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Review: Ys: The Oath in Felghana

9:39 AM on 11.01.2010 // Dale North
  @DaleNorth

Did you ever play Ys III: Wanderers from Ys back in the day? It was a title from the 16-bit era that may have found itself in your Genesis or Super Nintendo cartridge slot. If you're not familiar, know that this game really got around. It was originally released in Japan in the late 1980s, came back as a 16-bit title on various platforms internationally, and then was cleaned up for a PS2 and even a PC version later.

Those that did play one of the earlier versions may not have thought much about the title. Understandable, I'd say. Ys fans would tell those people to give the Windows PC remake Ys: The Oath in Felghana a spin instead, as it saw upgrades in both the combat and visuals departments, and was supported by a shiny new gameplay engine. Still, even with all the work they did on this remake, some felt that it didn't get enough attention.

The porting continued anyway: a PSP version of this PC remake was released in Japan earlier this year, and has been brought to the west by XSEED. If you look at how many times this game has been retreated and re-released since the late 1980s, you'd have to guess that there's something to it.

Did you ever play Ys III: Wanderers from Ys back in the day? It was a title from the 16-bit era that may have found itself in your Genesis or Super Nintendo cartridge slot. If you're not familiar, know that this game really got around. It was originally released in Japan in the late 1980s, came back as a 16-bit title on various platforms internationally, and then was cleaned up for a PS2 and even a PC version later.

Those that did play one of the earlier versions may not have thought much about the title. Understandable, I'd say. Ys fans would tell those people to give the Windows PC remake Ys: The Oath in Felghana a spin instead, as it saw upgrades in both the combat and visuals departments, and was supported by a shiny new gameplay engine. Still, even with all the work they did on this remake, some felt that it didn't get enough attention.

The porting continued anyway: a PSP version of this PC remake was released in Japan earlier this year, and has been brought to the west by XSEED. If you look at how many times this game has been retreated and re-released since the late 1980s, you'd have to guess that there's something to it.

{{page_break}}

Ys: The Oath in Felghana (PSP)
Developer: Falcom
Publisher: XSEED
To be released: November 2, 2010
MSRP: $29.99

Adol and his long-time buddy Dogi are out for adventure again, but Dogi decides to swing by his home town for a bit first. Unfortunately, he comes home to find out that home isn't how he left it. The area is in disarray, and there are signs of monster attacks and damage. Within minutes of coming ashore Dogi finds that a childhood friend is in trouble. Of course, hearing this, Adol immediately switches into hero mode and heads out to save the girl and the world. The rest goes like a Ys game should: there's a girl to be saved, monsters to slash, dungeons to crawl, and a plot revolving around an evil power to unravel.

The combat in Ys: The Oath in Felghana is a satisfying mix of button-mashy, combo slashy action and platfoming, with a bit of puzzle elements and a few epic boss battles sprinkled on top. Again, satisfying is the best word for how this game plays. There's nothing new or complex about mashing to combo swordplay, and when you later find bracelets that add elemental magic to your arsenal, that will also feel familiar. Only being able to jump and slash puts kind of puts you in the mindset of Ys hero Adol, as he's the type to jump in and do exactly what's needed, with none of the fancy, unnecessary fluff. Ys: Oath isn't out to break the mold -- it's more about showing you a good time.

This simple combat is accented by various meters that track what you're doing. Once I noticed them and their counts, I had a good time trying to increase them or keep them up. Keep on successfully hacking away and you'll watch a hit counter go up and up. Attacks also add to another meter that adds an incremental amount to an experience point multiplier. Enemies will also randomly drop items that add to other meters, increasing your magic, defense and speed among others. It feels pretty good to be in a position where all of these meters are at full throttle. I loved building up to be able to mow throw whatever dared to come my way.

This game will take you on an adventure through many different locales across Felghana, and they're all quite lovely, but you'll start to see a pattern beyond them early on. In standard action RPG format, you'll work through a story bit, end up in a dungeon, and then come across a boss or two to take on. Some of these situations throw in a subboss before its all said and done, but there's no surprises here other than how the story unfolds. Thankfully, this doesn't hurt the gameplay experience. Instead, Ys: The Oath in Felghana seems to play off the familiarity you'll feel. You'll find that you will wholeheartedly welcome the next dungeon. This game makes no attempts at trying to be different, and solely focuses on being good at what it does. 

One of the things that this game does very well is boss battles. If you're like me, you'll find yourself pushing forward to end up at these battles as they seem like the reward for a successful dungeon crawl. Know that they're unforgiving -- you'll go into each with one life bar and no healing items. While each of the battles requires a totally different strategy, what they have in common is that you'll likely die on the first try, and maybe even the second. They all require a strategy that isn't quite obvious on the first time out. While a few of these battles became a bit discouraging after dying too many times, none of them were impossible. And if they do seem impossible, the game does give you the option of lowering the difficulty level after dying a few times. In the end, all of the boss battles were quite rewarding.

For a game that doesn't pull any punches in the story department, you might be surprised to hear how fantastic the presentation is. Oath positively shines on the PSP's screen with its detailed visuals and sparkly spell effects. Towns and nature scenes are sometimes beautiful; even the darkest dungeon is colorful and vibrant. Your character, Adol, is small on screen, but this game sets him in vast, wide open locales that really give you the sense that you're exploring the world. The locale visuals are so scenic at just about every moment that you could easily take a screenshot anywhere and have it be a good representation of this game's visuals at their best. You could tell that the creators put a lot of love into the look of this game.

The game's audio and soundtrack should also be mentioned, as they also exceed expectations. We're talking live recordings, remakes of powerful game music classics, each perfectly underscoring the varied locales of the game. And while the arrangements are flawless, a lot of credit should go to the original compositions, which are equally solid. I was delighted to see that the classic Ys III PC 88 versions of the audio could be switched on instead, as could the X68K versions. There's also really great voice work in this game, including some spiffy story narration. Note that this is a rare case of a port being an actual upgrade. All of the major characters are fully voiced, and just about all of it is nicely done. Only a rare few NPCs have iffy voicings -- not enough to hurt the otherwise high quality of recordings or the overall presentation.

I don't want focus on how this game is a remake of an older title. Ys fans already know that this is a rare beast -- a best-possible version and a stunning turnaround for Ys III. For the rest of you, it won't matter where this game from, or that it's actualy a port of a remake. All that matters is that it's an absolute blast, and feels like it was custom crafted for play on the PSP. As far as action RPGs go, this is among the best that you'll find.

9 -- Superb (9s are a hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage to what is a supreme title.)



Dale North, Former Dtoid EIC
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I am Destructoid's Editor-In-Chief. I love corgis. I make music. more   |   staff directory

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