Ys: The Ark of Napishtim
What is it with the heroes of RPGs beginning their adventures by being washed ashore on some exotic beach? Link did it recently in The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and Alundra had it happen way back in his self-titled debut on the PlayStation. Even Tidus in Final Fantasy X had a go at this peculiar habit. The same thing happens to Adol the Red Ys: Ark of Napishtim but in his defense, he’s been regaining consciousness on beaches since the birth of the Ys series, which hits the sixth installment with this game. If this long-running series sounds unfamiliar, don’t fret. Until now it’s only been seen outside Japan in a couple obscure releases.
After Adol the Red is resuscitated by a pair of lovely girls, complete with tails, he quickly sticks his nose into the problems of the secluded Canaan Islands. Those kindly girls belong to the Rehdan tribe, who all have a deep mistrust of humans. Regular people, dubbed Eresians, aren’t very popular with the Rehdans so poor Adol has to deal with the mistrust of these religious people. Things are further complicated by the burning of the bridge that connects the Rehdan Village with the nearby Eresian town. Each side blames the other for the act, but under the surface there is something more sinister going on.
“Adol spends most of his time hacking and slashing as he traverses the different routes and dungeons.”The storyline is pretty simple, but this is a good thing since past knowledge of the series isn’t required despite some minor references to previous adventures. The story is a typical good vs. evil affair, although there are plenty of interesting characters brought to life by excellent, albeit over the top, voice acting. Since every single character is voiced and their dialogue changes frequently, this is one of the few games where I was eager to speak to everyone just to hear what crazy things they were going to say.
The simple storyline goes along nicely with the uncomplicated, entertaining gameplay. Think of Ys: The Ark of Napishtim as Zelda without the puzzles. Instead, its non-stop action interspersed with the some rare platform jumping. Adol spends most of his time hacking and slashing as he traverses the different routes and dungeons. While it may seem boring to have nothing but action, the controls are so perfect that the fighting never really becomes tiresome. Adol can be controlled so precisely and attacks so quickly that I was constantly seeking out stronger enemies to test my skills against.
Early in the game, Adol obtains three different swords that can be switched on the fly with the trigger buttons. The swords have varying speeds and strength, and after attacking a certain amount of times, different special moves can be unleashed with each weapon. Adol can’t even block attacks, so the best defense in Ys is a strong offense. Fortunately, the red-haired hero can jump and scurry wildly, which is best way to limit damage. Also, there are different kinds of armor and accessories that help Adol along the way. Some of these accessories block negative effects like poison, while others grant the hero extra experience and valuable emel.
“Hopefully this is enough to bring all future sequels out of Japan and to the States and Europe.” The purpose of emel is to level up Adol’s swords with the specialist in town, which is essential to take out the increasingly difficult enemies. It’s far too often that there’s a level grind not only for the regular experience that makes Adol stronger, but also gold and the precious emel. In most games, having to constantly fight the same enemies just to become strong enough to advance is tedious, but the swordplay is so intuitive and fun that it rarely becomes too much of a drag. What does become dull is all the backtracking. Ys is a short game, especially by RPG standards, but there is way too much traveling through areas that have already been conquered. This becomes especially boring when Adol becomes too strong while the enemies remain as weak as they were when they were first dealt with. If enough time is spent leveling up and obtaining emel, then Ys is rarely too difficult with the proper supply of healing items. Making things even easier is the forgiving reloads that allow infinite tries at taking out a boss without having to start from the last save point. If this all sounds too easy, then sadists should appreciate the hard difficulty setting that is offered.
The old-school roots of the latest Ys installment can not only be seen in the simple gameplay, but also the basic graphics. Everything is viewed from afar, which is probably for the best since it’s obvious that these aren’t the most detailed. Still, some of the environments are pleasantly lush, and the bosses are appropriately enormous. Also making up for the lax graphics is the beautiful character art during the dialogue scenes.
Although Ys: The Ark of Napishtim isn’t the prettiest or most epic RPG around, it delivers with its fast-paced action and lack of a convoluted storyline. It’s also not as series or time consuming as some of its counterparts. The backtracking and level grinding are minor issues in this otherwise decent ode to the RPGs of years past. Hopefully this is enough to bring all future sequels out of Japan and to the States and Europe.