Ys Series - Digital Emelas: A Fansite Spreading Awareness of Ys

What is Ys?

Ys is a video game series created by Japanese developer Nihon Falcom Corporation (The Legend of Heroes, Brandish, Dragon Slayer, Xanadu, etc) and is widely considered the Godfather of Japanese Role Playing Games. It stands on a well-aged and respected pedestal along with Dragon Quest (Father of JRPGs) and Final Fantasy as one of the pioneering video games for the role-playing genre, circa 1987. It also pre-dates Final Fantasy by a few months in Japan. Final Fantasy went mainstream, and Dragon Quest is catching up (we wish Square-Enix would promote it more outside of Japan), but Ys is still considered one of the most niche JRPGs to this very day. There are currently 8 canonical games in the series officially localized in English, mostly available on PlayStation platforms and PC. Unlike games like Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda, the Ys series follows the adventures of a single character, a boy named Adol as he grows up. Final Fantasy [numbered] games are mostly independent stories that may branch out into sequels and spin-offs. The Legend of Zelda series canonically tells the tale of a reincarnated Hero. The Ys series has a single narrative that follows journals written by Adol's hand, with the exception of Ys Origin, which takes place centuries before Adol was born.

Many of the Ys games have been remade and remastered several times. To fully appreciate the series, we recommend playing the most recent versions of each game, which have officially replaced all previous versions rendering past iterations obsolete. However, the older games do have historical relevance and are enjoyable as is. The following is a chart of the most current Ys games, ways to play them, major platform differences, and approximate game length for casual players:

Only the latest versions of each game are included in the above chart

What Makes Ys So Appealing?

Ys is a series that rewards players with its fantastic lore and action-packed gameplay. Battles are in real time (not turn-based) and are incredibly fast-paced. What sets Ys apart from other video games is the attention to detail in every aspect of game development. The games are never rushed to meet a deadline and take months to polish (something that is severely lacking in most of modern gaming development). Ever since Nihon Falcom created the series back in 1987, they've poured every ounce of their energy into its music, story, graphics, art, design and gameplay. Unlike other games, there is not just one or two titles within the series that are praised above all others. Each Ys game is incredibly robust and is favourited across the board by thousands of fans around the world. It all boils down to the contents of Adol's journals and the 4th-wall-breaking storytelling that is consistent throughout the entire series. If you missed the monologue on the main page of our website, here it is again: Our very own audio production that serves as an introduction to Ys. We hope you enjoy it ~
"Ys: An Old Man With Stories" | Produced by Digital Emelas
Written by Jeff Nussbaum. Voiced by Anthony Sardinha.
Edited by Limfinite. Music © Nihon Falcom Corporation. © Digital Emelas.

I'm new to Ys. Where do I start?

We highly recommend you begin your journey with the first Ys game. The latest version is included in a bundle pack called Ys I & II Chronicles. Though each Ys game is technically developed with a self-contained story, Falcom has developed this 30-year-old series with a deep lore that is gradually explained in a very specific order. A player can choose to enter the Ys series in any order, but this decision would ultimately lead to that person either liking the series or absolutely loving it. Our mission here at Digital Emelas is to spread awareness and optimize one's appreciation for the Ys series. Furthermore, we do not want new players to be discouraged by the difficulty of the first two Ys games. It is imperative to know that it is quite common for players to sample Ys I and quit within the first 30 minutes, passing judgment before actually understanding it. Please refer to the section below about DIFFICULTY. For more about lore, visit our LORE page.

In what order should I play Ys?

We propose one of the following THREE charts when deciding the order in which to play the Ys series, with the STORY PATH having our utmost recommendation. The gameplay will be unaffected either way you choose, but having an understanding of lore separates those who like the series and those who love it.

The Story Path will gradually introduce you to the lore as you progress through the series. Sit back and enjoy as the tale unfolds. You will understand all references, world building and character relations with this route. The story of Ys VIII is the most removed from the rest of the series and makes slight references to previous games. Feel free to play it before Ys VI The Ark of Napishtim or after Ys Seven.

Some would argue that each Ys game has a completely self-contained story. While this may be true for each of Adol's individual journals, there is an overarching canon that spans the entire series because each journal is written by the same man, and is often missed by casual players who do not experience his earlier tales. Since Felghana (Ys 3 remake), Celceta (Ys 4 remake) and Origin were made long after Napishtim (Ys 6), Falcom retconned most of what happened in their original releases and intentionally planned for the games to be played in a NEW chronological order, NOT release order. In our interview with Kondo-san, President of Falcom, he explains that there are usually three people responsible for all the text in a Ys game, with one person in charge of the lore.

