View RSS Feed

Karifean's Blog of Visual Novels

A Modern Guide to Ys - Ys VI

Rate this Entry


Ys VI first came out in 2003 and marked a sort of revival for the series after an 8 year long hiatus following Ys V. It features an entirely new engine which was also used as the basis for the next two games on our list, as well as tying older games together lore-wise a lot.

The game begins as Adol finds himself stranded on the Canaan Islands, a group of islands surrounded by a vortex that makes it impossible to escape them. Upon this island live both the native Rehda tribe as well as a town built by sailors from outside who were sucked into the vortex and banded together. There are considerable tensions between the Rehda and the outsiders as the Rehda live strongly by tradition and in harmony with nature while the outsiders simply take whatever resources they need to make the most comfortable lives for them. Occasionally you also meet a mercenary named Geis who seems to be looking around the island and feels always one step ahead of you. Eventually the islands are invaded by the Romn army who appear to have come to take away the Rehda as slaves, but are ultimately manipulated by one of their generals, Ernst, who knows of an ancient ark, the titular Ark of Napishtim, stored away in this place, and intends on taking its power for himself, and it's up to you to stop him.

The most notable change compared to the prior games is the gameplay system. Ys VI no longer works on the bump system but instead supplements your movement options with jumping and gives you an actual attack button. You also get different moves depending on if you attack on the ground, while ascending on a jump or while descending from a jump, giving you a moveset varied enough to shake up gameplay completely. On top of that, you have different weapons at your disposal that all play somewhat differently and each of them uses a different type of magic as a super attack.

In this game you use three distinct weapons, a wind sword, a flame sword and a lightning sword, that all have varying speed, strength and magic super attacks. You can switch swords on the fly by the push of a button although for the most part you're fine sticking to one sword at a time, with the preferred option changing depending on the dungeon. Over the course of the game you collect a type of currency in the form of emelas which can be used to upgrade your swords. It's a simple system but works pretty damn well as you can feel each increase in power quite a bit.

That being said, the game has some... weirdness to it. See something that happened to me quite early on while playing was I got to a boss and just did 0 damage with every attack. Turns out this game punishes you pretty heavily if you lack the strength you're supposed to have, so before a boss fight you're at times expected to either get a sword upgrade or two or grind out one more level. Once I went back to town and upgraded my sword (thankfully there's a fast travel system so this wasn't an issue) the boss started taking damage and things went okay. It's not a huge deal but something to watch out for when playing this game.

As far as I'm concerned, this game's biggest strength lies in its worldbuilding. For one, when I say each area and NPC gets its own development I mean it. Every single NPC has a unique design and portrait, and you can check back in with them after every single story event to see how they're doing. It won't be anything world-shattering but it does wonders to make both the Rehda and outsiders feel like actual people with lives that are affected by everything going on, something that continues to be a major strength of Ys and other Falcom games to this day. In addition, Ys VI introduces a lot more lore elements tying together the earlier games. If you're wondering why I skipped over three games it's because a bunch have been the subject of remakes that bring them up to speed both in terms of gameplay and lore.

In a nutshell, Ys VI introduces the Eldeen - people with angelic bodies that have wings - as an ancient civilization that used emelas of varying colors as materials to create miraculous magical artifacts. Reah and Feena, the goddesses of Ys, were two such Eldeen and the Black Pearl of Ys II was one such artifact made of Black Emelas, the most powerful variant of them all, and Alma, the goddess worshiped by the Rehdan tribe in this game, is also an Eldeen. Also the game introduces the faction of Darklings, humans who in their jealousy over the powers wielded by the Eldeen brought upon calamities in trying to emulate them. The Eldeen and Darklings all play a part in some form in the remakes of earlier Ys games; it's not until Ys Seven that we head further into a storyline entirely separate to them. That being said, while the game does a lot to expand the lore of the series as a whole, it doesn't really matter too much in the end. It's cool connections and all, but the games remain standalone overall and can still be enjoyed in any order just fine.

Back to the game itself. Overall the game has a lot of charm to it and definitely pushed the series in a new direction in some very good ways. The gameplay system would return for two more games (which we will be talking about next) and the story both introduces lore as well as Geis who acts as your de facto rival in this game and ends up returning as a playable character in Ys Seven. The flipside of this is that much of what this game introduces to the series has since been done better, and while no part of the game is really 'bad', it just doesn't end up being as memorable as other games in the series. It also repeats the 'save a helpless cute girl' trope a bit too many times for my liking.

The music remains damn awesome though. That's kind of a given. Some of the standout tracks in this game include the mystical Zemeth Sanctum theme and the theme of the final showdown with Ernst. Great stuff.

Next let's move on to a game I'm a lot more passionate about, which takes the foundation now established by Ys VI and combines it with the story of an older game to make, in my opinion, one of the best remakes of all time.