By Adam Reese / May 6th, 2015
|Title||Ys: The Ark of Napishtim|
|Publisher||Nihon Falcom (PC)
XSEED Games (Steam, GOG.com)
|Release Date||April 28, 2015|
|Genre||Action role-playing game|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Teen|
Ys is a series that has existed for almost 30 years, first starting out on the PC-88, a Japanese home computer that had many iterations, with even a few in the United States. An official successor of the Dragon Slayer series, first released four years prior, it has become Falcom’s flagship franchise. With over 13 games (excluding compilations and remakes) on over 20 platforms, including consoles, handhelds, computers and mobile phones, it has become as synonymous with RPGs in Japan as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. After a few releases of the series in America between 1988 and 1991, we wouldn’t see another until 2005, with the release of Ys: The Ark of Napishtim on the PlayStation 2 and a year later on the PlayStation Portable.
Now, 12 years after Napishtim’s initial PC release in 2003, and following the success of similar Steam releases of Ys: Origin, Ys I & II and Ys: Oath of Felghana, XSEED Games has localized the initial PC version of Ys: The Ark of Napishtim, the sixth main entry of the popular action RPG series.
The game starts off with a nice intro cutscene, following a common theme in the Ys series: our main protagonist, Adol Christin, washes up on the shores of an unknown country, only to be found by one of the main love interests of the game. This time around, the woman’s name is Olha, a member of a tribe of humanoids with tails and long ears called the Redha that follow a religion that teaches them to respect and become one with nature.
The nation this time is a crescent-shaped chain of islands called the Canaan Islands, surrounded by an unnatural phenomenon called the Great Vortex that prevents anyone from leaving the island, but not stopping the “lucky” ones that stray too close from washing up on its shores.
After initial distrust of Adol, due, in part, to very tumultuous relations with other humans, Adol earns both their trust and the trust of the humans located on the nearby island. With their assistance, Adol’s mission is to discover the secrets of the island, help out the people he meets, perhaps meet a few familiar faces and, hopefully, get off the island and continue his adventures across the world.
First off, story has never been at the forefront of the Ys series, relying more on the characters and the combat to stand out from other games. Be that as it may, however, there is enough of one to keep things interesting as you proceed through the game, with the characters helping elevate it to something worth paying attention to.
People who played either Ys: Origin or Oath of Felghana will be very familiar with the gameplay in The Ark of Napishtim. Attacking is done with a button, unlike the bumping mechanic that was a signature of the franchise in the first few entries. With the collection of weapons, armor and accessories, the player is able to customize their experience to their liking.
However, like the other games, a lot of grinding will be required to be able to deal sufficient damage to enemies without being beaten down in seconds by the average enemy, much less the bosses that tower over you. Expect to frequent many areas loaded with enemies simply to grind your way to a more survivable state, and, even then, having to be cautious around the harder-hitting enemies. This will, of course, be a drain on your experience with the game, but it all depends on how patient you are.
People will also be familiar with the level of graphics one can expect from an Ys game. It’s hardly a strain on any modern machine, and you have to keep in mind that this game has hardly been updated visually since its initial 2003 release. Although you can adjust the settings to make things sharper and the colors shine, it relies more on the still image of the character to get across their appearance than the model itself.
As for the music, it should come as no surprise that it is another excellent entry in the franchise. Falcom were pioneers of music in games, having, among other things, been the first to produce game music CDs. A lot of wailing guitars and intense use of violins will follow you in the game. I highly recommend taking a listen for yourself, as it was a great experience for my ears.
The localization is superb. Although it doesn’t have nearly as many pop culture references as other entries in the series, it meets the standard in our games, much less the standard that Falcom brings to all of their localizations. With a bevy of unique characters with their own personalities and attitudes towards their given situations, you’ll quickly return to their side again and again throughout your journey just to get their take on any new situation.
Even with the grinding I had to do, and my tendency to collect everything and squeeze as much dialogue out of characters as I can, it only took a little over 12 hours to beat the game, although not without plenty of deaths and barely defeating bosses. For those that want to have a more comfortable, complete experience, expect to take around 15 hours to beat the game, even more if you restart at higher difficulty levels.
Overall, I had a very enjoyable experience with The Ark of Napishtim, especially when characters I recognized from previous entries showing up in unexpected places in the game. For fans of the Ys series, you will doubtless enjoy The Ark of Napishtim. However, this game isn’t for the impatient or easily frustrated, as an Ys game does tend to alienate those who can’t tolerate a Game Over screen or two.
Review copy provided by publisher.
FalcomNihon FalcomWindows PCXSEED Games