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Ys: The Ark of Napishtim [PS2]





Every bit as good as it should be, but lacking a bit of what it could be.

7.5

Great
Difficulty:
Very Easy
Learning Curve:
0 to 30 Minutes
Time Spent:
10 to 20 Hours
The Bottom Line:
"Almost, but not quite"

Summary

YS(pronounced "iiiish"): The Ark of Napishtim is the sixth installment in the YS series, and picks up three years after the conclusion of YS V which debuted on the SNES about 14 years ago. So, if you've never heard of this series thatís probably why. If you do remember this series, and are still playing games, have no fear as everything you both loved and hated about the previous titles is intact one hundred fold. The story goes something like this. You once again don the guise of red haired hero Adol Christian, and in the games intro you and your friend Dogi are offered an adventure by some pirates, however, the Romun Army comes to arrest you and thus you are driven to flee with the pirates. During the ensuing battle with the Romun Navy you are knocked overboard while trying to save a fellow pirate crew member and are swallowed by the great vortex, a mysterious place from which none have ever returned, and is rumored to house a great treasure at its core. Of course the battle has to conveniently take place immediately outside of this thing. After being devoured by the vortex you wash ashore on an island badly injured and are nursed back to health by Olha and her younger sister. These two girls are strange elf/cat people that belong to a tribe known as the Rheda, and inhabit the small island chain inside the great vortex that you are now on. I won't go on, as I think you can see where this is going, but needless to say the hack and slash solo adventure begins in all its simplistic, clichéd, stereotypical glory, and will take you no longer than 20 hours complete.

Now letís not beat around the bush anymore, ok? This game has some of the worst graphics seen in any recent RPG on any system. The sprites lack any form of detail and the environments are grossly simplistic. In fact, the sprites are so bad that you could actively compare them with those of Final Fantasy 7, a game that was released back in 1997 and didn't even have sprites its characters were simply raw polygons. The environments look horribly dated, though no where near to the extent that the sprites are. There is at least some form of cover up here; however, as the game attempts to use pretty patterns and repeated textures to hide its nudity. What is nice about the environments though is that in many cases they come with some pretty nice watercolor, oil, and acrylic painted back drops, and multiple layers, all of which look great and do a good job establishing unique YS fantasy feel.

The characters are much like the environments in this game. They contain a beauty that is out of reach. Perhaps this is because the games voice acting is beyond god awful. However, there are a few gems and familiar faces here and there such as Sonny Strait (most known for voicing Krillin in the Legendary Dragonball series) who plays the town peddler. You have two options when it comes to the games dub. You can either leave it on, or turn it off. There is no Japanese audio readily available on the disc. However, you can activate it with the proper code from the cheats menu that is available when you go to start a new game. While it's nice that it's still in the games code, I don't think I'm alone in saying that this should have been a feature in the options menu. Not something you bust your ass for in order to ďunlock it,Ē especially since it is considerably better than the poor job done by the American actors. Also once that code is in the system and you've saved that game with that code on it to your memory card, that ďcheatĒ is permanent for the life of that game. That's right permanent, there is no way to turn it off if you want to, and that goes for all cheats, not just the voiceover, many of which are legitimate. However, itís not really an overly big deal since you can only play with one cheat on at a time. The cheats and terrible dub aside, in terms of characters, you will run across a few old faces from pervious YS games that practically no one will remember for a short nostalgia high. You will also encounter a horde of new characters, many of which are terribly unoriginal, and a few of them look like cheap bootlegs of other well known RPG and Anime Series stars. However, the one cool thing about the characters in this game is that their depth and story are exposed gradually over the course of the game. This is because the game constantly recycles you through the same environments while gradually expanding them and introducing you to new ones. While at first glance you may think this a horrible thing, itís really not. In fact, it's pretty cool, because what it dose is give the game a large amount of the depth for the small scale that it takes place on. This isn't like Final Fantasy or Grandia where you adventure around and meet people once, get their lines and then are done with them. In The Arc of Napishtim you constantly go back and talk to everyone you have known since the games beginning. This letís you see how everyone changes in response to your actions and everyone elseís reactions to each other in regard to your actions, as well as the events that come up in the story. After a little while you see that everything is connected and entwined to everything else in the game, and itís pretty cool. This makes every character in the game 3D and breathes an insane amount of life into the game world. After the initial meeting you feel like you are in a real town and with real people. They gossip. You can feel their tension, their emotion, their stress, and their feelings toward one another, as well as towards you, be they fellow ship wreck survivors, natives, or any of the other groups of magical beings you meet in this adventure. Plus, to top everything off, because new material is constantly coming up going back and talking to the same people never gets old, and you will find yourself constantly coming back for more, even if itís not important.

