"The PSP port's issues begin and end with the frequent loading. Every time Adol moves from one screen to the next — even if he's just walking into a house — a loading screen will appear. Sometimes NOW LOADING is white. Sometimes NOW LOADING is light blue."
When I reviewed Ys VI - The Ark of Napishtim for Windows, I described the moment when Adol first leaves town and enters the monster-infested woods. I still remember my elation at that instant -- the PC's speakers exploded with aural magnificence, and my eyes were flooded with a lush tapestry of sun-drenched greenery. Adol's world felt vibrant and alive. I truly felt as though I were standing at the edge of an amazing adventure. It was enough to reduce an otherwise manly reviewer to writing bad poetry!
A bit beyond a year has passed, and I'm now playing Ys 6 on PSP. Adol's tale begins, as it did once before, with an exciting anime introduction. This cinematic sequence is VERY INTENSE and utterly crushes the horrible CG aberration crammed into the PS2 port. After his ship was attacked by a hostile fleet, Adol the Pirate washed ashore and got taken in by two super-cute beast women. Arrrr! I love me 'dem fluffy-tailed wenches! As everyone (except Adol the Mute) discussed protectionist social policies and racial prejudice, my finger unconsciously tapped the X button to skip through the ensuing conversations as quickly as possible. My body could not contain its excitement for the upcoming moment: the moment that Adol would first step into Quatera Woods.
When Adol left the village, my ears were again graced by Team JDK's resplendent melody. Meanwhile, my eyes were assailed by a pitch-black screen. On this black screen were written two simple words in white block letters: NOW LOADING. A few seconds later, as the music continued to play, the words changed color. NOW LOADING.
Somehow, the moment wasn't quite as I remembered.
The PSP port's issues begin and end with the frequent loading. Every time Adol moves from one screen to the next -- even if he's just walking into a house -- a loading screen will appear. Sometimes NOW LOADING is white. Sometimes NOW LOADING is light blue. NOW LOADING is occasionally even yellow. These absurdly frequent loading screens are unfortunately NOT INTENSE. Where are the full-screen portraits of Olha, Isha, and Ernst? Where is the miniature Adol running across the empty blackness, only to trip as he nears the screen's edge? As evidenced by the Ys VI Material Collection, a wealth of promotional graphics and beautiful artwork exists for Ys 6. If they were too lazy to fix the loading times, then Konami should have at least used some of Falcom's art!
But they didn't.
They also didn't include the dual-language voicework from the PS2 edition, the exploding bloody squirrels from the Windows version, or the brand-new Alma's Trial dungeon that was created for the PS2 port.
But that's okay, because the PSP bonuses more than make up for the missing content. For one thing, the entire game is presented in ACTUAL WIDESCREEN. I wrote that in bold capital letters so that it would sound more significant, because it really is a big improvement. Konami could have just screwed with the resolution (as other companies have done for PSP ports), but they instead expanded the viewing area, which makes it easier to see enemies and obstacles on either side. Going back and playing one of the other versions actually feels unnatural and confined!
Ys 6 on PSP controls just as easily as it did on PS2, which is a good thing since some of the BRAND NEW NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN mini games can be pretty taxing. It's true that Alma's Trials have been removed... but that's not a bad thing. That's a good thing, because the new mini-games are both more exciting and more challenging. You know a game is good when it gets you so pumped up that your hands are shaking even after you put the PSP down. That's how I felt after negotiating some of the harrowing obstacle courses in the "Pirate Training" episode. There are nine mini-games in all, unlocked by discovering secret items strewn across the world. (Don't worry, they're easy to find.) If you manage to beat all nine difficulty levels in any given mini-game, you earn a ridiculously good reward which makes the main game a LOT easier.
If you prefer non-interactive bonuses, a character gallery, movie player, and music test are automatically unlocked after you've completed a few dungeons. There's even a monster gallery of surprising size. Finally, we know that these villains have names!
The game adds all these extras on top of a powerful adventure that gamers have been enjoying since 2003. Whether it's funny characters (I still love it when Dogi busts through walls) or immersive dungeons, this is one of the most lovingly-designed action-RPG's ever created. While Adol explores a dark and dismal cavern, it's still as shocking as ever when he stumbles across a gorgeous underground reservoir. Waterfalls cascade into the depths below, and sunlight illuminates the glistening limestone walls. Unfortunately, it's but a brief respite... enjoy this moment, because the exit to the west leads back into the slime-infested darkness.
Slimes come in all shapes and colors -- green ones cause poison, red ones cause confusion, and gold ones inflict curses. To counter these ailments, Adol needs to carry plenty of curative items. If he should be poisoned, a quick trip to the item menu should end his ails...
CHUG CHUG CHUG
The item screen loads up. The cursor is currently hovering over "EQUIP". We need to move it down to "USE".
CHUG CHUG CHUG
Now the cursor is on "USE". A press of the X button will move us into the item box, where we can pick what we need.
CHUG CHUG CHUG
Now, the cursor is located on the "HONEY POT". However, we need to use one of the poison-curing flowers. We'll move the cursor to the right.
CHUG CHUG CHUG
The cursor is hovering over "HERB". Let's move down one spot.
CHUG CHUG CHUG
What in the world is going on?! Here's the answer: when navigating menus, the screen displays a small image of whatever item is currently selected. Every time you move the cursor, the game actually stops and loads the new image. Simply using inventory items (or equipping new armor) should not be this infuriating. Nonetheless, I eventually selected the necessary item and cured my poison. Then I went back to the game, slaughtered a giant skittering beetle, and gained a level! YEAH!
CHUG CHUG CHUG
The game stops to load the "sparkle effect" animation whenever Adol gains a level. So uh, now I gained a level and, uh, it's time to go north.
. . . . .
The game loads every time you enter a new screen. It's definitely annoying, especially when an enemy knocks you off a ledge (CHUG CHUG CHUG) and then you have to go back to where you were in the first place (CHUG CHUG CHUG). But annoyance isn't even the real issue. These loading times discourage players from exploring... which is a damn crying shame, since exploration is one of the game's biggest appeals. It's still a fun adventure, but only if you already know where you're going.
In short, the loading times single-handedly wreck what should have been the best version of Ys VI - The Ark of Napishtim. For adventure-loving unfortunates who haven't yet experienced Falcom's masterpiece, this PSP port is not the proper introduction. Check it out on Windows or PS2 first.
Staff review by Zigfried (April 01, 2006)
Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.
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