Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A headbang worthy RPG - Ys: The Oath in Felghana

Here's a game with a bit of a lengthy history. Ys: The Oath in Felghana - It's pronounced "eese" by the way, sounds like ease - is a remake of the older game Ys III: Wanderers from Ys, a platform/rpg that was released to several different systems in the late 80s/early 90s, readers might be familiar with the SNES and Genesis/megadrive ports. The remake was originally released on PC in Japan, then improved upon and ported to the PSP and released in North America. Some time after that, the original PC version was translated and released on Steam, which is the version I'll be looking at.

At it's core, The Oath in Felghana is a top down action rpg, though I should note the game leans much more towards action than RPG, there is equipment in the game and you do gain levels, but stats are somewhat simplified and there's not a lot in the way of skills or spells to unlock, you do gain new abilities throughout the game and certainly grow stronger, but the game isn't very big on customization.
The game has a nice looking intro
The game has a decently sized world to explore and Interestingly, despite the game not being a platformer like Ys III was, the game is still somewhat broken into stages, there's a small overworld connecting several distinct areas you'll have to travel through, and they're all fairly different, from mines to old ruins to castles. There's a little backtracking, usually for secrets, but for the most part things are pretty linear as you visit each area of the map in turn.

Each of the areas you visit has at least a couple bosses and the bosses are where the game really shines. bosses in this game are big, most have several phases they go through as they're damaged and are very hard to beat. Most of the game's difficulty comes from these bosses and while they're hard they're also fair, while they don't seem to follow a fixed pattern, it's possible to learn each of there attacks and they do a decent job of telegraphing things, there's no real cheap shots and losses are usually the fault of the player. Fortunately, if you do lose the game gives you the option to try the fight again so you can try as many times as you need to take them down.
Bosses are big, impressive, and very difficult to take down
Despite the game moving from a platformer to a more top down perspective, there's still some platforming in the game which is a bit of a mixed bag. To it's credit, the game handles the plantforming well enough, and the few sections that heavily rely on it switch to more of a side view to better handle it. The game isn't horrible with it, thought at least one late game dungeon involves a lot of vertical climbing that can prove slightly annoying. It never got horrible and everything works more or less, but the game isn't really built for platforming.

The game has a fairly basic story, though they do a good job of telling it, this is helped by the game's size, it's not a large game and doesn't try to be: I beat it in a little over 6 hours. While this means the game is short it also means the game doesn't waste time or try to stretch itself out with needless padding. You won't find any forced plot twists or derailing side quests because the game needed an excuse for another dungeon. The game does exactly what it needs to do to tell the story it wants to tell and nothing more and the story rolls along at nice quick pace as a result.
almost every character has a name and a portrait, many are introduced with large ones as seen here.
Graphically the game is pretty good. Each area of the game world looks distinct and everything is at least decent, thought somewhat primitive, likely due to being a several years old PC game. Most of the characters are sprite based thought they look to be based form CG models, and outside of some pick ups dropped by enemies, many of which are unusually small, everything is readily recognizable world geometry is a bit simple but there's still a few nice looking areas to be had, such as the bridge leading out of town.

The games strongest point just may be the music. Falcom is noted for have some amazing soundtracks to their game and this is no different. Despite the games fantasy setting, the soundtrack is more than happy to break out the electric guitars and rock the hell out, This is a surprisingly headbang worthy soundtrack as you'll find out almost immediately upon entering the games first major dungeon, and it only gets better from there. Annoyingly, there doesn't seem to be any readily available version of the soundtrack, at least not digitally. Thought the game's music files are kept in .ogg format, so you have that at least.
While primitive in areas, the game still has some nice views like this.
The game's has very few flaws that I'm aware of, I didn't encounter any real bugs, and most of the problems with the game are more opinion rather than anything really wrong: it's a very hard game, even very easy difficulty can prove a challenge at points, and it's short. on the other hand it's a proper challenge and it doesn't doesn't waste time, taking exactly as long as it needs to do what it wants to do and no more. Outside of my issues with the platforming sections mentioned earlier, there's nothing here bad enough for me to have any major problem with it.

Overall I'd recommend the game. However, there is one thing I need to make note of: The steam version of the game is based off an older PC version, and not the more recent PSP version, while I'm not familiar with the PSP version, I've read that it includes features like New Game + and voice acting that aren't available here. So while the steam version is good, you might want to consider the PSP version instead if that's an option to you.

Ys: The Oath in Felghana was developed by Nihon Falcom  and published by XSEED. It is available on Steam.

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