Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ys III: Wanderers from Ys (SNES) Review

Written: December 6th-7th, 2014
Year: 1989, 1991 | Developed by: Tonkin House
Published by: American Sammy | Licensed by Nihon Falcom
Disclaimer: Some possible spoilers ahead!
Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit.  =)  Ever since I started going to eBay in 2009 long after one of my cousins loaned me his SNES console it has just opened a new doorway for me.  Of course I eventually started ordering games for different consoles as well, but the main thing I go on eBay for is Nintendo 16-bit games.
Up until then the only SNES games I played were either ones that I played while visiting others (namely my cousins), ones that I downloaded on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console, and a few in compilation games.  Mr. Nutz was the first game I ever ordered on eBay that May five years ago, and at the same time it was the first ever SNES game that I bought.  You could say that it was my first SNES game that I owned.  The Ocean-developed platformer may have derided gamers and critics since its 1993 inception, but it's a game that will always hold a place in my heart not only for the reasons that I stated, but because I genuinely really like it a lot.  But hey, different strokes for different folks.

The only gameplay semblance of a traditional Ys
game, and it's a map screen
Weeks later I had pondered which game to order next.  And I had just the feeling what would be the second SNES game that I would buy.  =)  But first the events that would lead up to it: on August 25th, 2008 I had downloaded the TurboGrafx-CD duo in one Ys Book I & II on the Virtual Console on release day.  A back-to-back enhanced version of Nihon Falcom's two Ancient Ys Vanished A-RPGs from 1987 and 1988 as ported by Hudson Soft (and Falcom too) in 1989/1990, those two games really intrigued me with the gradually involving story, rock soundtrack, and one of the most intuitive gameplay controls ever (just shoving).  Those games are widely regarded as some of the most innovative RPGs, and for good reason because they are so much fun.  Then in 1989 Nihon Falcom decided to create the third game in the Ys saga for the NEC PC-8801 titled Ys III: Wanderers from Ys.

Since then it's been ported to the NEC PC-9801, the MSX2, the Famicom, Super Famicom/Super Nintendo, the Sega MegaDrive/Genesis, the PC-Engine/TurboGrafx-CD, and finally the PlayStation 2 console in 2005, with only a few of these versions ever having seen the light of day in the West.  Doesn't really matter what system you got the game for in the end, because regardless it has received mixed reactions from everyone that played it, and not looked upon in favor when compared to its two predecessors.  But why is that?  Luckily the Super Nintendo version, developed by Tonkin House, was released in America as well (thanks to American Sammy); so for that reason I'm going to talk about this version.

Awhile has passed since the events of the young crimson-haired Adol Christin's last adventures, so he takes this opportunity to find even more adventures along the way and help those that need it most.  One day while in a city alongside his companion Dogi, the two notice that everyone is crowded to see a fortune-teller.
Piqued with curiosity the two decide to see it for themselves, with Dogi asking his fortune to be told.  As she uses her psychic prowess to foretell what may happen in Dogi's future, she correctly guesses that he's from Redmont.
But just as that happens she unexpectedly gets a vision of destruction and chaos, exclaiming the name "Galbalan" as her crystal ball spontaneously shatters.
Dogi, fully pensive, has his thoughts consumed by the fortune he was given.  Adol, curious about the fortune as well, suggests that they both head to Dogi's hometown Redmont in the hopes that they would get to the bottom of this and for Adol to get another crack at adventure.  This is the start of the third Ys.

Snow, snow, everywhere
Ancient Ys Vanished and Ancient Ys Vanished II: The Final Chapter were both action-oriented RPGs that were viewed from a bird's eye view, so one can only imagine everyone's initial reaction at the realization that Ys III: Wanderers from Ys would be a sidescrolling action-based RPG in the vein of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link instead.  But that is not the only reason for it's polarizing status, and I'll get to that.  The controls are simple for Adol can move left and right, climb up or down stairs, crouch, move while crouching, jump, and even use his sword.  How high or low Adol jumps depends on how hard you press the jump button, and he could attack with his sword as he moves, crouches down, and jumps up in the air.  There is also an upward lunge attack where you hold down the attack button while holding up on the Control Pad, but it's not something you'll find yourself relying on often.

