Ys: The Ark of Napishtim

Before Xseed Games partnered with Nihon Falcom to bring their games to North America, their flagship series, primarily Ys and The Legend of Heroes, were fairly absent in North America, although in 2005, Konami localized the sixth installment of the franchise, Ys: The Ark of Napishtim. While not the best of the franchise, Napishtim is a decent journey in spite of some flaws.

The protagonist, Adol Christin, receives three different elemental swords between which the player can switch with the L1 and R1 buttons. The player can use crystals dropped by enemies to upgrade these blades up to ten levels each, with each ultimately allowing Adol to release powerful magic that gradually recovers as he hacks away at enemies, although if a sword's level is high enough, magic recovers automatically. Adol can only use his swords' magic when their circular gauges have completely filled. Adol can also jump and, at the beginning of the jump, perform a swirling attack, or, when he's falling, perform a diving stab, with the latter sometimes being necessary to defeat enemies safely.

Adol can equip a certain number of accessories, with this limit increasing when she opens certain treasure chests through the game. Furthermore, Adol can equip an item and use it with the triangle button, with the player able to hold nine of each consumable item. While the player can change equipped items in the game menus, the player cannot do so in the middle of boss fights, sometimes leading to unwinnable situations. Also potentially ruining the chance for the player to beat the game are a few points of no return where the player can't leave a dungeon to grind and upgrade swords, a feature that should never be present in any RPG. Despite these flaws, combat moves at an incredibly fluid pace, and definitely has more good moments than bad moments.

The interface is superficially decent, with easy menus and controls, although in a break from other installments of the series, Napishtim uses save points instead of letting the player save their game anywhere, although luckily, save points completely restore Adol. There some other problems with the controls other than that, such as the difficulty of executing the dash jump necessary to acquire certain items, the lack of automaps within dungeons, and the sometimes poor direction on where to go next to advance the storyline. Otherwise, the interface is okay.

The story is typical Ys, with the red-haired protagonist Adol Christin dealing with some crisis in a certain part of the game's world, although there is maybe one big plot twist towards the end and okay backstory somewhat revealed from the Trials of Alma. Konami, however, did a superb job with the localization, with no errors of which to speak in the script.

The Falcom sound team, as usual, does a solid job with the music, with plenty of catchy tunes, the best probably being that during the ending credits, although there are some silent areas and others that rely on ambient noise. There's also voice acting, which is mostly hit-or-miss, with some good voices and some terrible miscast voices, although fortunately, the player can turn the volume of the voices all the way down if desired. Still, a solid-sounding game.

The graphics are okay, even if they don't push the PlayStation 2's visual capabilities to their limit, with the scenery looking decent in spite of some bland textures, and the character models looking okay as well, with different equipment changing Adol's appearance, although the models don't show much emotion, with the character portraits doing so.

Finally, the game is short, taking less than twenty hours to complete, with little reason to replay aside from a hard mode, with normal mode definitely having its rough spots, as well. Overall, Ys: The Ark of Napishtim, while certainly not the best of the franchise, definitely has some things going for it such as the enjoyable hack-and-slash gameplay and soundtrack, although it also has things going against it such as a few interaction issues. It's a good game, but definitely falls short of that title of great.

The Good:
+Decent hack-and-slash gameplay.
+Great soundtrack.
+Solid localization.

The Bad:
-Dash Jump is annoying.
-Some points of no return.
-Some bad voice acting.

The Bottom Line:
Good, but not great.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 2
Game Mechanics: 7/10
Controls: 6/10
Story: 5/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 7/10
Localization: 10/10
Lasting Appeal: 4/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: Less than 20 Hours

Overall: 7/10

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