Game play is by far Ark of Napishtim's strongest suit. Itís not more than shallow hack and slash, and the interface is clunky and dated. The fact that you can't access your inventory during boss battles, for instance, makes them down right infuriating. However, the simple play control and fast pace of the hack and slash action will have you mindlessly addicted to the very end. Battles never get old, no matter how many of those stupid little green gem's you need to collect to upgrade any one of your three magic swords, or how many monsters you need to kill to level. In fact, and I know that others can attest to this, if this game had a co-op story mode it would be THE HOTTEST thing to hit any console since Squareís ďSecret of Mana,Ē back in 1993. Yes, despite the bad things I've said this game IS that good, and it's all thanks to mindless fun of the combat system.

My only complaint when it comes to the battle system is its simplicity is its downfall. The reason for this is after the first boss battle you start to get the games elemental swords. There are three in all, each coinciding with one of the games elements, one wind element, one fire element, and one water element. Each is given to you, just as every typical RPG does, after beating a boss. Now while each sword has its own special and moves, the problem is that there is no elemental base to this game. Thatís right, there is no table of elements in YS: The Arc of Napishtim. So because of this you do just as much damage to the giant ice golem over there with your level 7 water sword as you do with your level 7 fire sword and level 7 wind sword. This situation shouldn't be the case! One of your swords should do extra damage, one should heal the enemy, and/or not have any effect on him like the third sword. Anyone who is remotely familiar with RPGís knows this, and by not having it apply there is no point in the second and third swords being in the game. Instead, the developers opted to make everything in the game is level based. What dose this mean? It means that all you have to do is over crank your sword(s) and you will be able to run through the game slaughtering anything that gets in your way. Worse yet, if you build your swords evenly and kill enough enemies to use the swords special attack and then go into the boss battle and let loose on him with your swords, those nightmarish boss encounters mentioned previously become a joke, and the game looses all itís challenge, minus the annoying plat-forming elements in the dungeons.

All and all, YS: The Arc of Napishtim is a lot of fun despite its many problems. Music, something the YS series is known for, is nothing you'll want a soundtrack of, but nothing bad either. While the story is pretty stereotypical and clichéd, the way that the other characters in the game unfold and open up to you as the game progresses still makes it interesting and keeps you thinking. The combat system, which is simplistic and yet fluid, is by far and large the games mind, body, heart and soul. Everything else in the game is an afterthought in comparison to the combat. Most of your time playing will be spent going around in the wild and slaughtering everything that dares to cross your path, simply because it's just so much fun. The game has a new game plus mode, well sorta, similar to ďChrono Triggerís,Ē which unlocks when you beat the game for the first time. However, this new mode is mostly just a bunch of crazy added and unnecessary challenges that you can undertake, and upon completion, reward you with either an automatic sword upgrade of your choice, an item, or piece of equipment that is as crack-fiendish as the challenge was. Upon completing these challenges there are slight alterations to the ending, though it's nothing to write home about, and most people will definitely be able to get by without it. This added mode feels tacked on at the last minute, and is simply there for what die hard fans of the YS series remain. The one thing this game really leaves to be desired is an option to play co-op with a friend, simply because the combat is much fun, and so reminiscent Secret of Mana. Also, if co-op was present, then this would be best RPG to hit consoles since Secret of Mana in 1993. SoM was an unforgettable experience that causes me to salivate when I think about repeating that experience in a new game. Sadly YS: The Arc of Napishtim is not that new game. However, the game definitely shows enough potential to see that it could have easily been said game if its developers had just taken a little more time, and aimed a little higher. Depending on how you look at it. The Arc of Napishtim does and does not have trouble competing with other modern RPG's and old school RPG's on the market. Its graphics are bad. Its sound is nothing special. Its story is cliché, but its game play is awesome. Once you take into account that itís first YS game in nearly 14 years, itís easy to see that itís everything it should be, even though it fall's short of everything it could have been.




