Ys VIII Review – Lacrimosa of Happy Memories
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is a JRPG released for the PS4 in 2017. The game originally released for the PS Vita in 2016 in Japan. Ys VIII released in the west for the PS4 and Vita in September 2017. Boasting 1080p at 60 FPS, the game also runs 4k on a PS4 Pro. Let the Ys VIII review answer your questions as you read on about the game.
Ys VIII review – new adventures from a long history.
The story behind Ys VIII spans over 30 years, with the original Ys: Ancient Ys Vanished releasing in 1986 – the same year as the tale of another illustrious gaming series featuring an swordfighting adventurer, The Legend of Zelda. Unlike Zelda, Ys never caught on in the west. The games have never been as warmly received, nor as polished, as the Legend of Zelda franchise. Both games feature exploration, hack and slash action, and epic plots that tell the tale of the same character. However, perhaps Falcom was always on a lower budget. Several releases never made it to the west, and some of them were buggy, calling for a re-release (Ark of Napishtim).
What separates Ys VIII from the rest of its brethren is its big return. Five years ago, the previous game – Ys: Memories of Celceta – was released for the PS Vita and, later, Steam. Ark of Napishtim was the last Ys game I played, released for the PS2 in 2003. Given the 12 year difference, Ys VIII should no doubt have improvements. Ys VI: Ark of Napishtim was a decent title. But as mentioned earlier, it included an issue that would not allow you to leave the final dungeon. Unfortunately, it gave me a damper of expectations for the series from that point on. I wasn’t sure an Ys game would ever be enjoyable if the 6th game in the series disappointed me. However, I decided to play Ys VIII on a whim. The trailer looked good enough, so I figured it deserved another go.
A beautiful experience.
Ys VIII has remolded and reshaped its very identity. Gone is the overhead camera, replaced with a full 3D view. Instead of switching your weapons, you now have party members. With six party members, you can have three in battle. The character models resembles the style and quality of the more recent Tales titles. Speaking of Tales, I’ll be touching up on it later in the review, as it no doubt played a role of influence for the latest Ys game. The visual element speaks volumes.
While the game’s animations aren’t perfect, the game is pretty. Being a native PSVita title, it largely uses the texture quality of a PS3 game. This means don’t expect a visual masterpiece. Plus, when fishing in the water, sometimes your characters’ animations will glitch a little. As a game worked on a lower budget, many of your side-quest animations are detailed through text. However, it makes up for that with its beautiful, artistic presentation. Detailed character models, beautiful views of the Island of Seiren, and even guidepoints give the world its own identity. The action is fierce, and the game’s colors are gorgeous. What especially stands out is the character artwork, visible in the main menu. I feel it’s some of the best anime character art I’ve seen in an RPG.
What is Ys VIII about?
Despite the comparisons to Legend of Zelda, Ys’ identity lies in several things. Every numbered release tells the tale of Adol Christin, an adventurer. They’re all connected. Note that you do not have to play any of the previous games to understand the story. Passing references, as well as characters from past games, will make an appearance. But their impact will not be required to understand the game. That being said, exploration and combat are two major facets of Ys. You’ll spend time hacking and slashing away at enemies, switching party members based on their attack type, and exploring areas. Much like Metroidvania, you can return to explore an area you previously held off on once you return with a new key item that helps you explore, such as boots that walk on water or climbing gear.
In battle, you have Slash, Thrust, and Strike types. The indicators appear above the enemies you fight. In real time, you’ll string combos on enemies, be it one or mobs of them. It’s a glorified button masher, but one with a certain level of depth. You have the ability to perfect guard or roll at the right time. Think Witch Time from Bayonetta. When you perfect guard or dodge these attacks, you gain more time to combo your enemies. Your thrusters are light and fast, while your Strikers are slower and more powerful.
The Story of the Lacrimosa of Dana.
Ys VIII’s story tells the tale of Adol aboard the ship known as the Lombardia. The ship is wrecked by an ocean creature, and he’s washed ashore on the Isle of Seiren. In order to get off the island, Adol must explore the isle and search for the ship’s crew. These crewmates are crucial to survival. They include a smithy forge, item shop, cooking, doctor, armor shop, and more. What’s more, without any gold in the game, your only currency is trade. Collecting loot is important, as you’ll be using it to trade. Much of the common loot is easy to find, so rounding up items for potions won’t be hard.
Later in the game, once you pass the northern part of the island, the story changes its tone. You’ll discover an ancient kingdom, filled with vast secrets. While exploring the island, you’ll have dreams about a mysterious girl named Dana and her life in the Kingdom of Eternia. How Adol and Dana’s story connect will be crucial to both getting off the island, as well as the fate of civilization. With his friends Laxia, Sahad, Ricotta, Hummel, and Dana, as well as the crewmates of the Lombardia, Adol must fight raids to protect the Castaway Village, engage in Hunts, and explore labyrinths while fighting off ancient beasts.
Raids and Hunts.
