Note: PS4 Review Code provided by NIS America.
While I primarily focus on covering Yuri media there are times I also cover/review media featuring strong female leads. The following game is one such example even though the game primarily follows the male lead. Even so I anxiously wanted to check this game out and see whether it is worthy of the hype it got from people who played it. Let us find out as we take a look at Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana.
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publisher: NIS America
Platforms: PS4, PS Vita/TV, PC (Steam/GOG), Nintendo Switch (This version comes with exclusive goodies)
Genres: Action, JRPG,
Themes: Mystery, Survival
Length: Between 40-80 Hours (Depends on how much time players invest in side-quests, additional missions or trying to unlock the True Ending. There is also New Game+)
G-Rating: Great (9/10)
By the archipelagos of the Gaete Sea located in south of Greek, Adol Christin is on a passenger ship called “The Lombardia” that is headed from Xandria to the continent of Eresia. He and Dogi were recruited as a crew for the ship in exchange for their boarding. The ships Captain, Captain Barbaros, told Adol a story of the Cursed Isle of Seiren where ships have vanished while passing its perimeters. However, on a rainy night when guests were welcomed on the ship at a feast, the Lombardia was attacked and sunk by a giant creature which Adol fought and failed to defeat. Adol then drifted ashore of the Isle of Seiren.
Curiosity aside Adol started to venture the mysterious island to search for other survivors and as destiny with him gets involved into solving the hidden secrets of the place.
The story is split in three parts. As the above plot summary showed the first part has Adol finding survivors of the Lombardia shipwreck on the cursed Isle of Seiren and working together to find a way off the island. The second part is uncovering the mysteries of Seiren and its unusual wildlife. The third is the meat of the story which revolves around Dana, where she comes from and how she is connected to Adol. More on Dana’s role later. The overall story for a long time has a “journey over destination” feel as it is more interesting to explore the island, find other castaways and learn more about them through conversations and side-quests. Each castaway has their own story to tell and they are all intriguing in their own way. The other interesting facet of the plot is slowly discovering more about the island and its aforementioned unusual wildlife. However, as soon as Dana starts having a larger role in the story that is when things get even more interesting. It is not a game changing plot but a very enjoyable one to experience. A cracker jack adventure basically.
Next up we move on to the presentation. Seiren is indeed an isle full of danger around every corner but it is also a gorgeous location full of breathtaking vistas from clean beaches, coral reefs, grasslands, mountains, jungles and other nice locales. As far as anime style JRPGs go on the eight generation of consoles the game looks really good from the crystal clear waters to the spectacular view atop of Mt Gendarme. These are not “Triple A”/Final Fantasy graphics mind but they look quite nice for anime style RPG standards. The soundtrack is also great with a mix of tunes fitting any fantasy themed JRPG and rockin’ tunes for field areas, dungeons and boss battles. A nice “gamey” soundtrack to add to a video game OST collection. The game’s English voice acting and translation is good. Most of the cast do a nice job when given the chance to speak, this being a partially voiced game and all for both languages. Apparently there were translation issues early on in the game’s release. I picked it up after NIS released a big script and voice update patch so my experience was a smoother one. Favorite voice actors were Sahad, Ricotta, Sister Nia and Dina (Yes there is a side-character named Dina and a main character named Dana) who are also my favorite characters in the game. Even Adol gets some speaking lines despite being a “silent protagonist”. He has more speaking lines than Ludger from Tales of Xillia 2 during the first playthrough that is for sure.
Note: Changing the spoken dialogue between English and Japanese requires resetting the game each time.
Next up is the gameplay. The Ys series for a long time has been renowned for its 16-bit Action RPG style that longtime video game enthusiasts in the West are more familiar with in games like Secret of Mana and A Link to the Past. It was not until Ys 7 where the series began experimenting with 3D gameplay. Ys VIII (8) fully embraced the 3D gameplay mechanic and in this reviewer’s humble opinion it is one of the best Action-RPGs he had ever played. Let us go over bit by bit what the game has to offer.
First of all as Adol and his combat ready comrades come across a few fellow castaways they quickly find a safe area and begin building Castaway Village. How it works is similar to the Suikoden series, in my case Suikoden V. As Adol finds more survivors in both main story and optional areas each one contributes to the expansion of the village be it through building item shops (weapons/armor, accessories, medical clinic, etc) and also during Raid Battles. More on those in a bit. Another area where the villagers come in handy is in opening new paths by removing blockades in both main story and optional paths.
Next up is exploration. As Adol and friends travel around the village, through fields and dungeons they will come across the following:
- Treasure chests. A select few are locked.
- Objects to harvest items from (for healing, cooking, stat boosts, crafting etc) such as plants, breakable rocks, tree trunks, fruits hanging from trees (or in the sand) etc.
- The aforementioned blockades, each requiring a select number of rescued castaways to break through.
- Crystals or as I like to call them “Checkpoint Crystals”. These serve to fully heal the party and as warp points for fast travel. Later on in the game some of them serve an additional purpose.
- Campsites: Similar to to the Checkpoint Crystals (one is always nearby a campsite) these also serve as cooking spots when not at Castaway Village, spots for main party character developing cutscenes and what I call “Dana Points”. More on that later when discussing Dana.
- Fishing spots: Once the party obtain fishing rods there will be spots around the Isle where fishes of varying sizes can be located by either listening to the party mention a good fishing spot being nearby or paying attention to small splashes in the water.