Fans of Action-RPGs should give this game a try!

8.1

Superb
Difficulty:
Just Right
Learning Curve:
0 to 30 Minutes
Time Spent:
10 to 20 Hours
The Bottom Line:
"Old-school"

Summary

The Y's series is one that's been around a long time and one that I've always been curious about, going back to the Turbographx-16. I was interested in trying this out for the PS2, and when the price went down to $20 I grabbed a copy.

GAMEPLAY - Well, it's pretty basic. You only have the protagonist, Adol, no party members here. During the course of the game Adol will acquire three different elemental swords (wind, fire and lightning) which he can power up with stones that are found after defeating enemies. As the swords are powered up they will achieve magic attacks, and this is the only magic in the game. Of your four main buttons, one will be used for attacks, one for jumps, one for sword magic and one for item (usually healing items, since there is no healing magic) usage. Rather simple. Reminded me of the NES and SNES Zelda games. Adol will level up as he acquires experience, and this only affects his strength and defense. Adol can acquire more powerful armor and shields through shops but strangely cannot sell back his old ones, which was disappointing. Adol's most common attack is the jump attack, which is simply jumping and then pushing the attack button to give a devastating attack on top of an enemy. Not much strategy for basic battles, but still fun and satisfying. The Boss battles do take some thought, as some of them will have specific weak areas that have to be taken advantage of for victory. There is some platforming in the game, but thankfully the areas that are difficult to reach are also not necessary, they just contain some nice items that you can still finish the game without going to.

GRAPHICS - This can be a bit deceiving. The first impression people may get from screen shots is that the people are small and squat, like the old SNES era RPGs. I can't argue with that, and there's no question they are using an old-school style that isn't going to make the PS2 break a sweat, probably not the PS1 either! However, after playing a few minutes I really started to enjoy the look. Maybe some of it was nostalgia, but the fact is that the game does have very colorful backgrounds and the characters do have nice anime style portraits that show up when they are talking. There are also some impressive CGI scenes as well.

SOUND - Perhaps the strongest attribute for me. Unlike many games, every person Adol talks to in the game will use speech, as opposed to only major characters using speech and everyone else using text. Now many have complained over the English voices, and I will admit that some are annoying. This actually brings up another strong point - you can use the Japanese voices with English subtitles, which as I've mentioned in other reviews is an attribute I think is great, as I enjoy hearing the Japanese language and they seem to use a more appropriate range of emotions. The music was also better than average. While it was not an overpowering orchestra like God of War, the tunes were very pleasant and never annoying. This is a soundtrack i would like to own.

Value - Compared to RPGs this game is a bit on the short side. I do not know exactly how long it took to complete this, but I would estimate somewhere between 20-25 hours. After completion the game can be played again on a more difficult level, and there is also a Boss-Rush mode that I haven't tried but looks interesting. From what I could tell this game did not really offer too much in terms of sidequests, you'll pretty much be sticking with completing the main story. I feel that as long as you can purchase this game for $20 or less it is worthwhile.

SUMMARY - In my reviews I generally don't spend time discussing the story, as that can easily be found out in the main review. In this case the story isn't anything that will astound you, and you aren't going to see any major character development. It's simply a straight forward action RPG that was a pleasant experience for me and I would recommend this to just about anyone that keeps their expectations to a reasonable level.




Despite being a fun experience, YS simply can't be recommended to everyone wholeheartely.

7.5

Great
Difficulty:
Hard
Time Spent:
10 to 20 Hours
The Bottom Line:
"Underappreciated"

Summary

Positive
- Interesting storyline
- Plenty of challenging hack-and-slash combat
-A lot of upgrades
- One rare game that is full of voice acting

Negative
- Gets repetitive and at times tough
- Can get boring sometimes

YS: The Ark of Napishtim isn't a game that should be played by anyone, even those interested in the RPG genre, but it is still a fun game to play to those who don't have anything to do. Nonetheless this is a beautiful, entertaining game.

