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Game Info:

Ys VI: The Ark of Napishim
Developed By: Nihon Falcom/XSEED Games
Published By: XSEED Games
Release Date: April 28, 2015 (original Japanese PC release: September 27, 2003)
Available On: PC (reviewed), PS2, PSP
Genre: Action Role-Playing Game
Number of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: Not Rated (PS2: T for Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol)
MSRP: $19.99
PSP version $20 on LeapTrade

Thank you XSEED Games for sending us this game for review!

Ys is an action RPG series, where Adol (and sometimes his friends, especially in newer entries) explores the world, searching for new mysteries.  He often finds himself in the center of a regional conflict, and saves them from disaster, while also leaving behind a lady (or two) who wishes he would stay.  Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim is a 3rd person, isometric, 3D adventure (with 2D sprites) where he slays his opponents at a frenetic pace.

Adol, after yet another shipwreck, finds himself washed up on the shore of the Canaan islands, a nearly impossible to reach area inside of the Great Vortex.  He is found by a Rhodan, a strange local tribe of people with pointy ears and tails, but otherwise act and behave human.  They help him recover, but distrust him, like many other Eresians (which is Ys lore for Eurasians).  Being the ever helpful (and nosy) Adol, he manages to help the locals with their troubles, earn their trust, and save the world.  While that may sound like spoiler material, it really isn't – every Ys game has that plot on some level.

Despite the story not seeming like much, and indeed Ys games tend not to focus on that, but The Ark of Napishtim has a decent storyline, and much more interesting lore than many other entries I have played.  Having played through this, I now understand more of the story of many other games.  In many ways, it's required for understanding Emelas and the Eldeen civilization.  All Ys games are gameplay first over story, and this one is no exception, but for series fans, it's a must play for that reason alone.

After the mixed success of Ys V back in 1995 (only in Japan), the Ys series was in a bit of a dry spell.  Eight years had passed since the iconic red haired swordsman was in a new adventure.  In the west, the drought was even longer, since Ys V never came here.  Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim revitalized the series in quite a powerful way – and now, over a decade later, several new Ys games have been released, and even now one is in development, thanks in large part to the success of Ys VI.  In 2005, Konami released Ys VI for the PS2, and it came west as well, but the original Windows PC release was nowhere to be found.  XSEED Games took on that challenge and brought Ys VI to current Windows PCs, and re-translated it to more properly fit with XSEED's other Ys releases.

Ys VI: The Ark of Napishim
Highlights:

Strong Points: Very important game in the Ys series, with lots of lore and overarching plot reveals; great first game for new Ys players, since it's one of the easier entries; good flow to battles; nice mix of modern and classic gameplay; graphics have aged well; incredible soundtrack
Weak Points: Fairly easy for an Ys game; The bosses have an uneven difficulty level; the dash jump can be maddening to pull off consistently; widescreen adaptation works well, but some corners of the game world show black since the game was originally developed for 4:3
Moral Warnings: Action violence, including blood and enemy body parts dropped on kill; some NPCs consume alcohol and are drunk, slurring speach; magic is used by the player and enemies; some minor suggestive themes, including a creepy guy who has a rather strange amphibious 'soulmate'; several female characters and monsters show significant cleavage or midriffs, with one creature a skin tight body suit; some minor curse words like b*stard, h*ll, d*mn, dumb*ss, and p*ssed off; God's name used in vain once; racial distrust shown between Eresians and Rehdans; other gods, from the land of the gods

Not content to just translate it and call it a day, XSEED also took a few liberties to improve the experience for modern gamers.  First of all, they added widescreen resolution display support.  Other than a very few small bugs, this works great and is greatly appreciated.  The controller support also works flawlessly, though the default for one button had to be changed for it to make sense.  (They often fix issues like these in patches; it may already be fixed.)

One other significant change is that they modified what the Wings of Alma does.  Instead of simply exiting the current dungeon, they made each Alma shrine a potential warp point.  So now, you can warp anywhere!  The only 'gotcha' is that, if the player goes to the wrong place at the wrong time, it can cause a few sequence breaking bugs.  I somehow instinctively knew when to avoid this, and had a flawless experience, but I read about others having this issue.  It certainly helps with grinding and powering up, though.  The game provides a ton of save slots – use them!  They also include a great bonus feature – the Ys VI Material Collection, which is a previously rare collection of images and concept art that was included in the original Japanese Limited Edition release.  Nice one!

The largest new addition (to gameplay) is Catastrophe mode, where healing items cannot be stored, and are used immediately upon pickup, whether you need it or not. This is similar to Ys: The Oath in Felghana and Ys Origin, which follow this game using a similar game engine.  The healing items, while at times handy, significantly change the feel of the boss battles.  It's far too tempting (and easy) to spam healing items when boss battles begin to get tough.  By forcing the player to memorize each boss's patterns, it builds player skill and makes each victory much more rewarding.  To compensate (somewhat) for the massively increased difficulty, XSEED has included a new vendor, where you can buy stat boosting items, for a fairly high price.  I think this is a great idea, and a wonderful option for those looking for a more rewarding challenge.  And, surprisingly enough, Nihon Falcom didn't program this in – XSEED Games did.

