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Posted on Aug 2nd 2016 at 12:00:00 AM by (Disposed Hero)
Posted under Ys, Oath in Felghana, Felghana, game review, PSP, Vita, PC, Steam, GOG

The Ys name, while notorious for its confusing pronunciation, carries a lot of weight in the JRPG world.  Ys has been around since the 8-bit era, and new iterations are still being made today.  Most games in the series are critically well-received, and the series as a whole has a large cult following.  Despite all of this, I had never played a Ys game until very recently. 

My first exposure to the series was the original Ys Books I & II.  There are many different versions of the original Ys, sporting many ports and remakes across almost every console, but I played the TurboCD version, which is often considered the definitive release of the game.  What I found was a unique "old-school" RPG adventure that I highly enjoyed despite being somewhat primitive and its sometimes awkward combat system.  Ever since completing Ys Books I & II, I have wanted to dive into the rest of the series but have been confused about where to start next.  Cue Ys: The Oath in Felghana.

Developed by Nihon Falcom and localized for North America and Europe by XSeed, Ys: The Oath in Felghana is a fully realized 3D remake of Ys III: Wanderers From Ys, which itself was a departure from the other games in the series.  Originally released in 2005 on PC in Japan, Oath in Felghana was later ported to the PSP in 2010 and eventually came to Steam in 2012.  New features were added to the PSP release that were not found in the original PC version such as voice acting and New Game Plus modes, but curiously these features were left out of the Steam re-release.

Ys: The Oath in Felghana takes place three years after the events of Ys I & II, where we find recurring Ys hero, Adol Christin and his friend Dogi traveling to Dogi's hometown of Redmont.  Upon arriving, they find that things are not well in Redmont, as dangerous monsters are now roaming the countryside, and a tyrannical king is terrorizing the townspeople.  You will encounter a few twists and turns throughout the course of the story, and will discover that a more sinister force is the source of the troubles plaguing the land of Felghana.  The story is mostly presented through short scenes with textboxes being narrated by the character that is speaking, complete with a hand-drawn portrait representing the character.  I didn't mind this approach to storytelling, but I did find the English dub to be pretty bad, so I would often read the text as quickly as I could and skip to the next bit of dialog rather than listen to the full narration.  Overall, the story is mostly standard fare for this type of game, however a couple of good twists help keep things interesting.

Dogi is your primary source of comedic relief.

The gameplay largely consists of hack 'n' slash combat and platforming.  Gone is the 'bump' combat mechanic seen in the earlier Ys games; Felghana instead requires you to press the X button to actually swing your sword instead of running headlong into enemies and hoping for the best.  Tapping the X button will cause Adol to slash in a furious combo, which will usually make short work of most enemies caught in your path.  Combat is fast, fluid, and always satisfying; rarely is swordplay as much fun as it is in Felghana.  There are also a couple of sword techniques Adol can perform while in the air, an upthrust and a downthrust, but I rarely made use of these, although they can definitely come in handy in certain situations. 

There is also a small assortment of magic spells in the game.  These include a fireball projectile, a whirlwind attack, and an Earth-based dash attack.  Each of these spells can be enhanced by finding the corresponding gems scattered throughout the game, which will unlock a stronger charged attack for each spell.  Liberal use of magic is encouraged due to the generously sized magic bar and the quick regeneration of magic power.  Magic spells also have other applications aside from combat.  The fireball spell is used to light torches and braziers that will open doorways, the whirlwind attack allows for the crossing of large gaps, and the dash attack can clear obstructions in your path.

The Oath in Felghana is classified as an action-RPG, although there is far more emphasis on the action than the RPG elements.  Like in most RPGs, Adol will level up as he defeats enemies and earns experience points, but that is the extent of character progression in this game.  Inventory is also extremely limited, with only a small handful of items to use and equipment to wield.  Weapons and armor can be upgraded by the town blacksmith, but these only provide slight bonuses to strength and defense.  These upgrades require a resource called Raval Ore which can be found hidden in dungeons and also earned by completing simple tasks for the townspeople.

This game is also surprisingly gory.

Enemies will often drop an assortment of different items and powerups when defeated.  These things can include money, health refills, and temporary stat bonuses.  The stat bonuses can be anything from a 0.1 to a 1 point increase in stats such as strength and defense, and will accumulate over a short period of time before eventually wearing off completely.  Racking up high combo scores will also grant bonus experience points, further encouraging quick and frequent dispatching of enemies.

