After I got my PC Engine(Japanese Turbografx 16) just about 2 years ago I became a huge fan of the Ys series. Ys Book 1 & 2(1989) and Ys IV: Dawn of Ys(1993) for the PC Engine/Turbografx 16 are action-rpg games that rival some of the best games of their era such as the Final Fantasy and Zelda games. I reviewed those also on this site for those interested.
After all this time I was pretty hyped to see that a new main series Ys game was being made. Ys VIII is obviously the eight game in the series but I missed Ys 5, 6 and 7 and will go play those soon.
I played the Ys IV remake “Memories of Celceta” on the Vita and I liked it a lot except that I feel like they butchered the great original story of the PC Engine original.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana was also released on the Vita in Japan in 2016 but more recently the game was released on the PS4 but also just in Japan.
I speak fluent Japanese (N2/N1 level) so i thought I would give Ys VIII a go and review it for English speakers before it releases internationally 12th of September 2017.
This time Adol Christin finds himself on a big passenger ship that get’s attacked by a kraken in the Gaete Sea, south of “Greek” which I guess is the real world equivalent to the Mediterranean Sea.
He washes up on the island of Seiren, an island known for being cursed, an island where ships are known to mysteriously disappear. There Adol meets other shipwrecked passengers and they have to do their best to survive in the islands’ unforgiving environment. That is not to say that the weather is bad, quite the opposite this place would be a perfect place for a summer vacation if it weren’t for all the monsters and dinosaurs.
I’m not going to go into great details about the story, this review is spoiler free but I will say that the story starts off pretty basic. It revolves around the mysteries of the island, the mystery of Dana(blue haired girl), a mystery of an ancient civilization but as in many Ys games the stakes get high and the epicness ramps up as you play.
I love good mysteries, the reason Ys Book 1 & 2 hooked me like it did was the mystery of the old kingdom of Ys. Ys VIII hooked me also, maybe not as much but I was interested in the story most time and by the end I really enjoyed it.
There are a few storylines(2-3) in the main story that I found a bit uninteresting and out of place but I guess it was good to get a break from the main story from time to time.
In the beginning stages of the game your initial goal is to save as many passengers as you can and to build a safe village to isolate you from all the monsters on the island. You meet a lot of interesting characters, some who are playable and some who have a specific role in Castaway village such as improving weapons, forging armor, accessories, healing items and more.
The playable characters are lovable with perhaps an exception of one, but you really feel the unity between the shipwrecked people and you feel the growing comradery as the game progresses so you are encouraged to make bonds with people as you try to get off the island while solving its mysteries. The village gets attacked repeatedly by monsters and the kraken makes sure that the poor people cannot just make a boat and sail away.
The core action-rpg gameplay in Ys VIII is essentially the same as in Memories of Celceta but it has some improvements. You hack and slash with a touch of a button like you are playing a God of War game, you bind 4 skills of choice to each main button, you block, you dodge roll and you gather energy to do a super attack.
Three characters are playable at one time and you switch between them on the go, and they all have different fighting style (slash, pierce and crush). Some enemies are weak to slash while others are weak to pierce or crush so you choose a character accordingly.
In the easier difficulty levels(easy, normal) you can hack and slash your way through a lot of the game if you are just into it for the story, but on the higher levels (hard, nightmare, inferno) you realize that while the battle system is easy to learn, fluid, fast paced and fun, it is also skill based. The timing on blocks and dodges are essential to get down and you have to use them well on higher difficulty settings.
I played on normal and I think I might have died about 5-6 times when i got careless, otherwise it was pretty easy and I took down the final boss in my 1st try easily so I would recommend playing on hard or maybe nightmare if you really enjoy the challenge.
Also important is of course to level up, find resources and get proper equipment. Doing side quests and exploring really helps in this. Depending on what kind of player you are, the main quest can take you 35-55hrs by my estimation.
One thing you should know is that there is a LOT of talking, often in text only so i hope you are interested in what’s going on otherwise you might get bored. A lot of the total playing time goes into reading, especially if you are reading your 3rd language which is Japanese in my case.
The game is vast for a game originally made for the Vita and its layout is reminiscent of some games in the PS2 era such as Final Fantasy XII. The map is big and there are plenty of extra beautiful places for you to explore.
Speaking of beautiful, the anime cutscenes in the game are beautiful are expertly animated, if only there were a more of them because most of the story is conveyed through the in-game graphics, and often with text only. The in-game graphics are fine for a Vita game but this PS4 version only enhances those graphics and they cannot be said to be on par with the best looking games of the system. This won’t bother you since the graphics are good for its style, as the developers understandably didn’t bother to make Final Fantasy XV level of realist graphics. That to me is fine but often I could not help to think that Adol’s face sometimes looks a bit expressionless and pale and that some of the action in the in-game cutscenes could have been conveyed better if they would have used the animated cutscenes more. Because of this the game comes off a bit low budget.
Trailer (minor spoilers):
But do you know what does not come off as low budget? The music! Yes, Falcom has done it again as the soundtrack for Ys VIII is what you would expect from the series’ standards and more. I get the same feeling as I did when i played Ys Book 1 & 2 as in I kept thinking “holy crap, they are going all out! all the songs sound amazing” and its just back to back to back amazing anime-ish high energy rock with a dash of classical music as the Ys series is known for. The music really pushes the game up to greater levels as it is such a big part of the gaming experience along with the art and story.
The Japanese voice cast is really good and gives the characters and story a real authentic feel so it is a bit sad that major parts of the story are conveyed in text only.
All these aspects make Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana a great work of art.
Here is the OST on youtube. I recommend number 1, 5, 19, 21 and 27 and 30 just to get a taste of the greatness.
Overall, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is a fantastic adventure and a great new addition to the already great Ys franchise. Ys VIII offers a grand scale adventure with a story that keeps you engaged and music that blows your ears clean off. The gameplay is easy to learn, fluid, fast paced and fun, but it is also skill based and offers some real challenge on higher difficulties. Based on the difficulty level and your style of play you will get 35-55hrs of action with one playthrough.
Originally being a PS Vita game, Ys VIII lacks the top tier graphics of some of the best looking games of the PS4 but it still holds up for the most part. The animated scenes look amazing, I just wish the game had more of them, and more of the great voice acting. This might be because of memory constrictions of the PS Vita and it comes off as a bit low budget.
Still, overall a fantastic JRPG/action-rpg for the PS4/PS Vita.
YS VII: Lacrimosa of Dana launches internationally 12th of September 2017.
Lasting appeal 8,5
Is it fun? 9
Overall 9 an awesome game!
A 9/10 might be a little bit generous but I’m giving Ys VIII the benefit of the doubt.
My wife also played the game and we agreed on this score so it’s not just a one person’s opinion.
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