Part of the action of Ys VIII includes raids and hunts. For raids, beasts will attack the island. While most of these aren’t required for completion, they will give you new items and push you forward in finishing side-quests. In the Castaway Village, you’ll have access to numerous side-quests. Some of these include fetching items, while others include fighting off monsters. In the raids themselves, it’s glorified Dynasty Warriors. Your goal is to maneuver around the battlefield while mashing buttons to defeat the monsters. Defending the gate to the village is crucial, but you can also upgrade it periodically.
If raids are akin to Dynasty Warriors, then hunts are akin to Monster Hunter. The game sends you to several locations to participate in Hunts. In addition to the furious mashing, you’ll be tracking down a boss monster. There’s no grabbing onto the creature to lure it out. However, you’re taking down enemy hives to engage the beast. And yes, after a certain point, the monster will run away, and it will be up to you to track it down again. Ys VIII does a decent job of borrowing from other RPG series. However, it polishes all of its elements up nicely. Instead of being throwaway modes, Ys VIII makes use of its frenetic combat to deliver a satisfying experience whether you’re crawling through dungeons, fighting in raids, or engaging in hunts. Plus, you can go to them any time thanks to the quick travel system.
The Sound of Lacrimosa.
Falcom’s music score has been reputable by fans for many years. Ys I & II were composed by Yuzo Koshiro, known for his work on Streets of Rage, Etrian Odyssey, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, and Actraiser. Ys VI: Ark of Napishtim had arguably one of the best soundtracks on the PS2, thanks in part to its epic, heavy metal boss theme, “Mighty Obstacle.” What Ys VIII brings to the table are many beautiful melodies from eclectic styles. Jazz, rock, metal, and other kinds of music are found here. You’ll hear beautiful strings, piano, and guitars, all suiting the mood that branches between an island adventure and a mystical epic, uncovering the truth of a secret civilization.
The sound effects sound great overall. Attack hits are satisfying, while hearing your perfect guard makes you want to do it more. You can hear the wind on the waves, the sound of the ocean, and the roars of beasts as they bellow before their attack. The soundtrack includes many beautiful songs, such as “Next Step Toward the Unknown, “Iclucian Dance,” “Deadly Temptation,” and, “You’ll See Out the End of Tales.” It is a beautiful soundtrack. As a 2017 release, Ys VIII has a beautiful soundtrack, one that stands near the level of games, like NieR: Automata, Persona 5, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It’s a beautiful medley of many great, adventuring tracks, some of which are soothing, and some to get your blood pumping.
What else is in the world of Ys?
To sum up, Ys VIII is a beautiful Action RPG. Smooth animations compliment a game scaled up greatly from the Vita version, looking more pretty than ever. Even though the combat is fairly simplistic, you can change the difficulty of enemies at any time. For the record, this means they hit harder, not smarter. The ability to perfect guard and perfect dodge are both a nice touch. However, when limited with only three attack types, all you’re doing is mixing and matching against attack types easily. In this case, most attacks do the same thing. Some are straightforward, while others have a wide-arc. You can juggle your enemies in mid-air with combos. It’s fun and satisfying if you’re into games, like Tales and Dynasty Warriors. But it lacks the combat depth of games, like NieR: Automata, where weapon speed, long vs. short distance, and your varied abilities were more important.
Some of the sidequests will point you to treasure and map marker quests. The villagers come in many different personality types, and you can build your relationship with them. One thing I love about the game’s story is the level of character interaction. Your goal is to unite these strange castaways into a village, and by bonding with them, you learn that you can trust these people. They come to help you clear rubble in the island and building their numbers is to your benefit. Whether it’s for new shops, clearing debris, the end goal does net you a hefty reward – if you can take it from a powerful boss. Plus, once you clear the game, there are extras. There’s a Gallery, a post-game dungeon, and even New Game+. Furthermore, there are three endings. One of these is the True Ending, which you earn depending on your qualifications.
Ys VIII Review – Final Thoughts.
Ys VIII is a beautiful game with a good story. There’s tons of mystery to be uncovered on the Isle of Seiren, tons of extras to unlock, and characters you’ll remember for a heartfelt adventure. If you enjoy exploring and hack and slash combat, this is a great game to add to your PS4 collection. The game releases on the Nintendo Switch and Steam later in 2018. Keep in mind, our Ys VIII review covers the PS4 version.
What separates Ys VIII from the other titles is its level of polish. Ys paces itself well, even despite noteworthy cues of being on a lower budget than other RPGs around it. The engaging storyline, the level of exploration, the leveling up of your skills, and the importance of character development surpassed my expectation, becoming my favorite Ys game. Nihon Falcom developed this to be a return to form of the series, one that capitalizes on the standards of what makes a great game in the current generation. Here’s hoping NIS America will continue to market the Ys series in the future so it gains the chance to form a following. JRPGs are much bigger in the west torday, and Ys deserves to be a name in that group.
We hope you enjoyed the Ys VIII review. Are you new to Ys? Did you enjoy past games in the series? Are you anticipating the game on the Switch? Let us know in the comments below!