t sampled the NES version (this is a SNES port) but I would imagine it is much the same. Even so, I enjoyed listening to it.
I would like to take a moment to call out Lagoon on its blatant copying. Not only are most of the rings in Lagoon lifted from Ys (it actually came out first, by a month or two) but the menu and HUD are almost identical. See this comparison of Ys III and Lagoon:
This game is decently grindy, but it didn’t find to be much of a chore. The game seems well aware of its inherent grindiness and provides you with very easy to access spots that are a quick grind. Additionally, there were no large walls to overcome. Unlike Lagoon and Dragon Warrior, there were never any points where I had to grind for hours to beat a single boss. Fighting naturally through the dungeon was usually enough to make me strong enough to deal with the boss.When I did have to grind, it was typically only for a single level, which was usually enough to stand toe to toe (or wing or talon) with the boss.
If you like action RPGs, I would give this game a try. I had never played any of the Ys games and found this to be a good introduction to the series. It feels a bit old, but I found the gameplay very solid and enjoyable. Had I done my research beforehand, I would have played the first two games in preparation for this one, but it seems that the plot of this game is independent from that of the first two. I plan on revisiting the first two in a remake so I can experience Adol’s origin story.
Up next is Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest. This is one that I beat when I was very young but would like to look at it again from an adult perspective.