Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim Import Impressions

We check out the PC version of the latest entry in the Ys series.

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It's been about nine years since Falcom released Ys V on the SNES in Japan, and it's been even longer since a Ys game hit a console in the US. While the popular series found a dedicated following in Japan, it's never been fortunate enough to find a dedicated publisher in the US. As a result, most of the entries in the series have never made it stateside. Thankfully, Konami has announced it will be bringing the latest entry in the series, Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim, to the PlayStation 2 later this year. We decided to take a look at the PC version of Ys VI, which has been out for some time in Japan, to fill you in on what to expect. One thing to bear in mind when reading our impressions of the PC game is that Konami is aiming to do more than just port the Japanese game. The US version of Ys VI is slated to feature a pretty sizable set of additions. Konami has said the game will feature new characters, additional stages, and new music as well as new character models, anime cutscenes, and CG movies and artwork from previous Ys games.

Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim follows main character and adventurer Adol Christian on a new journey. This time, Adol wakes up in a small village of elflike people--called the Rehda--who rescued him from the seashore. It seems Adol found himself making like oceanic debris after the ship he was on was attacked. Ys VI's storyline revolves around two village Shaman girls (who both have supernatural powers) and an ambitious admiral of a major empire (who is hunting for hidden treasure near the islands where the game takes place). As a direct sequel to Ys V, which takes place three years before the most recent game's storyline, Ys VI also has a number of characters that fans of the previous releases should be familiar with.

Ys VI keeps the overhead view from the older installments in the series, but the game's graphics have been massively improved over its NES and SNES days. Ys VI takes advantage of the current generation of graphic capabilities and runs with backgrounds that are rendered in real-time, high quality 3D, while also using a good number of colors to give a more natural look to the trees and other details in the game. Adol, the townspeople, and enemies are drawn in 2D, but they're well animated and move pretty smoothly, so they match the towns and dungeons quite naturally. Some of the bosses are also rendered in 3D, which allows them to move dynamically despite their large sizes. The PC game offers a number of graphic options that help bring the world to life. For example, it's possible to animate the grasses and water, though this feature can be turned on or off depending on whether your graphics card can handle the extra weight. The hardware requirements of the Japanese PC edition of Ys VI aren't that high because the game was playable on a 32MB GeForce2 MX, albeit with frame-rate skipping in some areas.

While the graphics in Ys VI have been upgraded to reflect today's standards, it still plays as an old-style, hardcore action RPG game that requires you to hack-and-slash the enemies that appear on the screen while walking from destination to destination. And unlike most typical modern-day RPGs, Ys VI doesn't have puzzles or minigames in the middle of the storyline. Ys VI is pretty easy to get into, and the controls are very accessible. You can basically get through the whole game as long as you know how to use the three buttons that allow you to attack, jump, and switch swords. Of course, there's more to the game than just this, including the ability to use magic. Additionally, there's a shortcut for using healing items that is convenient because you don't have to open up the menu screen each and every time to do so. The game also has a good array of items that can be easily equipped, which can strengthen your attack or guard or pump you up with extra abilities, like automatic life recovery.

You can acquire three different swords in Ys VI, and each has different elemental affinities, like wind, thunder, and fire. You'll have to switch between swords according to the weaknesses of the enemies you face. Depending on which sword you use on which enemy, you might not be able to inflict any damage. Each of the swords has a unique special attack. For example, the fire sword can perform a stronger slash if you hold down on the attack button. The thunder sword will let you execute a combination slash if you continue hitting the attack button. To make things more interesting, the swords can be leveled up, which gives them special abilities. One of the special abilities that's pretty useful involves magic attacks, which can be used to wipe out small enemies or to inflict some extra damage on the bosses (whenever the sword's magic meter is full).

While the normal monsters on the field and in dungeons are relatively easy to defeat, the bosses in Ys VI offer a much greater challenge. Aside from the copious amounts of life you'll need to chip away from the bosses, you'll also need to know what swords can damage them and where their weak points are. But what really makes the bosses challenging is that you can't open the menu screen during your battles against them, which means that you can only use the limited number of healing items that are available on your item shortcut button. And since the bosses tend to do a lot of damage, it becomes essential that you know their movement patterns to avoid as many of their attacks as possible. The game allows you to challenge the boss from the beginning if you die during your duel with him or her, which comes as a lifesaver if you've kept on playing the game while forgetting to save. Falcom seems to have put in a lot of effort into the bosses, and there's actually a boss mode that's selectable from the title screen menu so that you can practice fighting against them. This is not to say that the normal monsters are pushovers either. While the early foes you'll encounter are pretty easy to dispatch, they can start to become obstacles on the field after a while--particularly since the map in Ys VI is pretty roomy and there's a lot of walking to do.

If you're looking for an old-school-style action RPG with today's graphics, you should be interested in Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim. While the game doesn't really require knowledge of the Japanese language, a Japanese PC game on an English OS isn't guaranteed to run. Still, with the PS2 version slated to hit America this winter--and presenting the extra features we mentioned above--fans anxious for another Y's adventure will only have to wait a few more months.

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