Ys: The Oath in Felghana

PlayStation Portable

Reviewed: 11/1/2010

It’s been a long time since Ys III: Wanderers from Ys washed up on North American shores during the 16-bit era; not including the recent Virtual Console release. Ys III was a bit of an oddity for Ys games — it lacked the central theme of angelic beings and their crazy brand of crap they bring to the world of Ys. Also, Adol doesn’t wash up on shore.

That alone is a little mind-blowing.

Ys: The Oath in Felghana is a remake of Ys III. The game was originally made for the PC, which shines through in Oath in Felghana’s art direction. Outside of graphics, this version of Oath in Felghana is so good, you would think the PSP was its first home.

Combat is fast-paced and smooth. The combat engine is based on Ys: The Ark of Napishtim, and allows Adol to jump and swing his sword in any direction. Adol also has
a combo at his disposal. One of the special features of this combo is that it never got in the way of gameplay. Action RPGs often have a combo that has to be completed even if
the player misses the enemy, causing the enemy to get several free hits since the player cannot dodge. What Oath in Felghana does to keep bad combo-ing from happening needs to be applied to other games. The amount of control the player has over Adol is generous, and if the player is uncomfortable with the level of control, there are several options to play with in the Options menu. All the buttons can be reconfigured to the player’s liking and the game will remember this across all modes and playthroughs. The
player can limit Adol to the eight cardinal directions if the freedom of movement is too much. How abilities are activated, such as magic and dash, are also configurable. A lot
of thought was put into these systems, and it shows.

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Connecting with a combo not only damages the enemy, but also nets an experience chain. Landing multiple hits together and slaying multiple foes within a short amount of time causes the experience chain to rise. When not smacking enemies, a bar representing the chain decreases over time. The game rewards the player for being speedy. Enemies drop Defense, Attack, and MP Regen bonuses of a similar fashion as well. All of these systems make regular gameplay much sweeter, and add a little variation and strategy. An enemy may not be able to do any great damage when the bonuses are active, but should the bonuses run out the situation may turn critical.

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A boost meter charges as Adol roams the land and slays monsters. Initiating a boost enhances Adol’s speed, power and combos. Later, the boost allows Adol to heal as long
as it is active. This becomes an important part of Oath in Felghana, as save points and only one other item are the only two ways to regain health. There are no potions to buy
or healing spells to be cast. Adol does have access to magic, but the three bracelets are attack-based in nature.

It should be mentioned that Oath in Felghana is hard, even on the normal setting. The combat bonuses and boost meter will be used consistently throughout the normal settings and above. The game has five settings to choose from with a sixth setting unlocked after the game is beaten once. The two easy settings are laughably so, but normal generated more than its fair share of game over screens. The harder difficulties not only fudge with Adol’s and the enemy’s stats, but bosses use different attacks and patterns, again creating a different experience for the player during a new playthrough. All of this adds up to one of the best combat systems in an action RPG.

Boss fights are fantastic in Oath in Felghana, and are part of what makes the game special. The bosses are huge, lively and change up their patterns depending on difficulty
and damage dealt by the player. The final boss fight is suitably epic. The bosses are appropriately the hardest parts of Oath, as even the weakest bosses brought forth a few game over screens. There is a sense of accomplishment when beating a boss few other games possess.

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The music is excellent. The boss music eagerly propels the player into the fray, and thetracks for running through the dungeons are superb. The tracks tend to blend together a
little bit. The sound effects are great, with heavy character footfalls and the clanging of swords ringing true.

Nothing about the plot of Oath is a masterstroke of genius. Plot often takes a backseat in Ys games, and Oath in Felghana is no exception. Some time after the events of Ys I & II, Adol and Dogi arrive in Felghana, Dogi’s homeland, to see what adventures are in store for the duo. Immediately upon setting foot in the land, monsters attack and Adol leaps into action to defend a young girl by the name of Elena. To little surprise, Elena and Dogi are childhood friends and the three head back to Dogi’s hometown of Redmont to rest for the night. Come morning, Dogi leaves to visit old acquaintances, and Adol stumbles into saving the village from a locally infested mine. The plot takes off from this point, as Adol ventures through Felghana to save the land from its local lord and his knight, Chester – who is Elena’s brother and a very close childhood friend of Dogi. The rest of the game is nice dungeons and awesome boss fights. Dogi’s ties to Felghana do a good job of keeping him away from the action. Oath in Felghana is Adol’s story, after all.

