For a long time the Ys series has flown under the radar for a lot of people, however for myself I love the series and am excited for any new upcoming entry. After the release of Ys: III Wanderers from Ys in 1991, the series faded away and would not see an official western release till Ys VI: Ark of Napishtim in 2005. Since then a resurgence of the series has come stateside with releases and updated versions of older titles on Steam and consoles. When Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana was announced, it was confirmed to be a continuation of the adventures of longtime series protagonist Adol Christin. Does the eighth numbered title live up to its pedigree?
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PS Vita (Reviewed)
Release Date: September 12th, 2017
Players: Single Player
The story begins with Adol and his longtime best friend and traveling companion Dogi heading to the continent of Eresia on the ship Lombardia. Sadly, the ship gets attacked and the crew finds themselves shipwrecked on Seiren Island – a place long thought to be cursed with no means of escape. Adol begins to search for a way off the island and find other survivors. During his travels, he has dreams of the second protagonist Dana.
The story is simplistic at the start of the game but has a huge pacing problem. The only real thing you have to do is explore the island with no driving goal other than finding other survivors and searching the island. The translation for the game is poor.
The voice acting to that accompanies the progression to the game makes this more apparent. Thankfully, it’s not to the point where the game is not understandable. Dialog between the cast was dry, ham-fisted and sometime out of place. The only aspect that kept me engaged with it at the time was the addictive gameplay.
The story became far more interesting after awhile. I still had to go through awkward moments and a plot twist that made no sense but as the world opened up and more characters were introduced I became a lot more engaged. The story did suffer a bit in the later half from the translation but it did become interesting enough for me to want to experience what happens next to the main cast.
Quite often I found myself interested even if a few aspects were a little cliche. Rescued survivor characters have quests for you to do to earn their approval and get some background information on them, which adds a lot more to the experience and I do recommend doing them as it also helps you with other aspects to the game.
While not standing out compared to other modern titles in visuals, the graphics work well. The developers were not afraid to use a vibrant color pallet in both its artwork and graphics. This helps elevate the anime style of the game. On screen characters and enemies stood out brightly compared to terrain, creating a lot of contrast which aids the high speed combat of the game.
Beaches are beautiful with bright blue water and forest canopies are colored with a very lush green. Rarely did the game focus on using dulled out colors unless within temple ruins or caves. Even still it was supplemented with brighter colors to help create emphasis in some areas.
However, with the release across Steam, PlayStation 4 and PS Vita there are a lot of visual compromises. Understandably, character and enemy models as well as terrain are very simplistic and lack a lot of detail on the PlayStation 4. In both console versions, cutscene animations as well as some combat animations were very stiff and in some cases looked half done.
It did not interrupt the game but it does take some getting use to. Still, during my play time the PlayStation 4 version ran mostly at 60FPS (on PlayStation 4 Pro) and did not drop very often, unless a lot of enemies were on screen while skill affects were going off and the camera was moving. As of writing, the Steam version has not been released so I cannot make a comparison.
The PS Vita version was less visually clear. While it looks great on the handheld system textures did have more blur, while still being vibrant the colors were dulled down as well. I did have more frame drops during moments of intense combat. While the game was the same, the difference between the versions visually were night and day. However, as a handheld game it still looks great.
Ys VIII’s major feature is high speed action RPG combat and it does it beautifully.
The controls for this helps to emphasize what the game is made for: fighting enemies takes seconds while bosses can take minutes. As enemies take damage they can become stunned and take increased damage as well. This is key for fighting most bosses in the game as I found it to be where I do the most damage, most of the time. While the combat is the main focus of the gameplay, I never had a moment where I felt bored with it.
Exploration is another key aspect of the game as part of the story centers around making a map of the island. I did have issues with invisible walls in places I felt like I should be able to jump, or fall off ledges which added a bit of annoyance. Previously visited locations can be teleported to at specific points on the map, which helps reduce backtracking and helps with finding more survivors to bring to your village as well as quickening the pace of the story.
The game overall did have its challenges but it was nothing I could not overcome. Typically I would be fighting 3 to 5 enemies at once but there was plenty of moments where the number of them on screen blasted past that number. Fighting through the on screen chaos was satisfying to the very end.
I played on the Nightmare setting for the majority of the game and only experienced deaths when I ran out of healing items or was learning the mechanics of bosses. For those looking for more of a challenge, I recommend this difficulty mode as it limits the maximum items you can carry, only allowing for empty potions bottles to be used once – while also allowing enemies to move faster than they would on the other difficulty settings.
