Ys Oath in Felghana Review

Ys: Oath in Felghana [Available only for PSP]
ESRB Rating: T
Players: 1
Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: XSEED
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Release Date: November 2nd, 2010

Parent Talk: Ys: Oath in Felghana is standard as far as JRPGs go.  You are Adol Christin, who slashes away at dozens of monsters in a 3D world.  There’s no blood or gore, and enemies simply disappear upon defeat.  There is occasional swearing, but it’s not explicit.  A straightforward plot makes the game accessible to the younger crowd, but the difficulty and appeal of the series cater to longtime fans [who are most likely in their teens, or older].

Ys: Oath in Felghana (“Ys” is pronounced “ease”) is an enhanced remake of Ys III: Wanderers from Ys, which originally appeared on the SNES in North America.  OiF actually surfaced in 2005 for the Japanese PC market, but the chances of that version releasing domestically is slim.  Instead, Falcom ported it to the PSP.  The recent surge of Ys games (Legacy of Ys, Ys 7, Ys Chronicles) indicates that the series is finally being promoted in the US more heavily.  It’s fair to assume that many core fans are familiar with Oath and would purchase it regardless, but it can be fun even for the casual RPG player.

The Great:
Fast.  Gamers tend to think RPGs are slow experiences filled with level-grinding and sidequests.  Ys isn’t one of those.  The gameplay formula of the SNES original has changed a lot, but the mdoel is still fun and engaging because of how quick and seamless it is.  OiF emulates Ark of Napishtim, where players control Adol in 3D environments and fight monsters in real time.  Little time is spent talking to townspeople, and the action quickly takes over.  There are story cutscenes, but they take a backseat to the fighting.

You don’t character build because Adol automatically improves after slaying enough enemies.  Instead of managing tons of healing items/potions, Nihon opted for enemies that drop health and power upgrades.  Levels have multiple pathways and areas to explore, but there are plenty of enemies to fight.  Most battles end quickly, but some are surprisingly difficult.

The Good:

+ Visuals.  Ys: Oath in Felghana resembles Ark of Napishtim, with 3D worlds and 2D character artwork.  The varied environments included underground volcanic areas and bustling towns.  The only downside is that OiF was released AFTER Ys 7, a better-looking and exclusive PSP title.  Still, the movie sequences are excellent and menus attractive.

+ Awesome soundtrack.  Ys always prioritizes music.  OiF is particularly cool because it offers multiple soundtrack options from past releases (similar to what Ys Chronicles offers).  It offers fans an extra dose of nostalgia.  The music and sound quality are superb, with excellent arrangements.  The Ys series isn’t known for great boss themes, but Oath bucks that trend with excellent material that’s download-worthy.  The dialogue is voiced in English, but it’s nothing special.  It doesn’t intrude and is modest at best; the worst offense is overacting.

+ Difficulty.  There are several difficulties, ranging from Very Easy to Inferno.  Even on Normal, Oath is challenging.  Core fans should welcome the challenge.  In most respects, the gameplay is balanced and fun even a difficulty increase.  Some criticized Ys 7 for being easy, so Oath in Felghana brings back some of the challenge.  The upside for non-fans is that the difficulty is scalable, so if a boss proves too tough, the game allows you to calm the struggle and retry.  OiF demands fast reflexes and timing, rather than a powered-up party.  The difficulties also supplement the game’s value; it’s fun to see what you can handle.  The controls are tight and easy to remember, so it’s really your fault for any mishaps.

+ Expanded content/story.  Ys III: Wanderers from Ys on the SNES was a side-scrolling RPG with a limited narrative.  This remake presents additional plot development, dialogue, and cutscenes, in addition to refined gameplay.  Transitioning a fundamentally 2D game to 3D is no easy task, but the end result is satisfying.

+ Additional modes.  Hidden characters and modes, like Time Attack, New Game Plus, etc, are available to expand the package.  There are also optional bosses and artwork/illustrations to unlock.  It’s a shame that the original Wanderers from Ys isn’t unlockable, but there’s plenty of cool content anyway.

The Bad:

– Restricted save spots.  This is more circumstantial.  You can’t save everywhere; you have to track down a save spot and make the journey, which might be a chore for some.  Core fans would most likely not mind and welcome the old-school design.

– Short.  OiF is very fast,, and by that virtue, shorter than most RPGs.  It could easily be argued that hours of actual play is more valuable than a story inflated by hours of dialogue sessions, but still, OiF can be completed quickly like the originals.  You won’t be satisfied expecting a huge quest, but would otherwise have a lot of fun methinks.

– Simple.  The dialogue and story are short and to the point, so there isn’t room for drama or character development.  The protagonist is mute, like many other classic RPGs.  Some don’t enjoy such presentations, but again, this approach makes the game more accessible to people who don’t care for lengthy, drawn-out or pretentious stories.  Regardless,, the plot is generic and forgettable.

– What do I do?  Despite the added story scenes, some dungeons are hard to navigate.  Even the original was cryptic, despite being a side-scroller.  There’s no radar or mini-map to help.

The Lowdown:

Oath in Felghana is a great action RPG, with emphasis on play over story.  It’s more refined than the button-less combat from the first two Ys games, but the mechanics are still much simpler than much of the competition.  If a slow RPG bores you, then the Ys series is a wonderful option.

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