"So from VI (Napishtim), we made a deliberate effort to straighten everything out and we made a timeline.
We're still referencing the material we made at that time when we make a new Ys game."

To clarify, the recommended Story Path would be Ys I, II, Origin, Celceta (IV), Felghana (III), Napishtim (VI), Seven, then Lacrimosa (VIII). For further details on story, check out our LORE page (spoiler alert!) that explains this in greater detail.

The Release Path is the organic way many long-time fans of the series played the games. The events that take place in Ys VI (Napishtim) are referenced in the remakes of Ys III (Felghana), IV (Celceta) and Ys Origin. To clarify: these games reference Napsihtim, and not the other way around. Napishtim is incredibly lore-heavy. Players who choose the Story Path (above) will find a major reveal when they play Napishtim later, which ties every previous game together. Meanwhile, players who choose the Release Path will learn of the lore much earlier, and piece together each story (Felghana, Celceta and Origin) as they continue in the series. Either way is recommended. Hardcore fans encourage this route and we support this opinion.

The Action Path focuses on gameplay over story. The #1 rule of gaming is that you enjoy the games you play, so if you're in it to slay beasts and giant bosses, choose to begin with either Felghana (III), Celceta (IV), Seven or Lacrimosa of Dana (VIII). Furthermore, we recommend playing Ys I, II and Origin in that specific order.

Can I play VIII or IX as my first Ys game?

Absolutely! Although the Ys series was written with an overarching narrative, most of the games were developed with a self-contained story that can be experienced at any time. Ys VIII and Ys IX are two examples of such games as developer Nihon Falcom designed them to be more inclusive, hoping to reach a wider fan base. We encourage anyone who wants to jump in with these games to refer to the ACTION PATH listed above on our website, favouring gameplay over story. It is also worth noting that Ys VIII has the most self-contained story in the entire Ys series, perfect for newcomers. Both games also have playable demos on the PlayStation 4 via PlayStation Network.

For those interested in the chronological order, the Ys series flows as such: Ys Origin, 1 & 2 (Chronicles), 4 (Celceta), 3 (Felghana), 5 (not yet localized outside of Japan), 8 (Lacrimosa), 6 (Napishtim), 7, 9 (Monstrum). Both Ys VIII and IX are excellent entry points for those curious, then return to previous installments to learn more about the lore.

The importance of Ys Origin & VI

Ys Origin was written to be an emotional story that builds itself through character development and is based on themes of love and prophecy. It is recommended that you play Ys Origin before or after Ys I & II, as long as I & II are played back-to-back (which is why the games are often bundled together). Many long-time fans encourage Ys Origin to be played after Ys I & II. Please remember that Ys Origin has three campaigns, with the third "unlocked" character telling the true canonical story that lead to the events of Ys I. This is explained in greater detail below. Many on our team recommend playing Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim after completing Ys Origin, Ys I & II Chronicles, Ys: Memories of Celceta, and Ys: The Oath in Felghana. Think of Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim as "The Avengers" of the Ys series, not by a reunion of characters, but from a culmination of lore that is finally explained. The Avengers can be enjoyed as a stand-alone film, but a viewer with no previous knowledge of the events in the first five films (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America) would be less immersed compared to someone who had invested the time learning the origins of each character.

Ys Origin has 3 Campaigns?

Ys Origin has three playable characters with two accessible from the start. The third character is unlocked by completing the campaign with one character on the PC version or with both characters on the PS4, Vita, XBOX and Switch versions. The first two characters, Yunica and Hugo, offer loose character development that introduce the family traditions passed down by both houses. The unlocked character is the TRUE canonical story that leads to the events of Ys I. Each of the three campaigns can be completed within 5-8 casual hours, with each play-through easier and quicker as you better understand the game (down to 5 hours on the final play-through). Yunica and Hugo's campaign progress very similar, while the unlocked character has a quite different route and experience, with many incredible surprises. We recommend playing all three campaigns with the unlocked character last.

Why is V skipped on the list?

Ys V has not been officially localized in English. It is the only Ys game from the 16-bit era to have yet been re-made by Falcom. Please visit our Ys V page for more details.

Why is I & II kicking my ass?

