All in all, Radical YMCK is meant to be my personal blog. So, having said that, there are some things I’ll want to discuss that will strictly exist for the sake of putting things out there. You know, personal crap that will clearly not make sense to anyone else. There are times where sometimes, my mind goes off on insane tangents: where any attempt to stop them just sends me into overtime. I generally consider these to be “conspiracy theories” of a sort – granted, most of the time, they’re generally positive. I’d like to get these things down somewhere, just as a therapeutic exercise. So expect these to crop up again in the future. Today, I’m going to recount one such theory I had recently, that no one in my group could convincingly dissuade me from believing, in spite of their best efforts.
Anyone who’s ever read my work over at Retronaissance knows that I’m a big fan of getting PC ports and among my most anticipated are the (as of now) two latest Ys games: Seven and Memories of Celceta. Of everything I’ve asked for, those two games felt the most possible for one simple reason – there are already existing ports on PC. Granted, these are ports meant exclusively for the Chinese market – developed back when video game consoles were banned in China. My impressions on the quality are mixed: I haven’t obtained these ports for myself, but I’ve heard both negative and positive impressions on the ports themselves – even some cases where the fan-made English translation patches have rectified a few of the ports’ issues.
Recently, Joyoland put up listing for these games on Steam’s Greenlight service early this year, as well as their ports of both Zero no Kiseki and Ao no Kiseki (colloquially known as “Trails to Zero” and “Trails to Azure” in English-speaking territories) of Falcom’s Legend of Heroes series: the games that take place between the Trails in the Sky (currently available on PSP and PC) and Trails of Cold Steel (currently split between the Vita, PS3 and PS4) and currently lack any form of official English release. These games managed to pass Greenlight within a week of being posted, but just as mysteriously, all 4 listing disappeared from the service near the end of January. Joyoland has, to my knowledge, not acknowledged the takedowns or given any official reasons behind them.
Having said that, Falcom was originally a rare Japanese developer that focused on developing on various Japanese computer systems. However, as the Japanese video game market became more and more console-centric, Falcom had to adjust their strategy: developing more of their games with console releases in mind, before entirely ditching development on PC during the late 2000s. Since that time, however, the localization company XSEED took to releasing a few of Falcom’s older PC games – specifically games in the Ys series, the aforementioned Trails in the Sky and recently Xanadu Next – on Steam, with various fixes and full English translations. XSEED even managed to recreate (and arguably improve upon) the PSP release of Ys I & II Chronicles by crafting a new port – based on the original Ys I & II Complete from 2001, itself the basis for Chronicles – referring to the new release as “Chronicles+”.
When asked in an interview related to the then-recent release of another Falcom game – Gurumin, which was published by Mastiff – Falcom president Toshihiro Kondo stated that their releases on Steam “enjoyed better sales volume” than releases on the PlayStation. Likewise, he mentioned wanting to see a “PC revival in Japan”. Statements like these have led many on the internet to believe that Falcom broke off their recent “exclusive arrangement” with XSEED games – licensing Tokyo Xanadu and Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana to Aksys Games and NIS America, respectively – because these new partners would allow for PC ports in the West – which XSEED has stated many times in the past that they would not be able to procure – in addition to other factors.
Now, with all of this background information out of the way, we can move into the actual meat of my theory. After I found that the Joyoland listings on Greenlight had been taken down, I was extremely concerned. Many theorized that somehow, this new release on Steam breached the licensing agreement with Falcom that made these ports possible in the first place. Others speculated that they had simply been made private: only visible by those in the Chinese region. One other theory was that they were taken down due to not actually needing to be submitted through Greenlight in the first place – though, this theory is weak due to the fact that Mastiff needed to submit Gurumin through the service. It took me awhile, but I crafted a fourth theory: the entire Joyoland Greenlight campaign was nothing more than a false-flag operation to gauge Western interest in ports of these games.
Though the listings themselves are down, I managed to find archives for the Greenlight pages on the Wayback Machine, which I will link below:
- Ys: Memories of Celceta
- Ys Seven
- The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Zero
- The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure
Likewise, the YouTube account Joyoland made to post their various videos related to these postings is still active. Now, there are two pieces of evidence on the Greenlight listings themselves that lead me to believe that this may have been an interest gauge. First of all, within a few days of their campaign’s start, Joyoland made a posting in all 4 listings, stating that if interest was high enough, they would consider making an English version of all 4 games – a difficult endeavor for the Kiseki games, but entirely within the realm of possibility for the two Ys games. This is due to the fact that XSEED’s initial translations are the property of Falcom, who are able to license them out as they please. This was speculated due to the fact that back when they initially announced their Memories of Celceta port, Joyoland had previously expressed interest in releasing their port of Seven in English, using XSEED’s script. However, full on confirmation of Falcom’s ownership of XSEED’s translations came recently with the release of Ys Origin on PlayStation 4 – the port was handled by French company DotEmu and utilized XSEED’s English translation for 2012 with their logos completely absent from the new release.
Second of all – as evidenced by the archive links – at the very least, a plurality of comments of support for these releases were made in English, likely by Anglophones who have been desperate for these games to see release on PC. Despite the fact that China is currently the third largest country on Steam, it’s still by and large an American platform. Likewise, it would appear that sales of the Ys ports were fairly poor in China – a major factor regarding why there was such a long gap between the initial announcement of the MoC port and the eventual release. So while attempting to re-release their ports on a digital platform – hopefully without the original draconian DRM – in an attempt to reinvigorate sales in their home country is a plausible business plan, the fact that Americans were watching is definitely something Joyoland could not have ignored.
