Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana Review
Release Date: September 12th, 2017
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PlayStation Vita
Price: $59.99 (PlayStation 4), $39.99 (PlayStation Vita)
Stranded on a cursed Island, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana takes you on a journey of recollection, mystery, and adventure as you go on a journey in the shoes of Adol Christin - the recurring main protagonist throughout the Ys franchise. While stuck on the island due to an attack on his ship, The Lombardia, Adol must find a way to get back hope and find others along the way that have been stranded to help him on his journey. Adol and his comrades create a castaway village and recruit those they meet along the way to help out and defend against creatures known as the Ancient Species, a ravenous and volatile species that inhabit the land and are a threat to anything they come into contact with. While this may sound like a more fantasized version of say a Monster Hunter except with more substance or the sort, Ys puts an emphasis on building relationships and making sure that everyone you meet along the way isn't just a filler character, and instead has substance and contributes to the story, however big or small, and feels important as if you genuinely had to rely on one another if you were actually stranded. It's a nice touch that helps garner emotion throughout the game, and the accompanied score helps to make moments like this palpable, regardless if it's a cutscene, battle, death, simply walking through the vistas, or whatever may be happening on the land.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana won't be winning any Best Graphics awards this year, I can promise you that much, but I do believe that for those who play the newest entry into the Ys series since 2012's Memories of Celceta on PlayStation Vita will feel something truly magical and retro, for lack of a better word, while playing through it. Because the graphics on PS4 are essentially just an HD version of its Vita counterpart - and while it looks fantastic for handheld standards - it gives off this vibe of an almost an HD Dreamcast or PlayStation 2 RPG. It's odd because the game is entirely brand new, with fluid and modern mechanics, gameplay, UI, and the like, yet gave me this nostalgic feeling of the beauty and innocence, if you will, older 3D RPGs used to have in the early 2000's. The colors that sift throughout Lacrimosa of Dana are across the spectrum and symbiotically mingle and complement one another as you play through the game. It's almost got a Fire Emblem-esque aesthetic for the character art and design, but with much more detail and an elegance and respect for the art that's rarely appreciated or emphasized on in most titles today.
In addition to the colorful landscapes that are as beautiful as they are dangerous, players will be making their way through the Isle of Seiren hacking and slashing their way through enemies in free-form combat that's fluid, easy to pick up, and fun to engage in. The moves aren't overly flashy, but you do feel a sense of power when you do basic attacks in addition to your skills that you and your party conduct upon enemies. Skill levels take up SP, known as Special Power, but regenerate rather quickly so you can do a decent amount in a short span of time, but also not so fast that it's easily abused and you're a powerhouse throughout the game and the enemies feel like Level 1 Slimes or Magikarp. Your SP can be seen in a blue bar in the lower right hand side that's fairly easy to keep track of alongside an icon of each button's assigned move. There is a yellow gauge within the SP interface that indicates your Ultimate attack. When this is filled, it can be used and, predictably, will cause an immense amount of damage within a large radius to all enemies within it. Time freezes when this happens and enemies within the radius will be dealt all the damage done, though the character becomes immobile when this happens so the player can't go around and cover as much ground as possible before the animation is up. The combat is immensely fun and easy to grasp, and the fact that the entire game runs at a fluid 60fps - and even has 4K capabilities with the PS4 Pro - is nice to have on top of it all.
Because SP regenerates, there is no need to have potions that give SP back like some other games, especially turn based ones, where having an item that would give back mana in dire situations would be extremely useful. Potions however, work differently here than in most other RPGs. Similar and reminiscent to how bottles are handled in some Zelda titles, bottles are reusable as they become empty after use. If you're low on health and use a potion, obviously the liquid containing the healing properties will be gone as you've consumed it, but the bottle will still remain in your inventory so you can refill later on. Bottles can be obtained by completing quests and can even be crafted later down the line. Various types of potions can be made, such as half life restoration, revival potions, etc., but you must have an empty bottle in order to carry these with you. In addition to how items, specifically potions, work in Lacrimosa of Dana, since there is no gold on the island, there is a bartering system put into place instead, so it's good to loot as much as possible when traveling to make sure you manage to have something in your inventory that's worthwhile to whoever you're doing business with. It's a neat feature that works to its favor and brings the feeling of being stranded more so into Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, all while standing outside the usual blueprint of RPGs and their money management systems. Simply being curious and exploring dungeons and the land before you should keep you well stocked throughout your playthrough and should more or less be fine when bartering and getting what you want.