In one odd departure from other Ys games, the plot is narrated by an individual recounting Adol’s adventures. While Adol has no spoken lines, the narrator conveys
Adol’s feelings. Once again, there is enough open interpretation to allow players to see a little of themselves in Adol, if they wish.

Oath in Felghana also has a very good voice cast. Dogi’s voice actor has caught the nature of Dogi fairly spot on. Chester’s voice actor starts out a little stiff but turns out to have a surprising range. Elena’s VA is astounding in the early parts of the game, and plays the girl-next-door role very well. Chester overtakes her performance at the end, as it turns out Elena’s voice actor has a hard time sounding sad when the character portrait onscreen is in tears. Chester’s VA had no such limitations. The rest of the cast performs a little above average with no standouts, save one particularly annoying innkeeper.

Xseed has a done a wonderful job with the translation, as well. The game is legible, few spelling errors exist, and the story makes sense. Dogi’s lines are well done, in particular.

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Oath in Felghana is designed with speed in mind. The game loads fast, plays fast, and, unfortunately, is quickly beaten. Even cutscenes and dialogue are moved along at a
pace to get the player back into the gameplay. If it takes more than 15 hours get through Oath in Felghana, the player is intentionally lollygagging. There is replay value here, so perhaps Oath in Felghana is the right length.

There are about six locations in the game, and each location has a few dungeons contained within. The layout of the dungeons ranges from understandably linear to dastardly treacherous. Since Adol can jump, platforming often takes on a central role. The platforming elements are very well done, as the game’s three-quarters view belies some decent jumps and necessary timing. There are no instant-death falls in the game, but missing a fall may cause a tremendous amount of backtracking. The spell bracelets also interact with the environments in a few ways, such as spinning across a gap, lighting a torch, or bashing through a wall.

Oath in Felghana is pleasant to look at. The in-game characters are done in the super-deformed style, with large heads and hands on smaller bodies. Everything is animated smoothly, with cut-ins and character portraits of high-quality. It is these parts which show the game’s origin as a PC title; the color palette is a little subdued.

The replay value of Oath in Felghana is superb. Beating the game will unlock Boss Rush Mode, in which Adol can fight against individual bosses or all of the bosses in a row. Boss Rush Mode functions like an Arcade mode where the point is to beat the boss in as little time as possible. The game records best times. Beating a string of bosses completes that mode and unlocks further extras, such as unlockable bosses and extra artwork. In order to unlock harder Boss Rush Modes, the corresponding game difficulty must be beaten.

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Additionally, beating the game allows a player to restart the game at any difficulty level with bonuses. These bonuses are allotted by spending points. The points are earned by beating the game multiple times across the difficulty levels. The bonuses include expanding the level cap of weapons and armor, keeping gold and raval ore, and even starting the game with abilities that are gained later.

The last bonus is an artwork gallery that can only be filled by beating each level of difficulty in the game and the Boss Rush Modes. While this is a little odd, the game’s short length and the initial bonus of carrying levels and status over can help expedite the journey for those looking for total completion.

Ys: The Oath in Felghana is an excellent game. There is almost no filler in the game, and the game works so well on the PSP it might as well have been created for it. There’s plenty to do in the game and even more to do after beating it. Oath in Felghana‘s biggest downside is that the higher difficulty levels are only for those with the best gaming chops and may discourage many players. Outside of this, there is no reason why Ys: The Oath in Felghana should be passed over. This game is the tightest – and more importantly the most fun – game I’ve played all year.

-Russ Ritchey

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Excellent
Story Good
Graphics Very Good
Sound/Music Excellent
Replay Value Great
The Verdict: Excellent