Ys Series - Digital Emelas: Spreading Awareness of Ys

List of Games

* Canon to the series

Y's The Vanished Omens
Sega Master System
Nihon Falcom
Nihon Falcom
Bump System
Reflections of Ys
By Mark Tjan

The Master System version was the first Ys game I played, and despite being fairly Spartan by today's standards, it was nonetheless an entertaining and even challenging first romp through the land of Esteria. Unsurprisingly then, critics often compared it to similar games like Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda, but Vanished Omen differs rather heavily in one department: narrative. Its story actually establishes much of what is still canon in Ys lore today, including the first meeting with Adol's future bosom companion Dogi, the books of Ys, and the original appearance of a major antagonist, Dark Fact.

Sadly, the Master System version of the game lacks some of the narrative features present in other versions such as cutscenes and voice acting, but it's still an involving game nonetheless. Characters are rudimentary, but you can see glimmers of what they'll soon become, and the quest for the books of Ys definitely help the story keep going.

Music is a huge component of any Ys game, and even coming out of the relatively low-power chip of the Master System, Falcom JDK's tunes sounded great. The majority of tracks are frantic electric guitar riffs, setting the pace for the overworld and ramming through enemies. But it also features some thoughtful pieces like Tears of Sylph, or The Morning Grow which help reinforce its more poignant narrative moments and vistas.

Of all the things the Master System version is memorable for though, the North American box art and translation are the most famous. Possibly due to a rush on production or just an absent copy editor, but the box has some truly horrendous errors. Adol Christin is called "Aron Christian", Ys is spelled with an apostrophe (Y's) - which led to years of mispronunciation by the fanbase, and Dark Fact is rendered as "Dark Dekt". With so many errors, one can only assume they were going from a very rough and incomplete translation. More confusing than any of that, however, is the front of the case, which sports a very, very blonde Adol (or Aron, I suppose). It's unclear how all of this got past any kind of critical review, but this was also the age of everyone's favourite terrible Megaman boxart, so expectations were probably low.

Overall, the Master System port of Vanished Omen is a solid title for Sega's 8-bit competitor. It's by no means the best version, even within the scope of retro consoles - that belongs to the TurboGrafx 16 - but it's charming, rustic, and definitely a sight prettier than the PC-88 original. It's a memory I cherish to this day, and I'm glad to have played it.


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