Conspiracy Theory: A Follow-Up on Ys PC Ports Speculation

I know it hasn’t been that long since I first revealed my reasons for believing that Ys Seven and Memories of Celceta are making their way to PC, but since then, various things have happened and I feel like it’s worth revisiting this conspiracy theory, in light of all this new information.

I’ve linked to my original blog on the subject, but I still figure it’s worth giving a quick rundown of all the evidence I used in the previous article to come to the conclusion that these two Ys games will be receiving all-new Western PC ports. For starters, the existing Chinese PC ports of the PlayStation Portable line’s exclusive Ys games (which, from what I can tell, are of dubious quality) as well as the Crossbell duology from the Legend of Heroes series were put on Steam’s now-defunct Greenlight service, where they achieved the support they needed within a week. The company behind the ports, Joyoland responded to the huge outpour of English language support by claiming that they’d consider releasing the games in English. Not long after both of these events, the pages for all four games were completely scrubbed from the Greenlight service, a rarity as even games that have completed the process and been released maintain their Greenlight pages. I was able to track down archived versions of the pages to confirm my suspicions, but that appears to be all that remained of Joyoland’s attempts to branch out into Steam. Considering the fact that Falcom’s been trying to branch back into the PC gaming market with their Western releases, I considered the whole thing to be nothing more than a false-flag operation to determine whether or not there was tangible Western support for PC ports of these four games, which I’m sure the people at XSEED — formerly Falcom’s sole localizer — could have certainly attested to.

Speaking of which, there was also the bit where Sara Leen, one of XSEED’s major programmers had made an off-hand remark in one of the threads on XSEED’s Ys releases regarding the Joyoland ports being made available on Steam. She responded to the thread with, and I quote, “Although, would you rather have the Cinese [sic] version, or something with more work put into it, anyway?” I’d still consider this my smoking gun for the theory to be viable, as even people I generally go to for skepticism on this sort of thing agreed that it was a pretty damning piece of evidence in favor of my theory being a reality. Since my original post, XSEED made a bold claim, stating that they had some big news in the works for PC gamers, immediately my thoughts turned to Ys Seven and Memories of Celceta once again, and I eagerly anticipated what XSEED had to say.

It wasn’t Ys Seven or Memories of Celceta, but the news was Falcom-related and, in many ways, perhaps an even bigger bombshell. This April, XSEED announced that they would be porting the first two games in the Trials of Cold Steel trilogy of Falcom’s premier The Legend of Heroes series to PC, with additional voice acting. When this was first announced, my reaction was neither one of elation or profound disappointment. Instead, I simply thought to myself: “I guess losing Tokyo Xanadu and Ys VIII was the swift kick in the ass they needed to get their asses in gear.” I’d think the strategy XSEED has in mind for this should be obvious, but I have a tendency of coming to conclusions that other people consider insane, so I’ll elaborate. Falcom has clearly decided to split the difference between their classic PC-centric and modern console-centric strategies, albeit in two completely separate regions. Falcom president Toshihiro Kondo has stated on record that Western releases of their games on PC appear to do better than their console counterparts in the region, and as such, would be PC versions of their latest titles would be a good thing to keep in mind for upcoming and future releases that are intended to release in the West. As Falcom’s team is still relatively small, handling in-house ports to PC is unviable, and as such, Falcom has apparently become more savvy in their strategies, necessitating PC ports for Western releases of their games, in order to get their hands on as much money with these releases as possible. Certainly not a dumb strategy by any means.

In the past, XSEED claimed that porting games to PC in-house was infeasible, and with many of their more contemporary games receiving PC ports via their parent company Marvelous Entertainment, it was understandable that this, along with their admittedly slow development times, could have led Falcom to partner with new companies, as their brand in the West is likely the largest its ever been in the company’s entire history. Keeping all of this in mind, we have seen XSEED attempt various forms of original PC ports on their own. Ys I & II Chronicles+, while not an entirely original port, was a complete overhaul of one of the earliest iterations of that particularly game and is the most viable way to play the first two games in the series by a wide margin, even when taking things like DotEmu’s mobile ports into consideration. On the other hand, there was also XSEED’s attempt at porting the classic Wii game Little King’s Story to PC, which apparently started off extremely rough. It was so bad that they literally had to bring in Peter Thoman, better known by his alias “Durante”, to overhaul the entire port. Granted, it’s unfair to place the blame for this directly on XSEED: even Durante acknowledged that he may have bitten off more than he could chew when it came to rehabbing the current port. that the game itself was designed in an entirely custom engine, built specifically to run on the Wii, and was clearly built as a one-off project: the game was never meant to be ported to anything else. Cold Steel 1 and 2, on the other hand, were designed to run on both the PlayStation 3 and Vita, meaning that the code will likely be easier to work with, given the fact that it was initially released on two platforms.

