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Ys III: Wanderers From Ys (PlayStation 2) artwork

Ys III: Wanderers From Ys (PlayStation 2) review

"As a notoriously chicanerous gamer, I am here to spoil the experience for all of you envious Falcom fans. And let me assure you of one thing: there's not much to be envious about."

2005 was a fantastic year for action-RPG fans. That's when Falcom's phenomenal remake of 1989's Ys III: Wanderers from Ys sliced through Japanese sales charts. Falcom's mega-seller masterpiece featured completely revamped dungeons, gameplay sequences that shamed Napishtim, energetic revisions of familiar melodies, and visuals that truly sparkled on the small screen. Taken as a whole, the game perhaps outsparkled even the legendary Ys Book I & II, which is no small compliment. And, since it was designed for Windows XP, us Americaners could actually join in on the action.

Meanwhile, over on PS2, Taito published their own remake of the same game. Unlike Falcom's re-imagined epic, this version smoldered more than it sparkled. And, since Sony's PS2 is region-locked, us Americaners couldn't join in without exercising a bit of chicanery.

Fear not! As a notoriously chicanerous gamer, I am here to spoil the experience for all of you envious Falcom fans. And let me assure you of one thing: there's not much to be envious about. Basically, with their remake of Ys III: Wanderers from Ys, it looks like Taito was trying to recreate the famous Turbo CD adventure, except with crisper graphics, slower gameplay, and worse music.

The game opens with a laughably shoddy still-frame introduction that pales in comparison to the PS2's version of Ys Book I & II (which featured lavish animation set atop a powerful score). During this MIDI-driven sequence, the characters exhibit the stereotypical poses one might expect from a fantasy-themed action-RPG. Returning hero Adol Christin clenches his mighty fist of justice, suave villain Chester shows off his crossed-arms "cool guy" pose, and muscle-man Dogi busts through a wall. After all, that's what muscle-men do when they're not busy can-can dancing.

Somewhere amidst all this manliness, a cute blonde girl named Elena finds time to cry. That's what girls do -- look cute and cry. She's upset because her brother, Chester, is a suave villain. Elena naturally wants her brother to give up his life of crime and return home so that they can continue living in sin. Ever the goody-goody, red-headed Adol decides to interfere in their personal business.

Adol: "Chester..."
Chester: "How do you know my name?"
Adol: "I know a girl who's worried about her older brother."

Chester must not have liked that answer, because he proceeds to kick Adol off the cliff into a fiery pool of lava.

Fortunately, Adol lands on a rock that happens to be floating in the lava, and he continues on his sidescrolling action-RPG quest. Basically, this quest entails:

1) Traveling through a chain sequence of dungeon screens. Imagine a really easy version of Zelda II.
2) Fighting a really easy boss.
3) Selecting the next dungeon from the overworld.

The visuals are colorful and crisp, and the controls are competent, but the dungeons are so sparsely populated that the adventure comes across as both short (because so little of it is memorable) and tedious (because so little of it is engaging). I'm pretty sure there was an ice dungeon, I'm pretty sure there was a fire dungeon, and I think a castle was mixed in there somewhere. Here's the thing: every action-RPG has an ice dungeon, a fire dungeon, and a castle. Unless they're the most phenomenally gorgeous ice dungeon, fire dungeon, and castle ever put to screen (and they aren't), then they'd better be pretty damn innovative in terms of layout and design. And they aren't.

Although I'm a fan of the X68000 version's challenging dungeons, Ys III was never a powerhouse in layout or design. If gameplay were my only motivation for playing games, I'd rather devote my time to the puzzle-laced forests of Popful Mail or monster-infested caverns of Xanadu. No, Ys III's most enduring achievement was its stellar soundtrack, made particularly famous by the redbook audio Turbo CD port.

I suppose the PS2 remake's score might sound pretty good if you hadn't ever heard any other version of the music. Personally, I thought it sounded like some fanboy went to town on his Yamaha keyboard and shipped the memory disk to Taito. This 2005 PS2 edition lacks the clarity of the fifteen-year-old SNES port, the brilliant "rock" edge of the sixteen-year-old Turbo CD, and the booming resonance of the seventeen-year-old X68000 version's soundtrack. But hey, at least you get to see Adol shake his fist of justice.

So, if you want to play a reasonably faithful version of Ys III: Wanderers from Ys that makes you yearn for other, better, much older versions of the game, then be my guest and purchase Taito's overpriced port. If you want to play something that actually feels like a 2005 release, track down Ys: The Oath in Felghana instead.


zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (May 04, 2007)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

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