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.
After completing his work on Asteka II in October 1986, programmer Masaya Hashimoto received the source code for Romancia and began porting the game to the PC-98 . While working on this port, Hashimoto came up with the idea of creating a prototype for a full-screen scrolling routine using 8 colors for the PC-88 . This was a difficult feat at the time but Hashimoto figured out a way to make it possible and finished his prototype sometime around November 1986 . Hashimoto had planned to use this new scrolling routine to create a sci-fi shooter set in space . However, Hashimoto and Falcom's president, Masayuki Kato, couldn't come to an agreement on what his 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, along with Tomoo Yamane, 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 an item called the Mask of Eyes, which was similar to a mask from Asteka II, and the song “Templo del Sol” being repurposed for Ys .
The gameplay also changed into an action RPG with the combat initially planned to be similar to Tower of Druaga . This was eventually changed to the bump-style action the early Ys games are known for due to the scrolling in Ys being too fast for the Druaga style of combat . Ys was also designed to be more accessible than other modern RPGs at the time, a fact that was heavily marketed upon its release. In stark contrast to Falcom's own Dragon Slayer series, which was very difficult and opaque, Ys was made to be simple and easy to understand. 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 final development team for Ys 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, 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 help form the Falcom Sound Team JDK and is currently a director of Falcom's design unit.
However, before development had begun on Ys, it was decided that the team would only spend 6 months making the game. This was done so that Falcom could spend half a year creating the base game and then another 6 months creating ports for other computer platforms . The original plan for Ys was to start on the surface and conclude on the floating continent in the later half of the game. But, due to this 6 month deadline, it was decided to split the game in two and release the surface portion of Ys as its own 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 late 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).
- Ys I/II Complete History (5): Development of the PC88 version of Ys (1) by Hiromasa Iwasaki (Colorful Pieces of Game, 2019).
- Ys I/II Complete History (6): Development of the PC88 version of Ys (2/End) by Hiromasa Iwasaki (Colorful Pieces of Game, 2019).
- Ys I/II Complete History (7): Between Ys I and II
by Hiromasa Iwasaki (Colorful Pieces of Game, 2019).
- Research on the Ys Prototype: Secret Story of the Birth of Development (Game Preservation Society, 2022).
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