Ys. Wise? Wises? Ease? Eees. For those who have never heard of it, the latest installment in Konamiís long-standing action RPG series may raise a lot of questions, such as, "How do you pronounce that?!" Pronunciation aside, Ys: The Ark of Napishtim is the first of the series to arrive on North American shores in over a decade, which may have some players scratching their heads and wondering how to compare it to the earlier games. Slated for a February 22 release to the PlayStation 2, Ys may be enough to soothe those gamers still struggling with the last dregs of winter. After all, what could be more cozy than curling up in your basement with a cup of tea, and slicing and dicing your foes into oblivion?
The good news about Ys: The Ark of Napishtim is that it is not necessary to have breezed through the previous five installments to understand the plot. Indeed, each of the adventures of Adol Christian, the recurring red-headed hero, are separate from each other. This particular adventure begins with Adol and two of his companions, Dogi and Terra, as they are seized by a spontaneous desire for adventure. A mysterious whirlpool in the realm of Canaan is their goal, and they set sail to explore this phenomenon. However, an unfortunate accident sees Adol sucked into the giant whirlpool and washed ashore on a nearby island. The island is inhabited by people called the Rehda/Leda, who are less than thrilled to have curious humans washing up on their shores periodically. The adventure takes off very quickly from this point, as Adol meets Olha, a Rehda/Leda priestess, and a young girl named Isha. Sword in hand, he sets off to discover the secret of the whirlpool and the islands of Canaan.
"A mysterious whirlpool in the realm of Canaan"
As with all of the other Ys games, The Ark of Napishtim primarily features an action battle system. Unlike the earliest games, however, in which players merely smashed into enemies and hoped to do damage as a method of trial and error, a new and more effective system is in place allowing characters to perform all manner of spiffy swordplay. Short stabs and long sweeps of the sword are the most basic, but can be combined with jumping, directional changes and different button combinations to create upward or downward stabs while in mid-air, three-hit combos, and more. While it is a hack-and-slash system, mere button mashing will not get players very far, as proper timing will be necessary to execute the powerful combos. In addition to regular sword attacks, Adol can acquire magical techniques, in the form of three magical swords. Received through progression in the game, the swords can grant Adol the powers of Fire, Water, or Lightning/Wind, and can unleash different techniques that are useful in both foe bashing and puzzle solving. The swords can store up magical energy as you fight, and when enough power is charged up, Adol may unleash a devastating magical spell upon all the surrounding enemies.
Navigation around the world of Canaan is accomplished through active movement, and areas can not be explored by simply waltzing back and forth. Jumping abilities are not only useful in combat, they are necessary to completing the game. Platforming elements have been added to the environments, and jumping must be used to reach treasure and out-of-the-way areas, as well as avoiding obstacles such as pools of lava. The camera is set at a fixed angle for much of the game, but has special settings for events such as boss battles.
The Ys that arrives on North American shores will differ from its Japanese counterpart in two major fields. In the original Japanese version, the environment of the game was rendered 3D graphics, however, the character models were in the form of two-dimensional sprites. For its North American release, The Ark of Napishtim now includes new 3D character models to match the world they run around in. The colored portraits, in full-blown anime style, for many of the game's characters still remain, but the anime factor has been doubled with the addition of animated sequences. Secondly, due to legal circumstances, The Ark of Napishtim features a new orchestrated soundtrack for North American release. Some of the tracks will be remixes of tunes from past Ys games.
A couple of extras are being incorporated into the PS2 release of Ys: The Ark of Napishtim. New content, including a few new characters, has been inserted into this release. Unlockable extras including artwork and CG videos from the previous installments of Ys will be available through progression through the game as well.
With the days getting longer as summer approaches, Konami gives players a chance to help the end of winter go by quickly. Ys: Ark of Napishtim is scheduled to ship, for the PlayStation 2, across the world by February 25.