Review – Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana

I have to admit that my knowledge of the Ys series is very limited. Besides the first one, a game I bought a few years ago for my Master System on a retro binge, I haven’t played any other title, but I’m aware of its importance and how big it is among the diehard RPG circle, most specifically in Japan. I was aware of the positive reception Ys VIII had acquired on the PS4 and the Vita, and was curious about it, but also a bit worried I’d feel like a fish out of water by not knowing much about the franchise’s lore. I shouldn’t have worried so much, Ys VIII was welcoming enough for a “pleb” like me. It’s also one heck of a fun RPG!

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I’m never going back to Red Lobster…

Ys VIII is a game both veterans and newcomers to the series can enjoy. The game’s plot is very self-contained and centered around the franchise’s staple character Adol helping out a bunch of castaways stranded on a mysterious island, as well as the story of Dana, the maiden the game is actually named after. The story is enjoyable for the most part, but one of the arcs is a lot more interesting than the other…

I’m not going to say the Dana arc of the story was bad, but it really got overshadowed by how interesting the entire castaway part of the story turned out to be. I grew fond of my castaways; I cheered for them, I got legitimately sad when any of them got into harm, I cared about their well-being, and always tried to complete their quests and talk to them as much as I could. That’s the difference between this arc and Dana’s entire arc. I cared a lot more about them.

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Dude, this girl not blond.

Being a game centered around castaways stranded on an island, you can imagine certain changes have been made to the standard JRPG formula. There isn’t currency, for instance. Since you’re stranded with other castaways, you need to swap items with them instead. Want some metal? Well, give one of the residents a few bones and (literal) excrement, why not? This is one of the various subtle survival elements scattered throughout the game. Despite being able to use potions, you’ll mostly use cooked recipes and fruit as your health items. You’ll constantly explore the land in order to look for new materials in order to improve your weaponry and you’ll kill monsters in order to loot their organs and so on. Speaking of killing monsters…

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Playing as Dana is a lot more interesting than caring about her story.

The best aspect of the game is, without a doubt, its combat system. The game is a full-fledged action RPG with a heavy emphasis on dodging attacks (you’ll be granted a brief period of invincibility if you properly dodge an attack) and exploiting weaknesses. Each character has a special weapon emphasis, be it piercing, slashing or smashing. Most monsters have a weakness to any of those three styles and that’s the game’s way of making you instantly swap between characters in order to kill your foes. The combat is extremely fast-paced and rewarding. Grinding isn’t exactly required, but given how fun the combat is, it’s actually fun to lose yourself in the wilderness just so you can constantly beat the living heck out of everyone in front of you.

The game is far from perfect, though. Although the combat is very fast-paced, Ys VIII suffers a lot in the framerate department. Unlike the PS4 version, the Switch version only achieves, at best, 30 frames per second, with occasional dips whenever you enter a new area (it stabilizes after a few seconds). You can get used to the framerate after playing the game for a while and the combat still managed to be fast and adrenaline-filled despite those shortcomings, but it’s still a slight disappointment given how Ys VIII isn’t exactly the best looking game out there. With the exception of the amazing boss designs, neither the characters nor the environments feature complex designs or textures.

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Spider-Cave, Spider-Cave.

Another issue is the voice acting. Ys VIII features one of the more amateurish voiceovers I’ve seen in years. With the exception of a few characters (whoever voices Dana actually does a good job), the vast majority of the lines delivered throughout the game are so cringeworthy they’re occasionally funny. Thankfully, the soundtrack is nowhere near as bad as the voice acting. In fact, it’s the very opposite: the Ys series is known for its soundtracks, and Ys VIII is no different. The soundtrack is mostly comprised of hard rock-infused tracks and they’re extremely catchy. The beach exploration tune was my personal highlight.

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The game isn’t exactly a looker but there are a few gorgeous landscapes every now and then.

Ys VIII turned out to be a fantastic JRPG experience for reasons I wasn’t expecting. I loved the survival mechanics, the soundtrack, and the fast-paced combat system although I mostly ignored anything regarding the titular maiden. It manages to be appealing for veterans of the series as well as inviting for newcomers, given how its plot is self-contained and easy to understand. The Switch doesn’t have that many JRPGs at the moment, so if you’re looking for some recommendations, don’t even think twice. Ys VIII is far from perfect, but I did have a lot of fun with it.

 

Graphics: 6.5

Colorful visuals with impressive landscapes and monster designs, but the game suffers a lot with its inconsistent framerate and some poor textures here and there.

Gameplay: 8.5

 

Even though the framerate isn’t exactly the best, the game’s combat system is fast-paced and very fluid. It’s actually fun to go out and grind. The button placement is completely customizable.

Sound: 9.0

The soundtrack is downright amazing, full of instantly memorable tunes. The voice acting is very corny, in a “so-bad-it’s-good” kind of way.

Fun Factor: 9.0

Even though the Dana arc of the story isn’t exactly engaging, Ys VIII‘s awesome combat mechanics and survival elements are more than enough to captivate players for countless hours.

Final Verdict: 8.5

Reviewed on PC.
Also available on: PS4, PS Vita

A copy of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana was provided by the publisher.

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