Next week Atlus will release Legacy of Ys: Books I & II, a remake of the two games that started the Ys series. When the Ys remakes were released in Japan last year the games were broken apart and released on separate Nintendo DS cartridges. Atlus brought them back together for North America at a price cheaper than one of the Japanese carts. We inquired how they pulled this off and about the 21st century quality localization they are working on.
The DS remakes of Ys I & Ys II were released as separate games in Japan. Why did Atlus decide to put them on a single cartridge for the US release?
Sam Mullen, Project Lead: From the beginning, we felt that Ys I & II should be treated as two halves of a whole. When these games were created, they were huge by the day’s standard and were split by the needs of the times. But now with over 20 years since their original release, we really wanted them to be enjoyed as a single experience.
How did you negotiate this with the developers?
Sam: We felt that putting both games on one cartridge translated into the best final product for the North American market, and we hope our fans feel so as well.
Aram Jabbari, Public Relations Manager: And this is no different than any other project. In every instance, we look for any and all chances for us to bring a superior product or offering to North America. This particular title afforded us this unique opportunity, the developer was incredibly accommodating, and in the end we’re able to offer both games on one cartridge. And there was much rejoicing.
Sam: No, not really. We just had to double the cartridge size. As far as saves are concerned, each game still has the 3 saves per title, so 6 saves in total.
Will we be able to play Book II from the start by selecting it from a menu or do you need to unlock it by beating Book I?
Sam: Both games are available for play at the very start.
When Atlus announced Legacy of Ys: Books I & II you mentioned a brand new localization. Can you give us some insight on the differences?
Sam: The version of Ys I & II that most people are familiar with is the TurboGrafx-16 version that was released in NA in 1990, and to a lesser extent the Master System version. However, in the late 90’s both Ys I and Ys II saw a rebirth in Japan onto Windows PC. This version had substantially updated graphics as well as character dialogue and the script was really fleshed out. This fleshed out script has never been officially translated for North America, and is the basis for the DS version. As for our localization, the trick was trying to find a balance between a full on Atlus-style localization and a no-frills, totally-true-to-the-Japanese translation.
Maya: I guess you can say that while this version kept the gameplay and storyline that made the original Ys what it is, they added bits and pieces that enhances the gameplay and adds a little more to the overall plot. There is some more dialogue, an extra map… and I don’t want to spoil things so I’ll stop here. There were parts in there that I don’t recall seeing in the old version… well, from what I can remember playing years and years ago.
Jared: From what I know of the previous versions of Ys: Books I and II, this version has much more dialogue based on the player’s actions. Some characters will react differently to Adol depending on what the player does. Combined with the updated graphics and script, it definitely contributes to the feeling that the player is moving through a vibrant, dynamic world.
Aram: This is most certainly more than just a marketing point for us. As simple and elegant as the original localization was, it was created in a very different era in gaming. Expectations are higher now, among fans, than ever before. To be able go back to the story and bring over a translation that takes into consideration how the industry and gaming community has changed and matured over the years is a thrill for us, and hopefully, so too will it be for the fans.
Roughly speaking how many pages is the new script? How does this compare with the TurboGrafx 16 version?
Sam: This is a very hard thing to estimate as game scripts (normally) don’t come in printed page format, like a movie script would. So I’ve never actually seen the TurboGrafx 16 script. I’d say up to 30-40% bigger? I’ve personally played 5 or 6 versions of Ys I & II, and every version has a slightly different script and additional character dialogue, it’s a really hard value to lock down.
Are there any bits such as names from the old translation that Atlus decided to keep?
Maya: We know this game is important to many people seeing that it holds a special place in their heart, so we tried to keep things as close to whatever people were used to. But we also wanted something close to the original Japanese version without it sounding too odd or out of place so that we wouldn’t alienate any of the newer players. It was quite a dilemma on our part with what to keep and what to renew… and sometimes compromises had to be made.
Sam: It seems to hold true that the version of a game a person plays first becomes ‘the original’ to them, and the same holds true with the first games of Ys. We know some people may be irked because it’s not the same as their original experience, but we had our reasons for some of the changes (check out the Atlus Production Diaries for a taste of some of those reasons). We even requested that Nihon Falcom send us their ‘preferred transliterations’ if they had any, which they didn’t.
Instead we researched and referred heavily to Japanese reference material and documentation to find valid transliterations, checking with Falcom every step of the way. Rest assured that everything was approved by Falcom, and while some of the changes are sure to stand out to long-time fans, they were made with the utmost of care and attention to detail. We understand if some fans are reluctant to accept the modifications. We just ask that they give the brand new localization a chance.
Can you tell us about the new features introduced in the DS remake of Ys I & II?
Sam: The features that will be new to most North American players are the updated sprites, 3D environments, and controls. In the TurboGrafx version, you couldn’t move diagonally, but in this version you can. You can also play the game with stylus, which mimics mouse controls on the PC version. Or you can try the all new Control Pad scheme that feels more like a normal action RPG. There’s also a local wireless multiplayer battle mode to challenge your friends to. Not to mention the new area and new items.
Aside from the brand new localization and stuffing two games on one cart is there anything else extra in the North American release? Perhaps, an unlockable surprise after you beat both games?
Sam: We recently announced that every copy of Legacy of Ys: Books I & II will now come packed with a soundtrack CD, all boxed together in a lovely final package, so that’s an awesome bonus, in my opinion. If you clear the games, you can also unlock a Music Mode which allows you to listen to all the game tracks.
Aram: It’s really great. Yesterday they wrote on my wall and poked me, and I totally sent them a free gift, anonymously, and then we commented on each others’ photo albums. It’s so cool.