The third and final piece of evidence is one I noticed near the beginning of the campaign. Joyoland’s listings all utilize the XSEED titles for the game’s releases in the West – in English. In the case of Ys Seven, this isn’t necessarily a smoking gun. Trails to Zero/Azure, on the other hand, were initially speculative titles proposed for the games in one of XSEED’s translation blogs. Then there’s Memories of Celceta, which actually has its own separate English translation for Japan – one present on Joyoland’s official site and the logos in the Greenlight listing itself: Foliage Ocean in Celceta. If English versions weren’t in the cards at all and the intent wasn’t to grab the attention of Western gamers, why use the Western English title, as opposed to the existing English translation of the original Japanese title? It just doesn’t make sense to me. Of course, most people I pointed this out to said that this was simply selective vision – looking for evidence of English releases where there clearly was none – but in light of their removal from Greenlight, I’m looking at things from a new perspective. Originally, I thought the use of the Kiseki games’ English titles was a hint, but in retrospect, Memories of Celceta should have been my smoking gun.
Then you’ve got Joyoland themselves. Their screenname on Weibo – a Chinese equivalent of Twitter – is literally “falcomchina“. Likewise, the head of Joyoland is a reportedly a good associate of Toshihiro Kondo and the two have collaborated for roughly a decade. Also, there was recently confirmation that the reason they abandoned their ambitions for releasing their Ys Seven PC port in the West was due to poor sales in China. Perhaps the most interesting thing I’ve discovered with regards to Joyoland was that their original port of Zero no Kiseki is rumored to have been based on a scrapped PC port originally developed by Falcom themselves. This feeds into the fact that I found that Falcom released a PC port of Zero in Japan in 2013 (and re-released digitally on DMM in 2015), 2 years after Joyoland’s release. Once I found out about this, I wondered why XSEED or any other translator would need to license Joyoland’s port, until I recently found the answer: Falcom’s port is said to have been based on Joyoland’s – an odd case of Falcom licensing a port of one of their own games for release in Japan.
With all of this in mind, we must remember Kondo’s earlier statements about wishing to re-enter the PC market. Given the fact that Falcom’s games have sold fairly well on Steam and the fact that both of Falcom’s most recent titles are receiving PC ports upon their release in the West, I think we can confirm that this is part of Falcom’s strategy for the future. Likewise, XSEED has stated on numerous occasions that they have liked to have done a PC version of Ys Seven, but lacked the resources to create their own port and were unable to license Joyoland’s ports. (And don’t get me started on the tweet everyone misinterpreted as confirmation of a Steam version of MoC!) The same goes for Zero/Ao no Kiseki: porting PSP games at this point is a fool’s errand, the Evolution versions on Vita are too expensive to license and there are no Falcom-based PC versions to work from, as is the case for the Trails in the Sky Trilogy. Aside from the Joyoland PC ports, all 4 of these games are essentially tied to a platform that is either dead or on the verge of dying: Sony’s “PlayStation Portable” line, which I’m assuming will end once the Vita is discontinued, simply due to both the Vita’s lack of perceived success and the fact that games like Disgaea 5 Complete are being developed for the Switch – which is capable of an extremely similar form factor. PSP/Vita Classics also seem incredibly unlikely at this point.
There’s still one thing I’ve kept in my mind that links all of these elements together. When the Joyoland listings were originally posted on Steam, the Ys fanbase on Steam was ecstatic: showing support and posting threads. One such thread had a response from Sara Leen, XSEED’s localization programmer who was responsible for the aforementioned Chronicles+, as well as adding features to XSEED’s most recent Ys release: The Ark of Napishtim. In a topic imploring the Ys fanbase to vote for the Joyoland ports of Seven and MoC on Greenlight, Sara responded, “Although, would you rather have the Cinese [sic] version, or something with more work put into it, anyway?” That was a red flag for me and signified one of two things: straight up sour grapes over the situation or something bigger. Considering that the Greenlight listings have since disappeared, I’m leaning a little more towards the latter than before.
So what do I think is going on here? There are a few possibilities. The most likely is that someone – likely Falcom – is going to license the Joyoland ports (possibly to XSEED themselves), improving them and using XSEED’s English translations in order to create improved PC ports for sale in the Western market, possibly exclusive to Steam – but if XSEED is involved, there will likely be a GOG release as well. There’s also a chance that Falcom might be looking into financing original ports of their own for the Western market, utilizing XSEED’s existing translations. This would likely include the benefit of being able to port these new ports to PS4, allowing for wider release in both the Japanese and international console markets. One final possibility would be the Falcom is planning to port these games to PS4 and/or PC themselves, as they likely still have the original source code and it could act as practice in order to create an internal team for handling ports of older games to either platform. Considering the recent release of the previously PC-exclusive Ys Origin to PS4 – with the Vita release delayed to May – it seems like Falcom may just want to make their titles available on as many platforms as possible, so having a dedicated team for ports could be beneficial both for the PC market’s demand for more recent Falcom titles and console gamers that want older titles.
Regardless of what happens, I’ve got a contingency plan. A friend of mine ended up buying me a PlayStation TV during the height of his “Vita Evangelist” phase and since then, I’ve purchased both Ys Seven and Memories of Celceta on PSN – though I was hoping Seven would go on sale and I originally intended to grab a physical copy of MoC (40% off was just too good a deal) – so I’ve got guaranteed ways of catching up with the series before Lacrimosa of Dana releases in North America. I’ve given myself a deadline to see if these ports materialize: either May 31st or whenever NIS America announces the North American release date for Ys VIII. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but who knows what will happen.
[Having said that: even if the ports don’t release before my deadline, I’m still willing to buy them. Keep that in mind, Falcom!]