Ys I & II Chronicles is a remake of games that originally released in 1987. The graphics, music and overall presentation have been modernized for current HD standards, but the gameplay remains true to its source material. Some players might enter this franchise with a retrospective comparison to other games such as Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy or The Legend of Zelda. Remember, these games began in a time of untapped experimentation. Nowadays, developers try to either revise old systems or make novel gameplay just to be different from the past. You need to be smart when playing the original Ys games. They will not hold your hand. Here are a few spoiler-free tips to get you started. For more direct help on the game, consult our STRATEGY GUIDE section.

  • Save the moment you are able to control Adol. Remember, you can save at any time.
  • When Adol begins his adventure, he is tasked to go to the next town. Speak to every NPC and learn as much story as you can. One NPC warns Adol that if he is not confident in battle, avoid it at all costs until he is prepared. Unlike modern games, do not immediately engage in battle. Try not to pull a "Leeroy Jenkins", please. Remember, this is a game from 1987. Play smart. Travel cautiously to the second town.
  • When not in a dungeon your life will gradually heal when resting (standing still).
  • If the first boss is giving you trouble, question the genre of game you are playing. What do players do when they are under-leveled?
  • If Adol cannot pass a door, think of the people he's met. It might be useful to have a pen and paper to make notes on your current goals. Players did this 30 years ago. It is, unfortunately, a forgotten art in gaming. Some NPCs are worth re-visiting, especially if they are knowledgeable of Adol's current situation.
  • Before facing the final boss, reflect on previous tasks that got you this far. The game is not simply "defeat the final boss". Observe everything in your menu and think about the story. You know the path Adol has taken this entire time. What has the antagonist been up to?
It is also important to know that in the most recent versions of Ys I, Adol has a level cap of 10 because of the story. Ys I is split into two major parts. The goal of the first half of the game is for Adol to become a confident fighter. If Adol is not at level 10 by the time he begins the second half of the game, he is not ready. Every Ys game beyond Ys I has a level cap of 50+.

How does Ys play?

In the most recent entries of the series, there are three game engines. They are commonly known as the Bump System (I & II), Napishtim Engine (Origin, III, VI) and Seven Engine (IV, VII, VIII).

The Bump System plays similar to a Rogue-Like where you push into your enemies to attack. There is no attack button. Imagine bumper cars, but rather than simply bouncing away, you leave a trail of monster blood and guts spilling out behind you. Mwa ha ha! Fatality. The strategy is to attack off-center. A direct face-to-face confrontation with an enemy would cause Adol damage. This may seem simple at first, but will increasingly become more challenging as enemies become smarter and move faster. This addictive battle system has a casual learning curve of around 1 minute, but please heed the advice of the townsfolk in Ys I: do not confront enemies until you've reached the second town. In addition, Ys II introduces magic such as the ability to shoot fireballs.

The Napishtim Engine began with Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim and was later adapted in the remake of Ys III (The Oath in Felghana) and eventually used in Ys Origin. The game progression plays similar to the top-down Zelda adventures but with the ability to jump and attack in the air. As you progress through the game, you learn spells and find items to defeat bosses. You then use said items to access previously blocked locations on the overworld. Sound familiar, Zelda fans?

The Seven Engine began with Ys Seven and was later used in the remake of Ys IV (Memories of Celceta) and Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. This engine is an incredibly fast-paced, open-world, tag-team party system. Players have multiple attack buttons and variations of each attack, in addition to launchers, juggles and super moves, providing an endless opportunity for combos. As with most open-world games, you begin in a smaller area and gradually gain access to a larger portion of the world map.

The Legend of Ys

The place, not the game

Have you heard of Atlantis, the lost continent that sunk in the Atlantic Ocean? What about El Dorado, the lost city of gold in South America? There have been many video games based on these mythological locations. However, not many people have heard of the legend of Ys. It is a city from French folklore on the coast of Brittany, France, that was swallowed by the ocean. Have you ever noticed that the introduction of Ys Origin is voiced in French? For more information, check out the Wikipedia page to learn more on the legend.

How can I help

spread awareness of Ys?

Buy the games. Play the games. Live the games. Tell your friends about Ys. They'll likely ask you similar questions that were answered on this page. Invite them to visit this website, DigitalEmelas.com, and tell the world how amazing Ys is. If you want see more, FOLLOW US ON TWITTER for all the trivia, art, giveaways, and endless content. Our Twitter is open for Direct Message. If you enjoyed what you read on this page, let us know!

© Digital Emelas. All Rights Reserved. Website by Limfinite.
All Ys Games, Art and Music © Nihon Falcom Corporation.