RPGFan: We've seen what XSEED has brought to the table with the PSP-exclusive Ys SEVEN earlier this year; what sets apart The Oath in Felghana from SEVEN?
Tom Lipschultz: Well... a lot, really! The two games are quite drastically different from one another. Still similar enough that it's obvious they're from the same series, of course... but I don't think anyone's going to be playing Felghana and thinking, "Man, this is WAY too much like SEVEN!"
I've been making this comparison a lot lately, but I honestly think it's the best way to readily explain the similarities between the two games to the average gamer: Ys SEVEN is to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night as Ys: The Oath in Felghana is to Super Metroid. Pretty much everyone likes both Symphony and Super Metroid, but most people tend to consider one far superior to the other, and I think the same will hold true for the two Ys titles. Castlevania is longer, more sprawling, and more chaotic, with far more items and abilities than you could ever really use, giving you a tremendous amount of freedom and choice on how you want to play. Super Metroid, on the other hand, is shorter and more compact, but also more cleverly designed and overall more focused, with every item and ability (and room) serving a distinctive purpose – it's like an intricate, well-fitting puzzle, with only as many pieces as you need.
If you prefer Castlevania, you'll probably prefer Ys SEVEN as well. But if you prefer Super Metroid, I'm betting you'll totally flip for Felghana. I honestly consider it the best game in the series, and it's this elegant design that really puts it over the edge for me. Every Ys game is fun, but no other game in the series feels quite so complete or polished.
RPGFan: We know Ys: The Oath in Felghana is a remake of the very different Ys III: Wanderers from Ys from its PC release. What will fans of the TG16/SNES/Genesis original find new in this remake? Are there any jokes about the awful translation of these versions? Will we be calling Dogi "Colin," for example?
TL: Never fear, there will be no Colins or Jetais or Demanicus...es... (How do you pluralize Demanicus, anyway?!)
No translation-specific jokes either, I'm afraid. I'd have inserted a few if the opportunity presented itself, but the game's script is overall pretty serious and dramatic, so self-referential humor would've stuck out like a sore thumb. There ARE still some jokes and references scattered about, but they tend to be of a more subtle variety, and they're a bit fewer and farther between than in Ys SEVEN's script. I'll go into a little more detail on this in response to one of your later questions.
As for what fans of Ys III can expect from Oath in Felghana... well, that's a loaded question, for sure! Oath in Felghana is a pretty special game, in that it's barnone the single greatest remake of a video game I have ever played, seen, heard of, or dreamt about. Every single aspect of Ys III has been updated and improved to the height of the ridiculous, leaving just enough of the original to give Ys III fans a real nostalgia trip, but scrapping everything else and redoing it from scratch.
It's outstanding. Never before have I seen another gaming company do what Falcom did with this title. Falcom knew that Ys III was widely regarded as the black sheep of the series... but instead of cutting their losses and moving on, they sought to remake Ys III into the game it always had the potential to be. And that's what Oath in Felghana is. Oath in Felghana is all the best parts of Ys III, mixed with all the best creative designs and gameplay systems Falcom has to offer. It's an absolute masterpiece, and whether you loved or hated Ys III (or never played it), it's well worth your time.
RPGFan: With the knowledge that the game has been localized before – the PC version of The Oath in Felghana was fan-translated – how did XSEED handle the localization of the title?
TL: With a rather well-done translation of the game already in existence, it seemed almost silly to retread ground by translating it again. Instead, we got a hold of the translator who worked on the fan patch for the PC version, and bought the script from him. After all, we've dealt with third-party freelance translators in the past.
Of course, we're not about to buy someone else's translation, dump it in the game as-is, and call it a day. Instead, we used the time that otherwise would've gone to translation and editing for just editing. We polished it to a real shine, making sure every line sounds natural and appropriately dramatic.
As an example, there's one scene where the priest character, Father Pierre, is praying for salvation from the evils of the land. Suddenly, in steps the warrior, Berhardt. Berhardt's line as he walks in was originally something like, "It's too soon to give up just yet!" And there's certainly nothing wrong with that line, right? But in the context of the game, it just felt like it needed a bit more dramatic "oomph." So now, Berhardt says the following: "Let's not bother God just yet. Man's time is far from over!"
Much more stirring and memorable, wouldn't you agree?
Some dialogue was also added or changed between the PC and PSP versions, including a brand new prologue novella (which details how and why Adol and Dogi came to Felghana) and an adventure diary which is updated throughout the game, briefly summarizing the story. These were translated by yours truly, and I definitely put my best foot forward with them, so I urge everyone to give these new sections of the game a look, and rave about how awesome they sound on every forum and message board you can find.
