Ys IV – 1993 Developer Interviews

Ys IV – 1993 Developer Interviews

These lengthy Ys IV interviews mainly came from an Ys IV strategy guide published in 1993. They cover the music, game design, and challenges of the joint development between Hudson and Falcom. Also included at the end is a special (and funny) development diary which was originally featured in the Hudson Fan Club, in serial installments from March to December of 1993.

Yutaka Nagayama – Planner
Tatsuya Tsuchie – Designer
Takeo Itou – Scenario

—Ys IV features many complex maps. The heavily forested areas are especially impressive.

Nagayama: Our big design theme for the world of Ys IV this time was “sea of trees.” I didn’t want to show a sparse forest with only a few trees standing here and there. At first, no one really understood what “sea of trees” even meant. It wasn’t merely having a bunch of trees: no, that was just a simple forest. So we thought about it for a long time, and eventually came up with the densely forested maps you see today.1

—Do you have any personal favorites with the maps, or ones that you think turned out especially well?

Tsuchie: I really like the visually deceiving “EscherSpace” dungeon in Torie’s Tomb.

Nagayama: Yeah, that one was a big hit with players. I believe Kouhei Maruyama, one of our designers, made it. When he saw someone lost there, he’d stand behind them with a big grin on his face. (laughs) When you’re debugging, everyone has to learn the dungeons inside and out. Normally you just quickly run through them without a hitch, but in Maruyama’s dungeon everyone was getting frustrated.

The Ys IV development team, with series director
Masayuki Katou (upper right) and arranger Ryo Yonemitsu (lower left)

—The final commercial version of Ys IV looks very different from the early beta versions I saw. The dialogue in particular seems to have changed a lot.

Nagayama: That was mostly Itou’s doing. (laughs)

Itou: The dialogue is always changing throughout the development. I listen to various people’s opinions and comments, and revise the parts that they find hard to follow as best I can.

—The behavior of party members in battles has also changed. I remember in the early versions they’d get stuck on terrain, and that was that. Now they can move about freely.

Nagayama: That was something our programmers Sugimoto and Ebina really worked hard on. There’s no point to having party members if they aren’t useful, after all.

—They’re really strong too! They never die.

Nagayama: Yes, they are. I’ll just come out and say it, they’re stronger than Adol.

Tsuchie: When it gets dangerous, just stand behind and push them in front. (laughs)

Nagayama: Yeah, if you do it right you can even beat bosses without taking any damage.

Tsuchie: If you leave everything to them you won’t build experience, though.

Nagayama: One time when I played, at Slano’s tomb, Karna went ahead into the boss fight on her own…. and after I defeated the boss she pushed me into his explosion! They can be a real pain in the ass. (laughs)

The “EscherSpace” dungeon.

—When did you do the voice recording work for Ys IV?

Itou: During the summer.

Nagayama: It ended up only taking two days. It was amazing though, that super enthusiastic recording from one of the members of the Clan of Darkness: “bukkoroshite yaru yo!” (I’LL &!*^!% KILL YOU!)

Itou: Yeah, but then he said “I’m sorry…” right after that!

Nagayama: Yeah, he was all “I’LL &!*^!% KILL YOU! oh, I’m sorry…” All of a sudden he went from that to such a humble voice. People who do voice acting and really get into the role, it’s shocking when you hear the gap between that performance and their normal voice. The voice actor for the mummy (the Sage Aria) also had such a totally different normal voice, I was really shocked.

Tsuchie: Sometimes we change the graphics to match the voices better, too. In the ending, for the woman who appears in the abandoned village of Venes, at first she had an old lady’s voice, but the voice actor sounded much younger, so we hurriedly erased all the wrinkles from her face!

Nagayama: She’s been rejuvenated! At the Tsuchie Plastic Surgery Clinic. (laughs)

—In this Ys, there’s a lot of events in the story for players to enjoy.

Tsuchie: There’s a great deal more characters in this game, and we took great care on that. There’s a lot of individual eye / mouth animation patterns.

Nagayama: There’s also many places where the dialogue varies depending on the player’s circumstances at the time. Ebina setup those event flags in the programming. There’s a character you can only meet if you’ve been alone as Adol for a long time, too. And if you talk to people when transformed as a Roo demon, the dialogue changes as well. By the second half of the game the amount of dialogue in general really increases, which meant more and more dialogue needed to be created for all the different possibilities.

