So, my third Ys game down in the last few days, leaving only the prequel “Ys: Origin” sitting in my Steam library. I’m honestly not sure where that one is intended to be played, but I’ll be playing that one next regardless – while “The Oath in Felghana” is a modernized version of Ys III and is a natural follow-up to Ys Chronicles, the series gets weird after its third entry. There were “Ys IV” games for both the Super Famicom and the PC Engine, but neither is considered the “real” Ys IV. As best I can tell, the first canonical “Ys IV” wasn’t released until 2012 and is thus far a Vita-only game. Lacking the ability to make sense of this, going back to the past sounds just fine.
Anyway, setting timeline confusion aside, The Oath in Felghana is a pretty neat game and a bit less doom and gloom than the first two. There’s still a Big Bad, of course, but the story is much more personal and revolves around friendships and family. It’s definitely best played with a FAQ handy, particularly if you care about achievements at all, because it revels in giving you new abilities and making you backtrack to early dungeons where those abilities are needed to find secrets, but once you accept that – and it is a bitter pill to swallow, I will concede – you are looking at a good dozen hours of action-RPG goodness taken straight from the glory days of the genre. The “bump combat” from Ys I and II, nostalgic as it may have been, gets completely tossed out for a control scheme with melee, spell, and jump buttons, and Adol’s move repertoire gets expanded to include jumps, double jumps, double jumps combined with using wind magic for just a little extra lift, tricky platforming bits, slippery annoying sliding bits… it’s a much more active game.
Also it naturally has amazing music because every Ys game has had amazing music.
Apart from regularly needing to run back to a FAQ to find hidden areas, I have only one tiny quibble with the game. You’re given the ability to fast travel about halfway through the game, and that’s great because it makes the backtracking much less vexing. HOWEVER, and this is a big however, you are not given the ability until after a particular boss fight that takes place in an area which you are trapped in until you defeat the boss.
Also the monsters in this area are pretty low level, and if you are having trouble beating the boss and want to grind up a couple of levels to make it easier, it takes a LOT of grinding. I got stuck here for about an hour beating up stuff that presented precisely zero challenge, and it made it so that getting past the boss didn’t give that, well, you probably know the feeling of FINALLY getting some bastich dead, right? Super satisfying? This didn’t have that.
So: If you are a fan of old-school console-style RPGs, consider this one wholeheartedly recommended. Just, when you get to the lava level? Don’t let it get to you. 🙂