In 1989 the world was introduced to the third installment of the Ys series with Ys III: Wanderers from Ys. In 2005, Nihon Falcom Corporation took Ys III and did a complete overhaul on the game, remaking it and updating the features within. Move to 2010 and add even more to the game and you have Ys: The Oath in Felghana.
Series hero Adol Christin and his companion Dogi return to Dogi’s homeland to find trouble afoot, which leads into an upgraded retelling of the Ys III tale. From beginning to end the player is taken for the ride through this adventure with very streamlined action-RPG gameplay contained within.
Unlike other action-RPGs – such as Kingdom Hearts – Ys: The Oath is more streamlined with a heavier emphasis on the action and platforming aspects. Item management isn’t as strong in contrast with other games and feels more fluid as a result. Traditional RPG consumables aren’t even purchased but rather found and instantly used upon killing enemies. This, together with its simplicity, creates gameplay that is easy to pick up and that has a fast-paced intensity to it that other action RPGs seem to have only sporadically.
Adol only gains two kinds of attacks: Either mashing X to physically attack with his sword, or using magic from one of three elemental armlets he acquires over the course of the game. Not only does the auto-regenerating magic help in combat but they also function in the platforming and dungeon exploration: fire can hit switches, wind helps you cross large gaps, and earth can break through fragile walls a’la bombs in Legend of Zelda games.
The boss fights feel straight out of an action platformer and are relatively difficult. There are infinite retries, and after a certain number of deaths the game will ask you if you want to lower the difficulty but these battles are about learning boss patterns and adapting to them. On Normal or higher, you’re almost expected to die unless you have prior experience or knowledge.
Visually, the game looks great. It moves with fluidity, the backgrounds and dungeons are detailed nicely, and despite crunching a PC-sized game into a PSP screen, it still looks and moves well. In fact, the only visual thing that was slightly problematic to me at first were how tiny the enemy item drops were. But after getting used to the flow of combat and making item acquisition into a subconscious habit, it ceased to be a problem.
In concurrence with the visual, the audio is just as good if not better. The player has access to two different soundtracks from the Ys III releases and a remixed standard soundtrack made for the remake. The standard soundtrack alone was great and it went well with the action the game provided. The voice acting was also very well done with only a few characters being annoying to listen to. Luckily for those who don’t care for english VA, there are options to change or remove the VA.
Ys: The Oath in Felghana is excellent and a shining example of what a proper remake should be like. However, the difficulty can be a little off-putting to the average player and could serve as a deterrent. Beyond that it shines as both a great remake and a tough challenge with loads of replayability. With six total difficulties to choose from, alongside a time attack and new game plus features, there’s always more challenge to players who hunger for it.
Pros: Visually beautiful, great music, fast streamlined action gameplay with RPG features, tons of replay potential.
Cons: Some graphics seem a bit too small at times, the game’s bosses are rather challenging.