I recently sat down with my PSP and played the twice-ported version of Ys (VI): The Ark of Napishtim. The game was originally developed by Nihon Falcom for PCs. Konami made a PS2 port in 2005. A year later, Konami and Hudson teamed up to do a PSP port comprised of pieces of both the PC and PS2 versions.
The port, I was told, had notoriously bad frame rate and loading time issues on the PSP. However, I’d also been told that loading times had significantly decreased after the launch of newer PSP models, such as the PSP slim. With that in mind, I finally played this port, which was released in 2006, earlier this month.
It was my sixth time playing Ys VI (all other play-throughs took place on the very worthwhile PS2 version). What I discovered on the PSP version was that, indeed, the load times have been reduced (though they’re far from eradicated) on the PSP slim. All of the other game’s problems, of course, remained unchanged.
The graphical nature of the game is, perhaps, where the port took its strongest beating. Everything was scaled down, everything looks a little less recognizable, and that’s just regarding the static sprites and polygon-based backgrounds. Throw bad animation and frame rate into the mix, and you just got yourself a big, bloody mess that you won’t want to deal with.
Seriously, Adol’s movement is far from smooth. And some effects, such as the special attack from the fire-based sword, will occasionally not appear on the screen when you do them. You’d think that they’d at least keep Adol’s animation, since he is always on screen. But if Adol’s in bad shape, then the monsters are doing even worse. Many enemies use time-based attacks, and watching their movement is supposed to give you a hint on when to jump, evade, or attack. Those hints are all but gone on the PSP version. The flowers with the metal spinny tops, or the plants that spin at whirlwind speed, are both infinitely more challenging on the PSP. And by “challenging,” I mean “cheap.” What they’re doing just doesn’t make sense on the screen.
And it’s not like this was a necessity. With a little bit of delay and some proper programming, this game could’ve looked fine on the PSP. After all, look at Ys SEVEN, the recently-released, developed-exclusively-for-PSP sequel in the beloved series. That game came out looking perfect. I wouldn’t expect the same for Ys VI, but degradation at this level is just pathetic.
Gameplay and Control
Naturally, the poor and often inconsistent frame rate causes the gameplay to suffer. If this were my first time playing Ys VI, I wouldn’t have finished it. I would’ve given up. It’s only because I knew the dungeons and bosses by heart that I was able to get through this port. I pity the person that plays Ys VI on the PSP as their first exposure to the Ys series. Even in this day and age, they’d be better off with the “swordless bumps” of Ys I and II for TurboGrafx-16. (Note from editor John Tucker: This was my first exposure to the series, and my reaction was exactly what Pat describes. I gave up and sent the game to him.)
Aside from the devastating blows I experienced due to the port, the game itself is a 5 to 8 hour romp through a new land (three small islands protected by a vortex). The three sword system, with on-the-fly swapping using L and R, adds a lot to the game. The only problem I had with the PS2 version of this game was the precise jumping/platforming puzzles, a problem which is only exacerbated by the frame rate issues of the PSP version.
The PSP port adds nine mini-games that replace the PS2-exclusive “Alma’s Trials.” Between the mini-games and the Trials, I much prefer Alma’s Trials. These mini-games aren’t much fun, since many of them require precise controls (including precise jumping). That just doesn’t jive well with the game.
Oh good, finally a part of the review where I don’t have to whine about the bad porting job.
The Romun Empire continues to pester Adol and his buddy Dogi, so Adol runs off on a pirate ship, where he meets yet another young lady that he apparently knew in his past (Adol harem +1). The pirate ship accidently sails straight for a powerful vortex, on the other side of which are some islands: Quatera, Zemeth, and Canaan. Adol falls off the boat when going through the vortex and washes up on the shores of Quatera, where he encounters a race of tailed humanoids called the Rehda. He starts by meeting the priestess sisters Olha and Isha (Adol harem +1 again… not +2, Isha’s a kid!). And all of this is the prologue.
Miraculously, Adol meets a whole bunch of people who knew him from previous adventures, now stranded on Canaan (in the human settlement of Port Rimoge). In his simple quest to try and find a way out of the vortex (think of trying to escape the Bermuda triangle), Adol uncovers a 1000-year-old problem that’s about to come to a head. It involves ancient civilizations and a reference to the Gilgamesh variant of the Noah’s Ark worldwide flood narrative (Utnapishtim).
All of the staples of an Ys plot are found in this game. It’s a neat story, and the major characters are all fairly well-developed over the course of the game.
I would give sound the highest of all subscores. The game’s music is fantastic, and it in no way suffers from the PSP port. Unfortunately, the game’s voiced dialogue (both English and Japanese) was all cut due to space limitations. Nearly every bit of dialogue was voiced in the PS2 version, and many of the voice actors were decent (Olha and Isha had an awesome accent). The loss of voice acting led me to cut the sound score from 90% to 80%.
Falcom has been bringing boatloads of their new titles to the PSP, and there is rumor that many of those games will make it to North America. Most of those titles are shaping up to be enjoyable. But among the five that have made it to North America thus far (Ys VI, Gurumin, and the Legend of Heroes Gagharv trilogy), only Gurumin struck me as a truly successful handheld title. If you want to play Ys VI for yourself, get the PS2 version. In fact, I recommend you do that. The PSP version? I recommend you never get within ten feet of it.