Tsuchie: The scene where you meet Leeza was especially complicated, with lots of dialogue to prepare. It must have been a big burden on Leeza fans, having to check out all those lines. (laughs)

—Speaking of the story events, you communicate with Karna through letters, but you don’t see her again in the latter half of the game.

Nagayama: That girl is never home, is she? She’s a real delinquent. But maybe you’ll get to see her in the ending. (laughs)

This character was given a second youth to match the voice acting.

Nihon Falcom and Ys

Masayuki Katou - Director

—This fourth installment of Ys was produced in a very unusual way, wasn’t it? Normally the Ys games are ported to other systems by other companies, but this time you could almost say there wasn’t an “original” to begin with.

Katou: Yeah, that’s very true. We at Falcom couldn’t seem to get a plan for Ys IV off the ground by ourselves, and at that time Hudson approached us and said they’d like to do a sequel. We talked about a game where we would make the story and music, and Hudson would do the system and gameplay.

—Oh, so it wasn’t the case that you were already making Ys IV and then handed it over to Hudson?

Katou: Hudson contacted us first saying they’d like to make an Ys sequel. Normally we’d make a PC version, and then that would be ported, but we have very few employees compared with Hudson, so I told them that we didn’t have a free group to work on an Ys game right now. Then Hudson asked if we’d like to create the world of the game, and they’d construct the game system. I wondered to myself if that would really be ok, for us to just make the world/story? But once we began, we were able to bring the same level of passion, and really craft a world for Ys IV down to the finest details. Naturally, not every single detail makes it into the final game, but we left that editing process in Hudson’s capable hands.

—Was it a difficult process, working together like this?

Katou: No, we certainly didn’t think so at Falcom. We plopped down a huge story/setting manuscript on Hudson’s desk, and in return, they took that and sent us a skeletal outline of how the game would actually develop and play. Then we gave them our opinion on it, which parts might work better this way, etc. We went back and forth like that several times.

—The gameplay system for Ys IV has returned to the style of Ys I and II. Was this also a request of Hudson’s?

Katou: No, that was a request from the players! III used a sidescrolling perspective, but I don’t think it was very well-received by players who were hoping for a continuation to Ys II. Many, many people were asking us to do a direct sequel to Ys II. So we had decided before this project began, that if we were going to make another Ys game, it wouldn’t be a sequel to Ys III, but would take a step backwards and come between Ys II and III. And we chose the gameplay system for Ys II, which was the most liked by fans.

—This Ys really explores the events of the first game, like the secrets behind the founding of the kingdom. Was focusing on Ys I also a reaction to fans? Also, will this be the last game to feature Adol’s journey through Ys as the main theme?

Katou: It seems fans really wanted to explore more of that story and world. As for it being the last, I can’t say… but I can say this: we’ve already got an idea for the next game.


Katou: Yeah, there was a “Ys V Scoop!” section of the “Ys Special Collection” that was released the same time as the PC Engine version of Ys IV.

—Will Ys V be based on Ys IV?

Katou: Actually, no. Do you remember in the manual for Ys I, phrases like “Kefin, Kingdom of Sand” and “The Five Dragons of Altago”? The world of Ys is vast; there are deep forests of Celceta, where Ys IV takes place, and V will continue along that line with brand new locations. We’re hard at work now to make it a dense, engaging adventure.

Falcom’s Taiyou no Shinden, released in 1986 for the PC-8801. As described below, the sense of exploration in this game influenced the creation of Ys, though it seems simplistic now.

—Will it be released for the computer?

Katou: I don’t know yet. The way we released IV this time was a big experiment for us, but I’d like us to continue making games that aren’t bound to a particular system or hardware. We made games for computers for so long, and I have to admit there’s a certain pride for us in having made a non-computer game. (laughs)

—What do the other staff at Nihon Falcom think of Ys IV?

Katou: They wanted to make it all themselves, but with the current workload, it just wasn’t going to be possible. Many of the staff at Nihon Falcom love Ys, so naturally they want to do it. However, we don’t understand today’s PC market very well. It seems to have moved from the PC-8801 to the PC-9801. I’m wondering if PC-9801 users are interested in an Ys game. Our current PC game, Eiyuu Densetsu III, is also geared more towards adults. In that sense I think releasing Ys IV for the PC Engine was the right choice.