There are six playable characters in the game and you can have three battling with you at the same time, each utilizing one of three damage types, as well as their own list of a dozen skills.
For instance, Adol uses a one handed sword and does slash damage, Ricotta uses whip maces and do hit attribute damage, and Laxia uses a Rapier and does shot damage. During battle the player will come to find that an enemy is weak to one specific damage type and will take increased damage to it, while other damage types will be severely reduced. It is key to use the right character to take down enemies.
Very rarely did any death I had in the harder difficulties feel like it was due to the computer using cheap attacks. I often found myself becoming overly aggressive and not using my defensive abilities. Dodging and blocking became key moments of my survival.
When you dodge at the last moment you go into a state where the game counts down for a few moments and enemies on screen slow down while you become invincible, allowing to unleash your full aggression on a enemy. Last moment blocking does the same but instead makes your attacks critically hit for amplified damage. I did have some issues where if an enemy was close but on a floor above or below me or if it was flying, companions would constantly swing at nothing.
A key aspect of the gameplay is collecting materials to craft new gear, upgrade your weapons, cook food, make healing potions or find fruit for additional healing. The only time materials became scarce was near the end of the game as materials became harder to find without the use of gear that increases item drops. Also some materials can only be found in areas where you initiate a night search. Still, with most materials you can trade most of them to get the materials you need.
On top of the standard map exploration, story objectives, collecting treasure boxes, and finding other survivors of the shipwreck, there are a few side activities that you can do.
During your time with the story you will unlock fishing. At first, fishing was simplistic: find a body of water with fish in it, throw out a line and mash the X button to real it in. However, bigger fish require you to move or circle the control stick while mashing X or holding R1 and L1. The largest fish gave me a sore thumb as it became a 1 to 2 minute ordeal to real it in, and without keeping up, you’ll lose the fish.
Also unlockable are two different type of mini games. Interceptions are a base defense mode to stop waves of monsters from destroying the gate to your town. Defenses such as barricades and a catapult are upgraded during your playthrough. Suppressions are a miniature area control fight requiring you to place torches in areas and destroy respawn nodes. The suppression is over once you defeat the boss monster.
These fights reminded me of a miniature Dynasty Warriors-style fight. After each battle, you receive a ranking giving you items and depending on your rank – rarer gear or items to use on your journey. At any time you want you can repeat the mission in order to try to get a higher ranking. Some players will find this tedious but I personally found it enjoyable.
As a series Ys always had fantastic music and this new addition of the series is no exception. The soundtrack consists of a mix of high adrenaline rock music as well as traditional JRPG tones. Older Ys fans might point out that this is not the strongest soundtrack of the series. I do agree, but I still loved it regardless.
Music never really felt out of place and I found myself backtracking just to listen to it. The Sunshine Coastline brought on a sense that I was going on a epic adventure, and boss fights tracks also gave me a sense of urgency as well as tension with the battle to come. The Falcom Sound Team has done a excellent job with it and I cannot wait for the next game to listen to more of their work.
The English voice acting is well done but suffers because of the translation. It does add more to the characters but could’ve used a bit more polish to the script.
Some lines come off awkward and out of place, but for those wanting something more authentic it does have Japanese voice acting as well. Voice acting occurs through some cutscenes, as well as random banter between them as your adventuring. It is nice that the voice acting also kicks as an audio alert when you find places to cut plants, trees, and ore for materials, while also looking to find treasure chests and fishing spots.
I recommend picking up the PlayStation 4 or even the Steam version when its released, over the PS Vita version. The clearer textures and fast framerate make it a night and day experience. Also, the PS Vita version has some content missing that the PS4 one has such as: dungeons focused on Dana that add more life to her, as well as some additional characters. Still, if you are looking for playing on the go the Vita version is a great addition to the small library of games the system has.
Overall Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is a great game. It’s a fantastic adventure with some noticeable flaws that can be mostly overlooked. Even if you rush through the game, you can expect roughly 40 to 50 hours of gameplay, while completionists can expect far more than that.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and PS Vita using a review copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 8.5
- Fast, engaging combat wherever you go
- Fantastic music
- Large world to explore
- Great use of color in art and terrain
- Second half of the games story was engaging and interesting
- Pacing problems through the first half of the game with an awkward plot twist
- Translation issues which hurts character dialog and storytelling
- Invisible walls where they should not be