After his adventures in Esteria and Celceta, Adol’s good friend Dogi convinces him to take a side-trip to Felghana, his homeland. What they thought would be a peaceful vacation turns into another adventure, as Adol’s trouble-magnetism strikes again.

Genre(s): Action RPG

Developer: Nihon Falcom

Publisher: XSeed Games

Release Date: March 2012

Played: Main Story (Hard)

Platforms: PC

Purchase At: Steam, GoG

Good:

  • Addictive fast combat.

  • Amazing music.

  • Highly challenging.

Bad:

  • By-the-numbers Plot.

  • Lacks emotional impact.

Review

I reviewed Ys: The Oath in Felghana last year, a short comment as part of an overall review of the Ys series, which as you may have noticed from how many times I mention it, I freaking love. But even then, I said I would do these games justice and re-review them separately, to carefully study their boons and flaws and find out just what it is that makes these games so special—to me at least.

Adol’s adventure this time around begins in a slightly different fashion than usual, as he lands on Felghana with Dogi’s instead of shipwrecking and washing ashore. As Dogi tells him stories of his childhood and about his homeland, Adol leaps into action when they hear a woman screaming. After recuing her from a pack of monsters, Dogi introduces Adol to his childhood friend Elena, yet another leading lady in Ys to fall helplessly in love with Adol the Red.

The townspeople fill Dogi in on what’s happened since he left and Adol promises to help, first rescuing the mayor and miners from the now monster-infested mines and then pursuing the strange artefacts found across the land, trying to keep them out of Count McGuire’s hands, or those of his enforcer Chester, Elena’s brother. To make matters worse, a bandage-covered sorcerer keeps appearing in front of Adol, intent on killing him.

Trouble always finds Adol.

The plot of Ys: The Oath in Felghana is typical by Ys standards. Monsters abound and there are ancient relics to recover before the villains do, to prevent the awakening of some unspeakable horror that gets released anyway. Of all Ys stories, this is the most “by the numbers,” there is and you’ll predict most things before they happen. But more importantly, it lacks the emotional impact of the first two installments of the series, because Adol is a complete outsider. The secondary characters all have relationships with Dogi and not our protagonist. Nihon Falcom dropped the pen on this one by not establishing firmer bonds between the people of this land and our hero, something to make us care about what’s going on.

Ys: The Oath in Felghana uses the same engine as Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim (if that doesn’t make sense to you, let me state that Felghana is a remake of Ys III, released in 1989), with a top down perspective, 2D sprite characters and 3D environments—a combination that always reminds me of Ragnarok Online. Character models are gorgeous and Nihon Falcom always manages to make them extremely expressive, their animations sometimes blurring the line between 2D and 3D. One of my favourite aspects of the game is something I have yet to see in another Ys release: Adol’s appearance changes with equipment. You need to have a full set of Sword, Shield and Armour for it to happen, but when you do, it’s awesome to see Adol’s appearance shift from his default sprite. Best of all is that with all cutscenes being in-engine, he keeps the appearance.

Gameplay is again similar to Napishtim, with a few exceptions. First, you don’t have to grind for resources anymore. If you read my Napishtim review, you’ll remember I mentioned that in that title, Adol’s power depends on his character level and the level of his Emelas Swords, with the latter sometimes being even more important. The problem was the swords take increasingly larger amounts of materials to upgrade, forcing you to constantly grind for them.

That is no longer the case in Felghana, something that makes me very happy. Here your power depends on your level and the weapons and armor you buy or find, as it is in most other entries in the series. You can of course upgrade your weapons and armour with Raval Ore up to three times, but it’s optional, just a bit of a helping hand in terms of damage and defence.

Combat is as always very fast-paced and you need to be on your feet and with your reflexes properly working to defeat the many enemies you’ll find around this world. What I like about it is that every enemy and situation is different. You need to learn what works with each type of enemy. For example, the sweeping Eagles in the ruins are susceptible to air strikes, but you need to make sure you avoid their area attacks. In that same zone, further on, there are swarms of beetles you just can’t fight head on, not unless you have the Wind Bracer and the right level, and if you don’t get out of the way after your attack ends, they can stun-lock you to death.

Bosses are still the best of the bunch, each not only extremely challenging and highly damaging, but also a puzzle to solve. They each have their weaknesses and openings, and it’s up to you to figure those out. The first boss is fairly simple, but can end you quite quickly if you’re not careful, especially if you rush and don’t pay close attention to its body language for queues.

Unlike Napishtim where you could equip restorative items, in The Oath in Felghana you’re on your own. Healing items you can use are just the ones consumed on pickup that sometimes drop from enemies, along with the potions that enhance defence, experience gain, etc. It adds another layer of challenge to an already difficult game, but it’s never unforgiving, and there’s always a way out. So it’s the good kind of challenge.

Music is always the strongest point of the Ys series and Ys: The Oath in Felghana delivers yet another powerful soundtrack. By the end of this game, you’ll have your favourite songs playing on repeat. Or you might just leave the game running just to listen to a particular piece. It does reuse some of the melodies, particularly the “evil moment” piece, using it as the anthem for all villains, main and secondary alike. Villains should have their own melodies, to make them unique, memorable and help evoke a feeling from your player.

Conclusion

Ys: The Oath in Felghana is a fun game, a really fun one, so much so that you can even overlook its storytelling flaws, those moments Nihon Falcom dropped the pen. The music will have you humming and nodding to the beats.

TMA SCORE:

4/5 – Exceptional

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