Ys V: Lost Kefin, Kingdom of Sand

SNES (1995)


イースV 失われた砂の都ケフィン

Seems to me that the majority of the most beautiful looking RPGs made for these old consoles never got released in English. Thank goodness for fan-translations.

There's something very mysterious about this game. It's only available in English via a patch, and its an often forgotten entry in a series many people don't know of. I quite enjoyed the feel of the first Ys game's Master System port, so I was interested to see how this one compared. After playing, I think it very much has its own feel. It's still got an exotic fantasy feel, an adventure in a strange foreign land, but the story is worked in better. In Ys V, Adol (the player's character) has many allies that actually involve themselves in the world rather than sitting idle in their houses or shops, and it's definitely a strong point of this game. It's all presented in a simple way, but that's a good thing...I'm certainly no fan of walls of overdramatic text (or worse, voice acting) leaving nothing to the audience's imagination.

Graphically, it's one of those games that made me "wow" at the scenery. There's a lot of detail here, and the effort the artists put into making each area insteresting and unique really shines through. For example, take a look at the inn shown in one of the screenshots. I couldn't tell you what it is, but there is a clear decoration style there, and it's unique to that particular town and not just bog-standard for the genre. Same for the dungeon. The decorative door and the dusty/grassy really distinguish the setting from just another brick dungeon. The music in this game is pretty good too, but there's not much more to be said about it.

Now it should be said that the promotional art for this game is worth a look. There's a heap of it on one of the fan wikis. Very pretty stuff. What's interesting about it, is that it's very similar to the promo art for newer Ys games. The expressions/personalities of the characters aren't too badly washed out by the changes in style, and the tropes you see are generally the same or similar. When you compare it with Final Fantasy and Phantasy Star, the series has actually maintained its identity pretty well. That's pretty rare when it comes to any long running series. I still can't say I'm a fan of the visual style of newer Ys games though. I know it is inevitable, and it pretty much has to happen, but it is a real shame that even after sucessfully adapting the old fashioned fantasy style to more modern art styles, the series has now sunk to the low of using modified-school uniforms.

As for the gameplay, Ys V has (thankfully) replaced the bumping system of early Ys games, for stab/block combat. It's still simplistic, and it's also pretty easy. There's a detailled spell system too, but like many games of this time, it's rendered pretty pointless by being disabled for (most) boss fights. I really couldn't be bothered charging up spells to take out grunts that would respawn when I walked away. For some reason the difficulty in this game is really low. Not complaining because I don't play these things for the sweet satisfaction of getting lucky on the 500th try, but it was weird to be beating nearly every boss on my first attempt.

Overall, Ys V is a fun action RPG, with some interesting ideas in its story and pretty scenery and music. I recommend it if you're looking for something quick and easy to play.