Well it's not a sidescrolling RPG unless enemy-
infested mines are involved
The controls are really solid, but one thing to watch out for is how close you are to the enemy or boss when you swing your sword because sometimes the collision detection might be sporadic, and there's a reason for this: in the previous two games very close combat was a necessity as Adol was pushing enemies.  Adol doesn't push enemies this time but he still has got short ranged attacks, so that's something to be careful about.  Like the other Ys entries you can save your progress in any one of fifteen save slots at any moment of the game (except during boss battles), and likewise you can load your progress from any of the save slots during any moment (even during boss battles).

The Owls of Ga'Hoole were so upset that their
movie didn't do very well that they decided to
take it out on all the naysayers
Any time you stumble upon treasure chests in this sidescrolling venture you have to hold up while standing in front of it.  The Y button must be pressed in order to talk to someone, and throughout the course of the game you will find even more powerful swords, shields, and armor than the last.  You'll also become gradually more powerful each time you level up, and after the defeat of each boss you'll rack up lots of experience points and gold.  Rather convenient is that there's also an enemy's health gauge any time you attack any one in particular as opposed to just the main character's.  Sometimes you'll find yourself using various magical rings, each with different qualities (strength, defense, time, healing, and protection) that use up a bit of magic when in use, so only use those when you really need to.

Elefeir's lightning stings quite a bit
The rock-style soundtrack is really good, with plenty of memorably catchy themes which nicely blend in with their appropriate settings.  The town of Redmont has a rather pleasant theme to listen to, the music for when you enter the Tigray Quarry is quite involving in its melody, and anytime you're in a brief portion before the true area begins you'll hear Adol's unmistakable theme faithfully translated in 16-bit format.  =)  There are a number of standout songs in this iteration as well, like the exhilarating volcano theme placed underneath the Ilvern Ruins, the melancholy Eldam Mountains theme, the too cool to forget Ballacetine Castle theme, plus the Clock Tower theme.  The Clock Tower theme has got a good instrumentation going for it, and the French horns add a triumphantly heroic feel to it.

Time to face the Blue Dragon
There are two regular boss themes from time to time, the second one sounding more gripping and menacing than the first.  The final battle theme against Galbalan is dark, eerie, and intense despite the fact that it's composed through rock.  And of course the "Departure at Sunrise" is rewarding to listen to when all is done, offering an emotional farewell.  There's also another ending song and credits theme following it which I believe are exclusive to the Nintendo 16-bit version.  The second ending theme is haunting and sad while the credits theme is rather upbeat.  The sound effects are decent to say the least; what with the Metroid-like found item fanfare, the fire and amulet sounds, the sound of Adol swinging his sword, or the sound of said sword defeating an enemy which sounds like wood has been chopped.  The sound effect for when the bosses bite the dust, however, are satisfying.

"Gee thanks, I wouldn't have known that by
the number of times you brought your name
up or in the beginning when you bumped into
Dogi.  Much obliged."
One does not play an Ys game for the visuals (unless it was the brief anime cutscenes), and in the case of Ys III: Wanderers from Ys it's no exception.  But for what it's got it does offer some nice visual cues.  I like how Tonkin House decided to be faithful to the predecessors and original version by making all the action be shown inside a gold-leaf frame.  =)  Each area is very detailed despite being constrained to the size of the viewing field; like the cloudy Eldam Mountains as well as its caverns, the Tigray Quarry (especially in portions when you see the waterfalls in the distance, nice touch), and even the entirety of the Ballacetine Castle (both the castle and the clock tower).  Some of the areas close to the end look really good and in-depth, like the Room of the Thousand Columns (thanks to the parallax scrolling) and when you're scaling a tower with different amounts of gradients, shading, and lighting.

Hey, every non-Castlevania needs a clock
tower segment once in awhile
All that makes up for the fact that the character and enemy designs themselves are small and not intricately detailed.  That's not to say that they're badly drawn, they're not; but many of them do display choppy animation.  The character who animates the most is Adol, particularly when he moves while crouching and whenever he swings his sword in any manner you wish him to.  Adol swings his sword really fast, even when upward lunging (he changes armor color if you equip any one of five rings).  The bosses on the other hand are bigger, significantly more detailed, and really well-designed.  There's Dulan whose robe flows as he's moving, the fire dragon Gilan who looks intimidating, and even Galbalan's second in command who's tall and ominous.  Galbalan has got a very cool design, and I like how the purple color suits him.  The anime segments shown in the beginning and ending of the game are fun to watch, and are visually the best part of Ys III: Wanderers from Ys.

