Review – Ys 6: Ark of Napishtim

Ys 6: The Ark of Napishtim
Developed by Falcom Corporation
Published by Konami
Released 2.22.05

Big sprites talking
Character sprites displayed during key dialog are big and well done.

I lie somewhere between the average gamer, blissfully ignorant of the Ys (said to be pronounced “ease,” but I’ve been saying it “eyes” since I was 7 and I’ll be damned if I’m going to change my life for something as small as the truth) series of games and the ubercore, those who have played every Ys, including both versions of 4. You see, I know enough to know there were two Ys 4s, and I know that this game I’m supposed to be reviewing here, The Ark of Napishtim, is really Ys VI. I managed to play Ys on the Master System when I was a wee lad and then Ys 3 on my Genesis when I was a little older and many are the hours I’ve spent on eBay, contemplating a purchase of a Turbo Duo just so I might play Ys Book 2. So where does that leave us? I’m not sure, so on to the review.

Actually, there’s still some more crap I want to say before the review proper. I’ve read a lot of reviews for this game (holy shit, you mean there are reviews besides the ones on this site?!) and nearly all of them end up giving the game something like a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10 but then end up spending the whole review justifying why they didn’t give it a 3. They complain about the graphics, the lack of depth in the gameplay, and some other stuff but then say the game is fun. Maybe I’m getting melodramatic here, but if the game is fun then people should buy it. It’s a perfect example of the attempt at objective ratings gone to shit. The review says something like, “Well, the game is horrendous in 4 out of the 6 categories I rate games on, but I still played all the way through it. Jeeze, I wish I had a ratings system that didn’t make games I thoroughly enjoyed look crappy to those who didn’t read the whole review.”

So I guess that was sort of the review, but here’s more!

The company behind the Ys series, Falcom, has mostly made Ys games, in addition to remakes of Ys games, and also collections of Ys games. The only other game I can think of that they did was the obscure Popful Mail for the Sega CD (thanks, Vic!), but according to this site they’ve made an assload of games. Most never made it to American, so you can’t blame me for my apathy.

Like its predecessors, Ys 6 has some sweet boss fights.

Ark of Napishtim is fun if you liked the first Zelda, or the third Zelda, or Secret of Mana, or Beyond Oasis, or Land Stalker, but not Legend of Mana because that game sucked. Basically if you’re a fan of action RPG’s then you’ll enjoy the Ark of Napishtim. My biggest gripe with the game is its length because, well, it’s good so I wanted it to keep being good so I didn’t have to go back to playing Discworld. Not that I dislike Discworld, more like everyone else I know hates Discworld and I’m a social guy.

The Ys series have always focused on a red haired wandering warrior type named Adol. They pronounce it Ahdoll in the game, but I know in my heart of hearts the game makers are wrong and his name is pronounced more like A-dole. From the first game on he has had a friend named Dogi and apparently, if I am to believe the cut scenes, there are a few other people, like a disproportional girl with a really annoying voice, who know Adol from the last few Ys games. The plot of Napishtim isn’t anything special and its scope is tiny. There shouldn’t automatically be anything wrong with having to only save two islands, but I’m used to saving the world, damn it. The plots in the series tend to wrap up after a game or two so are generally pretty self contained. If this is the first time you’ve heard of the series don’t let the fact that there are 5 other Ys games you haven’t played.

The voice acting in the game can be pretty atrocious, especially for the evil fairies. I am completely convinced I could get an equal or better performance out of my friends. The option of having the voices in Japanese would have been nice because I can’t tell how poorly someone is acting when it’s in a language I don’t speak.

Hard as crap platforming
Guess whether or not the platforming in this dungeon is a pain in the ass.

Playing Ys consists of running, jumping and swinging your sword. The running is pretty standard running fare. The jumping is fine but can get obnoxious due to the difficulty of some of the platforming. In order to reach certain places, Adol must do a charge jump, or some assortment of words like rush, charge, spring, etc. compounded by a word like jump, leap, skip, or hop. Performing these spring skips is a total bitch. If you aren’t pretty solid when it comes to controlling the running and jumping of a little red haired man, you may want to stay away or get some help for the levels that demand precision.

Now on to the weapons. You procure 3 different elemental swords on your journey, each with different stats and …uhh…elements. These can all be leveled separately by finding little pieces of metal called emel and each of the three swords has unique qualities. One is fast, one is strong, on does thrusting attacks (and sucks). Each also has a separate magic attack that can be unleashed after charging up your handy magic gauge.

