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RELEASE DATE (NA): November 2, 2010 GENRE: Action-RPG
// review by SoyBomb

The blaze-haired hero strikes again!

Falcom's been working their legendary Ys series in Japan for quite some time, ever since they released Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished for various Japan-only computers way back in 1987. Since their inception into the video game market, the Ys games have obtained a strong following overseas. With relatively few localizations in previous decades, however, the series had not seen the same strong level of success in North America or Europe. Only a few games had made it overseas, thus limiting the game population's exposure to its unique style. Only in more recent times have North American publishers begun to see the light. Konami ported Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim to the PlayStation 2 and PSP in 2005; Atlus brought over Legacy of Ys: Books I & II for the DS in 2008; and, most recently, XSEED Games has translated and published 3 Ys games for PSP between August 2010 and February 2011, one of which is Ys: The Oath in Felghana (which, in turn, is a port from the PC version released in 2005). Did you catch all that?

But before I discuss Ys: The Oath of Felghana, let's step into my time machine for a brief moment, shall we? I'll set the dial for 1991... and here we go!



Well, here we are. Sorry about the rough landing. I'll get those pants replaced. It was in 1991 that four separate consoles received ports of the third Ys game, Ys III: Wanderers from Ys. What's even MORE shocking is that, of those four, not one but THREE of them were localized for North America! Owners of a Sega Genesis, SNES, or Turbo-Grafx 16 system were able to get a taste of that Ys nectar -- though in different ways, considering that the ports weren't exactly equal in graphics, sound, or difficulty (the SNES was arguably the worst offender, believe it or not).

Ys III was different from the rest, though. Unlike other entries, this was a purely side-scrolling affair, a far cry from the top-down perspective expected of all other games in the main Ys series. It became a basic platformer, where the hero, Adol Christin, has to swing his sword and defeat everything the world throws at him. Ys III follows Adol and his new traveling companion, Dogi, as they return to Dogi's hometown of Redmont, where it's discovered that his childhood friend, Chester, has been missing for quite some time. Turns out Chester's in pretty deep with Lord McGaya at Valestein Castle, ultimately planning a plot to raise the legendary god, Galbalan, and use his power to defeat the lord in a blaze of vengeance!

There was nothing particularly notable about Ys III, aside from being a side-scroller while maintaining RPG-like experience building AND having a pretty fly soundtrack. Ys III isn't a terrible game by any means, but it was quite a side-step from the foundation held by its predecessors.

Okay, enough dilly-dallying in 1991. We'd better leave; I think I see Vanilla Ice in the distance. Oh, damn, here he comes! Quick -- into the time machine! Let's get the hell out of here! Ngaaaah!



Whew! We arrived safely. Oh, what's that? I'll bet you're wondering why the heck I did that. Now that you have a bit of background on Ys III: Wanderers from Ys, we can talk about Ys: The Oath in Felghana, which is essentially a remake of Ys III. Well, somewhat. Developer Falcom has taken some liberties with this one, but it made for a much better release in the end. Perhaps the plotline has been affected the least; the game follows the same story as Ys III, but has fleshed it out to include extra details not included in the original, likely due to space constraints. However, many of the areas in the game have been refined to the point where Ys: Oath of Felghana is a MUCH longer game than Ys III because of it.

Adol has excellent listening skills... which is good, because he has no words of his own.

Falcom removed the side-scrolling aspect and has reverted back to the top-down perspective that overlooks most Ys games. With the freedom offered by most modern controlling devices (such as the analog stick on the PSP), Adol can now move freely in pretty much any direction he chooses and slash away. In Ys III, Adol could also equip rings with certain neat effects; such is the case here, too -- the rings give you special magic that can aid you on your quest! Just watch the magic meter: although it refills itself over time, it depletes VERY quickly.

Everything from the backgrounds to the characters are now rendered with polygonal models, giving the world a stronger and crisper visual style and also making bosses look ever the more frightening. Character portraits remain 2D, but The soundtrack has also been completely remixed to suit modern times, replacing the old synthesized tunes of the originals with orchestrated pieces with nice strings or rockin' guitars. Additionally, most characters now have voices, delivering a more personalized perspective on potentially otherwise flat personae. The voice acting is often hit and miss but generally enjoyable.

Certain aspects have been edited severely, but most notably is the ability to carry healing items. ...Okay, now things are just getting ridiculous. Why can't I carry HEALING ITEMS?! Maybe I'm a bit too hooked on the medical herbs, but I don't think it's too much to ask to haul along a few delicious elixirs, especially during boss fights. Luckily, you get your health refilled when you level up, and enemies frequently drop health items. And, while wearing special rings, you can slowly build up a charge meter that, upon release, will refill some health as well. It's best to NOT get hurt, though.

Having both Ys III: Wanderers from Ys and Ys: Oath of Felghana amongst my library of games, and having played them both, I can honestly say that most gamers today would get far more pleasure out of the latter. My only gripe is that, while dungeons aren't too difficult (except when Adol is walking on snow, in which case he might as well just put a "KILL ME" sign on his back and wear a monster-attracting meat suit), the boss battles can be absolutely brutal by comparison. If it's challenge you seek in a hack'n'slash package, look no further. I'd still say that this game is worthy of the "Ys" title, as it fits in well with the rest of the series. It's also a good release for the PSP, especially if you pick up the premium edition with the bonus soundtrack CD and hip 2011 desk calendar with nifty artwork!

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