I’m beginning to think that game developers have started using the phrase “metroidvania” just because they know I will purchase the ever loving crap out of their games. I can’t help it. I’ll admit it, I have a problem. You take an action RPG and fill it with mystic items and spells and abilities to gather in order to reach new, amazing levels of awesome and treasure, and I’m friggin’ SOLD, every time. This past week I finally had the chance to pick up YS: The Oath in Felghana, an old school action RPG that made its way onto Steam, and I’ve been slowly pressing my way through the short, chaotic game in my never-ending quest to obtain as many weird ass artifacts as possible, solely so I will then have the ability to pick up more weird ass artifacts.
What also sold me on this game is that the musical score is ridiculous. It sounds like Mega Man and Voltron had a kid, and that kid joined a retro, 16 bit themed metal band.
… Okay, I know I should move on here, but I can’t help but feel that Mega Man and Voltron would have some incompatible size issues going on there. Saying as how Mega Man is, apparently, a squat munchkin robot and how Voltron is actually like five dudes in cat robots or something? Maybe their kid would be normal sized? Also, I don’t know if I’d be comfortable being with someone who is actually five people, and knowing that at any given time those arms or legs might disconnect and decide to go off and play mini golf or whatever. WAIT SHIT ROBOTS DON’T REPRODUCE LIKE THAT THIS IS ALL FALLING APART.
Anyway. Enough. More than enough. YS. Yes, lets talk about that.
The YS series is one of those things that has been around for a long time. I have admittedly never played any other YS games before I picked up the Oath in Felghana, so maybe I’m missing a few key plot points here. I’m going to say for the sake of argument that it doesn’t matter a whole hell of a lot and just plow on through.
The story begins with red-haired swordsman Adol and his friend Dogi arriving in Felghana by boat. Adol and Dogi are bros. The game implies that the two have been traveling together for a long time, and who the hell am I to dispute? Felghana is apparently Dogi’s homeland, and he’s arriving after an extensive eight year-long absence, wherein, presumably, shit happened. Dogi’s heard some rumors about the town falling on hard times, so he shows up on the scene with Adol to check it out.
Within seconds, the two get attacked by wolves! Oh no! Luckily, Adol turns out to be somewhat hyperactive and skilled when it comes to stabbing things. You, for reference, take the role of Adol in this game. And because this is a JRPG this also means that Adol effectively forfeits the power of speech in order to up his ass kicking ability, or whatever. Not sure how that works.
Anyway, Adol rescues a childhood friend of Dogi’s named Elena, who then proceeds to tell the two about the horrible things happening in town. To make matters worse, Dogi’s other childhood friend, Chester, is rather MIA. At this point in the game, Adol and Dogi know some pretty extreme shit is going down in town. So Dogi, being the best friend anyone could ask for, says “Welp see you later!” and high tails it out of town to go see some jerkwad or something unrelated to anything that is interesting.
And then the trouble starts. And that’s also when the townsfolk start asking Adol to run off to various locations in Felghana to solve their problems. Which, since Adol is a mute hyperactive pod person, he readily agrees to.
Gameplay is pretty simple here. Adol can stab things and jump. He can also stab, then jump, or, if you’re feeling particularly daring, jump then stab. There’s also an overdrive gauge, which is really more like applying steroids to Adol than anything else, as he hits harder, takes less damage, and moves even faster than he did before. Adol is like a tiny avatar of death.
Eventually, through the course of your travels, you also gain access to a magic system, which essentially breaks down to “pound the C button until all life is eradicated.” More abilities and skills are unlocked as the game progresses, which allows you to backtrack, bust open walls, jump large chasms and more until ALL the treasure is yours. All of it.
The game is also exceptionally difficult. Though, you know, I probably brought it on myself.
When I booted up Oath in Felghana for the first time (okay, maybe not the FIRST time. For some reason the first time I couldn’t see any text whatsoever, and had to go through this elaborate process to install the eastern asian languages on my computer before I could play) I was given the choice of playing the game on very easy, easy or normal. “Well,” I thought to myself in a rare burst of confidence. “I am a seasoned gamer, after all! I can handle it!”
It went well for a while. I was killing wolves like it was my JOB (which I guess is technically the case. What else is a mute redheaded psycho stabber going to do for employment?) but then I made it to the first boss. That boss proceeded to decimate me. Over. And over again.
It’s a matter of repetition, like from the old school games you may remember. In a way, a devilishly hard game that you dismantle by sheer force of will alone gives you a nice, retro feeling deep in your gut. It’s also humbling, because you will die. Many, many times. Your sweet, awesome gamer abilities will not save you. It’s curtains for you!
The downside of this game is in the writing. Or rather, it’s in the standard RPG tropes that you’ll stumble across on a daily basis. Granted, this game came out way before it was released on Steam, when things like a mute protagonist with poorly explained motives was commonplace, or even new. Felghana does show its age, but that’s to be expected, as it is old.
Still, Oath in Felghana is an interesting retro action RPG, if you’re in the mood for such things. And, if you happen to have the same problem as me? It’s metroidvania style, homes. There’s no turning back from that.