There isn’t a tremendous amount of variety in combat, but there are enough different enemies and cool bosses to keep the game interesting. And there’s still one hidden boss who destroys me if I even look at him, even though I’ve beaten the game and in order to level I’d need to spend hours killing enemies in the final dungeon. I’m not sure who they aimed this particular hidden boss at. I’m a pretty patient guy but there’s no way in hell I’ll be going back to the game just to level until my brain turns to sludge.

Bad CG Adol
On second thought, I will complain. These CG graphics are lame.

To make everything slightly deeper, the world of Ys has hidden within it a number of accessories and items. The items are basic things like healing herbs, anti-poison, anti-confusion, etc. The accessories are far more interesting. Besides shield and armor upgrades, there are items such as the Thief’s Glove (find more gold after killing enemies), the Rainbow Fragment (reveals enemies true forms), the Eldian Orb (for faster magic charging), and my personal favorite, the Bloody Nail (great for building). In addition to the 20 items scattered about, which are quite often very well hidden, Adol can also find an extra accessory slot. Finding these slots allows you to have multiple accessories equipped at the same time. Not too shabby for something that doesn’t make any sense. “You found a blank black box to add to your inventory screen that can be populated by any item denoted as an accessory.” If only I had a nickel for every time I heard that in real life.

The game controls well. All of the other moves make sense and are easy to pull off and with enough practice, even the seemingly impossible rush jump can sort of be mastered. I think part of the problem is that the manual doesn’t exactly give the best advice on how to perform the technique.

A quick item button, which saves you the effort of going to the menu screen every time you want to heal yourself, was wisely included. In a questionable move, though, the game prevents you from even visiting your item screen during a boss battle. I’d have preferred a more difficult boss and no artificial restraints on the gameplay.

Nearly naked chick on a CD
I guess some people like to spend a lot of time looking at their CD’s.

Napishtim was born on the PC, and the graphics on the PC version were actually sprite based. Apparently, Konami thought it needed to dress up this old school chunk of gameplay with sweet looking 3d models. It’s a shame that 2d is seen as such a sale killer that it was necessary, but to be honest I can barely tell (probably since I’ve never played the original version so I’m comparing B to an imaginary A). Much has been made of this graphical overhaul, even by people who don’t have stupid opinions. As a rule I get upset about nearly everything, but this is one of the rare cases where I only feel grateful that a company took a chance by bringing a very Japanese game to the states. A hungry man will send his dinner back but a starving man will never complain (that’s a cliché I just invented).

The great music, which has long been a staple in Ys games, is not so great. I prefer listening to Bo and Ippo’s take on the music of Book 1 they did for the Master System version than the soundtrack of Napishtim. (Yes, blasphemy to all you suckers who backed the failure that was the TG16. Next time go with a winner, like the supremely successful SMS.) The music isn’t bad; you won’t have to turn it off, it just doesn’t live up to the mythic quality I expected. Maybe Falcom should rehire Yuzo Koshiro.

Ultimately, the game sells for less than a triple A title and it gives you bragging rights (if you know the right people to brag to). It’s a piece of a long running, classic series and a piece of gaming history. They won’t make them like this one for much longer, so get it while it’s hot. And best of all, it may inspire you to take the first steps of becoming an enormous loser who reads about and researches video games on daily basis; or even better, a technophobe who shuns all new systems in favor of their more pure and shitty ancestor systems. This game has that power.

One out of one Ark of Napishtim.

A second opinion by Pat:

I don’t have the history with the series Jason does, and consequently do not have the prejudices he may. Y’s 6 is a very solid, if unspectacular, game. Graphics are not overwhelming, but good enough. Battle system is fairly straightforward hack and slash fare. An odd quirk of gameplay is that, to a large degree, the boss dictates what level you have to be to put up a fight. Frequently the player can get to the boss at a certain level and realize he is almost completely incapable of doing damage, and needs to level. After leveling once or twice the available enemies stop yielding worthwhile amounts of experience. This means there is a very small window concerning what level you can be at any given time. While not a huge deal, this does restrict the player’s “personality” as powerlevelers and “time trialers” are both penalized. Characters and weapons both level, allowing for some flexibility. Essentially the game is worth playing, especially if the genre or series interests you, but don’t expect anything earthshattering. Although based on the direction of video games in general (every game does everything), it is refreshing to play a game that does not overreach and executes what it does very well.

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