YS: THE OATH IN FELGHANA / Falcom + Xseed / PSP
The Oath in Felghana is one of those games that actually came out years ago (2005 in Japan for their PCs) but didn't get picked up for a Western localization until some scrappy little start-up decided they wanted to take a risk on localizing it. In this case, Xseed Games, and they did a pretty good job of it.
Ys 3 was the lone side-scrolling title of the series, and Felghana brings it more into line with the rest of the lineage by re-imagining it as a top-down-view adventure game. But no worries, it's not antiquated "bump into the enemies" combat a la Ys I & II. Think a simplified Zelda, but with the faster pace and more frantic action of the Ys games intact, and just a sprinkle of Metroidvania exploration, and you've pretty much got this one.
Falcom wisely realized that the main appeal of Ys 3 was running around wildly flailing your sword at a mile a minute while epic Japanese butt rock blared, and didn't mess with that core formula too much, yet managed to successfully expand on it to make the overall game world more fleshed-out and interesting. The overall story and the locations you visit are fundamentally the same, but characters have much more dialogue and personality. The town of Redmont has expanded a bit to house the newcomers, and instead of warping instantly from location to location on a map, there's now a small overworld that you walk through to go between places (though at about midway through the game, you get an item that lets you teleport between save points.) The story and characters are still on the cliched side and none of it is amazing, but it does give players returning from previous versions some new material to hold their interest.
Let's give the music its own paragraph, since it's such a vital part of the experience. It's sort of a blend of symphonic for some areas and butt rock for others. It doesn't always hew to the Ys traditional style but on the whole I really liked it. For a wholly revamped game you gotta have revamped music, and this was as fine a direction as any to take it in IMO.
The game is only marred by a couple of things. There's a handful of bullshit bosses that are overly pumped up even on Normal difficulty, I guess in an ill-advised nod to series history. That's mitigated by being able to replay them infinitely, and after you lose three times, you get the option to progressively step the difficulty down temporarily. So none of those remain an obstacle for long. The final boss is actually more cheap and shitty than he was in the original game, but you've got the same option of gradually scaling down the difficulty with him as you do with anyone else, and there's a save point right outside his room (save points in general are scattered pretty generously and reliably in the game.) There's also a couple of platforming segments that really suck ass due to a combination of the small screen and your depth perception being hampered by the perspective, but these are such a small part of the game it's barely a complaint really. The scrunchy characters/depth perception thing also makes jumping to hit enemies (something you do A LOT) more iffy than it really should be, but again, didn't feel it was a significant drag on the game. Other than that, pretty much all good though.
* Gameplay Video