Developed by Nihon Falcom Published by NIS America Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (also available on PC and Vita)
I was kind of shocked when I was asked to review a game in the Ys (pronounced as “ease”) series. I had heard of the franchise, but I knew nothing other than the fact it’s been around longer than I have and that it is an RPG series. I can’t really say no to a new adventure so I decided to jump right in.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is a 3D action role playing game. You start off as series protagonist Adol Christin as he sails to his next destination seeking adventure. Accompanied by his faithful companion, Dogi, they work as temporary crewmen on a ship to pay for their voyage. The first thing you pick up on right away is the amount of detailed work that is put into the world’s designs. Character models, while not rendered in realistic way, capture the anime aesthetic the series is known for with very detailed designs and a variety of color usage. I admit I wasn’t fond of the sailor’s outfit that Adol starts the game with, but that didn’t remain an issue for long. You start out on the deck of the ship and it runs you through the exploration tutorial. After exploring the ship and setting up some foreshadowing (not even a full 15 min in by my count) the ship comes under attack and you begin learning about the combat system. After a short tutorial boss, the ship capsizes and that is where things start to get interesting.
From this point, Ys VIII really opens up and starts letting you get into the meat of the game. Exploring a huge island, fighting a wide variety of monsters, and finding castaways are all a seminal part of the full experience. You explore the island to find new castaways who either join your party to help you fight or add new services to your village. Finding these new companions is mandatory because certain characters not only advance the plot, but the more you find the more parts of the island you can unlock. The more islands you unlock the more challenging fights you can encounter and become stronger as a party. I never seemed to tire of this loop, so major credit there.
I am pleased as well with how easy Ys VIII is to play. Combat, exploring and managing your team is all very easy thanks to responsive controls and simple, but well thought out, menus. I was a tad overwhelmed at first because of how many DualShock 4 functions are utilized, but that was mitigated when I realized that everything can be adjusted. The game offers you the ability to completely remap to your liking. I was quickly able to set everything up to better tailor my experience and I got right back to the action as a result. This is something I greatly appreciated.
Combat follows an attack type = weakness style of combat. The idea is easy to grasp and not particularly difficult to master so long as you pay attention to your enemy’s info and know a bit about each of the playable characters. Each playable character uses a different damage type, and you can switch between each character with ease. Everyone has a unique set of combat skills and the ability to wreak serious havoc on your enemies pretty quickly. Taking advantage of the instant dodge and flash guards also allow you to get higher level loot more frequently and adds some great defensive possibilities. Using these tools makes a difficult fight easier and rewards skilled play. The good gameplay is also benefits from short loading times between map segments and an extremely consistent frame rate. I had to lure a bunch of enemies together and use a series of very effects heavy attacks to get it to drop consistently. It’s a smooth ride overall. I’ll also briefly say that getting materials to craft items, weapons, and armor is easy to do and it doesn’t overwhelm with huge numbers or variables.
Characters and story in Ys VIII has always been a staple, but I realize this title from a lore standpoint is kind of a critical one. During your adventures Adol has dreams that tells of a past life for the titular Dana. After enough time, their fates intersect and some seriously awesome things are revealed; I won’t say anymore to avoid spoilers but it is definitely worth the effort to get there! I’ve grown to like the main cast quite a bit, especially Laxia who you gain as a party member early in the game. Her play style is pretty cool and she grows quite a bit over the course of the story. The cast is also well voice acted, but there are times when they could be a bit more expressive in terms of animation for cut scenes. I honestly wasn’t bothered to much by this though. The musical score certainly also helped make tense battles even more so and the emotional moments were carried by a nice set of melodies.
Falcom should be proud of this entry in their long running series and they have definitely gained a new fan in me!