There is a bit of an advantage (or disadvantage) when it comes to action-oriented RPGs that are either viewed from the bird's eye view or viewed from the sidelines, at least as far as Ys is concerned.  While the two Ancient Ys Vanished games were top-down, you could at least move in all four directions while in Ys III: Wanderers from Ys you could only move left or right.  The main disadvantage of shifting the third Ys' perspective from its two older brothers is that it ends up sacrificing depth.  In the first two Ys games there was at least a big sense of depth and nonlinearity lingered throughout, what with its big dungeon designs; this game, on the other hand, is more on the linear side of things than anything else and you'll always know which direction is the right way to go.  Occasionally there will be a few diverting paths, but aside from that not much is there in terms of dungeon depth.  As a result Adol's first Nintendo 16-bit adventure is rather short.  =(

Something must be said about the Super Nintendo version of Ys III: Wanderers from Ys that I played: and that is its level cap is really low.  Don't believe me?  As I enter the Volcano I'm just one level shy of reaching the halfway health point.  No matter what level you are on, the enemies you defeat will always give you the same amount of experience points regardless.
Which means that if you take just enough time to level grind in this section, say roughly thirty minutes (made all the more possible with an infinitely regenerating healing herb lying on the promontory of the area... odd), then it is possible to reach the level cap.

What a nice little shack this helpful man lives
And what is the level cap, you may ask?  16!  Level 16 is your level cap!  >_<  All this does is alleviate a lot of the challenge that you'll be facing later on, and the worst part is that you're not even halfway through the game at that point.  That is way too damn early; usually it is best to reach the level cap near the end when it comes to other games in the genre.  I mention this because in the first two Ys titles if you leveled up just enough at certain points then the enemies you defeat at said points would drop down to one experience point, being halved each time you go up a level.  Not doing that here is one of the biggest mistakes you could possibly make when it comes to these games.  =(

Adol comes across a mysterious hippogriff
It does start off a bit hard because Adol has only a short amount of health when the quest really begins, but the more health (as well as strength and defense) you gain the more your chances of survival will be.  Level grinding is a must at times (in the beginning, sure), but this is a sorry example of level grinding gone awry.  I say that it alleviates most of the challenge if you reach the level cap, and it does... at least up until the latter segments of Ballacetine Castle.  Only then will you have to be more careful, in particular as you fight Galbalan, who can be very challenging at first due his various sets of attacks; but proper strategizing will lessen his difficulty.  You still must be careful though, but it is possible to beat him in the end.

Storming the castle to this rockin' tune,
I also have my own personal caveat towards Ys III: Wanderers from Ys: why it's even called "Wanderers from Ys" to begin with.  As far as the Nintendo 16-bit conversion of the game is concerned it neither alludes to anything Ys-related nor references Adol's previous adventures.  For that matter, who even are the wanderers that the subtitle is mentioning?  Are Adol and Dogi the wanderers?  And if not them, then who?  They could've named this game anything else and it would've worked just fine; if not for Adol, the framed view, the HUD at the bottom, and the found item sound effect then the Ys moniker it inhabits would be completely null and void.  The epilogue exposits some background info on the main character and proclaims that he would go on many adventures, which is nice but comes across as a primer to those that may have experienced the other Ys games.  But maybe that's the point; but then, this is just my main nitpick on what is otherwise a solid game.

My golden armor renders me invincible
This was my second SNES physical cartridge that I bought, and with all its issues that I personally have with it (and ones that hurt it) I still have a lot of fondness for this game.  =)  I liked the fact that Nihon Falcom decided to go in a slightly different direction by turning Ys III: Wanderers from Ys into a sidescroller despite the fact that there's not much depth, and playing as Adol was still a lot of fun.  The main downside is that in total the game is roughly two-two and a half hours long in length, much shorter if you're really confident; but while it lasts I liked it for what it was and I beat it more times than I can remember.  I remember having found out about this game while reading FlyingOmelette's review on it long ago, and from what she wrote down I was intrigued; but it wouldn't be until July 2009 that I would be able to play it.  =)

