Adol Christin does in Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim what he does best: shipwreck, wash ashore on a strange land, befriend the population and proceed to kick ass, take names and make every woman in a ten-mile radius fall in love with him.

Genre(s): Action RPG

Developer: Nihon Falcom

Publisher: XSeed Games

Release Date: April 2015

Played: Main Story (Hard)

Platforms: PC

Purchase At: Steam, GoG

Good:

  • Addictive fast combat.

  • Amazing music.

  • Beautiful environments.

Bad:

  • Weak story.

  • Excessive grinding.

  • Endless exposition.

Review

Much like every other of his adventures, Ys VI opens with Adol washing up on a beach after the pirate ship he was on capsizes in the endless maelstrom surrounding the Canaan Archipelago. The local big-eared, tailed Rehda people, in particular the paled skin sisters Ohla and Isha, pick him up and tend to him until he recovers. The chief then politely asks him to leave due to the bad relationship between the tribe and the Eresians—what they call people like Adol, from beyond the vortex. On his way out, he accidentally scares Isha and but catches up just in time to save her from a Walking Calamity, a massive scaled monster and the game’s first boss. But even though he temporarily defeats it, he can’t kill the monster and his sword breaks. Thankfully, Olha intervenes and kills the creature with an Emelas arrow. The villagers, and the chief in particular, are impressed that Adol managed to fight it off with a steel weapon, claiming only Emelas can penetrate their hard shells. Before Adol departs, the chief hands him Livart, a Blue Emelas sword and one of the Rehda’s treasures, asking that Adol do his best to find their missing relic, the Mirror of Zemeth. That when the adventure really starts.

Character portraits are beautiful!
Character portraits are beautiful!

The plot of Ys VI isn’t the deepest of stories, even though the game throws ancient civilisations, monsters, world powers, fleets and hidden mysteries at you. The story revolves around the eponymous ark, an ancient artefact capable of destroying the world and the brothers looking for it, one to control it and gain the power of the ancient winged civilisation and the other trying to stop him, but catching everyone else in their feud. It’s also the first title in the series to fully explore the origins of the Eldeen civilisation from which the winged people come from, which are central to the series’ plot—and most of the world building. As with every other Nihon Falcom title, Ys VI is quite verbose and every cutscene has extremely long conversations that delve into somewhat repetitive exposition. You’ll hear the same plot points from different characters until you can pretty much recite the plot. Having said so, there are Emelas tables that hold tons of lore and some of the game’s backstory and are optional, as they’re items hidden in chests around the world. There is practically no characterisation, no evolution in the protagonist or any of the secondary character. Adol is mostly silent though the game does tell you when he explains something or introduces himself, and he never voices his opinion on anything. The rest of the cast is a collection of tropes and certain clichés, which is standard fare for Ys to be honest.

This cyclone will give Link's spin attack whirlwind-envy!
This cyclone will give Link’s spin attack whirlwind-envy!

Ys VI gameplay will be familiar to those who played Ys: The Oath in Felghana and Ys: Origin—though not many will know that those games were developed after the original 2003 release of Ys VI. You control Adol from an isometric perspective, and you’ll attack, use powerups, items and hack away at your enemies. Combat in Ys is fast paced and you’ll be constantly on the move, be it jumping for highly-damaging downward stabs at enemies or to reach airborne ones or simply to get out of the way of attacks. Once you have your Emelas swords each of them varies the ground combo a bit, with the blue one adding fast attacks and a cyclone at the end, the red one having a ‘charge-shot’ ability for each strike to increase its power and the yellow one giving you a dash at the end of the attack sequence. You can temper the swords in town, using the Emel you collect from fallen enemies to empower the weapons. Each level increases its damage but also unlocks its special powers, such as the combo modifiers I mentioned and the ‘finisher’. When using the swords, a gauge slowly fills for each of them. Pressing the right button when it’s fully charged unleashes a powerful attack, a hurricane for the blue sword, a wave of fire from the red and a chained lightning from the yellow. These abilities and the speed at which the gauge fills improve with every new level.

