Originally, I took Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana on a whim – Going forwards, I really didn’t want to review it…Not because I thought poorly of the game, but because I couldn’t put the bloody game down and step away to write about it!
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is a JRPG released by Falcom in July 2016 over in Japan originally for the PSVita and PS4; now, however, it’s being ported over here to the West on PS4, alongside full english voice acting and text! Ys VIII follows the tale of Adol, as do most Ys titles, as he boards the Lombardia, a vessel headed from Xandria to the continent of Eresia; plot twist, the ship sinks! Washed ashore on the fantastical Seiren Island, a cursed place said to destroy ships that sailed too close to it, from here Adol is tasked with finding the other survivors of the Lombardia, setting up a civilisation in the form of Castaway Village, and answer the many mysteries of his dreams…The mystery of the blue-haired girl, Dana.
Ys VIII follows a similar combat style to modern hack’n’slash titles, however instead of being more top-shoulder oriented like games such as Fantasy Life or Diablo, Ys: VIII takes the combat to be fully, manually controlled, in a similar strain to other hack’n’slash titles like Devil May Cry, or Final Fantasy XV; this enables players to see more when they’re battling, more accurately dodge, and plan their attacks around their enemy’s movements. Combat-wise, Ys: VIII fundamentally takes what exists in Memories of Celceta, with it’s various skill attacks and Flash Move systems, and injects it into FFXV’s fluid and accurate combat – The fusion between existing Ys mechanics and common Hack’n’Slash formats feels like Bayonetta just had a lovebaby with something from the Tales franchise, and it’s certainly a fusion that works well! Ys VIII is an absolute joy to play, and really brings the bar high for action-oriented JRPGs arriving in the future.
One interesting note to make about Ys VIII is that, much to my surprise, the characters in this title are especially human – Yes you have some characters that follow tropes to begin with, but every character, much like in an actual survival situation develops internally and externally, reflecting on the events in their lives and the relationships they’ve made with people – Take Sahad for instance; he’s a carefree guy who lived a life as a fisherman before boarding the Lombardia – Using his experience in fishing, he teaches Adol how to catch aquatic creatures, and to fish for food, and often gives advice on ocean conditions, legends, and even his preferences! He also just does things to his own amusement, like ripping a loud fart during a quiet scene, much to the dismay of others – He doesn’t care if it isn’t funny to the other characters, or to the player, it was funny to him!
Other characters like the enigmatic Hummel delve into the darker and deeper aspects of Ys, telling the story of a black market Transporter that moves anything from point A to point B, be it corpses, illegal items, or even terrorists and criminals, however he still has some waning hope for people, and has a somewhat more ‘usual’ side to him – Searching for and rescuing survivors feels like it has a quantifiable purpose, not just adding another number up – You feel like you’re rescuing people, as odd as that sounds, instead of just the numbers they’re made up from.
Exploring the Island of Seiren also has a meaningful purpose, as you get rewards and benefits for exploring, allowing you to undertake more quests to improve your civilisation’s chance of survival, and to learn more about the mysteries at play on the Island – Finally, helping others with quests brings more additional benefits, from being able to craft more items, to discounts, to enhanced services and defence tactics during assaults on the town.
Another point of merit for Ys VIII is within it’s design, both audible and visual; the voice acting is, at least at 8 hours in, a treat to enjoy – Many of the game’s OST pieces, from the opening theme, to Sunshine Coastline, Crimson Fighter, and Red Line -021- are just some of the amazing tracks in this game, all whom beat accordingly in tone with the current surroundings, situations and battles that take place; visually, Ys is a beautiful title, if a little bit dated at points – Some textures and lighting issues are present, however that can be excused for the sheer volume of this game – I’m around 8 hours in, and there seems to be no stopping this title at all in it’s epic quest. The menus and navigation too are all snappy and easy to navigate, with it never being confusing where you have to navigate to in order to toggle a specific option or find out a specific fact.
I’ve played through the entire game to review this, from start to finish, beating the title at around 40 hours in at around Level 70; seeing the plot and characters unravel, each boss fight, every location and creating nearly every item and doing nearly everything – This is one of those times where I can truely say “Time well spent”, as I really did enjoy my time with Ys 8.
Usually, this would be the part of the review where I would mull on the negatives I found in a title…But in this extremely rare case…I simply can’t find any – I don’t know if I’m not looking critically enough at this title, but I really struggle to answer that one question, “So what’s actually WRONG with Ys VIII”?
If I had to nail one thing, it would be that Dana’s gameplay sections in particular, come rather late into the game all things considered – Throughout the first few hours of the game, Adol has numerous dreams about the mysterious woman, introduced to the ancient culture of her time and her friends and family…Yet you only really get to play as Dana around the middle of Chapter 3; given that Chapter 2 itself is very long, and takes up the majority of the game, I was chomping at the teeth for more details, however I did have to wait to obtain them.
Another issue I have is with the Interception timings – At seemingly random times, Castaway Village’s messenger, Little Paro can contact you informing you that the village is under siege; too many times did I just get through a part of a dungeon, with no save crystal in sight, only to be asked to go back to the village to help out – Whilst the Interceptions and Suppressions are fun at their core, they do detract a little from the standard story.
Saying all this, however, Ys VIII is still a masterpiece among masterpieces – It’s characters, worldbuilding, combat, visuals, soundtrack, and voice acting are all top-class, even (And I know this quote will probably get me culled)…
…Beating Final Fantasy XV.
THERE. I SAID IT.
Yes, I really do think that Ys VIII is superior in nearly every sense to Final Fantasy XV; well, at least the late game and overall plot is worlds beyond what FFXV supplied, not relying on fancy physics, graphics or an overarching moniker. Ys VIII is Ys VIII, not “Another Final Fantasy Game” like FFXV is. This feels like a true refinement of the action JRPG format, and, for that reason, I quite controversially think that Falcom should listen especially to this next segment.
Falcom, quit while you’re ahead.
Ys has been an epic and wide spanning franchise, borne back in the olden days of the 1980s; since then, it’s seen experiment after experiment, and even a Castlevania-esque title with Ys III – In all reality, Ys as a series has swelled to such a convoluted size, and peaked with Ys VIII, that I fear that any steps from here out would actually damage Ys as a franchise, since they’d be dwarfed by Lacrimosa of Dana – Now would be the opportune time to start fresh with a brand new IP, taking every lesson learned from Ys, building a new world just as grand, just as exciting and full of the human characters that fans of the series has grown to love and adore. Round off Ys with one more title, one last magnum opus to end Adol’s journey, and start fresh.
Refining the gameplay in Lacrimosa of Dana could prove to be an exciting springboard for Falcom as a company, and could lead to, possibly, some of the best JRPGs we cold get in the coming years.
All I have to say now is, well done Falcom. Well done. You’ve got a new Ys fan, and made a certified masterpiece. I haven’t played a game that’s captivated me this much since Rogue Galaxy, back in 2007, so keep it up. Not just for us, but for the betterment of the JRPG genre.
I give Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana a 9.5 / 10.
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