—The Ys franchise has spread into so many different media formats now: anime, novels, comics. And now there’s Ys IV. Why do you think Ys has received so much support?

Katou: Long ago when we made adventure games, we made a game called Taiyou no Shinden where you walk around an overhead map, and if you visited certain areas you’d trigger an adventure game-style scene. The thing about this game was, just travelling and walking around the map was fun even though there was no point to it. Nowadays that kind of thing is commonplace in games, but using that system and creating an RPG out of it was the idea that first inspired us to create Ys.

Also, RPGs back then were all very difficult, so an “easy” game like Ys was fresh and new.

But I think the number one reason for Ys’ success is that it’s the game that we, the creators, want to make, and we enjoy ourselves while we’re making it. Although that same impulse led us to create Ys III, because we were bored with the system of Ys I and II… but that didn’t go over so well. (laugh) I personally like Ys III a lot though.

—The cinematic scenes in Ys IV are also something new.

Katou: Ys isn’t like Sorcerian, a game where the system is the selling point. With Ys we take care to craft something dramatic, with human and emotional appeal.

—Where does Ys go from here?

Katou: There’s some people who say, haven’t we done enough Ys? But I plan to make Ys games until I die. (laugh) It’s my life’s work.

—Please give a final message to those who are yet to play Ys IV.

Katou: The music and visuals for Ys IV are on another level compared to our previous work, and will appeal to your heart in a new way. So please don’t just play Ys IV in small chunks of your spare time; turn off the lights in your room, set the volume at a good level, and lose yourself in this world.

20 years later, Masayuki Kato continues the legacy of Ys.

Composing Ys IV

with the Falcom Sound Team J.D.K (Mieko Ishikawa, Atsushi Shirakawa,
Takahiro Tsunashima, Naoki Kaneda)

—I still haven’t played Xanadu or Ys IV yet, but I have been able to listen to the music for Ys IV. My first thought: unmistakably Falcom. (laughs) It was like, this could only be the music for the next Ys game.

Ishikawa: Thank you. Can I take that as a compliment?

—Of course!

Ishikawa: The big premise for Ys IV was that it was a direct sequel to Ys, so naturally the music had to have all the classic hooks from those songs… you could call it destiny. (laughs) Living up to that was a ton of pressure on us, the sound staff, so to hear those words from you makes me so happy, and is a huge relief.

—So it was very stressful, composing the Ys IV music?

Ishikawa: As a composer, having the color and tone of the music decided beforehand makes things easier in one sense, but if you aren’t able to break away from that, then you worry that listeners will feel like everything sounds the same.

—I see. By the way, what do you all of you feel the “Ys sound” is?

Tsunashima: The zundara beat!2

“First Step Towards Wars”, an example of the “zundara” galloping rhythm.

—Eh? zu, zundara beat?

Shirakawa: Yeah, it’s the galloping basslines. zu!-ta-ka, zu!-ta-ka…

—Ah, ahhhh. I get it now. Yeah, Ys music really does have a lot of that rhythm pattern, now that you mention it.

Kaneda: A classical melody on top of a zundara rhythm… that’s pretty much Ys right there. To me at least.

—Right, right. You know, Michio Fujiwara, who is a friend of the Falcom label, often says the music of Ys has a lot in common with classical music. I would say it’s not just Ys, but all of Falcom’s melodies have a unique quality. Sometimes the melancholy is so sweet and pointed, I’ve even shed tears… Tomohiko Kishimoto was saying that his roots were heavy metal, and I can feel that in the mood of Falcom’s music.

Kaneda: That’s because we base our music on heavy metal and classical.

—Ahh, does that mean you’re a metalhead?

Kaneda: Hah, maybe I am. Right now I’m obsessed with Deep Purple. Uh oh–looks like I’ve just outed myself! I’ve been into other stuff lately too though, like African music.

—That explains your short hair then. And for the rest of you, what music have you been into recently?