Shields and Armour go a long way towards keeping you alive!
Shields and Armour go a long way towards keeping you alive!

The sword tempering, however, is also Ys VI’s greatest flaw. In previous titles, you might have had to grind to improve your damage on enemies as being considerably under-leveled made it impossible to even damage them. In this title enemy toughness against your attacks depends on both your character level and that of your weapons. A high-level character with a low-level weapon will sometimes deal less damage than a lower level character with a higher-level weapon. The real problem comes from the availability of Emel crystals as drop rates depend exclusively on the enemies. Some drop them quite frequently while others don’t at all. It can get very tedious to grind Emel, especially with the increasing amounts needed to further temper the blades. The problem is aggravated the higher the difficulty level. Playing on hard I had to make sure to raise my character level by at least 5 and he weapons by 1 or 2 in each area or the boss would simply wreck me. By the end, in hard, if you don’t have your swords maxed out and are level 50, the last set of bosses become impossible to finish. On the upside, both leveling Adol and the weapons feel significant. A single level can be the difference between dealing 1 point of damage to a boss and dealing 20. Each enemy has a ‘level’ threshold you must meet and once you do or overcome it, you can dish out plenty of damage with your assaults.

See the tiny crystal on the ground? That's Emel, what you'll be grinding for a while!
See the tiny crystal on the ground? That’s Emel, what you’ll be grinding for a while!

Aside from the three weapons and as with every other Ys title, you’ll have your armor, shield and accessory slots. But where Napishtim departs from the rest of the series is by giving you accessory expansions, allowing you to equip up to five of them at the same time once you’ve found them all. The other major difference and a blessing is the ability to equip an item to use in combat. You can normally go into your inventory and use items to heal unless you’re in a boss encounter, in which case you can’t. In towns, you can buy healing items and equipment, but once you’ve got those you’ll only ever use gold to restock on healing items. And even so, you’ll end up with thousands of worthless and unusable money. I would’ve loved a way to exchange gold for emel with certain merchants.

For the rerelease on Steam, XSeed games added the Catastrophe mode, which brings the game to the Ys: Origin and Oath in Felghana standards of no usable recuperative items. It significantly increases the game’s difficulty and forces you to play even smarter than before. Learning enemy and boss patterns becomes instrumental in this mode as even on the hardest difficulties the items can save you from a bad moment. Ys VI introduced us to the visuals I came to love in Felghana and Origin and which always reminded me of one of the first MMOs I ever played: Ragnarok Online. Characters are 2D sprites, somewhat stubby compared to their beautifully drawn portraits. The environments on the other hand are gorgeous to look at, and the combination of 2D sprites in 3D environments just works wonderfully. Having said so, some of the locations in the Ys VI are a bit dull, too many dank and bland caves. The Ruins of Lost Time—originally called Ruins of Amnesia—have amazing open spaces and colossal statues but they lack colour and impact and become rather dreary.

I wish these ruins were a bit snazzier!
I wish these ruins were a bit snazzier!

Ys games have always had amazing music and Napishtim is just as amazing in that category. The music in each zone helps the atmosphere. The theme for Quattera Island, where the game begins and where the Redha tribe live, is nice melody that evokes a sense of peace but also the potential for adventure, to discover new things and meet new people. Port Rimorge, the human settlement, has a tune akin to the quest hub town music from other RPGs, and it fits as it’s the closest Ys VI has to one such town. Boss fight music on the other hand is always a badass orchestral rock, with lots of guitar and always fast paced, keeping you pumped while you fight.

Conclusion

It’s sometimes easy to forget that Ys VI was the first to deliver the now polished gameplay of Felghana and Origin. It’s extremely fun and addictive but part of the joy evaporates when you have to grind for levels and emel. The plot isn’t really deep but it does offer some interesting insight into the overall Ys lore.

TMA SCORE:

3/5 – Alright

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