"Just another reminder that 'genre offering' isn't a bad thing... "
I often think to myself: What is it that I enjoy so much about Ys games? Excluding the 16-bit rendition of Ys III, I've always been drawn to them, but let's face it: they don't offer anything particularly special or definitive. I then have to remind myself why people love so many other works of art and entertainment that are, for all intents and purposes, "genre exercises." People appreciate them because "they are what they area."
Fans of creature features love "Pumpkinhead" because it's a well-made creature feature.
Fans of dumb comedies love "Grown Ups" because it's a very dumb comedy.
Fans of smutty romance novels love smutty romance novels because they're smutty romance novels.
People flock to formulaic works because they hit the right notes and provide consumers with the content they crave. However, folks tend to especially love genre pieces that lean as hard into their own strengths as possible. Ys games may not be gimmicky or inventive these days, but developer Nihon Falcom understands the assignment with each game and delivers big time. Ys VI: Ark of Napishtim serves as a solid example...
It's always the same old story with series protagonist Adol Cristin. He ends up in a foreign land, hears the plight of the people there, and takes up a sword to help them. Napishtim starts off similarly, with Adol washing up on a long-secluded island contained within a mid-sea vortex, only to discover that calamity is coming to the forgotten paradise. No one asks him for heroics; he just does what comes natural and hops right into action.
You spend the game exploring the island, hacking up monsters when your equipment, level, and statistics allow it. Supporting cast members give you a little guidance, but don't shove you in the correct direction. They leave you to search for side routes and uncover dungeons, all while working to beef up Adol, afford improved goods, and sharpen one of the three elemental swords he receives in this journey.
You really have to feel your way around in this adventure, especially if you intend to hunt for special treasures and accessories that provide an extra edge against the opposition. You might stumble upon an undiscovered cave and venture forth, only to find the foes within bounce right off your blade. That alone should tell you you're heading the wrong direction. After further voyaging around the isle, you locate monsters that help you grow more quickly and drop fatter coins, not to mention hidden chambers holding unique goods or event items. The more you explore, the more you become invested in the experience. Half of the experiencing is learning first-hand where you need to go and what you need to do rather than having someone spell it out for you.
Napishtim's world isn't especially gigantic, but it's decked out just such that it offers enough real estate to investigate without overwhelming you. Plus, the game borrows a bit from Metroid by blocking off certain areas until you've gathered objects that allow you to overcome particular obstacles. For instance, you can't check out some of the beach area because of deep water, but a relic found later in the campaign grants you the ability to breathe underwater.
When I think of Ys games, fluid mechanics spring to mind. Combat is always snappy and exciting, bolstered by solid soundtracks composed of either snazzy synthesized tunes or hard rock. Napishthim is definitely no slouch there, as it thrusts you into a land teeming with plenty of monsters and humongous bosses (and even some mini-bosses) to engage in swift, heart-pounding battles. All the while, the game seldom misses a beat, moving smooth like silk while you chop up giant bugs, killer slimes, and murderous automatons.
The other thing that typically comes to mind when I think of Ys is music, and here's the only place where Napishtim doesn't quite land. No, its soundtrack isn't bad by any stretch. In fact, it's quite good and befitting of a tropical island-themed adventure. However, it doesn't leave much of an impression. Where other installments in this series have shown off catchy tunes that constantly get stuck in my head, Napisthim mostly offers stereotypical JRPG cuts. You could extract the music from this product and apply it to almost any other roleplaying game and few people would notice. Again, the BGMs here aren't terrible; they just don't stand out.
I don't have much truly negative to say about Napishtim except that it's "just another Ys title." For fans of the franchise, that's as good a description as any. It tells those who dig the further quests of Adol Cristin to dive right in and don't look back. However, this game isn't going to do much to persuade non-fans, nor does it aim to do so. The game "is what it is:" a strong action-RPG propped up by solid mechanics and the same qualities that made its predecessors and descendants hits with their respective fans.
So no, Ys VI isn't anything groundbreaking; it isn't trying to be. It's yet another terrific installment to an old roleplaying brand that found its audience and discovered its voice, and plays very strongly to both.
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (November 15, 2022)
Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.
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