YS 3 / Falcom / Turbo CD

Ys 3 for the SNES was my first contact with the Ys series, and I'm guessing that was the case for a lot of other '90s kids in the West as the Turbografx CD was pretty rare here. So for a long time, even though I enjoyed the SNES port I thought that it was some watered-down version of an epic CD-based original. As it turns out, it was actually a pretty close port and some design trade-offs keep the two nearly even.

The main selling point here is the Redbook audio music, sporadic voice acting and animated cutscenes. You get all of that right out of the gate, as the localizers get confused and botch the unique backstory cinematic by calling the Teutonic warrior in it "Adol". All narrated by your shop teacher for some reason.

So what is the tradeoff? As you'll notice as soon as the game gets underway, this version uses a less sophisticated parallax scrolling technique that makes things feel a bit slower and choppier. The gameplay is still acceptable, but the other console versions of the game definitely feel a little smoother. However, on the plus side there is some minor added background detail at times.

Adol's jump is also more limited and stiff in this version. In spite of that, this version is shockingly easy if you're used to the SNES port. Adol's hit boxes are way more dominant, you enter each new area at much less of a disadvantage, and you also seem to level and stack gold a little faster to boot. You can usually run right into each new dungeon and immediately explore nearly all of it, whereas in the SNES version each new area usually opened with 10-20 minutes of grinding in the first room to be able to survive. The only wall you might hit is some of the boss battles - some of these are tougher when under-leveled due to the crappier jumping in this version, but once prepared a lot of them are a joke that you'll just truck right through.

The biggest selling point here is definitely the soundtrack - back in the day I would imagine getting to each new dungeon was an event just to hear the next track. The voice acting not so much, but that's par for the course for these early CD-ROM games. Animated cutscenes are few and far between, such that the bulk of the game doesn't really look different from the other console versions.

What people sometimes miss about Falcom's games from this period is that they were way ahead of their time in trying to take the tedious grind aspect out of the standard RPG and replace it with basic action to keep everything humming along more briskly. Ys 3 was the next evolution of this after the "bumper car combat" of the first two games, leveraging the added power of the early 90s computers and consoles to do something that was likely inspired by Zelda 2. Even though I thought this was the most successful and enjoyable of the original Ys five-tet of games of the 90s, it ended up being an evolutionary dead end as the series ran right back to bumper car combat with the next entry. A shame, as if Falcom had continued to build Ys on this foundation as a side-scrolling series (rather than caving to Japanese traditionalist fan pressure) it would have likely been amazing.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video