If you take this "Oath," you'll have a fight on your hands

If you take this "Oath," you'll have a fight on your hands

"Ys: The Oath in Felghana" returns us to the world of adventurer Adol Christin, which I first visited a few weeks ago in "Ys Seven."

But despite the fact that it was released after No. 7, it's actually a re-released re-imagining of "Ys III: Wanderers From Ys": The re-imagining originally took place in 2005, with the re-release coming now on the Sony PSP.

The game tells us of Adol's first visit to the homeland of his constant traveling companion, the muscle-bound Dogi the Wall Crusher. Yet, despite the fact that Dogi is along for the ride here, he's never a part of the actual action. This game is purely an Adol adventure — and a profoundly different experience from "Ys Seven."

Well, the story isn't that different — monsters have invaded the once-quiet land and it's up to you to set things right — but the game-play is. "Ys Seven" was a party-based button-mashing game of "rock, paper, scissors." This is a single-character, top-down hack-and-slash platformer, where managing difficult jumps while exploring is as important as crushing foes in battle.

I have to say, however, that the whole thing is a little off-balanced from my point of view, and here's why: I made my through the intro (returning to Dogi's village, talking with the townsfolk) and wandered off to help deal with an emergency at the local mine, where I easily carved a path through the bats, goblins and what-have-you that had invaded it, when suddenly I hit a wall.

That wall was a boss battle — a dark wizard named Dularn, to be exact. And what had been a cakewalk suddenly had become a frustrating parade of deaths and restarts, as I tried to learn the timing of Dularn's attacks and how best to dodge them. It didn't help that she routinely threw up force shields, greatly shortening my windows of opportunity. (It also didn't help that I hadn't completely figured out how to properly use my special attack booster, which was entirely my fault.)

Eventually, I'd died so much that I was given the option of reducing the fight's difficulty — an option I'm ashamed to admit I was forced to take pretty much every time I ran into a boss. None of them were  easy to fight, even after I'd figured out their timing and weaknesses. I must be out of practice somehow.

But it's just hard for me to comprehend how a game so quickly and routinely can transition from cakewalk to nightmare to cakewalk again. Yet, if that difficulty wasn't there, the entire game would be too much of a breeze to be worth my while. So I'm a little conflicted on that point.

Regardless of the combat aspect, the game's designers have done a good job in making it necessary for players to fully explore the world they've created. That's because the path not taken probably has the sword you really, really need right then at the end of it.

I learned that one the hard way, as I got myself into a boss battle where the blade I had did a single point of damage per hit, and my enemy had more than 2,000 life points. Yeah, I stood no chance, until I reloaded my last save and did a bit more exploration.

Also, there are plenty of areas you won't be able to fully appreciate the first time through, until you unlock abilities and equipment that enable you to reach the unreachable. Add in some really precise jumping challenges, and you've got quite the adventure on your hands.

Ultimately, "Ys: The Oath in Felghana" is a decent little game to while away the hours with, as long as you're prepared for its wild shifts in difficulty.

"Ys: The Oath in Felghana"
Platforms: PSP.
Publisher: XSEED Games.
Price: $29.99. Also available as $39.99 limited edition.
Rating: T for teen.
Recommendation: It's a good fit for players interested in challenging boss battles and platforming.

Image courtesy of XSEED Games
Adventurer Adol Christin dodges swinging obstacles in his quest right wrongs in "Ys: The Oath in Felghana."



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