NIS America explores the 30-year history of a beloved RPG franchise that follows Adol Christin on his far-flung adventures
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is coming to PS4 and PS Vita this autumn. Some of you are excited, and some of you are asking yourself “What’s Ys?” Well, let’s answer that for you!
Put simply, Ys (pronounced “ees”) is an action RPG series that follows an adventurer named Adol Christin as he travels to far-flung lands, saves the day through silky-smooth combat, and is completely oblivious to the swooning of maidens on his quest for adventure.
But that’s to put it simply. Those two letters hold a lot more meaning for a lot of people — and for good reason. For some, those two letters define action adventure. For others, they’re a rousing intersection of some of gaming’s best music and tightest gameplay. To get into what those two letters really mean, I think we need to go back a little bit. 30 years, to be exact.
The original 1987 game fused the action and RPG genres together
In 1987, Falcom — a then six-year-old company that had so far released everything from golf to Mahjong games — released an RPG called Ys: Ancient Ys Vanished Omen that eschewed turn-based battles found in most RPGs for a “bump attack” system that kept the action moving. The game’s protagonist was Adol Christin, a red-headed adventurer who left home at sixteen to find adventure and chronicled his travels in a journal.
Since that first game, Adol Christin has charted an exciting path; games in the series have been released and re-released on everything from TurboGrafx-CD to PS4, Ys has spawned its own anime miniseries, and the franchise has captured the hearts, hopes, and wanderlust of adventurers everywhere. It’s been successful because of a few key components: upbeat stories of adventure; smooth, addicting action; and lovingly-composed orchestral music that ties it all together.
Every Ys entry introduces a new cast and adventure, so it’s easy to jump on
Every Ys story has its place in the timeline of Adol, but as any true adventurer knows, the most important thing isn’t the order or destination, it’s the journey. As the lore goes, each Ys game tells a tale from Adol’s journal entries. Each one tends toward a mostly straightforward plot, episodic narratives, and a few recurring characters.
Thankfully for a series with the roman numeral for eight in its newest game’s name, the tales they tell don’t need to be experienced in order — each one welcomes new adventurers and weathered wayfinders, alike. Adol has an unnatural knack for finding himself in new locations in need of an adventurer to go on an epic quest. And, thankfully for him, his pal Dogi seems to have a similar knack. More often than not, these two venture into jungles, mountains, and beyond in search of a good time, and generally find an epic fight or two along the way.
The franchise’s ‘bump’ attack had you charge enemies to strike
The first Ys game’s bump attack system meant that players never spent time waiting for a battle to start, or selecting “attack” from a menu. Just run into an enemy from the right direction, and you’d pack a wallop. No attack button, no careful choice of attack, just action. While the bump attack system was left behind after the second game in the series, the fundamentals that spawned it — speed, fun, action — are alive and well in each and every Ys installment.
Since Ys Seven, combat is fast-paced and sees you quickly switching between characters as the situation dictates to deal the proper type of damage. Even in normal encounters, the Ys series offers blood-pumping combat that rewards quick reactions, intelligent planning, and pattern recognition. But the boss battles are so epic that you might just find yourself completely lost in rapture, hands gripping the controller tight as the heart-pounding soundtrack beats the rhythm of your battle.
You can listen to the fracnhise’s soundtrack on Spotify
I’m not joking about the heart-pounding soundtrack. The music that accompanies Ys games is truly the work of artistic geniuses. Falcom’s in-house JDK Sound Team creates iconic music for each game.
If you want a taste of that sweet soundtrack goodness, you can check it out on Spotify right now. I’ve been jamming out to it the whole time I spent writing this. Might I recommend listening to track 5, Sunshine Coastline?
Ys VIII combines the best elements of the past games
Which brings me nicely to the newest game in the series, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. Ys VIII takes all the elements that make Ys, well, Ys, and polishes them. The story is more evolved than ever, and for the first time in the series, whole gameplay chapters are devoted to our heroine, Dana. The action shines with some truly epic boss battles, and the controls never get in your way. Then there’s the soundtrack, which, well, just go listen to it.
I am super excited to say that Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana will be hitting PS4 and PS Vita this Fall in North America and Europe with dual audio in English and Japanese, and in-game text in English and French. We’ll have many more details on both versions next time I join you here. Until then, get an even deeper look at the history of Ys in this great retrospective article, and bookmark the game’s official website to see news about Ys VIII as we announce it!
See you next time, dood!