RPGFan: How faithful is this localization to its source content? With Lunar: Silver Star Harmony, some of the Working Designs-styled jokes and "loose" translation remained. Is this the case for The Oath in Felghana?
TL: Nahh. The fan-translation we worked with was extremely faithful to the source material, as the translator isn't a big fan of "clowning around" like that. In editing, we did add a few jokes and references, but only in places where they seemed to fit the mood of the scene (in other words, most of them center around Dogi or one of the game's handful of "comic relief" side-characters). We do enjoy horsing around with our game scripts, but never at the cost of the original content. Whenever you see a joke in one of our games, chances are it's there because it fit perfectly with the original Japanese line, or is replacing an equivalent Japanese joke. We'll never sacrifice content, atmosphere or dramatic impact in favor of buffoonery.
But any time we're able to insert buffoonery at no cost to the original content, you'd better believe we'll do it!
RPGFan: For Ys fans, there's been forever-long debate about what would be the official spelling of a certain castle. Valestein, Valestine, Varestein, etc. Assuming this makes XSEED the arbiters for what is canon, tell us: how DO you spell it?
TL: We went with Falcom's official English spelling from the Japanese version of the game, which is "Valestein." That's always seemed like the best alternative, I thought, as it's both easy to pronounce and has a completely acceptable European spelling, which fits the game's setting nicely.
And bear in mind, I grew up with the SNES version of Ys III, so I'm most used to seeing the name "Ballacetine Castle." But Ballacetine... just doesn't sound right, you know?
RPGFan: How was the tracklist selected for the bonus soundtrack coming with the limited edition? Will it have any arranged tracks, or just the Felghana OST music?
TL: Actually, I'm glad you asked this, as I've been really trying to get people psyched for this CD. The tracklist was actually selected by me personally, based on which songs are heard most often and/or are most relevant to the overall setting or story. 21 out of the 23 tracks on the CD are from the OST. One is from the Super Arrange Version CD (which is a highly underrated album in my opinion!). And the 23rd... has never been released on CD before! It's an acoustic arrangement of "Premonition -Styx-" new to the PSP version of the game, played during the added prologue scenes. It's arguably the best version of the track to date! And Falcom was kind enough to send us a master of it to use on our Felghana Music Selections CD.
So all you music collectors out there, be sure to pick up the limited edition box set, lest you miss out on this never-before-published bit of musical awesomeness!
RPGFan: While Ys SEVEN was built from the ground up for the PSP, The Oath in Felghana was a PC game first. When Ys 6 was released on the PSP as a PC port, it suffered from many issues. Have these been removed from this port?
TL: There were never any issues with this particular port to begin with, actually! You have to remember, Ys VI was ported to the PSP by a third-party, not by Falcom themselves. Oath in Felghana, on the other hand, is a first-party port, and it's pretty much flawless. It looks, feels and sounds exactly like its PC counterpart, and has virtually no load times at all. It's utterly remarkable!
There's also no slowdown, and no loss of detail – all textures and graphical effects are fully intact and as high-res as can be. It's an absolutely gorgeous game – arguably one of the nicest-looking on the PSP, in my opinion, and it can easily stand toe-to-toe with its PC forefather.
So those of you who've had bad experiences with Ys VI on PSP, never fear: Oath in Felghana is an absolutely flawless port in every regard.
RPGFan: Finally, Ys: The Oath in Felghana is a fan favorite amongst importers, what do you think makes this game so fun to play?
TL: It's basically just a cocktail of awesomeness – a winning combination of speed, fluid controls, an awesome moveset, one of the best soundtracks, a tough but fair challenge, and some of the greatest level designs of the last decade. Oath in Felghana constantly throws crazy bosses and obstacles at you, but gives you all the tools you need to get past them – and look amazing doing it. And when you're not fighting crazy bosses or dodging crazy obstacles, you're exploring dungeons that are designed both creatively and logically, with secrets around every corner and rewards for anyone who's willing to go off the beaten path.
It's pretty much the perfect example of why we play video games in the first place. It's just fun, fast-paced, and all-around satisfying. Like Ys SEVEN, it knows what it is, and it revels in that. And ultimately, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better example of a fast-paced, fun, challenging action RPG than Ys: The Oath in Felghana.
RPGFan would like to thank Tom Lipschultz and XSEED Games for the time to interview with us. Keep your eyes peeled to RPGFan for more information on Ys: The Oath in Felghana!