Don’t know why, but I’ve been on a bit of an Ys kick lately. Writing that update on my current assuredness that Ys Seven and Memories of Celceta were certainly PC-bound led me to remember a discussion I had with a friend of mine. He tried getting into the Ys series awhile back, ended up liking Ys Book I & II when he played it on the Wii’s Virtual Console, but ended up giving up on the series after trying his hand at Wanderers from Ys — he played the SNES version, which I’ve been told was the worst version released on consoles in the West. Ys Origin, on the other hand, sparked some interest playing other Ys games. The only problem with that is that the guy has an outright phobia of playing games on PC, which is a big part of the reason he was so excited when Origin finally came to consoles. Likewise, he’s not really big on playing games using handhelds: he’ll do it, but he’d much rather play on his TV and he’s made it clear that he’s not going to buy a PlayStation TV to get around that shortcoming. As I mentioned yesterday, DotEmu has expressed interest in porting more games in the series to consoles if they manage to sell well enough. Considering the fact that we’ve got physical releases for the console version set in not one, but two completely different regions — still think it’s weird that XSEED didn’t step up and try to handle a less limited physical release in the States, given their history with the franchise — I think it’s safe to say that this release has clearly exceeded (or should I say, “XSEEDed”? No, that’s terrible.) expectations, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw DotEmu announce another Ys game at the PlayStation Experience this December.
My friend and I had a little discussion on this, speculating on which game would come next from the DotEmu partnership. As of right now, they’ve got three games that were fully translated into English and available on modern PCs at this point in time, and while each of these games do have at least some form of release on previous Sony hardware — some better than others — bringing them to the PlayStation 4 would be a nice treat for those who missed ot on these games and/or platforms. The only real problem there is that, for the life of me, there’s no logical choice for DotEmu’s next Ys project. I say that, because technically, all three are a logical choice: there’s no real way to discern between what would be the best choice for moving forward with the series. Considering the fact that I’ve played through all four of these games already via the aforementioned PC versions, I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on the advantages and disadvantages of releasing any of these games next. So, I figure why not write an article on this, to fully flesh out my thoughts on any of these three scenarios.
Ys I & II Chronicles
First up, we have what is technically the oldest of the three releases, not simply due to the fact that it’s based on the first game in the series: as I mentioned in that long Ys Retrospective I wrote on Retronaissance, Chronicles was based on the Ys I & II Eternal games, which were developed for Windows 98 back in 1998 and 2000 respectively. Since then, this version has seen many re-releases with various tweaks.
Ys I & II Chronicles is the logical choice to succeed Ys Origin for two distinct reasons. First, it’s technically the sequel to Origin, or rather Origin was made as a prequel to I & II. The sheer amount of references Origin made to the first two games is incredible, and I’m almost certain I wouldn’t have enjoyed it nearly as much had I not played Chronicles (or any form of Ys I & II) beforehand. The second reason, which is probably more important, is that DotEmu technically already has a version out on the market. In 2015, DotEmu released Ys Chronicles I on iOS and Android devices and the following year, they released Ys Chronicles II on the same platforms. As such, Chronicles would likely need significantly less work from DotEmu to port to new platforms than the other two games I’ve mentioned here.
The major issue here is simple: the gameplay. Ys I & II Chronicles are a pure remake of the original games: they keep the same quirky gameplay (i.e. the signature “bump system”) from the earlier games and just transposed them into a smoother, more playable environment. While the early games are just as action-packed as their descendants, trying to sell people fresh off a game peppered with hack-and-slash action might be completely turned off by the more methodical methods used in the earlier games. Hell, most Ys aficionados don’t even recommend the “bump” games to those just being introduced to the series for the first time. Granted, Chronicles was the first game in the series I’d ever played through, but I’m kind of quirky in how I tend to enter new series and I can definitely see why Ys I & II aren’t a good choice for someone else’s first Ys game.
The fact that DotEmu originally ported Ys I & II Chronicles to mobile phones might also work against them. There’s a stigma against mobile games among hardcore gamers and Ys definitely falls into the more niche side of things on the hardcore spectrum. Sure, those mobile versions had full gamepad support, but simple facts like that alone cannot defeat the sheer onslaught of negativity associated with mobile games being ported to consoles, regardless of how overhauled the game is from its original, scandalous release.
Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim
Next up, we’ve got Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim, a game which is essentially Origin’s forebearer. The most recent Ys release on English PCs, Ys VI is still a fairly old game and was the first original title in the series after the Super Famicom-exclusive Ys V’s poor reception forced the series into hibernation. The game’s success led to the release of two further games in the same style, which are collectively consider a trilogy by most fans.
Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim is the logical choice to succeed Ys Origin because it’s the only game in the series that is, at this very moment, unable to be obtained on modern consoles. A weak argument, I’m sure, but still valid. Ark of Napishtim did see console releases way back in the sixth generation, as Konami took it upon themselves to port the game to PlayStation 2 with additional bells and whistles and even managed to release the game in both North America and Europe. They would later do a much more traditional port of the game to Sony’s PlayStation Portable in all 3 regions, though this port was poorly optimized and suffered from both poor resolution and insane load times. The other two games I’m covering are currently available on the PlayStation Vita and PSTV, thanks to their digital releases on the PSN store and both platforms’ backwards compatibility with PSP games. However, at this point in time, Napishtim is — more or less — a PC exclusive, just like Origin was, unless you feel the urge to track down used copies of the earlier console releases, which are likely to cost more than the $20 you could pay on GOG, the Humble Store or Steam — maybe even less right now on the latter, since there’s a Steam sale going as I’m writing this.
