Review: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana (PS4)

Review: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita
  • PC

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
  • Cross-Buy No
  • Cross-Save No
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
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Title: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (16.26 GB)
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

My first Ys (pronounced “ease”) game was actually this game’s direct predecessor, Ys VII on the PSP.

I enjoyed the game a lot and eventually tracked down and tried some of the other games in the series like Ys Origin and Oath in Felghana.

I’ve been excited for Ys VIII since it was announced and it does not disappoint.

Ys VIII sees series protagonist and ardent adventurer Adol traveling by boat when it’s attacked by a sea creature near an unexplored island. Despite the courage of the fearless crew, the boat is lost.

After the attack Adol awakens on an island where he quickly meets up with a few other survivors from the ship. Together they begin building a base and exploring the island to find and help other castaways.

Though the Ys games often have the same protagonist, Adol, and some recurring characters, each one represents a new adventure and can be played without prior knowledge of the series. There are some minor ties and references to older games or Adol’s previous adventures for fans but the games are largely standalone.

Gameplay:
The modern Ys series gameplay is on strong display here, utilizing the action-RPG combat seen in the recent games like Ys: Memories of Celceta. Though it builds upon them in some ways it also doesn’t stray too far from that comfort zone either, coming in feeling a little similar to the past adventures.

The basis of the combat is the fast paced and frenetic nature. Movement and actions all feel snappy and fluid as you weave in and out of enemy moves, opening them up with well placed attacks. Even just running around with the basic attacks is a great experience.

There’s more to the combat than just that though, with a full complement of special attacks and the ability to swap out party members instantly. Different characters have different types of attacks and some enemies are weak to one type. Each character’s special attacks differ too and can be more helpful in different types of situations.

Of course characters can block and dodge too, and doing either with perfect timing will activate special bonuses. A perfectly timed dodge, for example, will cause time to slow down for enemies, giving you ample opportunity to lay into a beefy foe with some of the slower but more damaging attacks.

I love the combat in Ys games and despite it feeling pretty similar to the past couple games, this one is still a lot of fun. The game’s normal encounters often culminate into stellar boss fights which offer a good amount of ability to fully utilize the fighting mechanics. One or two are a tad bit annoying, but the game has a ton of bosses to overcome and outside one that repeats a few times early on, all of the bosses feel pretty unique.

Ys VIII does give players plenty to do as well. In addition to exploring the island and advancing the story, there are timed and scored raids that have Adol and company protecting the castaway village from waves of monsters. A complement of resource gathering and equipment upgrade systems give players the ability to augment characters and it wouldn’t be a JRPG if it didn’t have some form of cooking and a fishing mini-game.

One small complaint I have is in regards to the progression through the game. Early on especially, the plot likes to force Adol and company back to the base pretty often. This can be a little annoying when I’m getting into the swing of exploring the game and suddenly find that the story is forcing me to take a break. It’s a small issue and the ability to fast travel around the map helps in getting back once the tangent is passed but it can still be a little annoying.

The story in the game is pretty compelling as well. While the people who were on the ship come from all walks of life, being thrust into this situation together sees them having to find common ground to survive. And of course, it wouldn’t be an Ys game if there wasn’t some ancient mystery for Adol to get embroiled in.

The worst part of the story is the pacing, which can go for long stretches without any meaningful progression. Again, this is more of a problem early in the game, before some mysteries start to unravel. The localization is also a little suspect as it seems to do disservice to personalities of the diverse group of castaways. The combat and exploration are really the main draw here, but these issues do rob the story of some weight.

Visuals:
I feel like I say this a lot in JRPG reviews but Ys VIII was developed primarily as a Vita game so playing it on the PS4 shows some flaws. Models especially look as though they were designed with the lower-power handheld in mind.

Despite this, the game still looks good from an aesthetic point of view. The setting is pretty generic fantasy fare but with a strong enough design to still be fun to look at. Some added flair like a valley full of fog or the way a character’s feet appear refracted when standing in water help buoy the look of the game.

The way characters animate in cutscenes can also look a little funky but fortunately animations are pretty good in combat. Strikes look and feel weighty which helps them connect in a convincing manner. The special attacks and super moves also have a good amount of flair without being needlessly long or annoying.

Audio:
The sound team at Nihon Falcom is one of the best in the business and their talents are on full display here. The soundtrack in Ys VIII is full of energy while still allowing the game’s ambiance and setting to shine. The boss themes are especially great at getting the blood pumping and enhancing a tough fight but even just exploring the jungle to the rocking soundtrack is great.

The game offers voiceovers in both Japanese and English, I believe the Vita version requires some free DLC for the Japanese voices though. With a pretty standard story, there’s not a whole lot required out of the voice work but both tracks are a good performance nonetheless. Not a lot is voiced though, and Adol has that JRPG protagonist thing going where he doesn’t really talk, even when you’re picking dialogue options for him.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Regardless of whether you’re a newcomer to the Ys series or a veteran, Ys VIII has a lot on offer. The feeling of coming together as a motley band of shipwrecked people works pretty well, even with the pacing and localization issues. That desire to see what’s over the next hill or through the next cavern keeps the game afloat when the story flounders.

The combat is great and there’s a lot of untamed island out there to explore, in a way that makes me want to “Josh” the game. Plenty of challenging boss fights dot the land which are each a good mix of tough but surmountable.

Overall, Ys VIII is an enjoyable experience putting many of the series’ strengths front and center and it’s a game I wouldn’t mind having with me if I was stranded on a remote island.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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