Developer – Nihon Falcom Corporation
Publisher – XSEED Games
Platforms – PSP, PC
The Ys series is one that I’ve seen talked about here and there throughout the internet but never actually played until recently, and I’m really glad I decided to pick it up (with a recommendation from Awesomecurry). The Oath In Felghana is something like a remake of the third instalment of the Ys series and is a good place to start if you want to try it out. The game’s formula works perfectly for the PSP and succeeds at everything it tries to do; if it had aimed a little higher, it would have been a truly amazing experience.
The Ys games all focus on a young, flame-haired man by the name of Adol Christin. In this particular story we find Adol together with his oftentimes companion, Dogi, on their way to visit Dogi’s hometown. Surprise, surprise, it’s recently been infested with monsters and it’s up to Adol and his friend (well…mostly Adol) to figure out what’s up and save the town. With corrupt governance, age-old evil powers and a childhood friend turned bad, The Oath In Felghana (hereafter TOIF) delivers every adventure cliché you could think of in the best possible manner.
Despite having a relatively small portion of the game devoted to actual storytelling, Ys is incredibly well written. It actually feels like you’re reading a book complete with narrator, which makes sense because your experience of the story is meant to come from reading Adol’s diary. Unfortunately, while it may be well delivered, TOIF’s plot isn’t some epic tale that’s going to stick with you for the rest of your life. As mentioned earlier it’s riddled with the clichés you seen in every generic fantasy adventure story and doesn’t do a whole lot to differentiate itself. That said, I was never bored by what was going on and the characters were of a high enough quality that I didn’t feel like the unoriginal story detracted from my experience.
The game itself is split between small story segments and slightly larger dungeon runs with bosses scattered throughout them and some platforming elements. Though the combat is mostly a basic “tap X until the enemy breaks into tiny pieces” affair, its fast pace and small number of alternate attacks make it exciting and fun. There’s also a magic system that you’re forced to use on occasion, as well as limited platforming segments which add another pinch of spice to the mix. The entire experience is fine-tuned and streamlined so that everything you do, from conquering bosses to traveling around the map, flows together smoothly, making for a very enjoyable gameplay portion. Speaking of bosses, TOIF’s are some of the most interesting and fun to fight that I’ve ever seen. Each one has a new and novel set of mechanics that changes throughout the fight so that you’ll always be on your toes. To be honest, they were probably my favorite parts of the game.
Due the style of its graphics Ys’ visuals won’t turn any heads, though that doesn’t mean it isn’t pleasing to look at. As with many of its other aspects the game doesn’t try for much but achieves its goals perfectly. While the character models are small and the backgrounds are limited, they’re all well done for what they are and everything fits together well graphically. In addition to this a number of the main characters have their own sprites which show up when they’re speaking which serve to augment your conversations with them. As a final note, as well as featuring some really heart-pumping and exciting background music, TOIF has some of the best English voice acting I’ve encountered, with characters’ voices fitting both their look and the overall setting of the game.
Summary: Ys: The Oath In Felghana was exactly what I wanted in a PSP game. It was easy to get into, to just pick up and play whenever I felt like it, while still featuring a well written (if cliché) story and being a whole lot of fun. Neither the story nor the gameplay are deep enough to convert you into some Ys-series-loving fanatic but for what it is the game is perfectly executed. If you’re at all curious I highly recommend picking it up on either PSP or Steam.
Score: 8/10 – Good