Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 02/22/05 | Genre: Action/RPG
Being a huge fan of the Y's series, I eagerly popped Y's Ark of Napishtim into my PlayStation 2. Going into it, I knew that it was going to be short as that's the main complaint of most reviews. After my time with Ark of Napishtim, I can validate this complaint, as I was able to beat the game in just under 10 hours. However, those ten hours have been fantastic.
The game is an Action/RPG hybrid similar to Secret of Mana, or the other Ys games if you have had the fortunate luck to play them. The gameplay is set on an isometric 2D view similar to Zelda, or even Alundra. It's very basic with most attacks following a simple combo system of button presses no more complicated then "hit, hit, pause, and hit", as well as a special attack per sword, but I'll get into that in a moment. Damage seems to be heavily modified, both in receiving and dealing, by your level, which leads to some easy cheese if you level up excessively. Even without going out of your way to level up though, the game feels far too easy. At one point I ventured into an area I knew I had no business being in. I knew this because I was doing two to three points of damage per strike, yet the enemies were killing me in 2 hits. I thought I had to go this way, so I utilized some fancy attack patterns to hit these creatures hundreds of times and killed them for insane XP. It was then that I realized I shouldn't be here, but this just shows how the combat system can be abused if you are skilled enough to avoid getting hit. Most of the boss strategies revolve around either a pattern, or figuring out which one of the three elemental swords will damage them the most, or open them up to further attack. The boss fights are the centerpiece of the action, and they even included a boss fight mode where you can fight all the bosses and try to beat your best time.
The graphics are typical for this genre, and are about what you would expect. The backgrounds are pre-rendered and almost have an artistic quality that blends with the action nicely. The shadows of clouds appear on the ground as you fight, making the immersion into a 3D world almost complete. The sound is top notch, with the soundtrack
filled with pleasant melodies and raising fighting themes. There are only two towns in the game, but they are clearly defined and distinct, making the game seem much bigger then it really is. Every piece of dialog is spoken, and usually people will change what they are saying every time you do the littlest thing. This adds a much more immersive feel then you would think. There are a couple of cameos from previous Ys games, but I won't spoil them here. I will just say they are well done. The control is excellent for this type of game; however there are a couple of frustrating jumping parts that really make no sense here. As I have mentioned above, the game has been a little too easy--with most battles taking no more than one retry before you get the pattern down. There are multiple difficulty levels, but I think they are put in to artificially increase playtime. The aforementioned three elemental swords adds a small dimension of strategy, but you could conceivable complete the entire game using only one of the swords.
The plot is really a basic one, and should be fairly familiar for people who follow the Ys story. Even if you've never played a Ys game however, the clichȳ are still here and should be fairly predictable by this point. You play as the protagonist Adol, a figurehead of the Ys namesake, as well as his red hair. He gets thrown in the middle of an ongoing tribal war and the plot progresses from there. Cameos and throwbacks to previous Ys games were thrown in for good measure, and I found them strangely appropriate. The voice acting is average, and also tends to be hit or miss. You can go from one moment happily listening to a perfect song sung by one of the maidens to a screechy "what the heck were they thinking" old lady trying to sound like a 12 year old. I did find the constant voice acting to pull me more into the story, and the fact that it seemed the townspeople were changing what they said every 5 minutes or so really did a good job for emersion. Overall I would have to say they did a good job with the localization.
In conclusion, the game is an almost must buy for a Ys fan, just because the games just don't come out here that often. The fact that most people remember the last Ys game as being for the SNES is sad. I'm hoping and praying that beating it at higher difficulties will allow some plot changes or some replayability, but I'm assuming it doesn't so I won't be disappointed.