Ys III is a game developed by Nihon Falcom Corporation, released initially for the NEC PC-8801 and NEC PC-9801 in 1989. The NEC-series were very popular home computers released only in Japan. In 1991, several home console ports of this game followed, the SNES port being one of them. This review will be for the SNES port, as I've yet to play any of the other ports. Let's wander in and see what this game's all about.
Story is easily the most important part of an RPG in my mind. Sadly, Ys 3 really disappoints in this field. My review is a bit biased due to never having played any of the other Ys games, but still, as a standalone, the story is very bland and uninteresting.
Basically, you play as Adol Christin. You and your buddy Dogi are on your way to Dogi's hometown, Redmont. When you arrive, you hear news of threats from the nearby Valestine Castle, crops going bad, and monster attacks. Adol, always up for adventure, sets out to figure out just what the fuck is going on.
The story takes a few twists from there, but really nothing you haven't seen in a hundred other RPGs. Without having played any of the other Ys games, it's very hard to develop any feelings toward the characters. As a standalone, this game's story falls flat. It hinges on a main character that goes to adventure essentially for the sake of adventuring, and in the words of Hall and Oates, I can't go for that (no can do).
The graphics are much like the story: bland and uninteresting. I understand that the game was an early SNES title, originally written for a computer released in 1981, but wow...
|Mediocre graphics are mediocre.|
There are a lot of other SNES games I've played with similar graphics, but there are 1000 more that took full advantage of all the SNES hardware had to offer. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh on this score; ultimately, I'll leave that up to you.
To be completely fair, Ys 3 wasn't that terrible of a game on the surface. You start off in a town that looks suspiciously like a town from Zelda II (another game I found to be mediocre beyond belief). From there, you can stock up and talk to the townsfolk, though nothing of any real import is mentioned. You can exit out to the (single screen) world map and begin your quest from there.
First thing you should know before actually starting into your quest, though, is that this game is short. I mean, SHORT. It's fully possible to beat it within 5 or 6 hours if you're quick, and up to 10 hours if you're really shitty. Normally, for a SNES game, that's really not too bad, but for a SNES RPG, that's pitiful. Even RPGs that really weren't that great like Secret of the Stars or Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest lasted about twice as long. The length of this game becomes evident when you first see the world map.
Wrong. There are about 8 areas grand total on that world map; the equivalent of 8 'levels'. Basically, you choose to enter the first area and walk inside. It's a side-scrolling platformer in its most basic form. You run until you find enemies and tap/hold down the attack button to swing your sword, all in active time. Enough of this and you'll level, like in any RPG. Eventually, you find a boss and kill him, and a plot advancement of some sort usually follows. However, you'll notice two things after exploring a little ways into the first area.
1.) You'll get your first Game Over very quickly. The enemies can kill you before you know what happened in the start. However, if you leave the area momentarily, your HP is refilled. So, you run in, kill one enemy, then run out to fill HP. You run back in, kill two, and run back out. You go on like this until you level enough to make it to the end of the area without dying. The ENTIRE GAME works like this. It gets super tedious after the 2nd or 3rd level.
2.) The clipping in this game is fucking terrible. Perhaps it's just the SNES version, perhaps it wasn't a problem in other ports, but in this version, you will die AT LEAST once because of it. An enemy several sword lengths away from you will attack you on one side (your right, if I recall correctly) and damage you without touching you, and an enemy on your left can be touching you and then some without it registering. This can get extremely frustrating through the course of the game, especially when fighting bosses.
Fortunately, there's one addition that makes things a tad easier on you (though not much). This game employs a ring system. There are 6 rings that do basic things like increase your power, defense, and heal you. While you have them equipped, your 'RING' counter goes down. Depending on the ring, it will decrease slower or faster. The ring system was flawed, though. You could only equip one ring at a time, which in and of itself isn't really too bad. The problem is just how quickly your ring counter decreases. It also decreases the second you equip a ring until the second you unequip it, regardless of what you're doing. Towards the last few levels, the rings are basically useless unless you save them through the entire level and equip them only when fighting the boss. However, this throws off the game's balance in the other direction; equipping the Shield Ring and swiping away at almost every single boss in the game will guarantee a victory in about 15 seconds using absolutely no strategy.
Another thing you'll notice while playing this game is just how incredibly linear it is. You will never, ever get lost...ever. Every area is a straight line, whether it be up or down or left or right. Very infrequently, you get to choose a branch, but even if you choose wrong, you'll be back in the right spot within a minute or two. Seriously, if you get lost in this one, I question your sanity, and indeed, I wonder how you even manage to read the text on your screen.
To see I'm not blowing smoke about what an odd setup this whole game has, here's a very basic gameplay video showing a series of boss fights. I know not everyone wants to watch an 8 minute video, but at the very least, watch the 1st minute or so. It shows every single thing you need to know about this game, including the clipping issues mentioned earlier as well as the equip/ring system.
I can't help it...it even seems like a shitty game to me through a minute of a YouTube video, let alone playing it for 6 hours.
The sound in Ys III is only slightly better than the graphics and gameplay. The sound effects themselves are all entirely unremarkable. Literally. I won't remark on them.
The music is actually pretty decent, though. There are a few tracks that really stand out, especially during some boss battles, but the problem is the bosses all take about 15 seconds (except for that goddamned dragon!) so you never get to hear them for too long. Instead of posting more videos of the sound, I'll refer you to the above gameplay video. It's a compilation of boss fights and as such includes some of the better music in the game.
Replay Value: 8/10
This is probably not going to make a whole lot of sense, but even though this game doesn't really have very many redeeming factors, it's not that bad of a game to go back and play through when you're bored. It beats trolling around on the internet. Again, it's super short, and there is something entertaining about mindlessly hacking away at shit and watching your level go up. It's also an incredibly easy game as far as RPGs go, simply because it's so linear. You don't really ever have to think while you play this game. It's as though Final Fight tried to have an involved storyline and also had much shittier graphics.
If you can find it anywhere, the game's worth at least one playthrough. It's short, it's mindless, and it's overall pretty mediocre, but that doesn't stop it from being a good way to kill an afternoon. Shit, it's better than an oatmeal enema.
Until next time, remember, even the meek can attain heights undreamed of.