XSEED’s strategy with porting the earlier Cold Steel games to PC should be simple: it’s an easy way to prove their capability of porting Falcom’s games to PC directly, choosing games that they’re not only familiar with, but likewise proving their indispensability when it comes to the Legend of Heroes series, which is Falcom’s most important brand at this point in time. It’s a power play meant to put XSEED’s most crippling criticisms to rest: even the release dates for the PC versions of CS1 and CS2, Summer and Fall of this year respectively, were clearly chosen as a way to deflect the common criticism that XSEED works much slower than its competitors. Truth be told, it even managed to take me awhile to realize that XSEED had announced both games simultaneously — I assumed that they’d only announced the first game and was absolutely floored when I finally realized that they had, in fact, announced that both games would be released this year. Ironically, as much as I’ll likely be tortured to death for even implying this, I think that XSEED losing their monopoly on Falcom’s games ended up being a benefit to both companies. The wake-up call had clearly worked.

This next bit may be a bit of an aside, but it may come into account later on, so I figure it’s worth mentioning. The benefits of producing PC ports of the first two Cold Steel games have greater potential than one might expect from a mere surface-level analysis. Simply put, the first two games are, presently exclusive to the PS3 and Vita. However, the upcoming Ken no Kiseki III (which will likely be localized as Trails of Cold Steel III) is a PlayStation 4 exclusive — this will literally be the first game Falcom’s released in quite some time that hasn’t had a Vita version. As such, there’s a distinct breaking point in the middle of a continuous storyline. Sure, in effect, this may have only a small effect: most people salivating over CS3’s release have likely already played CS1 and 2 on one of those previous platforms. But let’s think ahead: what if someone’s just getting into the series, well after CS3’s release and wants to play the entire trilogy in one go? Now, from what I can tell, CS2 is, at the time of writing, currently available for emulation on the PlayStation Now service, but let’s be honest — most people aren’t going to go for that. After all, the PS3 version of Ultra Street Fighter IV was one of the first titles announced for that service and it managed to get a full-on port to the PS4 down the line …using the PC version as a base, no less. I’m pretty sure most people understand what I’m getting at, but I’ll spell it out just to be clear: having PC versions of the first two Cold Steel games would easily allow for PS4 ports to be made. After all, Falcom was finally able to obtain console ports for Ys Origin, a game that had been PC-exclusive for over a decade, this year, so it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that we could see a “Ken no Kiseki I/II HD” release on PS4 at some point down the line, perhaps even matching XSEED’s additional content using the original Japanese voice cast. If such a thing were made, I’d pretty much guarantee that XSEED would then re-release that in English as well, with the PC exclusive content.

Cold Steel 1 and 2 isn’t the only bit of Falcom PC news XSEED’s brought us, however. Announced just before this year’s E3, Zwei II Plus is making its way Westward under the title, Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection — a clever title, if I do say so myself. The game’s another one of those obscure Falcom titles from way back when, not unlike Xanadu Next before Tokyo Xanadu brought interest back to the …”series”? After I’d heard that Xanadu Next had performed poorly in sales, I was worried about the chances of other various obscure Falcom games making it westward, but I’m glad to see that it wasn’t the case. Better still, there’s even been an implication that there’s more news regarding Zwei in the pipeline, but I’m pretty sure you can guess what I’m hoping for and frankly, I’d like to avoid some additional levels of speculation in this article if I can.

The last piece of new evidence I’ve found since the last article I’ve written may seem a bit flimsy, but I think it shows that I’m definitely on the right track here. An Ys fansite, Digital Emelas, was posted awhile back to celebrate the franchise’s 30th anniversary. One such article on the site is an interview with XSEED’s localization producer, Tom Lipschultz. I’d recommend reading the interview in full, because it’s actually a really interesting read. Now, there are a few interesting tidbits here as well. For starters, Tom mentions that Ys Seven is his second favorite game in the series and said that it along with his favorite game Oath in Felghana would be the most appropriate place for those new to the series to get started.

