Originally released the same year as the first Ys game, Sorcerian could easily have been an influence on what became Ys III, although it is a little more complex. You start off by creating a group of characters (either manually or automatically) and set them jobs which affect their income. You can then visit the local town to buy weapons and such, level up, or send one of your characters into training to improve their skills. It's worth noting here that in Sorcerian your characters age and eventually grow old and less effective before they die. Once you are all sorted, you select your group and begin the introductory scenario (which, like some scenarios, limits your group to 3 characters). Once you complete this scenario, the whole list of new quests opens up which you can choose to play and repeat in any order.
The gameplay itself is uncommon for an RPG. The maps are all side scrolling and you control the lead character in your party while others trail along behind you, in very much the same way as Blue Blink. As a party is usually made from a combination of classes, one button activates melee attacks and the other casts whatever magic spells you have active. The select button switches the leader so you have some control over the positions of your party members and pushing up on the joypad makes you jump. Enemies in Sorcerian attack in simplistic patterns and most of them continuously respawn, although sometimes you have to re-enter an area to trigger this. Thankfully, finding a safe spot to stand and rest will recover your group's health and power.
During the course of the scenarios, there are the usual role-playing conventions; you have to talk to a lot of people, find items to overcome situations, solve puzzles and ultimately defeat bosses.
Sorcerian is initially a hard nut to crack. The main menu is full of Japanese and it can take a while to learn exactly what you need to to just to begin the game. Once you overcome these hurdles you will find a game that is both good and bad, requiring some patience if you do not speak the language. Visually, Sorcerian can be a treat with some beautifully drawn backgrounds that create a specific mood, although this is let down by more primitive design here and there. Sprites are small and functional however, with limited animation. Audio is without doubt Sorcerian's strongest point, with a large selection of superbly arranged music that sounds and feels like an extension of the soundtrack from the Ys series.
One thing you have to remember is that Sorcerian is primarily a role-playing game and even though it pretends to be an ARPG, the action would be deemed extremely poor in any other title. Controls are awkward (jumping in particular is clumsy) and trying to aim a sword 3 pixels long at a fast moving enemy without sustaining some damage is pretty much a fruitless task. So in terms of action it fails. Where it does succeed is in the feel of story and exploration. It has a design to it that makes every scenario feel like a proper mini adventure, and this quality is probably its strongest point. Not being able to understand the stories does make things often a case of trial and error, and I feel that there is really a much better game locked in here if only I knew what was going on. This makes Sorcerian a really difficult game to rate. On one hand, you will enjoy the atmosphere and exploration, on the other you will most likely grow tired of the difficulties presented and shelf it, hoping for a translation patch someday. But at the very least, you will have a damn good audio CD to listen to.