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Karifean's Blog of Visual Novels

A Modern Guide to Ys - Ys: The Oath in Felghana (Ys III)

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The third Ys game was known in the SNES era as "Wanderers of Ys", and was the game to introduce a lot of the western world to the series. Its reputation overall has been mixed, being a sort of "Zelda II: The Adventure of Link" of the Ys series, ditching the overhead view for a sidescrolling adventure and as already implied not really being about the land of Ys at all anymore, which made some fans sour towards it while others just loved it for what it was. But all that is in the past for now, as in 2005 the game was remade in Ys VI's engine to make "Ys: The Oath in Felghana", which we'll be talking about today. And oh boy do we have a lot to talk about.

Felghana uses the same fundamental engine as Ys VI with some changes of its own. You no longer use three different elemental swords with magic super attacks, instead you get three different types of magic bracelets that grant you magic skills to use. These skills are not super attacks but rather recharge very fast and constantly so outside of having a cooldown they're basically just another fundamental part of your moveset. The awkward dash move of Ys VI is removed, instead you gain the abilities to run fast and double jump at certain points in the story. Finally, the magic super attacks are replaced with 'Boost Mode', a temporary self-buff during which you take half damage, don't get hitstunned, and attack faster and deal more damage all in one. And the meter charges more quickly if you're on low HP so it can allow for some cool turnarounds on boss fights. Notably however, unlike in Ys VI, you do not have any consumable healing items in this game. You can only recover HP on the overworld, or from random enemy drops, or at save points, so caution over recklessness ends up being the far preferred way to play.

The setup is a simple and traditional one. After the events of the chronologically previous games, Adol and Dogi head back to Dogi's homeland of Felghana, more specifically the town of Redmont, only to find that the locals are having problems following a widespread increase in monster activities all over. Also, as Dogi meets up with old friends and acquaintances, he learns that one of them, Chester, is now the knight of a morally bankrupt local noble named McGuire and has been assisting him in exploiting the town. As you travel the area you end up gathering some mysterious demon statues and eventually help Dogi confront Chester to get a full view of what he's actually on about, because he knows better than anyone that he wouldn't just aid this horrible noble for no good reason.

What makes Felghana in my opinion one of the best games in the series and, frankly, a genuine masterpiece is that it's about 10 hours of pure highlights. Not a second is wasted as you go from area to area each spouting some of the best music and overall atmosphere, capped off with a set of incredibly memorable boss fights. I'm not kidding, any single part of this game would be another game's highlight, and Felghana is just a game full of them in direct succession.

While Ys III's gameplay was hit or miss, it always was considered to be the game with perhaps the best soundtrack in the series. And Felghana is a remake of this game and knows it. It's not satisfied with just having great music, it turns it up to 11 and really pushes every single track to be as epic as can be. Whether you're exploring a mine or traversing ancient ruins or climbing a snowy mountaintop or making your way through a horrifyingly dark cave, or even just shopping in town, the music never stops being amazing.

Now something that absolutely needs to be said though is that Felghana is a hard game. Ys games never have been the easiest games around but Felghana is a considerable step above all others in terms of challenge. The first half hour of the game is pretty trivial, but then you get to the first boss of the game and you will probably get the achievement for dying 10 times right there and then. If you're used to Dark Souls style combat what you'll probably notice more than anything is the lack of a dodge roll or guarding option among Adol's repertoire of moves; you just have to actually physically move out of the way of enemy projectiles and at times place yourself in precise spots in order to do so. Eventually you do get the Earth bracelet which gives you a move with invincibility frames but that's not until halfway through the game, so it remains something to get used to. Bosses remain a spike in difficulty all the way through, however a couple hours in you'll find even the regular dungeons becoming quite hard. The challenge there is a different one; if you die on a boss you can just retry it instantly, but if you die in a dungeon you get sent back to the previous save point. I found myself ultimately often deciding to push forward until I got within 1-2 hits of dying and then fast travel back to the save point, saving whatever treasures and experience I'd gathered. I highly recommend doing this to make things easier on yourself. And if you really struggle, consider grinding out that last level or go back to town for a gear upgrade. It makes a highly noticeable difference.

Given the fact that all these games have difficulty settings I think the easiest way to put it is that Felghana's "Normal" is any other game's "Hard". If you're looking to just experience the game without the difficulty factor, put it on Easy; or else get ready to face some tough challenges. But before I move on, I can't be talking about Felghana's challenge without also bringing up its final boss. Galbalan is one of the most memorable bosses in all of Ys, an insanely hard boss that is an absolute joy to battle with some of gaming's very best final boss music pumping in the background. It's a fight I've redone over and over again in Time Attack mode because it's just that damn fun. Now that's the kind of feeling you want to get from a final boss. Special mention to his English voiceover in the PSP version, which I didn't play, but apparently turns Galbalan from a mindless rogue doomsday machine into a super hammy evil demon dude which is smurfing incredible and I kinda love it.

Again going to be diving into some spoilers here because I don't get enough chances to gush about this game. Story-wise as I said previously the game is not exactly novel, but it does execute its concept pretty much leaving nothing to be desired. I actually quite love how Chester is the actual promised hero and successor to the previous hero Genos, but Adol just crashes all that because he's a better damn hero than he could ever hope to be. The second battle against him atop the clock tower where he dual wields his own rapier and the sword of legend at you is easily the hardest in the game aside from the final boss and can be seriously maddening until you figure out when it's safe or not to attack. And then the reveal of the villains at the top. Falcom's habit of making every single NPC unique continues in Felghana and one of my favorite things it leads to is that you actually get to know a pretty interesting view of the ultimate bad guys as they are among the Redmont NPCs as well. Really for how simple of a story it is, it's just executed with such finesse I wouldn't want it to try to be any more than it already is.

I'll leave it at that for now. Bottom line, Oath in Felghana is a smurfing amazing game, its gameplay is great, its soundtrack is nothing short of stellar, its story is done really nicely, and if you like its style, give it a try. Just, be prepared to die a lot in the process. The game is seriously hard at times. Let's now move on to the last in the trilogy of games that use the engine of Ys VI, and the only game in the series to not feature Adol as the protagonist.