GameSpite Journal 10 | Ys III: Wanderers from Ys

Wanderers from Ys III | Dev.: Advance Communications | Pub: American Sammy | Genre: Action RPG | Release: Jan. 1992

The Ys series is often compared to the Zelda games, which isn’t entirely fair. Ys has more in common with Hydlide, really, what with its bump-and-grind mechanics (bump into enemies to kill them, grinding them over and over for those all-important experience increases). Still, the series didn’t do much to dissuade those Zelda comparisons with its third chapter, Ys III: Wanderers from Ys.

Like Zelda II, Wanderers is the weird outlier of the franchise: It’s the sole side-scrolling action platformer of its respective family, one whose play mechanics were largely abandoned by every subsequent sequel. And yet, like Zelda II, Wanderers has exerted a subtle influence over its successors. This was the first chapter of the series to give Adol Christin his pal Dogi, who’s been a mainstay of Ys games ever since. And it also broke Ys away from the bump-and-grind treadmill, allowing players to take direct control of Adol’s sword arm rather than leaving his attacks up to passive control. Admittedly, that did take a while to catch on in the more traditional follow-ups, but as of Ys VI it’s become a standard fixture of the Ys games, even in remakes like The Oath at Felghana -- which, incidentally, is a reworking of Wanderers that casts it in the shape of the rest of the series.

Wanderers has a strange place in Ys history, at least on Super NES: Despite being the third chapter of the series, it was the first to appear on a Nintendo console in the U.S. The Famicom ports of Ys I & II never made their way west, and only a handful of really hardcore gamers (with deep pockets and an admirable devotion to ill-starred platforms) had played the Turbo Duo rendition of those games. For most people picking up Wanderers, it was practically a new franchise altogether.

I can’t say it made the best first impression, though. Falcom games have always seemed to revel in their deliberately old-school nature, even back in the day when “old-school” meant “five years ago.” Wanderers felt somewhat like a relic in 1992 -- incredibly fast-paced, but ridiculously difficult.

More to the point, it didn’t quite feel like a Nintendo game. NES and Super NES action games tended to have a deliberate pace, a la Castlevania or (to keep it in the Falcom family) Faxanadu?, and while difficult were generally manageable with careful play and a bit of patience; Wanderers was brisk, uncomplicated, and stupidly hard. It stood out in the Super NES pantheon for looking and feeling more like something that belonged on Sega Genesis. That’s not a flaw by any means, but it definitely put the game at odds with its peers.

Wanderers’ Super NES release also marked the last time the Ys series would appear on a Nintendo platform in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, when two different versions of Ys I & II appeared on DS and Wii Virtual Console within a few months of one another. In every measurable sense, Wanderers from Ys was a game that just felt out of place. That fact that it appeared on Super NES at all is remarkable -- a fleeting taste of a classic RPG franchise for America’s core console RPG audience, albeit an atypical one.

By Jeremy Parish? | Nov. 21, 2011 | Previous: Joe & Mac | Next: Super Scope