This year, Falcom celebrates its 30th anniversary. Best known for their series of Ys action-RPGs, Falcom has developed a variety of games in many different genres. Until just recently, Falcom was primarily a PC developer, letting other companies bring their games to other platforms. While only a (relative) handful of Falcom’s games ever made it to Sega platforms (and even fewer were localized), Sega and Falcom had a brief and interesting relationship.
Ys: The Vanished Omen (Master System, 1988)
Ported to the Master System by Sega themselves, this version of the first Ys game is both solid and charming. It sticks pretty closely to the source material and does the best it can, despite the limitations of the hardware, to recreate the Ys experience. It doesn’t look that great (though the character portraits are outstanding), but it plays like Ys, and the Master System version of Yuzo Koshiro’s soundtrack is really catchy. Perhaps it was because this package only included the first game (Ys I and II are typically packaged together), but this version is extremely difficult and requires a great deal of grinding.
This title was brought to North America by Sega, and the translation is pretty interesting. For one, on the spine and back of the box, Ys is spelled “Y’s.” No idea what this is supposed to mean. Another strange localization choice was changing hero Adol’s name to Aron. Despite these odd changes, the English text is quite charming. Sega decided to give the game an “Olde English” flair, sprinkling thys and thous throughout, not unlike Nintendo of America’s localization of the original Dragon Quest on the NES.
Sorcerian (Mega Drive, 1990)
Sorcerian is part of Falcom’s enormous and varied Dragon Slayer series. The game is a sidescrolling dungeon crawler RPG with a soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro. Unfortunately, it never made it to North America.
Ys III: Wanderers from Ys (Genesis, 1991)
The oft-maligned third entry of the Ys series got an excellent Genesis port thanks to Telenet Japan. Most of the criticism leveled at this game is due to its switch to a sidescrolling perspective (not unlike Zelda II). However, the game is actually not as bad as some would say. Ys III looks great, controls well, and moves quickly. In combat, I always found myself simply holding down the attack button and just running into enemies, not unlike in other Ys titles. Some complain about the more linear dungeon designs, but after the giant, frustrating, layout of the last dungeon in Ys II, I certainly don’t mind the move towards linearity. What most people seem to agree on when it comes to Ys III is the soundtrack. It’s absolutely fantastic and sounds great on the Genesis.
From 1994-1995, Sega and Falcom partnered up to create “Sega Falcom.” This alliance would have Sega publishing Falcom’s games on their platforms. The first title published under this banner was Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes.
Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes (Mega Drive, 1994)
Sega Falcom had originally intended to call the Sega CD version of the game “Sister Sonic” and have it feature characters from the Sonic universe. However, this plan was scrapped when fans complained.
Popful Mail was released in North America by Working Designs. Like most Working Designs localizations, the game has a charming and funny script and better-than-average voice acting. Working Designs decided to increase the difficulty of the North American version (it’s game over for Mail after 2 or 3 hits from regular enemies), ensuring only the most dedicated and hardcore would ever finish it.
Falcom Classics (Saturn, 1997)
This compilation, released by Victor, contains remakes of Ys I, Dragon Slayer (top-down dungeon crawler) and Xanadu (side scrolling dungeon crawler). The limited edition version included a drama CD. The title was re-released as part of the Satakore series (essentially Saturn “greatest hits”). Falcom Classics was never released in North America.
Falcom Classics II (Saturn, 1998)
Sorcerian: Disciples of Seven Star Sorcery (Dreamcast, 2000)
This Dreamcast remake of the original Sorcerian was published by Victor in Japan and the first edition of the game included a soundtrack. It was never published in North America and sadly, the last Falcom game to appear on a Sega system.