Also available on X1, PC-8801, PC-9801, FM-7, MSX2, X68000, Master System, TurboGrafx-CD, Saturn, PlayStation 2, DS, PlayStation Portable, iOS, Android, AppleIIGS, MS-DOS, and Windows
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 01/09/2019 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
Over the past couple of years, I’ve fairly rapidly become something of a major fan of the Ys series. With my transition to Everdrives for my old cartridge consoles and the addition of a RetroPie to my HD set-up, I’ve decided that I’m going to play through every different version of the original Ys game (and probably Ys II and III). Joining the Master System and TurboGrafx-CD ports on my “Versions of Ys Beaten” list now comes the port to the Famicom which, thankfully, got a fan translation.
Given that my previous experiences with the original Ys were on the TurboGrafx-16 (the greatest of all 16-bit consoles) and the Master System, an 8-bit system with superior specs to the NES, I went into this playthrough with tempered expectations. I knew it was unlikely to be as visually impressive as the Master System version, and given that I played the Master System version with the FM Sound enabled, I knew this Famicom port wouldn’t hold a candle to the Master System version. I was pleasantly surprised, though. I mean, it definitely met my expectations in general, but it wasn’t as severe a step down as I had feared.
Visually, the game looks a lot like Hydlide. It looks like an older NES game with less detailed sprites, but the only area where I felt that was at all to the game’s detriment was enemy sprites. The sprites aren’t bad, but they leave some….interesting interpretations. There are blue gummy bears, self-immolating porcupines, random amorphous grey blobs that look suspiciously like the eggs in a high school cafeteria, etc. The music is honestly the biggest letdown. I’m certain that part of my disappointment is because I was spoiled first by FM sound on the Master System and then the CD quality audio on the TurboGrafx, but the music in this game just felt mediocre. It was definitely a solid 8-bit rendition of the music from other versions of Ys, but it felt like playing a classical flute solo on a recorder. I mean, yeah, it works, I guess, but it’s…just disappointing.
The combat – the core of the experience – is thankfully 100% Ys. It’s the bump combat we all know and love (and if you don’t love it, you’re wrong). The same strategy still applies; his them from the side, back, or the edge if you have to hit them head on, and you’re fine, but if you hit them dead on, you’re going to end up taking a ton of damage. It’s a fairly unconventional system for those who haven’t played a version of Ys before, but I absolutely love it, and it’s iconic Ys. By no means do all Ys games use this system (I’m not even sure that most do although I’ve not played past IV, so I can’t speak to that), but from my experience, when you mention Ys, what first comes to mind for most people who’ve played it is the bump combat, and in that respect, the NES port of Ys I is true to form.
Ys I for NES is definitely not the best version of the game to play, but if all you’ve got is a Famicom, there are definitely worse ways to experience Adol’s first adventure. The music is a far cry from Master System’s FM Sound or the TurboGrafx-CD’s perfect everything, but it serves the purpose. Likewise, the visuals aren’t quite as nice as the other two versions I’ve played, but they’re totally decent. It’s like playing Call of Duty 4 on Wii as opposed to PS3 or 360. It doesn’t play as smoothly, and it definitely doesn’t look nearly as good but judged on its own merits, it’s still a perfectly competent and enjoyable game. I wouldn’t recommend this version if other options are available to you, but if you don’t have any other options, it’s totally worth a playthrough.