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February 2005



- Extremely fun gameplay
- Amazing boss battles
- One of the best game soundtracks in recent years



- A little on the short side
- Lame extras from the PC version



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Ys: The Ark of Napishtim

Score: 8.8 / 10


Take a step back, if you will, to 1990. George Bush Sr. was in the Oval Office. Johnny Carson bid a fond farewell to the Tonight Show. And people were fascinated that you could now play video games on CD-ROM. The poster boy for NEC's Turbografx- 16 CD was a little game called Ys Book I & II. An updated translation of an old computer title, Ys contained beautiful full screen cinemas, voiced characters, and one of the best soundtracks ever composed. Being that few people really invested in the Turbografx, few got to bask in its splendor. Most Americans are probably more familiar with Ys 3, the side-scrolling bastard of the series, since it came out on the Genesis and SNES - in other words, systems people actually owned.


ark of napishtim review          ark of napishtim review


Fast forward to 2005, and over a decade later, Ys has made a triumphant return. Technically the sixth in the series (the fourth and fifth games never left Japan), Ys: The Ark of Napishtim is a 16-bit action RPG through and through. Originally released for the PC in its home country back in 2003, Konami has been awesome enough to port it to the PS2 and let American gamers have a shot at its glory.


The star of Ys is Adol Christin, the tight-lipped, red haired do-gooder who roams the land in search of adventure, ancient civilizations, and hot elven babes. Adol, you see, has a tendency to get swept into the sea and end up stranded on mysterious beaches. This time, while under attack by the imperialistic Romun army, he is knocked off a pirate ship and ends up in the Vortex of Canaan. Based on the Bermuda Triangle, this mysterious no-mans-land is where where ships get destroyed and people get lost, never to be heard from again. But unbeknownst to the outside world, it's a tropical paradise, filled with luscious jungles, majestic plains, and enough lost civilizations to fill would-be archaeologists with awe.

Adol's priority number one is to find his friends and leave the island, but also takes some time to reunite the warring factions on the island, stop invading foreigners from using the power of the Vortex for evil, and naturally, save the world. While there are references a'plenty to make Ys fans giggle and paw at their TVs in glee, newbies won't have a problem following the plotline, which is mostly threadbare anyway.

Since Ys maintains the feel of old RPGs, being properly leveled up is extremely important. No matter how good your reflexes are, if you're poorly equipped or lacking in experience, bad guys will tear Adol to pieces merely by coming within five feet of him. Much of the game is spent smashing stuff with your sword and hacking little animals to bits, harvesting them for their precious experience points. Unlike the older Ys games, where you needed to ram into bad guys to damage them, The Ark of Napishtim arms Adol with an attack button to slash at his foes. Adol controls so gorgeously that the mere act of running around and jumping is satisfying.





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The grandest parts of the Ark of Napishtim are the boss battles. Gigantic, beautifully textured and smoothly animated, each badass encounter is a frenetic slice of old-school action. The second boss is a gigantic flying crab that sprays spores and litters the landscape with its eggs. Kinda cool, yes, but the entire battle is fought on top of a rock that is hurtling straight towards the ground at terminal velocity. The intensity is only furthered by one of the most incredible boss battle themes ever, a hard rock filled with wailing guitars and an Egyptian-style melody on synth. 



And that's only one song. One of the biggest appeals of the Ys series is its amazing soundtrack, and this one stays true to its legacy. There's no shortage of variety, with genres ranging from synth rock to techno to orchestral, separating if from yopur usual RPG fare. While not as consistently amazing as some of the other games in the series, Ys 6 undoubtedly has one of the strongest soundtracks in recent memory.


ark of napishtim review          ark of napishtim review


A couple of additions have been added for the PS2 version. New CG rendered cutscenes were done for the intro and ending, although the characters models are quite bizarre looking. Thankfully, you can reactivate the amazing anime intro from the PC version with a cheat code. The character sprites have been replaced by polygonal models, which look pretty decent. Overall the game doesn't look as crisp or run as smoothly as it would on a high-end PC, but it's more suitable. All of the dialogue is fully voiced, although the directors tried to add flavor to the characters by giving them weird accents or speech impediments. If the English voices bother you, the Japanese acting is available, also through a cheat code. Gameplay-wise,  the only addition comes in the form of Alma's Trials. Broken up into five mini tests, these bonus levels give you additional ways to power up your swords or gain money and experience. Unfortunately, the graphics are pretty dull, and some of the puzzles revolve around some severely obnoxious platforming.

Other than the slipshod extras, the only possible complaint with Ys is the length. You can probably beat the Normal setting in around 8-10 hours. There are lots of hidden items and bosses to find, but the main game does feel a little. Modern gamers may be put off by its simplicity, but that shouldn't matter. The Ark of Napishtim is a gift to those who spent their school years up late at night with Illusion of Gaia and Secret of Mana.


- Kurt Kalata

(March 27, 2005)

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