Game Overview: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana

Sun, 2017/10/01

After almost a year's wait, U.S. fans finally saw the release of the latest game in the cult classic Ys series on September 12, 2017. Although a rather niche series, Ys (pronounced “ease”) has managed to capture the hearts of its fans in almost every one of its games. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, created by Nihon Falcom and published by NIS America for PS4 and PS Vita, is no exception, being one of the most beautiful and expansive games produced by the developer yet. But, without further ado, on with the overview.

Starting with the story, if readers are at all familiar with the Ys series, it should be noted that continuation-wise, this game takes place after the end of Ys V and is currently the third most recent in the timeline, coming before VI and VII. That noted, Ys VIII starts you off on a ship, which is capsized after an attack, in very “Bermuda Triangle” fashion. You, Adol Christin, the iconic redheaded protagonist of the series, end up washed ashore the Isle of Seiren, a place that is supposed to be only a legend, but, as it turns out, is actually a real place. Together with a few other survivors, you form Castaway Village, a village composed entirely of those who were on the ship with you before the accident. Something notable is that each character you find has their own unique set of mannerisms and looks, giving extra bits of life to the game here and there. This is something that Falcom games are known for, although historically less so in Ys.

Starting with the graphics, Ys VIII is not a game you buy because of high quality graphics, for this gaming generation. That's to say, it is the best looking Ys game to date and will not disappoint coming from more recent titles like Memories of Celceta, boasting a myriad of colorful landscapes and artful eye candy that is sure to give an immersive feeling and sense of exploration. If you look really closely at individual textures you may find that some of them look reminiscent of something you would expect from a PS2 game (the grass is 2D), but it should be noted that most of the reason for this is because the game was originally intended for the PS Vita handheld console and on PS4 is mostly upscaled. In terms of character models, these are honestly the best aspect of the game graphically, and the attention to detail for individual character costumes is astounding.

Moving on to gameplay, the last few Ys games, notably VII and Memories of Celceta, have changed things up a bit, offering a more action-oriented hack and slash type of game, while retaining the exploration the series is known for. Ys VIII is no exception, featuring a party system of up to three characters at a time, each with their own particular attack attributes that suit different types of enemies. This operates in almost a rock, paper, scissors fashion, with “break” type attacks being more effective against enemies with tough shells, and “slice” type attacks being more effective against things like plant enemies. Returning abilities include the “flash move,” allowing players extra opportunities to frenzy the enemy, provided they dodge at just the right moment. Along similar lines, there is a new ability called “flash guard,” which works similarly, except occurring upon guarding at just the right time. The timing for these is fairly forgiving, sometimes to the point that it feels too easy, but the game remains fun despite this, so my complaints towards this aspect are minute.  

In terms of exploration, throughout the Isle of Seiren there are various material-gathering locations, offering things like metal ore, tree branches, and other various materials, which can all be used to complete quests and build new structures and weapons, among other things. Going off of that, there is a slew of quests to complete in this game, with a good amount of required ones along with multiple optional quests, all of which either advance the story or provide perks that will come in handy later on in the game. In addition, any castaways you find on the isle can be called in to remove obstacles that block off access to new areas, giving quite an incentive to find all of them. Last to note, there are also intermittent horde battles, which involve defending Castaway Village from waves of enemies until time runs out. While fun, these seem like a waste of time and didn’t really need to be put in the game. On to the soundtrack.

Perhaps one of the series’ biggest draws is its soundtracks, which never cease to impress. For the most part, any potentially lackluster gameplay is made up for with a combination of guitar shredding, high speed percussion, orchestral flare, and a heavy dose of electronic effects, all coming together to make up an over-the-top, energetic soundtrack that is perfect background music for killing monsters and traversing the land. That said, over-the-top is not all that the Falcom J.D.K. band can put out, and, as with previous Ys games, things like cave themes are suitably eerie and mysterious, offering a rather developed and detailed sound in this release. A couple of my favorite tracks from Ys VIII are “Crimson Fighter” and “A Waterdrop in the Dark,” which can be found on Spotify and others thanks to Falcom’s efforts to get their entire discography on streaming services. Words simply do not do the music justice, especially not this reviewer’s, and needs to be experienced. It’s not often that I would say a video game original soundtrack is listenable as an album, but anything from the Ys series is very listenable, which is a major plus.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, as noted before, can be purchased on PS4 and PS Vita, and goes for $60 and $40 respectively. The game did have a limited edition release running around $100, but it’s likely to be harder to find now, and most certainly is not worth it unless you’re a diehard fan like myself who would drop that kind of money for a single series. If this overview made the game out to be enjoyable, I wholeheartedly suggest you gather a second opinion by trying out the demo available for free on the Playstation Store and deciding from there. Since this is an overview, there will be no score given, especially since I have yet to complete the game, so I will simply give it a "buy out of buy."