Ys fans rejoice! Konami has heard your pleas and brought over what was once thought to be another great import game lost in the shuffle of recent big-name releases. Originally a PC title, The Ark of Napishtim brings back all the classic gameplay the series is known for, and seasons it with a bit of next gen love. If you’re an Adol Christin fan (and who isn’t), welcome home.
The plot is typical Ys (pronounced "ease"). Young Adol has a penchant for washing up on strange shorelines, and this time, he’s found himself on a strange island in the heart of the Great Vortex of Canaan. For years, the Vortex has swallowed up any ship unlucky enough to get too close, and Adol is its latest victim. He sets out to solve the mystery of the Vortex and discover its relation to the land of Esteria, where his journeys began back in the original Ys. Along his journey, Adol meets up with old friends from past adventures, including Raba from Darm Tower (from Books I & II).
Before I go on, let me get a few minor details out of the way for the benefit of those unfamiliar with the franchise. See, there are gamers out there who have always tended to take the Ys series at face value, never looking past the graphics or (until recently) the simple combat system. These poor, deluded souls simply don’t know what they’re missing. Sure, Ark of Napishtim isn’t as pretty as some of the other RPGs out there. In fact, it looks like a well-polished Dreamcast game.
Does that make it ugly? Not necessarily. One must keep in mind that this is a two year-old PC game, ported to the oldest of the current crop of platforms. While it may not be gorgeous, it’s nothing to sneer at either. The classic Ys presentation is here, and that goes a long way towards making the overall experience more than initially apparent. Even better, a simple cheat code entered at the beginning allows you to play in full PC mode, complete with Japanese voices (with English text) and the original anime cut scenes! Modern CG cinemas may be nice, but I’ll take good 'ol hand drawn scenes any day. All this is set to a wonderful soundtrack (they went with the original PC score, thankfully) that isn’t on the same level as that of Books I & II, but is still well orchestrated and worthy of the Ys name.
With Ark of Napishtim, one could argue that the Ys franchise has been dragged kicking and screaming into the modern era. This is evident in more than just the graphics, and gamers weaned on modern action/RPGs may also find the combat system a bit lacking. Though refined and much more complex than any other game in series, it’s still pretty basic by today’s standards. All your special moves are available right from the start, and the selection is small but effective. Upward and downward thrusts are needed for taking out airborne and underground foes, and the dash move gets you to those hard to reach places in addition to unleashing massive damage. As you level up, these moves become more devastating. If you’re lucky to land a critical hit during a special attack, you can dispatch even the most powerful foes with only a few blows.
All these impressive moves are performed with any of the three swords (which are also keys) entrusted to Adol. Each sports a particular magic (fire, wind, and electricity), that can be upgraded by collecting Emel (small gems released by your foes). Raise your blade’s level and its magic gauge will fill up more rapidly. Certain areas require the use of a specific sword, so it’s important to upgrade regularly.