"Ys III presents its bosses not as the typical war-of-attrition drag-out slugfests, but instead as short, brutal affairs that leave little room for tactical manoeuvring and places a bigger emphasis on quick-fire dodging and desperate slicing."
Adol must hate his life. Every time he and heterosexual life-mate Dogi leave their shared home, it seems the land of Ys is under attack by dragons or demons or Dark Gods of some form and he gets suckered into saving the world. In the case of Ys III, an innocent visit to a local fortune-teller goes awry when she informs Dogi that his hometown is prophesied to be annihilated by some random evil sect. Grabbing Adol, he vows this ill deed will never take place, and the purely platonic pair away to the town of Redmount. Dogi then proceeds to do sod all while Adol slogs through a short, linear game that emphasises a need to power-level and keep up to date with the newest armourments to avoid grizzily death.
And so it is that Adol leaves a much reformed Dogi (previous Ys games showcase him as the foul-mouthed comedic relief, while here, he's simply a squat sprite in a sea of squat sprites) to go off to a bunch of out-of-the-way locations with oft-shallow reasons behind it. The first stage, The Tigray Quarry, represents the obligatory mine level that you need explore to rescue the town elder from a cave-in. With no explanation as to why the old codger was inside a crumbly mine full of pitfalls, tumbling stalagtites and hostile monsters, Adol spends what little gold he has on some weaponry and wanders off as heroes are wont to do.
Dogi stays in his expansive hometown consisting of five (five!) houses and chats up flat, persona-less childhood chum, Elena.
Tigray Quarry is but a stone's throw from Redmount, and a scenic stroll awaits our never-tiring hero as he climbs over rickety wooden bridges set against shimmering sunsets and rolling cotton-puff clouds. These beautifully-crafted 'safe zones' start off all of Ys III's dungeon levels and serve much more meaningful roles than basic eye-candy. Perhaps wowed by the intricate splendour of his surroundings, an injured Adol will find his life restored each time he visits such an area. Leaving the sights behind to delve into the sunlight-choked mine, he will stand arrogantly on a raised ledge, away from the futile flapping of a small swarm of weak-looking bats and above a pair of squirming caterpillars. Adol has already saved all life as we know it twice in his young lifetime, so it's with confidence he marches down the stairs towards his foes, who quickly and effortlessly murder him.
How does our hero fall foul of a small, fuzzy worm, you ask? It's certainly not due to his offence. A simple swing of his blade covers a lot of ground, representing a respectable slash range. If that wasn't enough, he can pull off a dreaded shin poke by lying on his belly and thrusting his sword out in front of him, as well as deliver the infamous pogo attack in which he leaps in the air only to descend with his blade pointing downwards. Whatever the situation, Adol has the means to counter; what fails him so often during his quest is that the game demands he be at exactly the right level to progress. Too low and simple cannon-fodder will kill him where he stands; too high and the various bosses that litter each level die with depressing ease.
While Adol gets eaten by caterpillars, Dogi relaxes in the town's one-room-only inn.
When our hero is of an acceptable level, he is free to delve deeper into the mine. Once-deadly enemys die with ease, and a new race of targets takes their place. Tubby bats and crawly critters give way to bouncy green slimes and bruise-coloured ogres that chase you tirelessly upon spotting you. Although the odds are restacked against you at first, the age-old solution of levelling like crazy while stockpiling more powerful armourments presents itself and you'll slog your way through a straight, linear level that would be almost painful to bear if it weren't broken up by a pair of differing boss fights.
Ys III presents its bosses not as the typical war-of-attrition drag-out slugfests, but instead as short, brutal affairs that leave little room for tactical manoeuvring and place a bigger emphasis on quick-fire dodging and desperate slicing. The game's first boss guards an ancient sword that a panicking miner blocks you from progressing down into the lowest depths of the mine without. You enter the sword's location after using a key said miner supplied only to be met with an ominous greeting.
"I am Dulan, COME!"
Dulan is not pleased at your intrusion; he shows this by launching a flaming fireball at you that splits into segments and chases you around the screen. If that weren't enough, the cheeky bastard has enchanted the very sword you were sent to retrieve and has it zoom about the top of the screen, swooping down should you stray beneath it. It will only take his furious onslaught a few blows to see you off, but that's okay; should you weave in between his attacks and get within striking range, it will only take a few seconds of frantic stabbing to kill the swine. Most of the bosses are the same, a refreshing break from the slogging marathons other games like to present and a clever way to squeeze several of these epic encounters in each level without overcooking the process.
The mine is also home to Elfeilu, a pale dragon that sits upon a risen perch belching crescent-shaped plasma blasts or summoning storms of lightning should you stray too close. While you fight these horrors to the accompaniment of a rocking background track, Dogi decides to take a stroll up a nearby mountain to visit an old chum.
Bypass the Quarry and receive a loose reasoning to then travel to the Ilvern Ruins, where you have to navigate through a treacherous lava pit, destroy a golden serpent made from unholy flames and exhume a fire-spitting wyvern. Follow your slacking sidekick up the Eldam Mountains and cross swords with a sultry Harpy before unlocking the depths of a hidden cave. Here, you take on an ancient horror incased in ice that peppers you with needle-sharp icicles and teleports you away should you close in too quickly. You can endure the linear one-path-to-exit dungeons because of the maniacal slaughtering of boss characters that dare challenge you along the way. It's almost a shame that Ys III lasts a disappointing 8 or so hours, but the threats that await you endgame make poor slobs like Dulan look like a slightly damp and de-clawed kitten.
Almost a shame. Because on the other hand, Adol isn't given much encouragement to plough on. There's no obtainable plot to be found above a shallow and often laughable excuse to send him back and forth between the various loactions he must visit during his adventure, and, right until the end, any threat that gives you trouble can be easily cheapened by whacking yourself up a few levels or by employing any of the enchanted rings you might happen across (my pick of the four is the mighty POWER RING which makes wimpy duels into manly bloodfests). Whereas I want more of the frantic one-on-one fights, more of the driving soundtrack and more of the awesome enemy designs such as the hentai-inspired plants that spew out tentacles from their bulbs or mole-like golems that spring from rockbeds to hurl slabs of granite at you, I don't want to endure the means supplied to reach them. I don't want to have to return to the Quarry because some retarded miners decided to go back in and then tread the same straight path over and over, and I don't want to have to traverse the ruins for sloppy plot expansions that can be guessed a mile away. I don't want to be saddled with a useless sidekick whose only task in the entire game is to lounge around while Adol does all the work.
I don't regret the time I spent with Ys III, but that its end came quick was merciful.
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