Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys is actually one of two games with the title "Ys IV" and one of three games considered to be "Ys IV." Super Famicom saw Ys IV: Mask of the Sun, and PlayStation Vita saw Ys: Memories of Celceta. Before Memories of Celceta, Mask of the Sun was considered to be the "canon" Ys IV, but Memories of Celceta superseded that. So where does that leave Dawn of Ys? Since I haven't played Mask of the Sun or Memories of Celceta yet, I can't really speak to those two, but I'm pretty confident in saying that Dawn of Ys is the supreme Ys IV simply for the fact that it's on the PC Engine CD (or TurboGrafx-CD as we in the West know it although this game was never released outside of Japan). It's worth noting that the PlayStation 2 remake of Mask of the Sun took enough liberties with the story that some folks consider that to be a separate Ys IV subtitled "Mask of the Sun: A New Theory."
Fortunately for us non-Japanese speakers, there is a fan translation of Ys IV available online. Unfortunately for me, my disc burner won't burn CDs slower than 16x, and my PC Engine CD has a fit when it tries to read anything burnt faster than about 4x (8x is hit or miss). We're talking graphical glitches, audio distortions, outright freezing. The whole nine yards. So, to my chagrin, I had to resort to a PC emulator to play Ys IV. Not my preferred method, to be sure, but it got the job done. It also came with the added perk of being able to speed up the emulation to facilitate faster grinding and get me through the lengthy cut scenes that, while very well done, still had the Japanese voice acting in the translation I played (although I've heard that there's a version with some English fan-dubs). Because those cutscenes were voice in Japanese and without subtitles to translate, my grasp of the story is a bit shaky, but I got the basic gist of it. Unfortunately, most of the game's lore and world building was conveyed via voice cutscene, so I missed out on that. =(
After his and Dogi's adventures in Ys III, Adol returns to Minea, the setting of the first Ys game. Upon visiting Sara, the fortune teller from the first game, Adol learns that the land of Celceta across the ocean is in trouble. Upon arriving in Celceta, Adol learns that the Romun Empire (can't possibly imagine what they were alluding to) has begun occupying the land and their commander, Leo, searching tirelessly for treasure. There's also a trio of villains with colorful hair and an evil angel guy, but I'm less clear how they fit into the story except that the evil angel guy wants to restore some ancient castle and take over the world or something. If anyone actually knows the plot of this game beyond that, please let me know; I'd just be making up if I tried to go any further on my own.
For the most part, the game looks about like Ys Book I+II did on TurboGrafx-CD, but the backgrounds have a bit more detail thanks to the use of the Super CD card. Once again, the anime style portraits of characters that appear on screen during dialogue are a very nice touch to the game. The music is the same impressive CD quality as well, although the soundtrack itself isn't as good as the TurboGrafx-CD releases of Ys I+II or Ys III. My only complaint with the audio is that the music volume wasn't balanced particularly well with the dialogue volume. The game lowered the volume of the music during voice clips, but the voice clips were so quiet and muffled that it almost didn't matter. My roommate, who speaks a conversational level of Japanese, struggled to pick out more than a few words here and there because of the volume balance.
Taking the negative reception of Ys III's side scrolling gameplay, Ys IV goes back to the overhead perspective of the first two games, and while I personally enjoyed Ys III, the overhead view and "bump" combat suits the series much better. As is common for Ys, you're pretty much expected to be at max level to clear the game; I beat the final boss on my first try, but I had 42 hit points left and was at the maximum level 50. Fortunately the game provides a good number spots to grind for experience although it does get irritating in the upper levels when the amount of exp needed increases as well as the standard decrease in received exp from enemies as you level up. All in all, though, this is a fantastic return to form for the series, and while Ys III's side scrolling was a cool change, it's good to see the series return to its roots.
Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys is definitely a must play for fans of the Ys series. Because of the voice acting - a positive for the game, for sure, and impressive for the time - there's still a bit of a language barrier as far as story goes unless there is, in fact, a fan dubbed translation, but even with just the text translation that I played, it's well worth experiencing. It brings back the iconic "bump" combat from the first game and the magic system from the second in what honestly feels more like a true sequel to Ys II than Ys III did. While I haven't played the Super Famicom, PlayStation 2, or PlayStation Vita Ys IV games, the PC Engine CD one here is absolutely worth playing. Not quite as good as Ys Book I+II, but those are big shoes to fill; falling short of that in no way diminishes how fantastic this game is.
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.