Platform: PlayStation 2 / PlayStation Portable
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Genre: Action RPG
Format: DVD-ROM / UMD
Release: US 02/22/05 (PS2) 06/01/05 (PSP)
Japan 03/05 (PS2)

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Look at the great character art.
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Check out the powers of the Lightning Emelas sword.
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How many bosses have you seen like this?
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Mike Wilson
Preview First Look
Mike Wilson

The Ys series (pronounced "ease") hasn't seen a console launch in North America since the golden days of the SNES era. The series has a huge following in Japan, but American publishers were never brave enough to take a chance with it. So, naturally, it was a major surprise in 2003 when Konami obtained the licensing rights to the series and decided to bring it to the PS2 for American gamers. The sixth entry in the Ys series, The Ark of Napishtim, was released in Japan in 2003 on the PC, and is going to be released in North America and in Japan on the PS2 this spring. It has been two years, yet the American version seems to have withstood the test of time, offering a completely new experience than its Japanese counterpart.

With Ys: The Ark of Napishtim, Konami has promised lots of bonuses for American gamers, such as new character models, a brand new soundtrack, CG movies, animated movies, and artwork from previous Ys games. For such a risky release, Konami sure is pushing all the right buttons. While the game is still shorter than most Action RPGs, it will offer classic gameplay that will remind players of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Whoever said, "big surprises come in small packages" must have had Ys in mind!

Ys: The Ark of Napishtim is the continuation of the ongoing adventures of Adol Christian, the redheaded icon of the Ys series. While traveling with his pals Dogi and Terra, their ship is attacked and Adol is knocked into the sea and swallowed by what is known as the Vortex of Canaan. He then awakens on the shores of an island called Quartera, and is befriended by people from the nearby village of Rehda. There, he finds out that he is trapped within the Canaan Vortex with little hopes of escape. Thus begins a journey that will take Adol across the beautiful landscapes of Canaan---through volcanoes, forests, and ancient ruins as he searches for a way to return home.

The coolest thing about Ys: Ark of Napishtim is its simple gameplay. The heart of the gameplay revolves around Adol's swordplay to destroy his foes. But the gameplay is much deeper than it lets on---throughout the course of the game, Adol collects different swords called "Emelas" which have different elemental powers, allowing for varied combat. For example, the first sword that Adol receives has the power of the wind, sending off giant whirlwinds every time Adol attacks. As Adol travels through Canaan, he will level up and upgrade this sword, becoming able to cast a powerful tornado that will wipe out all of his foes. The downside to these great spells, though, is that you have to pay close attention to your enemy---wind attacks won't damage wind enemies. If you make this mistake with a boss, you can find yourself in a world of hurt.

Don't let the apparent simplicity of this game fool you. It is hard, and you're going to have a hell of a time with many of the bosses. If it's anything like the PC version and the previous games in the series, it won't be a cakewalk. Each boss is uniquely different, and you are likely to get pummeled again and again. If you like challenge, this is definitely the game to look into. And, for the extreme gamers, The Ark of Napishtim offers Time Trial Mode, where you can practice fighting the bosses under a time limit. There is also more than one difficulty level for those gamers who have way too much free time on their hands. Although the game is short, thereีs a lot of replay value here.

If you've played the Japanese PC version of The Ark of Napishtim, you're going to notice that the graphics have been revamped. Konami changed the game's original 2D sprites into 3D polygons because they feared that 2D sprites might not fare well with American audiences. While this has Falcom fanboys up in arms, they can rest assured that this is still The Ark of Napishtim they know and love. The new polygons can be difficult to adjust to, but they actually animate better than the original sprites. The important thing to remember about this release is that only the character models have been changed---the detailed environments and character art remain the same. You will fall in love with the wonderful backdrops and surroundings, and the colorful character art puts other games to shame.

And speaking of change, character models aren't the only things that have been changed for the American release. Due to licensing issues with Nihon Falcom, Konami could not obtain the rights to the original soundtrack and was forced to compose another soundtrack for the game. If you're a huge Sound Team JDK fan (the artists who did the original soundtrack), then you're probably upset. Considering the great soundtrack that the original Ark of Napishtim had, it's a hard act to follow. But if you haven't heard, Hiroyuki Namba has taken up the new soundtrack. Namba was a member of Sound Team JDK in the past and has composed arrangements like the Falcom Namba Collection (Ys and Sorcerian series arrangements) and one of the Genso Suikoden Music Collection albums. His music has that impeccable, distinct "rock" feel that has made JDK so popular. So far, from the trailers, one would assume that he is taking the orchestral route, but that could be completely wrong, as that isn't Namba's usual style. Namba could be packing some huge surprises in this soundtrack, because Konami has promised that the new soundtrack will contain arrangements of previous Ys themes. So don't think that it will automatically be bad because it's not Sound Team JDK.

Very few games have CGI cut-scenes and animated cut-scenes. The Ark of Napishtim promises both, and they will help to move along the epic story. The CGI scenes (like the opening scene) are clear and crisp, boasting cinematic execution similar to the cut-scenes in Final Fantasy X. The animated scenes, in contrast, are extremely detailed, and will remind you of the animations in the Wild Arms series. There are some skilled animators at work here, so don't expect anything less than spectacular. Konami has also taken the liberty of adding artwork from previous Ys games, in the form of an art gallery. If The Ark of Napishtim is your first experience with Ys, then you'll get to see how the series has evolved over the last twenty years, and just how influential it has been to modern RPGs. If you are familiar with the series, then it's just good ol' nostalgia. Either way, it's a nice treat.

Despite all of the problems Konami ran into, Ys: The Ark of Napishtim is coming along quite nicely. It has a lot to offer for gamers who are fans of the Action RPG genre. Ys: The Ark of Napishtim is old school gameplay at its best, and you're going to have a hard time finding games that offer the same experience. The game is going to be released on American shores February 22nd, 2005 for the PlayStation 2. A PlayStation Portable release is slated for June.


© 2003-2005 Konami, Nihon Falcom.
All Rights Reserved.

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