While Ys Seven is an installment that takes you by the hand and leads you through a comfortably challenging Tales of Symphonia-esque JRPG tale, Ys: Oath in Felghana grabs you by the wrist and drags you back into the depths of face-meltingly hardcore gaming hell. But, it’s a hell with thankfully varied difficulty settings and customizable control niceties that can still stand as a solid old-school action/RPG experience. If all the one-sided beat-downs don’t scare you away, that is.
Ys Seven and Ys Oath in Felghana share exactly two letters (Ys) and two characters (red-headed hero Adol is back with his meat-headed companion Dogi) — the differences end there. You spend the whole game as sword-wielding Adol, who gains magic powers and other abilities that help spice up the gameplay along the way.
I thought I would plow my way through the storyline on Normal mode but had to reconsider this because of defeat after defeat at the hands of both bosses and common foes alike. Not to mention, you can’t use any healing items while in a boss battle. None. What brought the boss battle’s difficulty down from sometimes intolerable and back toward frustratingly fun was the game’s sympathetic difficulty settings. After failing miserably and perishing a few times, the game offers to tone down the difficulty level. The boss does less damage, and you deal more damage. I’ll admit that I probably would not have gotten close to beating this game without this setting.
Another nice touch that apparently wasn’t in the original Oath in Felghana (PC) is No-Fall, which saves Adol from falling into nasty pits of monsters and certain doom if he fails to make clear a jump across a crevasse or pit. No-Fall simply warps him back to the beginning of the screen, saving the player time, frustration and precious, precious hit points. Easily one of my favorite features.
The characters are predictable, likeable stereotypes with good voice acting (which you can toggle on or off if you dislike it) but there are a few fun, surprising moments in an otherwise so-so plot. The graphics are sleak, the customizable controls function smoothly, and the music/sound is enjoyable. The camera follows Adol closely and hardly ever lets you get caught off-guard by enemies you didn’t see approaching. Oath in Felghana’s adventure offers about 15 hours of play, which might be longer or shorter depending on how much time you spend leveling up.
This remake of an old, unforgiving PC game is saved by tweaks for a less resilient modern gamer. For RPG fans craving a more Zelda-like adventure, Oath in Felghana is a really good bet. Just don’t be a hero and shoot for Nightmare mode on your first play-through. Save your sanity and start with normal.