Ys: The Oath in Felghana (PC)

Everybody should try the Ys series, and The Oath in Felghana is the best place to start.

If I were to sum up the Ys series in a single word, it would be “speed.” Ys has mirrored the Zelda series by taking a few core gameplay concepts and experimenting with different genres over the years. In the case of Ys, the core gameplay includes high-speed combat where you tear through crowds of basic enemies, light grinding for XP and better equipment, and ball-stomping boss battles set to squealing heavy metal guitar riffs.

Ys III: Wanderers from Ys, like Zelda II, was an abortive attempt to realize the Ys formula as a sidescrolling platformer. It’s considered the worst of the series in terms of gameplay, but the best of the series in terms of soundtrack. 15 years later, Falcom took the story and soundtrack of Ys III, mixed it with the 3D isometric engine of Ys VI, and the result is one of the best action games I’ve played since Devil May Cry 3.

Here’s Anime Zack and Slater visiting a fortune teller.

“I can see my future in that crystal ball, Slater!”

“I can see my future in those golden globes, preppy.”

Ys: The Oath in Felghana is an isometric brawler featuring 8-directional 2D sprites on 3D backgrounds (though most of the bosses are full 3D). You control Adol the Red, a silent protagonist vagrant who accompanies his hetero life mate Dogi to his homeland of Felghana only to find that ancient prophecy shit is going down that can only be solved through liberal application of ultraviolence. It’s nice that this game is tied to the setting from a 1989 game, long before Final Fantasy 7 blew the lid off anime excess in video games. Adol shockingly wields a practical sword and shield combo with both weapons in proper proportion to his body size. You don’t need any knowledge of the story from Ys 1 or 2 to follow along, it’s completely self-contained.

The controls for combat are for the most part a three button affair. You have a basic sword swing, a jump, and a magic/dash button that utilizes three elementally-charged bracelets you pick up over the course of the game (projectile fire, whilwind air, and invincibility-dash earth). In practice the combat is FASTFASTFAST and such a thrill as you carve through crowds of baddies like an out-of-control Cuisinart. Adding further to the speed emphasis is the lack of healing items in the game. Instead enemies drop healing herbs and temporary buff potions when killed, encouraging you to keep moving and fighting at top speed to keep your buffs at full strength.

Here they are trashing a religious shrine at sunset.

“Look out, it’s Mr. Belding! Run! He’ll never follow us down the cliffside.”

I really enjoy the learning curve for this game. Although the controls are way simpler than DMC3, it has a comparable challenge level. Every time you master a group of basic monsters, the game introduces a couple new ones that throw another curveball and knock you on your ass. This learning curve continues at a steady pace the whole way through the game. The bosses are just as nightmarish as DMC3 and I love it. What’s more, the game has multiple difficulty levels that change boss behavior in addition to HP levels for plenty of replay value.

And the soundtrack that was so great in Ys III is a zillion times better in this game.

The downsides include the graphics looking as dated as 2D sprites on 3D background sounds. Also the game doesn’t recognize analog trigger inputs, another reason I prefer keyboard. Saving is only done from save statues. Finally, and this is an issue with the entire Ys series, if you aren’t taking the time to kill most monsters and keep your weapons upgraded, you can end up underleveled and doing only single-digit damage to bosses. Usually an extra level or two or a weapon upgrade will bring your damage back up to reasonable levels.

Here they are in Principal Belding’s office.

“Boys, I’ve got a broken leg, a concussion, and these Arab and Jewish community leaders breathing down my neck. But what I’m most concerned about right now is what you’ve been doing to earn those elemental bracelets.”

If you love Oath in Felghana just as much as me and want more, Ys Origin plays like a slightly improved expansion campaign to Oath. Though keep in mind the story is pure fanservice for the first two games, the music isn’t as good, cutscenes are twice as long because the protagonist is NOT silent, and Oath’s 1989 levels of restraint are thrown out the window for a squeaky-voiced little girl protagonist in a hoop skirt wielding a battleaxe half the size of her entire body.

“I know what rubies mean. You only have a few more years to be kids, you don’t need to rush into shooting massive fireballs.”

Comments? Join us on the forum.

Mischief Maker