The Let's Play Archive

Ys I & II Chronicles

by toddy.

Part 1: The history of the US Port

AtomikKrab posted:

This is obscure? it is my second favorite video game series, topped only by Secret of Evermore... it was all up in my local store as a kid and even at the blockbuster so how can people not know of it.

It wasn't so obscure back in the day, because during the late 80s and early 90s, Falcom made a pretty big push into the Western market. We got a bunch of the YS I&II and III ports (we even got a version of Ys I made pretty much exclusively for us in the IBM-PC MS-DOS port, but it was very bad). They made a few mistakes, however.

1) They didn't open their own subsidiary. Falcom is actually one of Japan's most venerable game development companies; they opened for business in 1981 to sell Apple II hardware and software in Japan, and published their first proper game in 1982. They also arguably invented the JRPG with Dragon Slayer... in 1984, for the NEC PC-8801. Unlike Square or Enix or Konami, though (and fun fact: one of Square's early, pre-Final Fantasy big breaks was producing the MSX port of Dragon Slayer!) they never bothered to establish their own subsidiary overseas... because their first primary platform, the PC-88 and 98, wasn't at all a success in America. So they instead marched through a legion of publication partners for all their games, from Brøderbund to American Sammy to Working Designs to Sierra Entertainment (no, seriously) to NEC themselves. Of course, this was all after an epic falling out with Richard Garriott and Origin Studios... but that's practically a post in and of itself.

Point is, there was never any set guideline for consistency or quality between all these partners since Falcom didn't have anyone on this side of the pond, so the ports and translations, as noted, were literally all over the fucking place. A lot of times the Falcom name even got sawed off the games so people didn't realize whose game it actually was.

2) Falcom backed the wrong horse. Falcom's biggest pushes in the 80s and 90s were for NEC's platforms: the PC-88 and PC-98 for PCs, and the PC-Engine, AKA TurboGrafx16, for consoles. In Japan this move made a ton of sense - both platforms were white-hot, the PC-X8 platform was THE IBM-PC equivalent of Japan, and the PC-Engine was in some ways making both the Genny and even the SNES look like chumps due to the CD attachment.

The problem is that neither of these platforms succeeded in the West at all. The PCX8 gained no traction whatsoever against the IBM-PC since it had nothing unique to offer to the American or European markets, and the TG16 came out later than the PC Engine did and so didn't have nearly as much to offer against the Gen and SNES. This required either messy porting of Falcom's titles, or simply releasing games to a semi-dead system, which is what they tried to do with the original Legend of Heroes game.

3) Falcom chose the wrong game to headline their initial push. Falcom, by the early 90s, had a fairly impressive catalogue of games. A lot of Dragon Slayer games, a couple Ys games, several other projects (including the nascent Legend of Heroes franchise). Out of these, Falcom had to choose a game to "headline" their push, to really show off what they could do.

The game they chose to promote above all others was Ys III: Wanderers From Ys.

If jttoddy does an LP of that game after this, you will understand - in painful detail - why this was the worst decision Falcom could have ever made.

So. After Ys III and the original LoH crashed and burned, Falcom basically took their ball and went home, ignoring the Western market entirely for a decade (meaning we missed out on a whole mess of games). Only in 2003 did we finally get a slightly janky version of Ys VI, and then Namco managed to make a complete disaster out of the Gagharv Trilogy of LoH games (III - V). In the interregnum, practically everyone overseas forgot Falcom even existed - they had zero presence outside of Japan between 1992 and 2003. It's only been recently that Falcom's made a new major push into the West in partnership with XSEED, who are treating the games with a good deal more respect.

Unfortunately, the releases so far are for a system that is doing gangbusters in Japan and is all but dead overseas. So we'll have to see what becomes of all this. Also sorry for the huge post but talking about Falcom as a company is hard without a whole bunch of .

fake edit: Also yay Dark Fact fight. I assume the same thread will be used for Ys II?