Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim - Review  

Easing the Ark
by Anna Marie Whitehead

30-40 hours


Rating definitions 

   There are some series which have had wild success in North America; it's pretty easy to pick out the bigger ones. Some series, however, quietly make it to western shores and while revered by smaller followings, don't always make it to the forefront. One of those sleeper series is Ys. Pronounced "ease," it has had a variety of entries across multiple platforms from as far back as the Sega Master System in 1988, to the PC, and now PS2. Ys VI came to the North American audience known as just its subtitle, Ys: The Ark of Napishtim. Touted as a classic-style RPG, at first glance it is difficult to see what makes the game special in any way. Yet, Ys VI manages to stand out with a fun battle system, beautiful music, a solid localization, plenty of replay value, and a quaint story; it is a game that brings together the best of the Ys series for all to enjoy.

   The battle system is straightforward, yet malleable enough for some strategy. The party consists of only one member, but don't be tricked into thinking the game is simplistic. Adol will gain 3 seperate swords (wind, fire, and lightning elements respectively) on his journey through the Canaan Islands, and they can be changed on the fly using the R1 or L1 buttons. Each sword has a different way of attacking (the wind sword stabs upwards during a combo, which is created by pressing the attack button repeatedly) as well as a different special move at the end of combos (the lighning sword will dart forward quickly, smashing anything within its path and shielding Adol from damage). The cross button jumps, and the square button slashes; the two together with the right timing can perform a slash jump, a maneuver necessary to grab out-of-reach items as Adol explores. The circle button will perform magic once each sword's level is high enough. The swords, made of a material called Emel, must be leveled up (to a maximum of 11) by collecting Emelas and then forging in town. Thankfully, most enemies drop this substance. Greater amounts can also be found when defeating bosses or by doing a specific side quest. Finally, a healing item can be equipped to the triangle button.

Ears! Lovely Olha

   Adol levels up the usual way, collecting experience by slaying enemies; his progress towards the next level is displayed on the screen. As the game goes on and Adol becomes more powerful, easier enemies will give less experience. There is a cap of 9 on any item during the game, and in the heat of boss battles the menu is not available, so the triangle button is the only way for Adol to heal himself. One level can often make the difference between bitter defeat and roaring success, so any time Adol is too weak to move on it's simply a matter of whacking on a few enemies to gain enough experience, to move on. The system is simple enough for anyone to pick up, but it also requires some thought once the game gets tougher.

   Music can make or break a game by creating an atmosphere that either brings an RPGamer deeper into the game or forces them to turn down the volume. There is beautiful music to be found everywhere in the Ark of Napishtim, and it gives the game additional depth. The graphics also do an excellent job of bringing a fictional world to life with vibrant colors and a variety of enemies in different dungeon and overworld settings. There are also a few CGI cinematics thrown into the game for effect. While they are few and far between, these moments give additional enjoyment to the game by bringing to life major events in the game. These two features together have a huge impact on how enjoyable the game is and add to its overall attractiveness.

   One of the most appealing aspects of The Ark of Napishtim is that at the beginning of any new game there is an option to choose Normal, Hard, and Nightmare modes. These choices affect both how Adol levels up and what level the game's enemies are, and how intelligently they react. What difficulty the game is on will for the most part determine how quickly a run through the game will take. Though it's possible to blast through the game in about 30 hours, those that savour or choose a higher difficulty will find their time stretched to 40 hours or more. The variable difficulties thus give Ys an excellent replay value.

   The menu system found in Ys is simple yet effective, and very streamlined. One screen is used to equip the usual weapon/armor/accessory, as well as a tool (such as a healing item). A second is for using healing items and for checking out Adol's unique items. A third is used to adjust in-game settings like music or sound effects volume, as well as an option to load from the save menu. There were no discernable localization errors, both in these menus as well as in the game overall. The voice acting was done exceptionally well, with good timing and a nice diversity of personalities. The two girls Adol interacts with most have very beautiful and melodious voices. All in all, the game allows the player to delve in and makes interaction with different characters charming.

Zoom Sword Attacks

   Much like Crono in Chrono Trigger, Adol is a silent hero. This doesn't seem to adversely affect the story, as even in the opening video he remains starwartly silent while others around him chatter aplenty. This allows for the story to unfold in a novel fashion, where the player connects with Adol because as he learns so do they. Though The Ark of Napishtim shares plenty in common with other Ys games, it stands out as being refreshingly unique in a sea full of menu-based, clonable RPGs. The unique feel of the game is part of its overall originality and makes it a game that is fun to play and very easy to get sucked into quickly.

   Ys: The Ark of Napishtim is the sort of RPG that makes an excellent introduction into the genre for those beginning, as well as a breath of fresh air for veterans. It has few flaws, though it does get a bit repetitive after long periods of play. Those that have enjoyed games such as Chrono Trigger and Dark Cloud 2 will especially want to give this Ys title a second look. There are few action RPGs that are as well-rounded a game as this one. Though it may be somewhat difficult to hunt down, the effort is more than worth it, and this game is likely to become a jewel in any RPGamer's collection.

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