Although I felt like the combat was a highlight overall, my biggest disappointment with the game was the boss fights.  After reading some other reviews of this game, I was surprised to see that many critics considered the boss fights to be a highlight, praising their overall design and challenge.  However, I found these fights to be rather frustrating, requiring rote memorization of enemy attack patterns across several unsuccessful attempts.  Even after familiarizing myself with a boss' attack patterns, I felt that in many cases I simply couldn't avoid being hit by their attacks due to the precise timing required, and ultimately victory always seemed to boil down to barely getting by through sheer luck.  Bosses also hit hard, with Adol only being able to withstand a few hits before dying, so there is little room for error.  This is in stark contrast to the rest of the game, which I generally found to be fairly easy and forgiving.  It also doesn't help that, in true Ys fashion, inventory use is restricted during boss fights, so using healing items isn't an option.  Generally, I found the boss fights to be a complete drag, as whatever fun I was having with the game would grind to a halt while I endured several frustrating attempts at victory.

The bosses sure do look cool, just be prepared to die a lot.

Felghana also features a significant amount of platforming.  Unlike in the original Ys games, Adol can now jump, and this newfound ability is crucial to progressing through the game.  Fortunately, along the way, Adol will gain the ability to double-jump, and the aforementioned whirlwind ability can also be helpful.  There are certain areas where failing to make a jump will result in quite a bit of tedious backtracking, but these sections are the exception and not the norm.  It is sometimes required to make precise use of the double-jump and whirlwind ability together to cross extremely large chasms, and this can be tricky and sometimes frustrating to execute with perfect timing.  However, the platforming works well overall and doesn't feel out of place or forced.

Graphically, Oath in Felghana is a nice looking game that, while not exactly a technical marvel, is still pretty easy on the eyes.  The use of bright and vibrant colors creates a great aesthetic that allows characters, monsters, and objects to really stand out from the backgrounds.  Environments are varied and detailed, and while dungeons may get a bit repetitive at times, they never become tiresome to look at.  Character sprites have a chibi look to them that work in conjunction with the 3D environments to give the game a decidedly PS1 vibe, while the hand-drawn anime character portraits used for dialog look great and effectively convey each character's emotions.

The use of vibrant colors keeps the game interesting to look at throughout.

As is typical with Ys games, the soundtrack for Oath in Felghana is top notch.  The majority of the soundtrack is comprised of upbeat and energetic tunes that fit the fast-paced hack 'n' slash combat extremely well.  There are also some slower paced tracks that play during appropriate moments throughout the game, and these are well arranged and fit in nicely.  Felghana's soundtrack is a faithful recreation of the original Ys III soundtrack, but I tend to prefer the original score to the one found in this game.  Although the soundtrack here is great, I couldn't help but feel that the wailing electric guitar lines were a little out of place for an adventure game set in a fantasy world, and that the instrumentation used in the original was a better fit.

Overall, I prefer the more classic style of the original Ys games, but Ys: The Oath in Felghana is still a great game that I would highly recommend especially to someone looking for a more modern take on the series.  Clocking in at roughly 10 hours for a single playthrough, it is a relatively short and sweet adventure that is perfect for those not looking for a huge time investment.  Ys: The Oath in Felghana can be found in physical format for the Sony PSP, and is also available digitally via the PlayStation Network (playable on PSP and Vita) and on digital distribution platforms for PC such as Steam and GOG.

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I've never tried a Ys game, but I must admit the upcoming Ys VIII looks quite good. Perhaps it is time to finally give this series a try.
@Link41:  I'm still pretty new to the series myself, but what I've played so far is great!  I think whether you should play the newer games or the classic games really depends on your tastes, but personally I say you can't go wrong with either.
I've played a few Ys games and this was one of them. I enjoyed it quite a bit.
Sounds like the boss fights suffer from a bit of what seems to be a trend of the first two games, pattern memorization and some battles that just come down to luck instead of skill.  At least this was my experience with the PSP titles, Books I & II.
@singlebanana:  I didn't play the PSP version of I & II, so that's interesting to hear.  With the Turbo version, I had similar problems on some of the boss fights, but as a whole, I enjoyed the boss fights from that game. 

I do want to mention that I don't dislike difficult boss fights in general, I just didn't like this game's approach to them.  Even in most of the notoriously difficult games I've played, even though I may lose a boss fight a few times, I still feel like I have a fighting chance and have time to familiarize myself with the boss' patterns and form strategies.  In this game, you just get decimated very early on, and each successive attempt just feels like a trial-and-error session where you inch your way a little further.  After several attempts, I felt like I had done my best to figure the fight out, and after that it just seemed to boil down to luck.

But like I said in the review, the boss fights were highly praised by most other reviewers, so maybe most people like this approach.  This is just my personal take on it.
1 is my fave game of all time. PSP/Steam versions are the best.
Good write-up!  I enjoyed my time with Ys Book 1, and what little of Book 2 I played, but the addition of ACTUAL COMBAT means that I will have to boot this one up and give it a whirl.  I picked up a copy a few months back for next to nothing, so I will definitely be interested to try it out.  That dragon boss looks really impressive, especially in context against the bosses in Ys Book 1, which were pretty standard fare, and aside from the "dying a lot" aspect, weren't all that distinctive otherwise.

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