The story seems to start elsewhere. Unfortunately not a lot of history of what has gone before it is told here but the beginning is enough to understand what is going on. The story evolve around Adol, entitles the Red chats or something. After managing to escape the Roman Army, meeting a bunch of past friends they are later attacked again and Adol fells into the ocean, just to later be found by to female Rehdan.

There is a lot of walking to do, but that doesn't slow the pace. The gameplay is challenging but rewarding. Some time after the game you get a sword which you can upgrade by defeating monsters and getting emel. Not all enemies drop them though. Combat is straightforward and can get monotonous sometimes. Monster variety is decent, enemies change from place to place.

You rarely find a game that it full of voice acting, but this installment of YS is. Even when talking to common people, the dialogues are voiced. The voice acting is average, but not annoying which is a shame. The background music is good. Swords noise when fighting is a bit strange.

At save points you can recover health, which is a really helpful thing, since many enemies easily deal a lot of damage. Though most of the time you have to cover a lot of ground to find one and the camera doesn't show a lot ahead.

The Ark of Napishtim is an unremarkable hack-and-slash role-playing which can't be recommended to everyone. The difficulty isn't cheap only tough, the visuals aren't stellar, the fact that is fully voiced make the game pass. It is a rather unique game in some game 'cos you don't come across a game like this every month. It can make for a rental for those look for something entertaining but mostly this game is aimed at those who are already fans for these kinds of games.

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Graphics = 7.6
Doesn't look bad, the environments can get a bit repetitive though but they are colorful.

Sound = 8.4
It is fully voiced, the voice acting is decent enough and the soundtrack fits right.

Presentation = 8.2
The dialogues look great and some nice cutscenes add up nicely. Load times should bother.

Gameplay = 7.9
Challenging old-school hack-and-slash game with plenty of upgrade and places to explore.

Camera = 6.5
The sort of overhead camera shows short distances but it is not problematic.

Story = 7.4
It starts from previous YS games, it is developed rather well.

Difficulty = Hard
Doesn't become cheap, The Ark of Napishtim is just a tough game, though a game that can be managed by anyone.


OVERALL = 7.6 / 10
This installment of YS can't be recommended to anyone. Its challenging gameplay can't be justified well by anyone, but this shouldn't stop people from playing this. It is an underappreciated effort, because not always you find a game with a good story, fun gameplay and one with full voice acting.




Do you remember Y's for Master System? Did you like it? Then you will like it too! Oh? You don't know Y's saga? Welcome!

8.5

Superb
Difficulty:
Just Right
Time Spent:
20 to 40 Hours
The Bottom Line:
"Old-school"

Summary

This game isn't anything like Rogue Galaxy (highly recommended); however it delivers a good game:
- Can be played by everyone; not suggestive themes.
- Lightweight, or I must say, it's not complex - good for relax;
- Relaxing music (can be repetitive at times);
- The characters are interesting and voice spoken too. Remember to visit them time by time in game;
- The story follows the classic RPGs, such like th first Y's.
- It's true that this game doesn't use the potential of PlayStation (in graphics sector), however, it's a decent game.
- Fans of the original Y's will consider this game a must (like me).
- As much you play, much you will be going forward, getting stronger, finding equipment... like old times.
My advice: if you already played the great RPGs for PlayStation 2 already, and,if you want to reduce your stress after working, try smacking off the monsters and exploring the mazes of Y's: The Ark of Napishtim.




More Hack'n Slash than RPG.

6.5

Fair
Difficulty:
Hard
Time Spent:
10 Hours or Less
The Bottom Line:
"Uninspired"

Summary

While the artwork, flair and hack'n slash gameplay does satisfy, the constant need to level up your character for a much too long time in a row, in one and the same area, killing all the same enemies over and over again (re-spawning), does not. If the game would feature more areas, a better level-design and more interactivity with the environment (which is practically non-existent, except for some rare chests and npcs), Ys6 would be a cool game, even though the story and quests are pretty uncreative. But as it is, it's just a game that you'll probably want to play now and then for +/- half an hour, if no better game is in reach. I wouldn't really recommend it to rpg-gamers, but probably to hack & slash fans, if they don't expect too much creativity and content from a game. - There is also a pc version, which was released in asia only. An english fan-patch is available though.
7.5

Great
7.2
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