Tsunashima: I really love karaoke. I’m always listening to ZARD, B’z, WANDS… and I’m an excellent singer! My dream is to have my voice in a game. It’s what I really, ♬ re~a~la~la~lyyy wa-a-nttt! ♬

—Is he into being-kei?3

Ishikawa: Yeah (chuckles). And Shirakawa is a Vangelis otaku.

Shirakawa: Vangelis is like a teacher to me: for music, for life, for everything. Lately I’ve been into progressive rock, and irregular time signatures…

—What progressive groups do you like?

Shirakawa: I love Yes.

Ishikawa: That’s it! Now I get it!

—Huh? Wh, what do you get now Ishikawa?

Ishikawa: I knew it wasn’t my imagination! You’ve been off-time a lot lately, just behind the beat! You bastard, you’ve become one of those offtime proglovers! We’ll just have to “beat” that out of you.. a strict march should do it!

Shirakawa: He–hey, wha–OW!

Ishikawa: Take that! Hut-two-three-four, hut-two-three-four!

Shirakawa: Ugh… ah! ah.. mm, aa… that feels good…


Tsunashima: ♬ hey every~body~, let’s stop the vi~o~lenceee, sing with me now! ~oo that scent of your, faded jeanssss~ ♬

—Calm down, please everyone, calm down!

Ishikawa: The duple meter is the basis of all human life! Tempo 120! Yes sir! hut-two, hut-two, hut-two….

—Uh, n-no thank you, I’m good!


Arranging Ys IV

with music arranger Ryo Yonemitsu

—What kind of work is “arranging”, exactly?

Yonemitsu: (laughs) No one knows. Even the composers and lyricists have asked me that. “Yonemitsu-kun, what is “arranging”?” Well, for me at least, it’s like adding color to a black and white photo, or drawing in the background of a painting.

—Are you saying you complete the work of the composers?

Yonemitsu: That might not be the right expression, but yes, it’s like that. For example, the composer might only have a main melody line figured out. I’ll add drums and strings to that and finish the song.

—The Ys series has so many maniacal fans, do you feel a lot of pressure when arranging these songs?

Yonemitsu: Definitely. Especially now, with this being the fourth Ys. By this point there’s so many devoted fans with really strong feelings about the series. On top of that, the original songs are composed by the Falcom team, so they’ve got that Falcom flavor. I’ve got to consider the expecations of all those diehard fans yet also do something that’s newer, better than before. So yeah, there was a lot of that pressure. But you know, no matter what you do there’s always pressure, that’s just how it is.

—Yonemitsu, how do you personally feel about games?

Yonemitsu: Ah, I suck at them. I really stink. (laughs) I always die right away. (laughs) I think if I was better at games, I’d understand the “pressure points” in games more and could make my arrangements more skillful and fitting. But sadly, it’s always game over for me on the first screen. (laughs)

—Even with Ys?

Yonemitsu: When someone who is good shows me what to do, I’m like, “oh, ok, I get it now.” You have to wonder, is it really a good idea for someone like me to be doing all this video game work? (laughs)

Burning Sword, arranged by Ryo Yonemitsu. One of the three “challenge trilogy” songs

—I understand there were some songs for Ys IV where you wanted to do a very different atmosphere. I hear you dubbed these your “challenge trilogy” ?

Yonemitsu: (bursts out laughing) No, it was nothing so grandiose. Ys IV is the fourth game in a series, so naturally there’s a theme to the music. I knew it wouldn’t be a good idea to change the mood of the main musical pieces, but I asked Hudson if I could try bringing a different mood to the other tracks.

It didn’t really go over. They were like, “Well….” I got the feeling they were thinking, “what the hell is this guy scheming?” (laughs)

I proposed that I try making them my way, but if Hudson didn’t like them, I’d change them back. Those three songs I experimented with were called my “challenge trilogy.”

—And which songs are they, exactly?

Yonemitsu: I leave that to the listener to discover.4

—(laughs) By the way, you’ve done a variety of arrangements for the Ys games now, but what is your perspective on the series?

Yonemitsu: It’s a very serious game. Games come in all shapes and sizes, right? Some games are about joking around and having fun. Ys, too, represents one way to make a game, and in my mind, Ys isn’t the kind of game that admits of a lot of joking around and silliness. I feel like the music has got to have a more serious tone.

—What’s your process like when you actually get down to the arranging itself?

