Ys Oath Header

Ys: The Oath in Felghana PC Review

Right now is a landmark moment in video game history as I tell you about the PC release of Ys: The Oath in Felghana. The game was originally released on PC in Japan and then went on to receive a port to the PSP in 2010. Thanks to Xseed Games, this port was brought over from Japan to English speaking countries. The Oath in Felghana is a remake of Ys III: Wonderers from Ys, an old action role-playing game from 1989 that was on the PC-88. But the biggest thing about the PC version finally arriving on Steam is that Xseed Games can now release all the Falcom games that never made it out of Japan. This is huge for me and for anyone else who is into Japanese games as it opens the door for a wave of more RPGs and other niche genres. It’s time to celebrate then. Yahoo!

The Oath in Felghana follows the tale of Adol Christin – the red headed hero of the Ys series – as he and his friend Dogi arrive at Dogi’s hometown of Felghana. On arrival, they find out that this little village is under pressure from monsters that are rummaging throughout the kingdom. Adol offers his friendly services to stop the trouble that threatens the village and its citizens and soon finds himself facing the leader of the kingdom. The story is simple, but does feature some stimulating parts and twists. Story is not the selling point of the Ys franchise and Falcom have made sure that the story isn’t always in your face, leaving you plenty of downtime for the main focus of the game – fighting and dungeon exploring. Even though this is the third game in the Ys series (and the first one I played on the PSP), you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything important if you’ve never played any of the others.

Combat in The Oath of Felghana is extremely fast paced and easy to pick up. The camera of the game is somewhat like the old Zelda games, but at a lower angled overhead view. In the beginning, Adol can attack with a sword with the tap of a button and jump. Swordplay is only done with that single button, so you don’t have to worry about combining buttons to do combos; you can simply just mash out attack and rain sword slashes of death in the enemy’s face, again like the old Zelda games. Things start to get a little deeper the further you go, as Adol finds bracelets filled with the magic of one of three elements: earth, fire or wind. Certain enemies will only be weak to a specific elemental and make you play differently so you aren’t always mashing attack. Insteads you need to switch from hectic sword swipes to blasting them with fireballs. It keeps the fighting from becoming a complete mash-a-thon with no sense of skill.

I recommend using a pad when playing this game. The standard setting sets the movement to the arrow keys and actions to Z, X, C and V. After about spending 20 minutes dodging and stabbing enemies, I began to feel pain in my hands. This isn’t the best layout for your left hand because you’re continuously pressing buttons with it. A Xbox 360 controller relieves all this pain and feels more natural, especially when the game allows you to customize your own button layout.

There isn’t any item management in the game since drops from enemies are automatically used upon touching them. Potions will give health or magic back, though it does come back by itself slowly overtime. Other items that fall from enemies are objects that add bonuses to Adol’s stats, like multipliers in experience gain, defence or strength. These can be increased constantly by killing more enemies and picking up the drops before the timer on the buff runs out. When out of time, Adol’s stats return to normal and you’ll have to do it all again. Since there’s no item usage, you cannot heal yourself in battle. The only way you can gain life back when you are out in the world is to touch a save point or gain enough experience that you level up. Money that drops is used to buy new swords and armour, or upgrade them when combined with a material that is easily found during the adventure.

You’ve got to be careful with your health, especially with the incredibly challenging bosses that you’ll meet along the way. If you are a person who can’t be tolerant and analyse a boss’s move set, you’re going to have some trouble here. This is pure old-school gaming at its finest. Arrive, watch, dodge and then find an opening to attack. All the bosses in the game have to be done like this for you to have any chance of beating them.  There is the option of starting on Very Easy or Easy if you find fighting these tough bosses on normal too much for you. A word of warning – unlike the PSP version of this game, you cannot switch difficulty once you’ve started a game, so if you’ve got the balls to go on higher difficulties, good luck to you.

Dungeons aren’t fully exposed to you on your first visit to them. In Metroidvania style, you’ll come back when the story deems it is time to with a new arsenal of moves, such as double jump or glide jump, that open up previous locations that couldn’t be accessed before. Every dungeon is filled with jumps, but because the game is in 3D and the viewpoint can’t be changed it can hinder your awareness in 3D space.  Since you only have Adol’s shadow on the ground to help you, I often missed jumps and fell, frequently resulting in loss of health in the later areas. A map is something that I feel is missing from the game. In the lava area, I found myself getting lost in its confusing maze layout as I went backward  and forwards looking for someone. There’s a map on the world to show you a general idea where these dungeons are, but none for when you are inside, which seems a little strange.

As this port on Steam is that of the Japanese PC version, there isn’t any of the PSP enhancement’s that the game received, no new game+, no voice acting and no seventh difficulty – that was only in to support the new game plus mode anyway. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play this game if you haven’t played the PSP version though. It’s a steal at a price of £9.99 and it comes with six difficulties, Steam cloud support, achievements, and Time Attack and Boss Rush modes.

Since I’ve seen this game on the PSP, I had a good idea what to expect from it’s visuals. Environments are modelled in 3D and because of the PC’s higher resolutions, it can produce this game’s locations crystal clear with textures looking sharper and much cleaner on a monitor than on the tiny PSP screen. Character models are sprites and can look like they have been rubbed with oil pastels when seen closer up. Portraits of the characters that come up when they are speaking are slightly pixelated. Even though The Oath in Felghana is old, its 3D assets still manage to come off looking pleasant on the PC.

Ys: The Oath in Felghana is a game that derives from the old fashion days of action RPGs. It’s straight to the point, no filler, and all action. The game offers a tremendous sense of triumph and reward, feelings that only come through games like these. At first, it might seem the bosses are just cheap gits, but step back, learn, and you’ll eventually defeat them and become so overjoyed that you won’t be able to stop cheering “YES!” and fist pumping the air.  The Oath in Felghana isn’t particularly long, but, even with some of the hiccups that soil the game, it’s not enough to stop the fun ride at a great price. I cannot wait to see what Xseed brings next to Steam. I’m all aboard and you should be too.

8 out of 10