The core of the game is solid, and quite enjoyable.  Adol slices through monsters quickly, with some requiring nimble acrobatics or jump attacks to eliminate efficiently.  Bosses are appropriately massive and challenging, though the first few are much easier.  The game does have a somewhat uneven difficulty at times; some of the mid game bosses are much harder than later ones, but all are fairly enjoyable.  Unless you decide to tackle one certain optional boss; you will need all of the help you can get, including massive overleveling.

Each level has always made a huge difference in Ys games, and this one is no exception.  If you have a natural tendency to kill things for fun or slightly grind as you play, then you likely won't have much of a level problem.  If not, you will almost certainly need to grind.  You can usually tell when the point of diminishing returns arrives, as the experience enemies deliver drops dramatically if you are too overleveled for the area.

Despite the somewhat uneven boss difficulty, and generally much easier bosses (with some exceptions), it's still thoroughly enjoyable.  I would say that because of the lesser challenge, this is a great entry into the series for new players.  Some bosses I was able to defeat in just a few short tries; in The Oath in Felghana, the game that immediately follows this one, it took me very close to ten tries before even beating the first boss, where this one I may have died once.  

Ys VI: The Ark of Napishim

Having said all that, without items, I feel like the difficulty quotient could dramatically change.  Catastrophe mode may be just what the doctor ordered if a good challenge is what you want.  Also, multiple difficulty levels are available from the start, so that is always an option for the more masochistic among us.  I can't personally verify this, but I have heard it said that this game goes from being fairly easy to one of the hardest in the series on Nightmare mode.  On Catastrophe mode, where you can't chug healing potions... well that gives me chills just thinking about it.

The only real gameplay flaw outside of what was already mentioned is a little move called the dash jump.  Executing this is not required to beat the game at all, and eventually I got the hang of it, so I was able to find all of the secrets.  But it requires a strange flick of the movement stick, then an attack+jump action.  When performed successfully, you jump farther than normal.  This combined with some fairly tricky platforming, definitely led to some frustration.  Thankfully, Falcom learned from their error and never introduced that mechanic in an Ys game again.

For a game from 2003 originally, the graphics have aged quite well.  I have been pleased with the 3D rendered world, along with 2D sprites for all characters and smaller enemies.  Larger bosses can be sometimes rendered.  Despite this, they managed to use the lighting and simple shading effects of that era quite well, so that it still looks pretty good.  Obviously not photo-realistic or anything of that sort; cartoony and somewhat simple, but not offensive at all, unlike some older PlayStation titles, for example.  Some of the vista shots have slight bugs, like black edges, since they were not designed for 16:9 widescreen displays; but even so, I still enjoy the breathtaking views.

Ys VI: The Ark of Napishim
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 86%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 64%
Violence - 6/10
Language - 7/10
Sexual Content - 5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7/10

The music is awesome, like on every Ys game I have played.  I have simply not played an Ys game where I have not wanted the soundtrack, and this is no exception. While it doesn't rock as hard as some other installments (outside of bosses; the boss themes are epic), the music is still quite enjoyable.  My favorites are early game area themes like 'Quatera Woods' and the fantastic boss theme 'Mighty Obstacle'.  I could tell you other excellent music themes, but some of the names of the tracks contain spoilers.

As probably expected, Adol does attack his enemies with a sword, and he does kill them.  Blood and creature parts (gibs) are left behind, and fade quickly.  While the vast majority of the enemies are monsters, there is one section with human opponents.  There is an alternative religion native to the region, where they worship a goddess Alba.  More about the background of these gods is (and the gods of other Ys games) is explored in the lore in this game, especially if the player searches out all of the Tabulas.

The main conflict early in the game is about a racial (species?) conflict between the Redhans and the Eresians.  Some PG-13 language is used, including h*ll, d*mn, p*ss of, dumb*ss, and b*stard.  God's name is used in vain once.  Several female characters show off significant cleavage.  A couple of the fairy creatures don't wear clothes (they aren't human) but appear very female and have skin tight curves that don't leave much to the imagination.  There are a couple of visible midriffs as well.  There are two drunken characters; at least one of them slurs his speech significantly during conversations.  One of the rather well off nobles has a rather unusual fetish, that involves a certain large amphibious creature.  Nothing more than that is stated, though perhaps implied.

I really enjoyed Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim.  If you have read any of my other Ys reviews, it probably goes without saying that I would like this also.  I have come to view this series (and indeed, this developer) quite fondly, as their games often have a rare combination of gameplay, polish, care, and music that few others replicate.  I also really liked the atmosphere in this game.  Nevertheless, they are rarely without any appropriateness concerns.  If none of these are deal breakers, then I would highly recommend Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim.

About the Author

Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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