If you locked me in a room and told me I couldn’t leave until I chose a favorite series that Falcom is responsible for… I’d most likely end up answering with Ys. It’s a tough call between this and The Legend of Heroes, but the nod would end up slightly in favor of Ys for the faster style of combat and the absolutely rocking soundtrack that you can always expect. When NIS America announced they would be handling the localization for Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, fans of the series were slightly concerned, since XSEED Games had been handling it for years now. Rest assured, the localization is just as good, and the gameplay remains as fun as ever. Read on for our full Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana review.
Title: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Available On: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, PC
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 Pro
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Game Provided by the Publisher for the Sake of This Review
What a time to be alive, right? For the longest time, Nihon Falcom releases were tucked away in a corner over in Japan, rarely seeing the light of day with an English translation. Now this year alone, we have received Ys Origin on the PlayStation 4, Ys Seven just released on PC via Steam, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel released earlier this month on PC via Steam, Tokyo Xanadu is still set to arrive on PlayStation 4 and PC later this Fall, and is currently already available on the Vita, and Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is releasing for three platforms! PS4, PS Vita, and PC. Falcom fans across the world are jumping up and down in celebratory joy. This is thanks in part to both NIS America and Aksys Games recently taking on the task of translating Falcom games, alleviating some of the workload off of the shoulders of XSEED.
Ys VIII encapsulates everything that I have ever loved about the franchise, stays faithful to those mechanics, and then improves on them in almost every way imaginable. I don’t shy away from the fact that I enjoy action roleplaying games like Ys, Star Ocean, and the Tales of franchise more than I do turn-based roleplaying games like a lot of old school JRPG’s and The Legend of Heroes series. While turn-based games are still amazing and I would gladly play one any day of the week, there’s just something about being able to control every inch of the battle, move around freely, and just wail on enemies like there’s no tomorrow that has always drawn me more to these types of games.
Of course, the game stars our lovable adventurer, Adol Christin. When the game begins, we join Adol as a crew member on board the Lombardia, as it travels from Xandria to the continent of Eresia. The opening hour is simple enough, with an introduction to the controls and how the game is going to go from there. You’ll be tasked with surveying the ship to ensure that everything is in order, but the eerie part is… the ship is about to pass by a mysterious island known as Seiren Island. Legend has it that any ship that comes within a certain circumference of this island suddenly sinks and the crew vanishes. While surveying the deck, the ship is suddenly attacked by a monstrous tentacle, and it’s here that you’ll be introduced to the combat system, and get a first taste at how utterly amazing this soundtrack is.
It doesn’t take long for everything to quickly go south, and when all is said and done, you awake on a sandy beach, and soon realize you’ve washed ashore on the mysterious island itself. The game follows a predictable gameplay loop going forward. After exploring around a bit by yourself, you’ll stumble across your next party member in hilarious fashion, and then after a bit more exploring, get introduced to Castaway Village. More on that shortly. From there, Adol and his party will set out to explore Seiren Island, charting a map along the way, and looking for additional survivors of the Lombardia that may be stranded on this island as well.
Back to Castaway Village. One thing I absolutely love in gaming is when there’s a reason to build up an entire town or village. I adored this mechanic in the first Dark Cloud game on PlayStation 2, White Knight Chronicles on PlayStation 3 had a good system as well, and I’m eager to try out the system when Ni no Kuni 2 launches in January 2018. Lacrimosa of Dana doesn’t give you as much freedom as to where you are placing things and with the entire layout, but by seeking out and bringing back other passengers that washed up on the island, they become residents of this little village you’ve built inside of a hollowed-out rock canyon. You’ll get access to things such as a tailor, doctor, cooking stall, blacksmith area, a trading post, among other useful skills.
Along the same line, I get that filling in the map is a critical part in a lot of Japanese roleplaying games, but I often don’t feel compelled to do it because there isn’t a reward for it unless I’m aiming for trophies or achievements. In Ys VIII, there is a storyline reason for you to be going out and exploring. First of all, this is a deserted island and Adol is an adventurer. A map does not exist. Adol, a skilled cartographer in his own right, gets to be the one to chart this island and hopefully live to tell about it. Secondly, as you uncover more and more of the island and fill in your map, Captain Barbaros from the Lombardia will reward you with loot and useful items. This was reason enough for me to explore every inch of the areas, and jot down little notes to go back and search an area if there was something that prohibited me from gaining access to a section.
Speaking of, there’s adventure gear that you will accumulate as you progress on the island and further into the story. This gear, such as the gloves you’ll find within the first five hours of the game that enables everyone to climb up vines, is more or less used as a gating system so you don’t run around freely on the island. It was a nice touch, and offered a bit more value to what I was doing, as there was always something additional to look forward to every time you came across something that Adol and friends could not yet pass.
There are also obstacles such as fallen trees and giant boulders that will require the assistance of the entire Castaway Village to clear away. When you come across one of these structures, usually marked on the map with a Green Triangle to let players know it is an area of importance, you’ll find out how many villagers you need to have in order to clear away the debris and access the areas beyond. Some of these require quite a few people, so you’ll want to remember where all of them are so you can eventually go back and see what lies ahead once the number of villagers requirement has been satisfied.
As mentioned earlier, combat flows incredibly well and is a faithful representation of the franchise’s’ past, while looking ahead to the future. If you haven’t played an Ys game before, think of a standard Action RPG combat system like Star Ocean, Tales of, or even the more recent Final Fantasy XV. It is very similar in style to that. You can move about freely on the map, lock on to enemies with triangle, and attack away. There’s a dodge mechanic, and if you can time it correctly, time will briefly slow down allowing you to get in extra hits that do a nice sized chunk of damage to your opponents. You can also swap which party member you are currently in control of with the square button, and this is used cleverly, as certain enemies are weak to attacks from a specific person. So you’ll want to constantly keep switching about and controlling the one that deals the most amount of damage to the creatures, as you cannot rely on the AI to keep attacking in crucial moments.
Which, is one of my few complaints with Ys VIII. For the most part, the computer controlled party members behave accordingly and will attack enemies with no issues. But every now and then, they’ll just seemingly stop doing what they’re supposed to, get stuck on a wall, or just stand still for a few seconds. I’m not quite sure if it’s something I’m doing or just something of a technical issue, but it is frustrating at times. Luckily, it doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, you’ll instantly be able to recognize it.
Graphics wise, this is definitely the best looking game in the franchise to date. I’m a big fan of the art style and visuals Falcom chose to go with for this release. Hopefully this will be a sign of things to come for future titles in both the Ys series and outside of it as well, with The Legend of Heroes and the Xanadu games.
And the soundtrack. You know me. We do an entire podcast every Wednesday morning called BGMania dedicated to video game music and soundtracks. I have to mention and give a shout out to the Falcom Sound Team for another brilliant production with the Ys VIII tracks. From all out rock to simple piano melodies… this soundtrack has it all. I made several people listen to tracks for the game already while playing through it for review, and I don’t anticipate that coming to an end anytime soon. It’s that good. Look it up. You won’t be disappointed.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is definitely going to set the bar for future installments of the Ys series. Hopefully it continues to go up from here, because I had an absolute blast experiencing this story and playing through the game. There were a few hiccups along the way, such as slight frame rate drops during more intense combat moments when there was a lot going on, minor voice acting issues, and rare AI issues. But these moments are easily counterbalanced by an incredible soundtrack, amazing story, addictive gameplay, and one of the best battle systems for any Action RPG around. Ys fans, you’re going to love this game. Action RPG fans, pick this one up. Everyone else… you might just be surprised with how good this game really is. Well done, Falcom.