Yonemitsu: Well, first there is the original tune. My first task is to figure out what people want with each song, so I’ll watch gameplay footage of the scene where that song goes, or I’ll have meetings with the designers and try to figure out, in as much detail as possible, what motivates a given character, or what the circumstances of that scene are. I can often only get a rough idea of what they want, but that’s fine. Then, from that I’ll see “oh, this part should be really gallant”, and so on. Ideally they’d be able to show me the finished version, but usually that’s impossible due to scheduling.

—What are some of the challenges you face in your work?

Yonemitsu: One hard thing is matching the beginning and ending storyboard to the music. Even if the storyboards have instructions like “the music changes moods here”, the original song might be too long and the climax will come at the wrong time. Then I have to shorten the song to get the timing right, or keep the song the same way and have them change the storyboards… those adjustments are a pain.

Another difficult thing with Ys IV was that I used a lot of live instruments this time, whereas previously I had done most of my work with synthesizers. I struggled with the question of which instruments to use in which songs. Oh, and Hudson’s development offices were in Sapporo, so communication was hard. (laughs)

—All the music you did for Ys IV is wonderful, but do you personally have any parts that you really want listeners to hear?

Yonemitsu: Hmm, that’s a difficult question for me. You see, I have those things which I like personally, and those things which, as a craftsman, I think were well done. As for my personal tastes, I think the theme for Darm Tower came out very well. The time limit the planners gave me for that song was 2 minutes though, kind of a waste. (laughs)

—Please give some final words for Ys players.

Yonemitsu: What to say… how about: don’t strain your eyes. (laughs)

“Tower of the Shadow of Death”, the Darm Tower theme.

Ys IV Developer Diary

taken from the Hudson Fan Club “Humor Network” feature
written by planner Yutaka Nagayama

Planning – Yutaka Nagayama
Please don’t rely too much on this strategy guide without playing for yourself first!

Design Director – Taiichi Matsuda
Thank you for buying. Thank you for playing.

Scenario – Takeo Itou
Please take a look at all the detailed character animations, and the dialogue.

Design – Tatsuya Tsuchie
I hope you watch the opening movie carefully!

Programming – Isao Kobayashi
I like Leeza. I’m crazy about Yuri Shiratori.

Design – Eiki Ogura
That Cleria caused me problems…

Design – Norihiro Kanie
Please get lost. Please get confused!

Design – Kouhei Maruyama
I mostly worked on the design for the five retainers of Lefance.

Design – Genji Kuwabara
Please look at the villages, all their little lived-in touches and the colors.

Programming – Satoru Sugimoto
I worked on the event programming.

Design – Kayo Fujimoto
I worked on buildings, only buildings. So many tiles.

Programming – Toshimasa Ebina
Please enjoy exploring all over the world of Ys.

Design – Moto Yamaguchi
I like what the Roo does after he falls off a bridge.

Programming – Toshiya Abe
In life, there is pain, and there is pleasure.

Design Eiki Yamaguchi
I worked really hard on the scene where the boss appears, at Torie’s tomb.

Art celebrating the bridging of Ys II to Ys IV.

X Month Y Day
In Hudson Conference Room #1
Development Meeting

“The appeal of Ys, I think, surely lies in the game balance. Anyone can beat it, yet it isn’t dull. We want Ys IV to also be that kind of game.”

“Right, tuning… it sounds hard.”

“Also, the boss battles up to now have all been confined to narrow rectangular rooms. We need to do something about that.”

“Will Dogi be in this one too?”

“Yes, definitely. It wouldn’t be Ys without Dogi. But I feel like he should be more helpful to Adol this time, not just break a wall for him like he did in Ys I.”

“Speaking of characters that need to make an appearance, how about Lilia? And Hiromi Tsuru for the voice actor, of course…”

“(ignoring that) I think Ys I and II were great games, but playing them now, I realize they also have some old-fashioned parts. Like the Fire spell, the way it just sends out a single-sprite width little puff of fire. I’d say there’s room for improvement there.”

“And that’s why you need to include more scenes with Lilia.”

“Quiet about that! Now, as for items, previously they’ve all been keys, or other passive event flag items, and that too should change I think, because……

(time passes)

….and that’s that. …Nagayama? Nagayama? Are you listening?”