As an added bonus, since this is the one modern Ys game the Vita doesn’t have access to, re-releasing Napishtim would likely net both a PS4 and Vita release, much like Origin, which would likely increase the game’s sales potential, if ever so slightly. In turn, a Napishtim release would literally end up making the Vita the one system one would need to experience every modern Ys game: a literal Ys console.
As with Chronicles, this game’s Achilles heel would be its gameplay. While the game isn’t nearly as radically different from Origin as Chronicles was, it’s clearly still a work in progress in many ways. The controls aren’t quite as tight as they are in its successors, some elements from the unpopular Ys V are still present in this game and while it succeeded in revitalizing the series to this day, the game is generally not recommended to those only looking for the series’ best and brightest releases. Ironically, XSEED’s PC release likely brings up some new issues as well. In fact, XSEED’s version is likely the definitive version of the game, not simply due to its virtual ubiquity, but also due to some enhancements they made to the base game. Features like the ability to warp from save points and the optional Catastrophe mode bring the game more in line with its successors, and I’m not sure if DotEmu or Falcom have the ability to use the enhancements XSEED made to the game in future versions of the game without some kind of licensing agreement.
Ys: The Oath in Felghana
Generally considered the crown jewel of the entire Ys franchise, The Oath in Felghana is perhaps the most archetypal case of a video game literally spinning shit into gold. A remake of the oft-maligned Wanderers from Ys and the direct follow-up to Ark of Napishtim, Felghana improved the story of the former and the gameplay of the latter, while keeping the elements of both games that worked. Even if it isn’t my favorite game in the series, I must acknowledge its quality: this game may very well be the best video game remake of all time, if not the greatest remake in any medium, period.
Ys: The Oath in Felghana is the logical choice to succeed Ys Origin because, I mean, it’s obvious, isn’t it? This is, by far, the most popular Ys game currently available on PC. The only reason that Origin ever could’ve come out before this is because that game literally never had a console port before. Without that advantage, Felghana would definitely have received the first nod. There’s just no doubt in my mind that if Felghana hadn’t received a PSP port way back in the day, it would’ve been the big reveal at the PlayStation Experience late last year. It’s to the extent where Origin couldn’t directly improve on Felghana’s gameplay: both games play nearly identically. If DotEmu and Falcom really want to keep the excitement levels for retro Ys ports flowing, this is the obvious next game necessary to continue the hype train.
You know how I mentioned that creating a perfect version of Napishtim would be difficult? Yeah, Oath in Felghana’s got it even worse. See, there are currently two different versions of Felghana out in the wild. First off, you’ve got the Steam release, which is essentially the same as the original PC release back in 2005. Then you’ve got the PSP release, made 5 years later and packed to the brim with extra content. It had two additional soundtracks — from the PC-88 and X68000 releases of Wanderers from Ys respectively — a new art gallery, and even voice acting. They also added various extra bonus power-ups, which I’m a lot less excited about, simply because they all serve to make the game easier in general. Regardless, that’s a lot of new content, which brings up some logistical issues.
For starters, while we know that Falcom owns the rights to XSEED’s English translations, can the same be said for their audio dubs? What if even XSEED’s rights on those original dubs have lapsed? What about Falcom’s original voiced dialogue, could they have lost the rights to that as well? More importantly, what kind of product would DotEmu be willing to deliver in this case? A straight port of the PC version would be the easiest, but would look positively barebones when compared to the PSP version, which is still available on PSN. Would porting the PSP version directly be feasible, and if so, how difficult of an undertaking would it be to upscale that version for modern platforms? The last option I can think of would likely be an insane undertaking: rehab the existing PC version to incorporate all of the PSP version’s content, with the added bonus functionality of being able to turn various features (like the voice acting and the additional power-ups) on and off. Would a project of that caliber even be possible with DotEmu’s current team? Would it be worth contracting an outside team if it weren’t? It’s clearly a very complex question, which leads me to wonder if a console port of Felghana would even be viable.
So, therein lies the dilemma. Each game has their own unique sets of advantages and disadvantages when it comes to being DotEmu’s next Ys project. Felghana would clearly have the most enthusiastic response, but creating a proper port for that game may be more difficult than either of the other two games on this list. Conversely, Chronicles would be the easiest to work with, simply due to the fact that DotEmu’s already ported it elsewhere, but the sheer difference in gameplay compared to other games might slow down any hype for the rest of the series. Napishtim resides in a happy medium between the two games, but would add the benefit of creating a complete digital collection on a single platform.
I guess if DotEmu came to me and asked me to give them a road map for future Ys releases, it would pretty much involve releasing Chronicles first, simply because that will likely be easy enough to port to PS4 quickly, while quietly working on a definitive Felghana port, then finish things off with Napishtim as a swan song, for both their Ys ports in general and the Vita as well. What do you think? Would you handle things differently? Let me know in the comments below.