Novel tie-ins to official video game releases are always something of a mixed bag. Regardless of how qualitative the narrative being told in the novel is, there’s the obvious question that arises, “Why couldn’t this just be in the game?”
In most cases, I’d usually agree as novel tie-ins tend to have directly connected lore that at least has a moderate degree of influence in the game itself. However, the prequel novel for Ys IX, ‘The Lost Sword’ is a unique case. While technically having the mark of a prequel embedded in its identity, the story is far from required to understand even the intricate bits of Ys IX: Monstrum Nox’s plot. In all honesty, the narrative is an extremely self-contained bit of adventure that leaves fans craving more.
Following the events of Ys Seven, the game chronologically taking place before Ys IX, Adol and Dogi encounter a blacksmith in training, Cesilica Kentia. The three grow closer as the narrative progresses, and they build a realistic bond that I could buy as legitimate. This was only amplified by Adol not being silent for this novel’s duration, which initially shocked me.
It does make sense, because aside from this being an entirely different medium than a game, where a silent protagonist can work, the games are all technically told from the perspective of Adol via his travel logs, which is why he is mute, save for a few pivotal and emotional scenes. It is a rather clever and meta-textual way of explaining why Adol is a silent protagonist besides immersion.
That tradition does not confine the novel, and as sacrilegious as it is to say this, as an Ys fan, I found myself far more engaged and compelled by Adol being a talkable protagonist. Reacting on his own accord and having his own remarks and thoughts directly stated by mouth provided a curious sense of deja vu.
I have played as Adol Christin for almost 10 journeys at this point, so seeing this protagonist that I have grown gradually and naturally attached to across these numerous adventures acting of his own volition and saying what he wants to say was almost cathartic. He was familiar yet different. A breath of fresh air in the world where I have found myself feeling transfixed by everything but Adol Christin.
It isn’t that I found myself particularly disliking Adol by any means, but he was never an element of the series I gave much thought to. He was his own character, with his own growth, but his silent depiction made me view him as more of an embodiment of self-inserting into the world of Ys rather than his own person.
That initial feeling of mine is not bizarre either, though, as part of the purpose for Adol being silent is to immerse the players and make them feel like they are the adventurer to an extent. And keeping in mind that these games are all canonically travel-logs written in the first person, and being read from the future, makes that aspect of immersion even more strongly apparent.
Adol comes across as mishmash of being his own character while also being you. While many titles share this element of Ys, as in having a silent protagonist with their own history and backstory, none of them go as far as Ys has. After over 9 games of being Adol Christin, he comes off as both an old friend I rarely get to see if circumstances allow it and as an avatar of myself, almost akin to a character in an MMO that I revisit from time to time.
That brings me to ‘The Lost Sword,’ which depicts Adol in a brand new light that I am not at all familiar with. Adol acts in a way even new fans of the series would expect. He is compassionate and kind, yet never egotistical. His mastery with the sword never goes to his head. This is to be expected, given how Adol is now in his 20s here and has saved several regions, and by extension the world, several times already.
Adol is not a unique protagonist regarding character traits or behavior. In fact, he is rather by the books when viewed in that lens. In this story, Adol is unique due to the novelty of simply seeing him be like a normal protagonist. It truly is a book for Ys fans alone because if anyone unfamiliar with the series were to read this narrative, they would likely see Adol in the same light as any other generic protagonist. Experience with Adol is needed to get the most out of this book, even if just for 1 game since it smartly uses the series’ origin point as video games as a crutch to make the story come off as more novel than it truly is.
I have talked to varying directions and dead-ends here, but the point I ultimately came to is that I now look at Adol as more of his own person than ever before after reading ‘The Lost Sword.’ While Ys IX proper does establish a stronger sense of identity for Adol than any other game has, this book gives him a sense of agency that was never truly present prior. And while some may not prefer Adol written this way or simply may not care, I am now more invested in Adol as a character than I have ever been.
For being a mere 78-page story, ‘The Lost Sword’ packs quite a punch, and I sincerely hope that NIS America is able to make this novel readily available digitally so everyone can read it. Locking this story’s only official conduit behind a collector’s edition is far from ideal, so I am hoping for a method for availability akin to how XSEED handled the drama CDs for The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel and The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II. It is doubtful, and I don’t really see it occurring, but stranger things have happened.
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