“Eh?! Ahh, sorry, sorry. I heard you. Lilia, right? We’ll be sure to put her in!”

“What exactly did you hear…?”

X Month Y Day
Development Room
Boss Ideas

Nagayama: Hey, Iga! I thought of an idea for an attack pattern for a boss. Ok, so see these tentacles? They extend out and glop around like this, blocking Adol’s path. The body doesn’t take any damage, and the only way to defeat it is to attack the tentacles with fire magic. Then…

Iga: Um, there was something like that in Starfox.

Nagayama: “…what? Where, show me!”

<20 minutes later>

Nagayama: ….you’re right. It’s exactly the same. Sorry.

Ys IV ad for the SFC version. Note the visual perspective of a vast expanse, recalling 1986’s Taiyou no Shinden.

X Month Y Day
A Certain Recording Studio
Voice Recording Session

Nagayama: Itou, there’s no way! Look at her! Look at that suit! This is a dignified, real professional. You can’t make someone like that yell “UGEGOGOGOGOBUGOBA!!” into a mic!

Itou: But… that’s the job…

Nagayama: Can you at least change it to something smaller, like “NUGOoo!”

Itou: If we do that, it won’t have the right impact…

Nagayama: There’s still time! Let’s change it! …ah no! They’re starting!

Recording Engineer: “Scene 1, part 2! Action!”


X Month Y Day
Development Room

Nagayama: Eeek! I found a bug! Sugimoto, look here! The controls aren’t working! Are you seeing this?

Main Programmer Sugimoto: (quietly)…Nagayama…. the joypad is unplugged.

X Month Y Day
Development Room
“To Conquer Sleep”

Goddamn, I’m tired. Right now it’s the middle of the night (or should I say morning), 4AM. Everyone is still working. This industry… its a test of your strength.

That reminds me of back when I was a new recruit and I came in one morning to the office, turned on the lights, and saw, beneath a storage rack, someone sleeping in a cardboard box. It was one of those fabled “Living Dead” I’d heard about. Watching him stir and awaken at my entry, I thought to myself “What an amazing company I’ve joined…!” Who knew that within less than a year, I too would become one of the Undead… has the zombie hunter becomes a zombie? huh?

Wow, my writing sure is sloppy. Forgive me, for I am tired…. which reminds me of back when I was a new recruit and I came in one morning to the office, turned on the lights, and… agh, no! I’ve fallen into a mental loop! To conquer sleep, you must follow these *yawn* five easy steps:

1. wash your face…
2. drink coffEe…
3# steel your…nerves…
@4 dop*yawn*ing…
5* never.. give… uh.. uh.. uzzzzzzzzzz NO! ..zZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZ guzZZZZZZZZZnyaZZZZZZZZZZZZZ aaZZZZZZZZZZZZZZge!zzzzzzzzzz………

X Day Y Month
Development Room

“It’s over!”
“I thought it would never end…”
“Well done everyone!”
“Now for the launch party!”
“Where shall we go?”
“How many do you think we’ll sell?”
“Do you think they’ll like it?”
“Damn, it’s going to be nice to go home early for a change.”
“If I have to look at another monitor again, it will be too soon.”
“You say that, but didn’t you play Torneko all spring break?”
“Well yeah, but, you see…”

And so passed the closing party of the Ys IV development, with everyone happily chattering away. And then, section chief Fujihara appeared…

“Nagayama, my man! I’m sorry to disturb you, and so soon, but would you mind attending this meeting about our next game?”

Nagayama: *&!*BOOM*&!@*

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  1. When Ys IV was ported to the Vita in 2012, it was translated in the West as “Ys – Memories of Celceta”, but the Japanese title was “Ys – The Sea of Trees of Celceta.” It’s likely that “sea of trees”, while a neat two-character compound in Japanese, sounded too gangly in English.

  2. “zundara setsu,” or zundara beat means a galloping rhythm. Among Japanese vgm fans its sometimes called the “Ys beat” for its prominence in the Ys series–apparently reaching a fever pitch in IV, btw.

  3. A style of popular rock music defined by the bands like the ones Tsunashima listed above, popular in the early-90s. The name comes from the “Being” record label.

  4. Later identified as Blazing Sword, Crimson Wings, and Valley of Quicksand.

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