Also available on Sharp X68000, PC-8801, PC-9801, TurboGrafx-CD, Genesis, Famicom, and PlayStation 2
Ys is a series that I've only recently gotten into but that I've really come to love. I (relatively) recently played the original Ys on Sega Master System and the combined release of Ys Book I & II on TurboGrafx-CD and absolutely loved both, especially the latter. It was with great excitement, then, that I started Ys III on Super Nintendo, expecting a great game despite the so-so things I'd heard about it. Truth be told, I wasn't disappointed.
The first thing that players will notice is that the battle system is completely different. Ys III plays as a much more traditional side scrolling action RPG as opposed to the distinct "hump your enemies to death" bump combat of the first games. This is the aspect of the game that seems to be the most divisive among players; a lot of longtime Ys fans don't like the shift to a more traditional combat system whereas more general ARPG players see it as a welcome change. Personally, I fall into the former category, being partial to the bump mechanics, but the combat was at least fairly well done in Ys III. Speaking just for this Super Nintendo release, there were a few instances - particularly with Ballacetine Castle and the final boss - where I felt that the hit detection could have used some work, but by and large, I didn't have any mechanics complaints about the game.
Ys III takes place after Ys II chronologically, but other than having Adol return as the protagonist, there isn't really any storyline connection between the two games. "His adventures" are mentioned vaguely, but knowledge of the events of the first two games are definitely not necessary to enjoy Ys III. To be honest, that was a negative for me as I'm big into world building and continuing stories, but it also makes sense given that, at least in North America, this was the first Ys game to which Nintendo players had access without also having a Master System or TurboGrafx-CD. I've heard that the PSP (and, later, Windows) remake of Ys III, Ys: The Oath in Felghana, has a much expanded story, so that might remedy some of the lack of direct connection to the first two games, but I haven't played that yet, so I can't speak to that.
Being a 16-bit game as opposed to the 8-bit version of the original Ys that I first played on Master System, the visuals and sound design in Ys III are fantastic. Especially with visual effects, Falcom really went above and beyond with this one, finding the right balance of what visual effects of the Super Nintendo to use and the degree to which to use them to enhance the experience without doing so much that the visual effects distract from the game itself as some games do. The soundtrack was also extremely well done despite the limitations of 16-bit cartridge systems. When played through a soundbar and subwoofer, the boss battle music especially is epic, more so than many sidescrolling games of the era. It obviously doesn't hold a handle to the TurboGrafx-CD release of Ys Book I & II, but it's definitely one of the more impressive Super Nintendo sountracks in my opinion.
All in all, Ys III is a competent addition to the series even if an unconventional one. The exclusion of bump combat may come as an unwelcome change to fans, but if a replacement system was going to be used, at least it was - for the most part - well implemented. The visuals - especially the anime-esque scenes at the very beginning and very end of the game - are very well done, and with the right sound system and stereo separation, the game's music sounds fantastic. I can't speak to the superiority or inferiority of other versions of the game, but at least as far as the Super Nintendo release goes, it may not be a masterpiece, but it's a solid action RPG, although it is worth noting that the very end is...brutal.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.