Ys III: Wanderers from Ys

Most videogame series have one installment fans and critics alike consider to be their black sheep, for instance, the second installment of Nintendo’s Zelda series, The Adventure of Link, which for one installment changed the franchise’s top-down gameplay to side-scrolling gameplay. Another series that did this was Ys with its third installment, Ys III: Wanderers from Ys, ditching its two predecessors’ top-down gameplay in favor of side-scrolling gameplay akin to early Castlevania games, a change that was hardly for the better.

The third Ys game ditches the battle system of its two predecessors, which involved charging into enemies to damage them, in favor of mechanics were the protagonist, Adol Christin, can jump with the B button and slash his sword repeatedly with the Y button. However, it is incredibly difficult for Adol to defeat enemies without taking massive damage, as striking foes does not bound the enemy or Adol back like in Zelda II, and early on in the game it becomes necessary to grind for both money and experience in order to tackle the first dungeon. Adding insult to injury is that the game ultimately caps Adol’s level, and if the player can’t defeat the final boss even at the highest level, too bad, there’s nothing to do but try again.

Adol can also slash his sword while jumping, although it’s even more difficult to attack avian enemies, again given the lack of rebounding on part of the redheaded protagonist or the enemy, and if the player holds down the Y button, Adol stabs his sword only downward, and if he lands on an enemy, both he and the monster take damage. The third installment further has a magic system in the form of different rings Adol can equip to provide supplemental effects such as increased attack or defense, although putting them on drains his magic meter of up to 255 points that he can refill in town or slowly recharge by defeating enemies, again risking damage and death. Finally, Adol can only carry one each of the game’s HP and MP-healing items, although the last few battles are still difficult without cheating. In the end, even the second Zelda had a better battle system, given the presence of upward/downward stabs and the rebound effect when attacking foes, and there isn’t much to redeem the battle system.

Control is a little better, given the save-anywhere feature present in most iterations of the Ys franchise, not to mention general linear level design that mostly prevents the player from losing themselves, although the save system can be a double-edged sword, particularly if Adol is in low health in the middle of a grueling dungeon and needs to get back to town for healing, with the game consequentially and potentially becoming unbeatable.

The story isn’t much to write home about either, although for once, Adol talks unlike in other installments of the franchise, but it’s still sometimes difficult to discern who exactly is speaking in the presence of multiple characters (although Adol’s speech seems to always be in yellow), and there aren’t that many surprises, twists, or turns. The localization isn’t anything spectacular, moreover, with stilted dialogue and again a difficulty in knowing at times who exactly is speaking.

On the plus side, the soundtrack is decent like in the other Ys games, for instance, the energetic mine shaft theme, although the tracks can become somewhat repetitive, and there isn’t much in the way of sound effects.

The graphics also look okay, with the SNES version of Ys III being one of the only games on the system to feature anime cutscenes, although the other graphics aren’t anything great aside from vibrant colors, with simple, emotionless character sprites and monster designs.

Finally, beating the game takes somewhere less than ten hours, although “short and sweet” hardly describes in the third installment. In the end, many consider Ys III to be the black sheep of its franchise, and rightfully so, given things such as a poorly-implemented side-scrolling battle system, an unengaging plot, and so forth. The third chapter would ultimately find redemption in a much-improved remake for the PC and PlayStation Portable entitled Ys: The Oath in Felghana, which is far more recommended than the original upon which it is based.

The Good:
+Lets you save anywhere.
+Good soundtrack.
+One of the only SNES games with anime cutscenes…

The Bad:
-Needlessly difficult, poorly-implemented side-scrolling gameplay with a level cap.
-No quick way to exit dungeons if stuck with low health.
-Forgettable plot and localization.

The Bottom Line:
Probably the worst Ys game, though its remake, The Oath in Felghana, is a lot better.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Super NES
Game Mechanics: 2/10
Controls: 5/10
Story: 3/10
Music/Sound: 7/10
Graphics: 6/10
Localization: 4/10
Lasting Appeal: 1/10
Difficulty: Hard
Playing Time: Less than 10 Hours

Overall: 2.5/10

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