More important is the fact that he implies that XSEED has at least one more Ys-related project in the pipeline. All he mentioned was that he couldn’t say much about the project, but that it’s, and I quote, “potentially a second chance for me in something that I’ve always felt I could’ve done better.” So, before going hardcore into super speculation mode, let’s begin by narrowing down our possibilities. While XSEED does occasionally dabble in various pieces of merchandising, they are, by and large a video game company. As such, I’m going to say that this is likely going to be related to a game. Likewise, we know that XSEED will have no direct involvement in the Western release of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, and as we haven’t heard any announcements related to any other upcoming games in the series, it’s likely that this will focus on an older title in the franchise. This is, of course, backed up by Lipschultz’s statement that the project was a “second chance”. Taking that into account, I think it’s safe to say that whatever Ys project XSEED is currently working on is likely related to one of their existing licenses, rather than something entirely new.

Given the fact that XSEED’s current output generally only consists of games on consoles and games on PC, I think it’s safe to assume that whatever is coming our way from XSEED is likely going to fall into one of those two categories. We know that XSEED is capable of porting console games to PC, especially given the upcoming releases of Trails of Cold Steel 1 and 2 sometime this year. What about the other way around? Doesn’t seem to be the case, if this tweet is anything to go by. After all, Ys Origin itself was handled by DotEmu, even if they did just recycle the same translation XSEED used when they released it on Steam and GOG. Soon after the console version of Origin was announced, Jessica Iragne, a DotEmu employee, mentioned that DotEmu wanted to bring over other titles from the Ys series to both PS4 and Vita down the line as well, so it seems likely that they would handle any further console ports for the series rather than XSEED, probably the other games currently available on PC — though, I’d have to wonder if DotEmu would have to broker a deal with XSEED to use their proprietary versions of Chronicles+ and Ark of Napishtim to make ports for those games or if they’d be inclined to based a Felghana port on the PSP version, as opposed to the earlier release XSEED used for their PC release.

So, at this point it seems fair to assume (with moderate confidence) that any upcoming Ys project from XSEED utilizing their preexisting licenses would be a PC port. After all, all but one of the Ys games (Ys VI) that have been localized by XSEED in some form are currently available in some form on the PlayStation platform — granted, most of those are crusty old digital PSP releases that are playable on Vita through backwards compatibility — while the PC lacks two of them, namely Ys Seven and Memories of Celceta. Here’s a quick rhetorical question: what do you think has greater fan demand, a brand spanking new console port of the game generally considered the weak link in the Felghana trilogy or PC ports of the two latest games in the series that XSEED has access to? I mean, I think the answer’s pretty obvious: after all, we saw a lot of hoopla out of a friendly tweet XSEED posted on social media one day. So, I think it’s safe to assume that we’re getting one of those implied confirmations of something really huge.

Now, obviously, with Ys VIII launching in North America on all three of its platforms on September 12th, so it seems that seeing a release of either game before then is likely an impossibility. Honestly, I pretty much felt that way when Nippon Ichi revealed the release date in general. Regardless, I’ve got more confidence than ever that we’ll see Ys Seven on PC sometime soon. I also feel more confident about Memories of Celceta, but somehow, not nearly as much as its predecessor. Don’t ask me why, I can’t really explain it. As for when I think we’ll see more news, I can’t really say. The 30th anniversary of Ys I’s original Japanese release was earlier this month, and frankly, even for a pie in the sky project like these PC ports, even the simplest implication of their existence likely would’ve come then if it were coming this year at all. I think it’s more likely that we’ll see at least one of these games release sometime next year, if not both of them. Considering XSEED’s relatively full schedule for the rest of this year, especially on PC, I think the chances of them tackling any more internal PC ports this years is slim to nil, but frankly, I think they should be proud of how far they’ve come regardless. I mean, porting two entire PS3-era JRPGs to PC in the span of two seasons? That’s amazing for any company the size of XSEED. As such, while I’ll likely grab Lacrimosa of Dana on Steam day one, I think I’ll just end up keep waiting to play through Seven and MoC until they’re released on PC. In the end, it seems fitting: I sat on the earliest Ys games I owned on Steam for quite some time before I finally sat back and played them, and I think it was all worth it in the end.

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