Also available on X1, PC-8801, PC-9801, FM-7, MSX2, X68000, Famicom, Saturn, PlayStation 2, AppleIIGS, MS-DOS, and Windows
Ys is a series to which I'm fairly new. I played Ys Origin a few months ago on Steam, and I was captivated by the story. It was then that I decided that I wanted to experience more of the series, and since I've also been wanting to expand my Master System collection, I asked for this for Christmas. I know that it's a technically inferior game to the TurboGrafx-CD version (which I have downloaded on my Wii and will play soon), but I wanted to see what the Master System could do, especially with regards to its FM sound capabilities (I played on my Retron 5 so I could patch the FM sound back in since it was removed from the North American release of Ys).
The story is that of Adol, a young adventerer who embarks on a quest to rid the land of evil. Or something. I'm hoping that the TurboGrafx version is a bit more forthcoming with the plot because the Master System game gave very little with regards to context. Once you get into the game, the story is pretty interesting - there's a shady guy who creeps everyone out that's been seen lurking around the area. Couple this with monsters and reports of mysterious statues of a mysterious goddess found in the mines and things being stolen from the local thieves (they swear they're Robin Hood types who only steal from the rich), and it's clear that some manner of insidious plot is afoot. As you progress through the game, you begin to learn of the legendary ancient land of Ys and the six books written in a cryptic language that contain its history and its power. What is not explained particularly well is why Adol is putting his life in danger and prancing through monster ridden dungeons in the first place. I mean, sure, he's trying to bring peace to his home, but why is it him? Why isn't he a blacksmith or a fisherman or a farmer? Is he a mercenary who was hired? Is he a knight? Is he just a narcissist with delusions of grandeur? I don't know, and unless I missed a few key bits of dialogue in the beginning, neither does the Master System.
The most noteworthy and memorable thing about Ys is its combat. The older Ys games are well known for their "bump" combat. In short, you bump into your enemies to deal damage automatically. You basically hump them to death. But seriously, your level and weapons affect how strong your attack is and how resistent you are to enemy attacks, and you just bump into each other until one of you dies. The bumping in this game felt...odd...and from what I've read online, that seems to be a fairly universal opinion on the Master System version. The trick with the bumping in this version is to hit the enemy on the edge, not dead on. Hit them dead on, and they're as likely to kill you as you are to kill them (and if you're low level, they're probably going to kill you first). Hit them on the edge, though, as if you're jousting, and you do damage fairly reliably and rarely take much if any. The problem is that the Master System controller doesn't exactly lend itself to precision, and since the max level is 10, the game's not very forgiving in most instances. Once you get a feel for it, though, it's not terrible.
I'm going to keep this relatively brief since my review of the TG-CD version will include both Ys and Ys II, but I do want to make note of some of the things that the Master System did especially well and some of the things that the system did not-so-well. Let's start with the bad and end on a positive note. The main drawback with this version - other than the aforementioned plot issues - are the visuals. I know the Master System was an 8-bit system and therefore not a graphical powerhouse, but I've seen what the system is capable of. Phantasy Star looks miles better than Ys. And it's not that this game looks bad, but it's not what the console was capable of, and that's especially apparent with the character sprites. The music, however, more than makes up for any graphical mediocrity. Don't get me wrong, it's a hot mess without FM sound. Like, it sounds terrible. But play it on a Retron 5 and patch the FM sound tracks back in? Holy moley, that music is great. I don't know how it compares to the CD audio of the TurboGrafx version - I'll find out soon - but for an 8-bit cartridge system, it's freaking incredible.
This version of Ys has some flaws, and it's definitely not the version to play if your options are open, but if you're collecting for the Master System, or if that's the only system you have that has Ys, then it's still absolutely worth playing. It's definitely worth playing if you have a Retron 5 and can use the FM Sound patch, but even without it, just mute the TV and throw on some other music because the game itself is fun. It's not without its flaws, but the story is interesting (once you get past the confusion of why this dude's doing all this in the first place), and the FM soundtrack is absolutely killer. I'd definitely recommend it to Master System gamers, fer sher.
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.