Hey all, and welcome to this special February 29th edition of The Comic Commish! As always, this is a brief LP and early impressions of a game that a kind soul was generous enough to gift me on Steam, followed by a complimentary comic penned and drawn by yours truly on the finest of MS Paint canvases. I'm always pleasantly surprised by the largesse of some of my Steam pals, and this is the least I could do. I mean, I could do a lot more, but what would be special about sending back a Steam gift of similar or greater value? Best that I go the free option. You know, to show that I care.
This month's game comes courtesy of fellow moderator and PC game nut @fisk0, who I believe is currently contemplating that new Early Access Master of Orion sequel/series reboot. Falcom's Ys (pronounced "ees"; it's French), of course, is another historically PC-focused series that managed to survive the general wave of apathy the Japanese PC game market went through in the 90s and 00s mostly on just how great a series it is. Starting way back in 1987 - a few months before Final Fantasy made its debut - the Ys series would center around a red-haired swordsman and his adventures in different yet vaguely familiar parts of the Ys world.
The Ys games, especially more recent ones, tend to be more demanding of a player's skill level than other RPGs, which rely more on testing the player's tactical ability and resourcefulness. The protagonist runs, jumps and evades around enemy attacks while choosing their moment to land a few of their own. Bosses tend to be huge and require a lot of endurance and patience to defeat, and the player suffers from a dearth of healing items to keep them in the fight. Challenging, yet satisfying all the same once those colossal beasts finally explode dramatically. Best part of any Ys experience is the incredible guitar buttrock music that Falcom produces for its adrenaline-filled boss battles: here's the music for the first big boss fight of this game for reference. (And here's one of my favorites from Ys Seven just because.)
I adore Ys, but I haven't actually played too many of the more recent remakes like the Ys III remake Ys: Oath of Felghana (it's on the backlog!) or the Ys IV remake Ys: Memories of Celceta. The ones I have played include the updated Ys I & II compilation, the original Ys III: Wanderers of Ys for Super Nintendo, the PS2 Ys VI: Ark of Napishtim and most recently Ys Seven for the PSP. This Comic Commish has given me an excuse to add another name to that list: 2006's Ys Origin, localized and added to Steam in 2012 for us westerners, which actually doesn't seem to feature recurring hero Adol Christin at all. Instead, the player selects between two protagonists (and a possible third, if the empty slot on the character selection screen is anything to go by) and plays through two concurrent stories set many centuries before Adol's journeys begin. The game is a special treat for those familiar with the story of Ys I and II, set as it is in the same region many years prior, which gives it license to riff on the lore of those games in a manner similar to Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII.
I might suggest that Ys newcomers looking to get into this series on Steam should start with a well-regarded entry like Ys: Oath of Felghana or Ys VI: Ark of Napishtim to see if it's for you - both are more or less standalone adventures, like the majority of the games in the series - before finding your way to Ys I & II for the necessary lore to appreciate Ys Origin. Just my advice as a semi-veteran of this franchise.
I'll be playing more of Ys Origin after this article goes up, though I'm going to have to figure out how to fix all these broken USB ports and get a controller working. The mouse controls are, so far, the game's only detriment in my view. I really appreciate how streamlined the dungeon-crawling is in this game: it's like Persona 3, where it's all about the ascent of a single tower dungeon, and you can keenly feel your progress as the upper floors shift and change and the danger increases. The singular tower dungeon has been a JRPG mainstay of years of course, but Ys Origin executes on it particularly well with its narrow focus on monsters, puzzles, treasures and great boss fights like the above.
Before I leave to climb the tower some more, here's the comic for Ys Origin: