Most series are rather straightforward. Once with numbered installments tend to have some semblance of order to them. However, when it comes to Nihon Falcom’s Ys, things get a little odd. There are four Ys IV games. People outside of Japan might not realize this, since only one of them was released worldwide. However, with Ys: Memories of Celceta about to make its PlayStation 4 debut, it seems like a good time to go over what happened and why there are so many Ys IVs.
So, why are there so many Ys IV games?
As of late, Nihon Falcom has taken charge on development of all of its games. If someone were to pick up Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana or The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III, they would be getting a title Nihon Falcom developed. But, back in the 1990s, the developer wasn’t in such a strong position. So, Ys IV was outsourced to two different developers.
One is Ys IV: Mask of the Sun. This is a game where Nihon Falcom gave what it had to Tonkin House, which made the Super Famicom version of Ys III: Wanderers from Ys. (It also had its sound team provide music.) The developer then created a Super Famicom version of Ys IV. This came out in November 1993.
In December 1993, Hudson Soft released Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys for the PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16). It had made Ys ports of the first, second and third games for the system prior. Due to Nihon Falcom’s situation, it again provided a general idea and music from Nihon Falcom’s Sound Team JDK. (In fact, both 1993 games share some music.) Its interpretation is rather different, due to the level of involvement from Nihon Falcom.
The other versions arrived later. Taito ended up creating a version of Ys IV based on Tonkin House’s Super Famicom game. This PlayStation 2 game is called Ys IV Mask of the Sun: A New Theory and offered its own take in 2005. Again, it happened because the company had created ports of past Ys games, like Ys III, for the PS2, so Nihon Falcom allowed it to take the reins.
It wasn’t until 2012 that Nihon Falcom stepped in with what would become the "final word" by creating Ys: Memories of Celceta for the PlayStation Vita.
How many Ys IV games are there?
There are now four Ys IV games, which is rather appropriate. Each one is a little different. The story beats can change. The gameplay can vary wildly. There is even one installment where you aren’t just playing as Adol for the entire adventure!
Ys IV: Mask of the Sun (Super Famicom, 1993)
Ys IV: Mask of the Sun plays like Ys I and II, in that this is a 2D game with an overhead perspective showing Adol and his enemies in the field. If you run Adol into an enemy, he automatically attacks via the tried-and-true bump system. He can also equip swords tied to different elements for magic attacks.
Like all of the Ys IV games, Ys IV: Mask of the Sun sends Adol to the land of Celceta to deal with a hostile government. However, this one gets to the point the most quickly. After the events of Ys II, Adol is in Minea, the town where everything began in Ys. A message in a bottle washes up at the shore, saying Celceta needs help. He takes off, and people take control once he gets to the other country.
It also eventually ended up on phones in 2006.
Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys (PC Engine, 1993)
Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys plays like Ys I and II too. It is also a 2D game with an overhead perspective, but it differs from the other 1993 game by having detailed, sprite-based CGs and more detailed art in other areas. You ram him into enemies to attack, though you can also use magic to shoot fireballs or stop time.
Two years after Ys II, Adol finds himself in Minea, After seeing some people from past games and engaging in activities around the city, he gets the call to head to Celceta to deal with an invading army. Its story proceeds a bit differently than the SNES installment, sometimes getting a little more elaborate.
It was only released in Japan.
Ys IV Mask of the Sun: A New Theory (PS2, 2005)
It would be easy to go ahead and file Mask of the Sun: A New Theory under the original Ys IV: Mask of the Sun as a port of that SNES game, but there is too much different here. It is a more traditional action-RPG along the lines of games Ys V, where you control Adol’s attacks and can create combos. It is in 3D, with a different sort of viewpoint. Also, while the story largely follows the events of Mask of the Sun, there are some new sidequests and elements.
It only appeared on the PS2 in Japan.
Ys: Memories of Celceta (Vita, 2012)
Ys: Memories of Celceta is the more modern version of Ys IV. Adol is suffering from amnesia and has wound up in the town of Casnan one year after Ys II. While he struggles to find out who he is, he finds himself tasked with mapping Celceta’s forest. However, he finds himself drawn into conflicts involving the Romun Empire along the way. It is known for being a traditional action-RPG, one with five other party members with their own attack types and skills.
It is available on two other platforms. It showed up on PCs worldwide in 2018. It is also available on the PlayStation 4 in Japan as Ys: Memories of Celceta Kai. The PC and PS4 versions have a higher resolution and better frame rates. The PS4 version also doesn’t have touch screen-related segments, as those have a new control scheme.
Which Ys IV should people play?
The easy answer is Ys: Memories of Celceta. This game is available worldwide. You can get it right away on the PC or Vita. It has more traditional and modern gameplay, so you don’t have to worry about bumping into an opponent enough times to take them down. There’s a standard of quality here. Plus, if you find yourself having trouble, it has been well-chronicled online.
If you want to challenge yourself, looking into a copy of Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys is the game to find. While it is only available in Japanese and on a platform that isn’t easy to get your hands on now, it is known for being one of the best early versions of Ys IV. Hudson experimented quite a bit with its adaptation. The presentation is interesting. Also, the event segments are really striking and have some great sprite work.