Ys VIII -Lacrimosa of DANA- is as its title indicates, the eight entry in the action role playing Ys franchise developed by Nihon Falcom. The game was localized and published by NIS America for the west on , and the PS Vita. We initially planned on playing all versions of the game before publishing this review, however at the time of writing we’ve only been able to play the PS4 and PS Vita versions. Due to this we will likely have a separate gameplay video for the PC version when we get a chance to play it. We do think that version will feature the exact same content as the others with a few graphical enhancements, but as mentioned before, we’ll have a gameplay video of it for a definite answer.
With those formalities out of the way, let’s start talking about what the game entails. Ys VIII begins with a passenger ship called the Lombardia on route to the continent of Eresia. The ship is a pretty large vessel packed with passengers, livestock, cargo and sailors. It’s so big in fact that’s it has a full sized ballroom equipped with a bar, furniture and space for dancing. Oh and in case you’re wondering, yes, you get to explore every inch of it. Not too long after the game begins, you are given control of the red headed protagonist of the Ys series, Adol Christin, silent protagonist-kun…
OK full disclosure, I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll say it again. I do not like silent protagonist. When I was younger I enjoyed playing as them, but as I’ve grown older I’ve started craving more characterization in my protagonists, and please don’t misunderstand this to mean me not liking mute characters. On the contrary I’d welcome a mute protagonist who use sign language. What I don’t like are characters that have dialog options during cut-scenes, and when selected they just grunt or say nothing only to have the other characters Interacting with them respond as if they just said something worthy of a reply. For me It breaks the immersion, and this is probably the only issue I had with this game. Note this being the only issue “I had” doesn’t make the game perfect, but it just means I’m OK with other stuff that others may not like. One of those is definitely gonna be the English dub.
The Vita version only comes with an English only option, but the ps4 version allows for both Japanese and English dub. I highly recommend the Japanese dub to avoid listening to the occasionally cringe worthy English dub that is separated by unnatural pauses when viewing cutscenes on auto. It’s decent when you manually click for it to continue as soon as a character completes a sentence, however, there are sections where it doesn’t matter if you time it. Some lines of dialog are just so emotionless that I couldn’t help but laugh. One such instance is related to a moment where characters were crying, crying but the voice acting just didn’t match the emotional moment on screen. Again, keep in mind this didn’t bother me much, because the voices can be switched off to allow the writing to convey what the developers had in mind.
So you’re probably wondering if this game is good or not, especially with what I just mentioned about it. Short answer, yes. It’s really good. By the time I was about a couple minutes in I was hooked, and no it’s not because the game has a really tantalizing scene as soon as you’re on the island. I was hooked before that. You see where this game shines is with it’s gameplay. On the boat Adol is met with a situation where he’s required to fight a giant tentacle. It’s brief, but it was enough to allow me to realize that I was going to enjoy this games combat system. Characters are able to attack, jump, evade and use special attacks. This is further enhanced by mixing up attacks, timing evades for a bullet time effect similar to the one in Bayonetta, and use of massive special finishing moves. Each character also has certain enemy types that they are more effective against. It’s all done in real time, and it’s mapped to perfection. I rarely had to enter the pause menu unless I needed to change my special move mapping, or to check for information related to a particular monster or NPC. Oh, and by the time you end up on the island it gets better.
You know how games like Zelda, and Yonder don’t need a deep story, and yet they still grip the attention of the player? Well Ys VIII is similar. It has a decent story, but It’s like a mix of Zelda, meets tales of, meets Xenoblade Chronicles. Like Zelda this game feels like a massive adventure no matter what you’re doing. There are things to collect, areas to discover, fishing to be had, and lots more. Like tales of, it has a cute anime style that I love so much. As for Xenoblade Chronicles, well you see you can walk up to any enemy and engage them in combat seamlessly without having to transition to a battle arena. This is nice because you can completely choose your fights, and it all works perfectly well with the adventure style of the game.
I can recall one area where members in my party started becoming concerned about a strange sound, and the trembling of the ground beneath us. I ignored their concerns, and pit us against a giant T-Rex like monster. When it one-hit one of my characters I proceeded to escape, and returned later to scope him out from a distance to plan my vengeance. This is all unscripted, optional fun, and I love it. Though the game is set on a large island, and mostly linear till the late game, it still manages to be clever enough to fool the player into believing they have more freedom than they actually do. The developer uses clever tricks like the ability to see every inch of the island in the distance as long as nothing is blocking your field of view. This is similar to an architectural trick that allows small spaces to seem much larger than they are by using large glass windows, and partially open borders to allow for viewing outside of your immediate space. Ys VIII uses this effectively, and in a way being able to see somethings I couldn’t yet reach made me more curious about those areas, which prolonged my play time even more. This game grab my hands, caressed them, and pulled me along with ease. Each area is broken up into segments that require a short loading screen which I assume is related to the fact that the game is also available for the Vita, but that’s just an assumption.
Graphically it’s nothing fancy, the word I’d use is serviceable, but keep in mind they had to make sure this game ran on not just the PC, and PS4, but also the Vita, and that’s without any compromises other than frame rate and graphics. It’s as good looking as a Xenoblade game, which for me is completely OK. It also helps that the game is going for an anime styled look, and not some ultra realistic one. Character and enemy models look very pretty on both the PS Vita and PS4, with the main graphical reductions coming from the environment. Hence the reason I used the word serviceable to describe the graphics. It’s detail enough where it needs to be to allow for scalability between Vita and PS4.
As for the the characters and plot, I’ll try to be as vague about them as much as possible so as to not spoil the game for those that don’t like spoilers. The game is mainly about two individuals connected by an unknown connection, who have to work together for two seemingly different yet connected goals. One of the individuals is Adol, who is stranded on a mystery island along with the other passengers of the boat he was on after a ship wreck, and the other is the beautiful maiden Dana (not gonna say much about Dana other than damn, that outfit is nice). The connection between them is woven into the gameplay in a really interesting way that reminded me of another JRPG that I won’t mention by name, because it will completely spoil the plot, but those who eventually play the game should have an idea of what game I’m thinking about for the rest who don’t mind spoilers I’ll leave the name hidden in the written review [Chrono trigger]. So, was I vague enough, or too vague? lol. It’s hard to not be vague with this one, because the plot becomes very clear to JRPG fans by the 2nd, and third chapters. It’s not the deepest I’ve encountered in a JRPG, but like everything else about this game, it just fits perfectly with everything else about the game. We’ll hopefully do a stream of the game soon, where we can discuss spoilers for the plot. Till then this is as much as I’m willing to share to protect those that don’t like spoilers.
Ys VIII is in fact one of the games I’m considering for my game of the year nominees for 2017. It’s an adventure gamer’s JRPG that didn’t manage to reinvent the wheel, but it does improve it. It takes the best elements of other games and incorporates them into it’s systems. And though It can be improved in some ways, it’s still a great game without those improvements. If you like JRPGS, the Ys series, or any of the other games mentioned in this review, then I’d strongly recommend checking out this new entry in the Ys franchise when it releases.
The copy of Ys VIII -Lacrimosa of DANA- used for this review was supplied to us by it’s publisher NIS America.