Ys: The Vanished Omens, also referred to as the Ancient Land of Ys or Ys: Ancient Ys Vanished in Japan, is the first game in Nihon Falcom's long-running Ys series of action RPGs. As with almost every subsequent game, the player controls a quiet but steadfast redheaded swordsman named Adol Christin as he fights to uncover an ancient mystery and defeat the evil entity behind it all.
Ys is notable for being an early example of an RPG with a strong story focus, providing many NPCs for Adol to talk to and a constant string of goals to follow that tie directly in with the narrative. The game's forgiving action-RPG gameplay, which included regenerating health among a number of other features, made it more accessible than most computer RPGs at the time.
Ys was originally created for the NEC PC-8801 on June 21, 1987, but was later ported to many other computer platforms in Japan. The PC versions were all mainly created by Falcom themselves but other third-party companies also licensed the game and ported it to home consoles. In 1988, Victor Musical Industries published a port for the Nintendo Famicom which was greatly modified from the PC-88 original in terms of dungeon layouts, graphics and enemy encounters. The same year Sega released a Master System version of Ys which was much closer to the original and was also released in the United States, marking the first time a Falcom game had ever been localized into English. In addition to Sega's English release, Broderbund and Kyodai Software published ports of Ys I in North America for the Apple IIgs and MS-DOS computers.
After these initial ports and re-releases, Ys I would be remade and re-imagined several times. The first and most famous of these remakes would be Hudson Soft’s release of Ys Books I & II in 1989 for the Turbografx-16 which combined the original game with its sequel for the system's CD-based upgrade and contained a number of graphical enhancements. The original Ys would be remade a few more times by third-party developers including a remake for the Sharp X68000 by Dempa in 1991 and an enhanced version included in the Falcom Classics collection for the Sega Saturn in 1997. Eventually Nihon Falcom would make their own re-imagining of Ys I for Windows-based computers with Ys Eternal in 1998 which greatly altered the story and presentation compared to past releases. This version would itself be modified and re-released a number of times over the years including the Complete edition in 2001, A PlayStation 2 port in 2003 called Ys I & II: Eternal Story by DigiCube, the Chronicles port for the PlayStation Portable and PC in 2009 and even a Nintendo DS port by Interchannel in 2008 called Ys DS.
Back in the 1980s, Falcom was split up into small development groups where a key staff member led each team . One of these groups was led by Masaya Hashimoto, a programmer that had spearheaded the development of Falcom's Asteka adventure series. After the second entry in the Asteka franchise was completed in 1986, Hashimoto experimented with a way to achieve full-screen scrolling using 8 colors on the PC-88. This was a difficult feat of programming at the time but Hashimoto figured out a way to make it possible. Using this new scrolling routine, Hashimoto planned to make some kind of sci-fi shooter that involved flying through space. However, Hashimoto and Falcom's president, Masayuki Kato, couldn't come to an agreement on what his team's next project should be and eventually it was decided to make a third installment in the Asteka series instead .
So the scrolling routine was repurposed to make a top-down adventure game where the player could explore large scrolling maps instead of the static screens seen in Asteka II. As development continued, graphic artists Tomoo Yamane and Ayano Koshiro joined the project and Yamane asked Koshiro to design fantasy monsters for the scrolling prototype. For whatever reason, she ended up creating some round chickens which somehow caused the prototype to evolve into a game about the player catching and selling livestock at one point . Eventually Tomoyoshi Miyazaki joined the project and the final version of the game began to take shape. Inspired by Studio Ghibli's Castle in the Sky, Miyazaki wrote a story for the game that featured an adventurer traveling to a floating continent called Ys, named after the mythical city from Breton mythology . And so the game changed once again into an original title called "Ys" but even the final version of the game would still contain elements from the Asteka franchise. These include the Mask of Eyes item being very similar to an item from Asteka II and the song, “Templo del Sol,” being repurposed for Ys .
The gameplay also changed into an action RPG that was similar in style to Falcom’s Dragon Slayer series but was designed to be simple and easy to understand, a stark contrast to the difficult and opaque Dragon Slayer titles. In fact, some early advertisements for Ys even stated that the game’s release signified that the RPG genre had now “entered the age of kindness” . The game was coming together and the final development team was about five to eight people in size with some staff members only being part-timers such as Tomoyoshi Miyazaki who worked on the game while attending college . Some of the game's staff were also very young at the time with Ayano Koshiro and her brother Yuzo Koshiro, who was one of the game's composers, only being teenagers . Ys would also be the first Falcom title composed in part by Mieko Ishikawa who would later go on to found Falcom's JDK Sound Team and eventually become the director of Falcom's design unit.
Unfortunately, back in 1987, development on Ys was going on for far too long. Ys needed to ship. Plus the game was becoming too large to fit in one title. Originally, Ys was going to start on the surface and eventually lead to the hero flying to the floating continent in the later half of the game. However, to save time and space, it was decided to split the game in two and release the first half as a separate title. Because of this, the final dungeon in Ys I, Darm Tower, was made to be much longer than originally intended in order to pad out the game . And so Ys was finally released in June 1987 and turned out to be a huge success. This led to Falcom releasing a sequel the following year in 1988 that completed the story originally planned for the game.
- Tetsuya Igarashi (五十嵐哲也) helped write the story prologue included in the manual for the original PC-88 release of Ys I and is responsible for giving Adol Christin his name .
- In early previews, Adol's character sprite is shown having black hair instead of his iconic red color .
- Early Development History of Ys for PC88: From Asteka 2 to Ys by Hiromasa Iwasaki (Colorful Pieces of Game, 2017).
- Initial Development History of the PC Version of Ys as Far as I Know by Hiromasa Iwasaki (Colorful Pieces of Game, 2017).
- Relationship Between Aseka II and Ys (Psyzans).
- Ys I Advertisement (Micom BASIC September 1987).
- Falcom had Three Development Teams in the 80s (Kiya and Tomoo 2017 Talk).
- Beep Magazine - Issue 33, July 1987 (Source).
- Tomoyoshi Miyazaki‘s Afterword (MSX-FAN May 1988).
- Ys II Concept Art by Ayano Koshiro (2021, @yuzokoshiro).
- Re-recorded "Proto Version Ys" - from "AVG & RPG III (Psyzans).