Kill the harpy!
At one point I thought that it was on par with, if not better, than Ys Book I & II; and, in some cases it is.  But as I said earlier it doesn't exude as much depth or has as much length as the two games before it, and that kind of drags the third Ys down (but not completely).  For an SNES RPG that came out in 1991 it's translated surprisingly well; and save for a couple instances none of the dialogue boxes use contractions.  The first translation of Final Fantasy IV (as Final Fantasy II) never was this practically spotless... though I guess with American Sammy as publisher I suppose it was a given that the translation would be good.  Kudos!  =D  But because this Ys iteration was a sidescroller (and with all that I had mentioned) it had polarized everyone that had played it at the time.  Nowadays there's a bit of a cult following, but reception-wise it's still mixed; in 2005 Nihon Falcom completely remade this game as a top-down game called Ys: The Oath of Felghana for the PC as a Japan-exclusive, which saw a worldwide rerelease for the PlayStation Portable in 2010.  Good thing I've still got the handheld system.  =)  Sadly it wouldn't be until 1993 for Nintendo gamers to play their own proper Ys treatment on the Super Famicom.

Yes, the Super Famicom, for Tonkin House's second Nintendo 16-bit contribution to the Ys series Ys IV: Mask of the Sun (licensed by Nihon Falcom) was only released in Japan and was never officially released in the West (not even the PlayStation 2 remake).  Oh there have been fan translations and repro carts made for it in the past few years (not just for North America but for Europe as well), but officially it was never given a proper chance Westside; which is a shame because it's a very great A-RPG and in my book the series' very own The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (in more ways than one) going back to its original roots.  =)  Up until 2012 it was the canon fourth entry in the series before the arrival of the PlayStation Vita title by Nihon Falcom themselves Ys: Memories of Celceta which actually saw an official release outside Japan.
Then in 1995 Nihon Falcom decided to personally take the series into a drastically different direction, making their second and last game made directly for the Super Famicom after their 1994 port of their own 1991 title  Popful MailYs V: Ushinawareta Suna no Miyako Kefin; which got reworked into a harder version as Ys V Expert three months later released by Koei.  Having only played the Expert version I'm not 100% sure how harder it is compared to the earlier version; but it is a very interesting adventure game to play in its own right, with gameplay structure that's more unintentionally and eerily similar to Produce's A-RPG Brain LordYs III: Wanderers from Ys is a tad better in my opinion, but Ys V is a good (albeit lesser Ys) game that when released resulted in people not knowing what to make of it.  To this day it has yet to officially see an official release in the West in any format, even the PlayStation 2 remake.  2015 is coming up soon, maybe another remake of it will be made then to commemorate its twentieth anniversary, hopeful seeing a Western release?

The final battle is at hand!
Maybe not as great as I once thought it was, but Ys III: Wanderers from Ys is still a game I have fun playing whenever I get to it.  Take it for what it's worth.  If you're an Ys fan then Adol's third game is worth trying; if your concerns regard length and depth then this game may disappoint you on both counts.  If you like sidescrolling adventure games like Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and Popful Mail then the third Ys RPG is a good game to play.  If you would rather play an A-RPG viewed from a bird's eye perspective then you might probably not like this game 'cause outside of the map screen it's nothing of the sort.  If you want to play for the story, then you're in luck for the story itself is good.  Personally though, I like Ys III: Wanderers from Ys and I can understand why anyone wouldn't; to each their own.  Whatever the circumstances, it ain't shabby.  =)

<(^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^)>
P.S. Yes, I am fully aware that Galbalan looks as if he's got a grimacing face on his chest.
P.S. 2 Short or no, the very last shot after the credits are over give me chills every time.
P.S. 3 Chibi Adol looks cool in the title screen.  =)
P.S. 4 About time I got my thoughts on this game out of the way.  Let's see what other video games I can talk about in the upcoming weeks.  Maybe I'll update a review on Christmas day?  ;)
Thank you for reading my review, my readers.  Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.  I hope you have a great day, Merry Christmas, and take care.  =)
And yes, I know that in the Super Famicom version there is a crucifix sitting on the mantelpiece.


  1. Thanks for this review. I really enjoy this game, although I probably enjoy the TurboGrafx-16/Turbo Duo version a bit better.

    1. You're welcome. =) I only played the SNES version, though I have sometimes considered trying the Genesis version of Ys III, but haven't done so yet.