Whenever the party approaches objects that can be harvested or fishing spots they will “hint” at these being nearby. The “hints” can be turned off in the menu should the player want to find them themselves.
Third we move to the combat. It reminds me of an obscure Action RPG I enjoyed, Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll. The six playable characters are split into two members for the three attack type categories. To better explain this we will be looking at the trio we play as most early on, Adol, Laxia and Sahad:
- Adol has a Slash Type Weapon that is strong against enemies with soft bodies.
- Laxia has a Pierce Type Weapon that is strong against flying enemies.
- Sahad has a Strike Weapon that is strong against armored enemies.
Enemies are split into two categories:
- Those that have no weaknesses and can be taken down by any character. These include certain small enemies, most large enemies and bosses.
- Those that are weak to only one of the above mentioned weapon types.
The key to battle is knowing which characters to switch to at the right moment. During battle party members hint at enemies weak to certain attack types. Like the object finding hints the battle hints can also be turned off.
Besides attacking there is also two defense techniques. The Flash Dodge and the Flash Guard. The Flash Dodge is a timed dodge where if done correctly time temporarily slows down around enemies allowing for the party to unleash additional attacks. The Flash Guard is a timed parry which makes the player controlled character invincible for a short time. Lastly each character has Special Moves that can be used so long as there is available SP (blue meter of the wheel on the lower right) and a Super Move that can be unleashed when the center of the anchor is filled up.
What makes the combat so good is that it is fast-paced and very accessible. Some special moves allow players to perform short air combos and apart from status ailments that intentionally slow you down (such as Bleed) combat rarely slows down. The bestiary is also diverse and coming from someone who has played many JRPGs with palette and color swaps this is quite commendable. Even though there are enemies that look and act similar (some enemies having rolling attacks) it hardly ever feels like fighting color/palette swaps.
Now we move on to the above mentioned Raid Battles. This can be considered a nuisance to some players as the raids often to happen while traversing dungeons. If it were not for the Checkpoint Crystals this part of the game would have been a bit annoying. Luckily once the Raid Battle is completed players can warp back to the last discovered Crystal Checkpoint in the dungeon they were traversing. Anyway, Raid Battles. Think of these as Tower Defense battles where the goal is to fend off waves of enemies. As mentioned above the villagers will also help fend off attacking beasts with healing, status buff, status ailments against enemies and area of effect attacks to name a few examples. Alongside the villagers players can build additional wooden blockades, set baits and catapults to further add the odds in their favor. Around the mid-point of the game the opposite of Raid Battles becomes available, Hunts. Unlike raids, hunts are for the most part optional. The goal is similar where Adol’s party and the villagers fend off waves of beasts. Only this time the goal is to lure the boss out of hiding by either waiting it out and beating enemy waves or light up all the torches to weaken the enemies and lure the boss out sooner. Of course the enemies will take down lit torches so the key is to be quick, be sharp and also be adept at the “Flash Dodge”, especially in higher level hunts.
At long last it is time to talk about the deuteragonist of the game, the titular Dana. She first makes her presence felt inside Adol’s dreams. For some reason he occasionally has dreams about her. Not just any dream but dreams about events that are integral to the main story of the game. See, Dana is the Maiden of the Great Tree who protects the people of a mysterious city known as Eternia. She first appears in nicely drawn images depicting events leading up to her becoming the Maiden and she eventually becomes playable around Chapter 3 (which takes a while to get to). She does not get to do much until around Chapter 4 when she becomes much more active until eventually, through reasons that are not fully explained until much later, she joins Adol’s party.
Dana’s gameplay differs from Adol’s team. First of all she has her own set of side-quests where she helps the people of Eternia and other beings who gift her with special abilities. Completing her quests helps her traverse through her exclusive dungeons and helps Adol’s party out as well. The other unique thing about her gameplay is the aforementioned exclusive dungeons and field areas. See, Dana is forced to travel through these areas on her own so mastering her solo play style is key, especially to complete a dungeon that is required to unlocking the True Ending. While Dana starts off as the second Slash Type character she will acquire the ability to use Pierce and Strike Type Styles when needed.
After beating the game once New Game+ becomes available with a bunch of extras including an Inferno difficulty and an extra dungeon.
Overall Ys VIII Lacrimosa of Dana is a great game and one of my personal favorite Action RPGs I have played where the execution is simple but the content is quite large yet manages to not become repetitive busywork, Raid Battles and Hunts notwithstanding. While the main plot starts off with a “journey over destination” feel give it time and grander tale starts to unfold. Most of the main and side-characters are likable, having played the game on Normal difficulty provided a good challenge, Seiren is a beautiful little world to explore despite its very hostile wildlife and the secrets within are interesting to uncover. The combat is fast-paced and satisfying and the presentation is quite good. Highly recommended to fans of JRPGs and people who are interested in playing previous Ys games for the lore and to find out what the series was like before jumping to full 3D. In regards to longtime Ys fans I say give it a try and see for yourselves whether the new style is to your liking. Having played some of the past Ys games I would say that despite the new additions it still feels like an Ys game at heart.
Note: As of this writing the game is available digitally and retail for the PS4, Vita/TV and Steam (This version had a bumpy launch but hopefully it became smoother after being patched up). The Switch version is coming very soon.
- It can also be purchased at the US or EU NIS Stores.
- Limited Edition US Switch version can be picked up HERE.