Those of you who have been following the Ys series for years now know the story. You play as the silent Adol Christin with fiery-red hair who manages to save the world one way or another. He's like a magnet for adventure and for the ladies, but he always keeps his calm and emerges a hero no matter where he goes. Ys: The Oath in Felghana is the latest remake for the PlayStation Portable that has been localized by Xseed Games. It's a remake of Ys III: Wanderers from the series, with several changes made to the world and gameplay for a more up-to-date (and almost completely different) experience. We were able to play with a preview build of The Oath in Felghana and found that its fast-paced gameplay reminded us of the recent Ys games, but it has some of its own unique features that make it stand out as well.
The introduction to the game is narrated by an older, anonymous fellow who recounts some of the adventures of the famous Adol Christin. This particular story takes place three years after Adol set off from his homeland at the young age of 16 and has been documented in the Felghana archives. We are put into the shoes of the red-haired adventurer, who is (as always) accompanied by his faithful friend Dogi. The duo makes its way to Felghana where Dogi grew up, so the game begins with a reunion of sorts for Dogi and his childhood friends. However, trouble is brewing and Adol always seems to be in the right place at the right time to lend a helping hand.
When you land on the shores of Felghana, you're given a quick intro to the gameplay mechanics by saving one of Dogi's childhood friends, Elena, from monsters. It's unusual that there are so many wild creatures attacking this close to the town of Redmont, but that's only part of the problem. The larger issue brewing involves a nobleman that runs the nation of Felghana. Before you know it, you've been recruited to help the local townspeople, and so, your adventure begins.
While combat may boil down to a button-mashing fest, there are five difficulties to choose from at the start if you want a serious challenge. At least in the beginning, the creatures that you come across aren't so bad, but the Ys games are known for their epic boss battles. Thus, there will be times when you may wish you picked a lower setting, and it's nice that you can do so. After dying a couple of times to a boss, you have the option to lower the difficulty if you choose (or just keep at it.) There are no healing items and your health doesn't recover with time (only mana does), so these fights can get pretty intense. You'll level as you fight enemies and can improve your weapons by collecting a type of ore, which can be handed over to the village blacksmith who will then enhance your items for you. Early on, you receive a magical bracelet that lets you shoot fireballs with the square button, which takes care of the creatures that are resistant to your sword attacks. You also have a boost gauge that fills over time as you fight, which can be activated to increase the damage you deal temporarily, as well as halve the amount the damage you receive.
The new 3D environment looks great, and with the ability to jump with the circle button, you can hop onto ledges and jump off of cliffs to move quickly around the various dungeon levels. There's voice acting as well, for everyone but Adol of course, but you also have your standard anime-style character portraits that pop up during conversation. The music also stands out, which ranges from lovely moving piano melodies to upbeat rock battle themes.
For adventurers who like their gaming on the go, look for Ys: The Oath in Felghana on the PSP on November 2.