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If you want to get into the Ys games but have no idea about the franchise, what is it about or the order you should play the games, don't worry, this thread is for you. I think it's time to have a thread that answers the most common questions, and a good place for newcomers and long time fans to discuss the series or any question that this post doesn't cover.

What is "Ys" about?

Made by Nihon Falcom (also makers of Gurumin, The Legend of Heroes, Brandish, etc.) the Ys franchise is pretty much about high-speed action JRPGs in real-time, no turn based. The controls are simple, but in order to beat the game, you have to master it (which are well-done and very tight). The experience system is totally anti-grinding: the less experience points you have, the more you will get from defeating enemies; the more exp. you have, the less you will get. This way, you can level-up pretty fast if your level is low, and you won't be able to get over-powered and defeat the bosses with no effort (that would make the game boring and turned into a grindfest). Exploring the maps for new equipment is also very important, or else your stats should make the next boss even harder. One or two more levels/upgrades have a HUGE important, so you better explore the dungeons!

The franchise also feature different gameplay styles. Most games take what the previous title did and improve that quite a lot, or feature a different gameplay. As you can imagine by now, the gameplay is the most important aspect of the series and that should be the main reason you are going to play these games. That doesn't the characters or the story is really bad, not at all! In fact, you won't find the usual cringe moments other JRPGs have, or bad characters / writing / plot / plot holes, etc., it's just the games don't focus on that. The lore is pretty interested though and shows a lot of amazing connections you wouldn't expect in a franchise like this. Oh, and the series is also known for its great OSTs!

Almost every single game feature the main character, Adol Christin, traveling around the world looking for new adventures in different lands, set on an alternative fantasy version of our own world. He wrote about 100 travelogues, disappeared at the age of 63 in the North Pole. His adventures sparked later the golden age of human civilization. - The world map

Recommended order for the series

Note: I'm going to use the original Japanese release dates for this.

Most games are self-contained, so if you want to play any game to see if you like it, go ahead, but if you want to play the entire franchise, then you should follow the release order. This is the best way to appreciate how the gameplay changes or gets improved, and the same goes for the lore. This order does NOT represent the chronological order, but that's how the franchise is being made, so don't worry about jumping forward and backward when you play the games.

[1987] Ys: Ancient Ys Vanished [PC-88, PC-98, PC-Engine, etc.]
[1988] Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished - The Final Chapter [PC-88, PC-98, PC-Engine, etc.]

Originally thought as one game (too big for its time), this is pretty much the very first adventure of Adol when he was 17 years old, after traveling from Promalock, his village, to Esterior. Featuring the "bump system", you attack by bumping on the sides of the enemies. I know it doesn't sound good at all on paper, and after the first 5 minutes you may hate it, but if you get used to it, there's a good chance you are going to enjoy the hell out of these two games. Ys II add an attack button for spells.

GOG offers "Ys I & II: Chronicles+", a remake of the original games and the best version available.

[1989] Ys III: Wanderers from Ys [PC-88, PC-98, PC-Engine, etc.]
[1993] Ys IV: Mask of the Sun [SNES]
[1993] Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys [PC-Engine]
[1995] Ys V: Kefin, Lost City of Sand [SNES]

These Ys games aren't canon anymore. Falcom has been releasing new versions of these adventures that substitute them. Personally, I think Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys is really good and the rest are pretty mediocre, but at this point, you can skip these games and move on to Ys VI.

Ys III changed completely the gameplay to something very close to Zelda II, but that failed, so for Ys IV they went back to the bump system. If you wonder why are there two Ys IV, Falcom outsourced that Ys to two different companies and both of them released their own versions of what Ys IV is. Based on the same concepts, both games are completely different and unique, so it's not like playing the sagem game twice but with a few differences. With Ys V, they tried again a new gameplay style, close to the bump system but with buttons to defend yourself, attack, jump... and while it isn't bad, it doesn't feel like an Ys game at all. Ys V is also the only game left to be re-released with a new modern version using 3D graphics.

[2003] Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim [Available on GOG!]
[2005] Ys: The Oath in Felghana [Available on GOG!]
[2006] Ys Origin [Available on GOG!]

Taking what Ys V tried to accomplish, Ark of Napishtim resurrected the franchise with a new amazing 3D gameplay style that most fans love, closer to the "hack'n'slash" genre. This Ys also established the new lore for the next titles, which gives us valuable information to understand the over-all meta-plot of the series.

Oath in Felghana (a new version of Ys III) improved a whole lot the gameplay, and so did Origin (which features 3 playable characters, the recommended order is Yunica, Hugo then the third character).

[2009] Ys Seven [PSP only]
[2012] Ys: Memories of Celceta [PS Vita only]
[2016] Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana [PS4 / PS Vita]

Ys Seven uses a new gameplay style, the party system. Adol is no longer alone, as he fights with two more character. With one button, you can instantly change who are you playing as. There are also skills, special attacks, crafting, etc.

Memories of Celceta (a new version of Ys IV) improves further the gameplay and so Lacrimosa of Dana with a lot of new additions, such as rescuing people to improve the village of the island.

Appendix: chronological order:

1º: The Old Forgotten Kingdom (Ys I & II) (17 years old)
- Introduction (Ys I)
- The Last Chapter (Ys II)

2º: Celceta, Sea of trees (Ys IV) (18 years old)

- Ys IV: The Mask of the Sun (not canon)
- Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys (not canon)
- Ys: Memories of Celceta (canon)

3º: Felghana's travelogue (Ys III) (19 years old)

- Ys III: Wanderers from Ys (not canon)
- Ys: The OAth in Felgahana (canon)

4º: Kefin, the Capital of Sand (Ys V) (20 years old)

- Ys V: Kefin: Lost City of Sand

5º: Periplus of the Gaete Sea (Ys VIII) (21 years old)

- Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana

6º: Searching for the Winged Ones (Ys VI) (23 years old)

- Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim

7º: The five enormous dragons of Altago (Ys VII) (23 years old, six months after Ys VI)

- Ys Seven
Post edited June 28, 2016 by Sr_Domi
Very informative summary, thanks very much!
Sr_Domi: the Ys franchise is pretty much about high-speed action JRPGs in real-time, no turn based.
Actually, I would describe the Ys games as action games that just happen to borrow a few RPG elements. In other words, I wouldn't consider the games to be RPGs at all.

This is especially apparent in boss fights, which consist of learning the boss's attack patterns and figuring out how to dodge them. This is definitely different from RPG combat that tends to revolve around stat changes, status ailments, and when to heal.

Also, a few of the games (most notably Oath in Felghana) have platforming sections in them.

One other thing: Ys Origin is closely connected to Ys 1 & 2. I recommend playing 1 first, then 2 (which is a direct continuation of 1), then Origin (which takes place something like 1,000 years earlier).

(Note that the other games in the series are independent of each other, except for the occasional minor reference.)

Also, Ys V has 2 versions, I believe; the original version, and Ys V Expert, which was made because people felt the original Ys V was too easy. (They're both Super Famicom games that never saw an official English release.)