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Ys: The Ark of Napishtim (PlayStation 2) artwork

Ys: The Ark of Napishtim (PlayStation 2) review


"Although the character models have changed, the music and locales are as gorgeous as before. Every room in the Temple of Memory is infested with skittering insects that drop from the ceilings, sometimes on Adol's head! With angler-like antennae lighting their way in the dark, these bugs crawl along the floors and ceiling as water flows down the walls into shallow ruts around each chamber's periphery."



For a month or two before its release, ardent North American Ys fans raged against Konami for tossing out JDK Band's soundtrack and creating new, orchestral music. These fans, many of whom hadn't even played the PC game, typed out angry emails with bleeding fingers: "How dare you replace JDK with some bum named Hiroyuki Nanba?" Those people were of course ignorant to Nanba's prodigious talent and prestigious resume, but they weren't wrong to whine: the original score to Ys 6: The Ark of Napishtim ROCKS.

So when the tricksters at Konami ended up using the original music, those diehard fans looked kind of stupid. HOHOHO, what tricksters! Now what we've got is Ys 6 (in the US!) with the original awesome music, some horribly rendered cutscenes, cool bonus dungeons, extra gameplay modes, smoother control, and new 3D polygonal character designs that add just a touch more maturity to the game's generally light-hearted mood.

Light-hearted doesn't mean it's not dramatic. Even though action is Napishtim's focus, the anime introduction (because you're smart and used cheat codes to unlock the Japanese version) attacks us with a barrage of powerful imagery -- including red-headed hero Adol clashing swords with Romun general Ernst. More importantly, we see little piratess Terra crying out as Adol slips from her grasp... an emotional moment as the hero of legend is sucked into the equally legendary Vortex of Canaan.

NOTE: If you prefer, you could watch the new CG introduction and turn the story into a badly-dubbed joke. Don't do that. Please.

Two ivory-skinned elves named "Olha" and "Isha" find Adol's washed-up body on the sandy beach. He's lost his weapons and armor, which is a really clever way of explaining why Adol no longer owns all the cool shit he picked up during Ys parts one through five. Because of this, our hero has to actually explore forgotten temples and scour moldy caverns, where he'll find three ancient elemental blades and learn a bunch of awesome spells, which he'll use to bring peace to the land by murdering squirrels and bumblebees (don't cry; these squirrels and bees are EVIL). The enemies gets a lot more menacing later on, but every hero has to start somewhere.

Newcomers to the series won't even realize it, but Ys 6 is a striking departure from the series' more famous first and second episodes... because you actually have to press a button to attack! (Welcome to the last ten years, Adol.) Ys no longer needs a weird buttonless combat engine to stand out from the pack -- this game stands out simply by being an excellent action-RPG.

From the forest to the buried city, Adol clears every trail and corridor with various combination or whirlwind-style attacks. Moreover, due to the PS2's slick control, the "dash attack" is MUCH easier to perform than it was on the Windows rev. Since dashing is necessary to reach certain optional locations -- or to reach crucial items in the new-to-PS2 "Alma's Trial" dungeons -- this improvement in control should alleviate fans' horror at seeing their favorite adventurer rendered in sweet 3D polygons instead of in super-deformed 2D sprites.

Although the character models have changed, the music and locales are as gorgeous as before. Every room in the Temple of Memory is infested with skittering insects that drop from the ceilings, sometimes on Adol's head! With angler-like antennae lighting their way in the dark, these bugs crawl along the floors and ceiling as water flows down the walls into shallow ruts around each chamber's periphery. Meanwhile, ancient murals silently depict the land's history without resorting to a narrator's heavy-handed intrustion.

Napishtim's locations aren't the most original -- even its circuit-etched technological tower has been done before in the Tales games -- but each environment is so impressively atmospheric that it still feels both original and magical. Even though avid RPG gamers should expect such things to happen, it's still awesome (and surprising!) when glowering, fire-breathing rock turtles bust through dead-end walls while pounding music BOOMS through the speakers.

The game looks, sounds, and plays great -- and it's completely fresh from start to finish. Long-time Ys fans, don't be disappointed by the absence of Darm Tower or its familiar melody! Ys 4 was cool because it successfully played on fans' nostalgia, but Napishtim doesn't need such gimmicks. Whether it's the final boss (with an incredible attack pattern that couldn't have been done ten years ago) or the way little Isha happily scampers off after giving Adol her home-made bracelet of +2 defending, Ys 6: The Ark of Napishtim proves that Falcom can still make a great game without rehashing the past.

//Zig

Rating: 8/10

zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (October 14, 2005)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

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