Whether you're a JRPG enthusiast, a hack-and-slash aficionado, or just someone looking to jump into something new, don't let the Roman numeral VIII fool you: It's accessible to every party that's jumping in, whether a veteran of the genre, a longtime fan, or a curious newcomer. Ys VIII has the perfect pacing and hours put into it to give people wanting a short but sweet RPG, aiming for 20-30 hours if you're purely doing story, or going well over 60+ for those wanting to complete all side quests, finding all hidden treasures, and/or aiming for the Platinum Trophy. The people you meet along the way are memorable, the story having a magical sense to it, the score eclectic and catchy, and quality localization helps make Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana a quality RPG that's one of the year's best so far. Regardless if you're playing on a big screen with your PS4, or taking it on the go with the Vita, players will be in for a joyful ride as they uncover a story of mystery and fantasy.
Overall, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is a wonderful new entry into the long-running Ys franchise that's spanned three decades and given us stories that are almost like fairytales that easily sends chills down your spine, has memorable moments and characters, as well as remaining fun to play all the same. Ys VIII does a beautiful job at giving each character you run into - even lowly NPCs - a rich history, even if brief, to make them feel just as important as those in your party as you try to survive on a cursed island that's notorious for disappearances of anyone who dares to reach it. In reclaiming your memories, dreams, the mysteries of the island, as well as civilization, players will experience a vast and wonderful JRPG that should be heralded as one of the best to come out in recent memory. Graphically, the game isn't pushing any boundaries, and truthfully, to some, may just look like an HD version of a Dreamcast game, but if anything it helped give Ys VIII a sense of uniqueness. It gave me feelings of playing a retro title in the modern day, all while being a game that was designed and plays like a title of recent years. Even if nostalgia wasn't meant to be a factor since this is a brand new Ys game that just happens to look like older titles, as someone who's been playing games for a long time, it actually made me appreciate it more. You had contemporary mechanics and gameplay with an old-school aesthetic, and while I'm sure this is only because Ys VIII is also on the Vita and Falcom didn't want to sacrifice or overly benefit anything between the versions to make them as equal as possible, I personally found a lot to appreciate within it. Ys has a history that has influenced and brought together many JRPG fans for a very long time - even rivaling Final Fantasy though obviously not as globally known - and while it may not have that reach or popularity compared to other well known JRPGs that have been around for decades, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is both welcoming of new players and respectful of its roots while looking with bright eyes into the future. Lacrimosa of Dana deserves to be a big seller this year on PS4 and Vita, and deserves all the success it garners, especially for fans of the JRPG genre, and even though it may not be the big hit something like Breath of the Wild or Persona 5 was for 2017, I can promise that it'll be in a lot of "Hidden Gems" lists and will be talked about for years to come. It'll get around with word of mouth, even if it takes a while, kind of like how John Wick slowly but surely became a cult hit.
- An incredible story that's as engaging as it is fun to play through
- The art for the game is second to none, and almost looks like if Fire Emblem's ineffable art was made even more breathtaking by having Picasso paint it himself
- A soundtrack that, though a little loud, caresses your ears as you journey through Seiren
- Solid and fluid hack and slash mechanics, unique bosses, and clever dungeons will make it very difficult to put down for the curious gamer eager to know what's next
- No visible setbacks in terms of technicality. The game runs like an absolute charm on a PS4 Pro with very fast loading and an immovable 60fps
- Whether playing on the big screen or anywhere with the wonderful PlayStation Vita, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is perfect for both consoles and each of their respective capabilities
- It's just an HD port of the Vita version, with no graphical enhancements other than the usual lighting and foliage
- No cross-save between PS4 and Vita versions for whatever godforsaken reason