With all of the ports and remakes of various games in the series, it’s nice to finally have a proper Ys sequel grace us once again; a first since Ys Seven hit the PSP seven years ago. Not only that, but it makes its way to multiple platforms this time, making it much easier to keep up with Adol’s latest adventure. But while the option for a Vita, PS4 and PC version adds a great deal of accessibility, the localization unfortunately feels a bit rushed.
Despite being the most recent release numerically, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is actually more of a prequel (or an interquel as it were) that takes place prior to the events of Ark of Napishtim and Seven. It sees Adol and Dogi getting shipwrecked at sea and washing up on the mysterious island of Seiren, a place long rumored to spell doom for anyone who dared go near it. Now they must round up the other castaways and try to construct a way to escape like a sort of anime Gilligan’s Island.
The quest to escape an island that otherwise doesn’t want you to leave feels like a call back to The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening on the GameBoy, especially since the narrative dedicates a lot of time to Adol’s dreams. The difference though, is that instead of questioning reality, Adol dreams of a past version of the island where the exploits of a woman named Dana are chronicled. The importance of these sequences isn’t really fleshed out until the latter half of the adventure, which makes the earlier segments seem like a slog. The rest of the early game dialogue isn’t much better, as it serves to introduce characters in the most trope-filled way possible while getting in the way of the main draw of exploring the island for survivors. I remember groaning when thinking that Laxia was just going to be another tsundere character, though first impressions of the main cast quickly evolve.
If you can get through the opening chapters, the rest of the plot is a treat. Each survivor, playable or no, has an interesting back story that gets fleshed out via both side quests and plot related tragedies, and there’s far more suspense than one might expect from a group of people whose sole motivation is keeping predators away long enough to fashion a new boat. I was a little disappointed that the end game follows a very common JRPG path, though it’s not entirely unexpected.
The game’s text is also in desperate need for an editor. During my playthrough, I noticed an alarming number of spelling and grammar mistakes, words that needed spaces between them, and translations that struck me as odd (Archeozoic Big Hole? Really?) I’m glad that NIS managed to cobble together a talented set of English voice actors, as they were able to sell me on some of the more awkward phrases. The publisher has since apologized for the quality and promised to issue a patch correcting many of the mistakes, but it’s not a good look when XSEED has had publishing rights for the series for years without these sorts of mishaps.
This is by no means a quick play either. Many Ys games can be knocked out in an afternoon for those determined, but you’re looking at a minimum of 30-40 hours for Ys VIII and that’s not counting the various diversions that await you, included side quests, map exploration, and minigames. This is all before you consider things like adjustable difficulty settings and New Game Plus. Completing tasks for the various survivors and giving them gifts will raise Adol’s affection with that character, and getting friendly with everyone can lead to a better ending.
Occasionally during exploration, the village will be attacked by monsters (otherwise known as Ancient Species) and your party will be forced to defend the front gate. Other survivors will fight their own battles as well, and good performance on their part will yield positive bonuses for Adol and company. Investing materials into strengthening your front gate or building barriers helps manage the chaos, which is good since things can go to Hell quickly if you’re not paying attention.
If you played the recent remake of Ys: Memories of Celceta, you will be instantly familiar with the latest offering’s mechanics. The combat is entirely action based, with success based primarily on how well you can manage your party’s skill sets and how easily you can master dodging and blocking. As before, each character can inflict slash, pierce, or striking damage and exploiting a weakness will “break” an enemy, opening up to full damage from everyone. Since your party members can be swapped on the fly, it’s very convenient to alternate between the various elements as needed. Each character learns a selection of skills that burn up SP to utilize as well, which mixes up the hack and slash combat. And continued attacks will fill up an EXTRA meter that fires off an ultimate skill of sorts while invulnerable. I always have a bit of trouble getting it to activate though, as hitting the L and R buttons simultaneously is not always responsive.
One would think the Vita version would get left behind in terms of visual fidelity, but Ys VIII really shines on the console. The frame rate is consistent, the animation smooth, and the massive Seiren Island is sufficiently detailed. Even the most hectic battles have not caused any sort of slowdown during my playthrough, though the game did crash on me one time and then never again. And let’s not forget about the rocking soundtrack, which is pretty much a given for Ys games. Do note that there is some added content for the PS4 and PC versions that doesn’t exist on the Vita, so keep that in mind if you’re thinking about sacrificing that for the portability.
I was initially taken aback by the scope of Ys VIII, as I am when most titles tout a massive land to explore. But not once did I feel overwhelmed by the size of Seiren Island, and the fact that many waypoints exist for warping purposes means it is not a pain to get back to camp if you need to upgrade your gear. And speaking of camp, chasing down castaways has many of the same benefits for your home base as it did for the Suikoden series, which I thoroughly enjoyed. As many of them are blacksmiths, merchants, tailors and the like, each new face expands the scope of the camp in addition to opening up new quests.
An expanded base camp isn’t the only benefit to finding survivors. Many areas of Seiren Island are blocked off until you have enough people at your camp to move whatever debris is obstructing your path. You’ll also find equipment that grants the ability to do things such as climbing vines or breathing underwater, making the game into a sort of Metroidvania setup where your findings encourage you to return to old places to see if new things open up.
Not once did I doubt that I was going to enjoy playing Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. Falcom has been fairly consistent with this franchise, so my only concern was the change in publisher and the localization inconsistencies that that entails (which sadly turned out worse than I feared). That being said, the fast paced combat is probably the best it has ever been, the game certainly looks sharp, and I loved the new island castaway concept. If NIS America holds to their promise to fix the errors, then you’re looking at one of the best entries in the series.
Short Attention Span Summary
Adol’s adventures continue in Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, a title that sees him and his pal Dogi in a shipwreck and subsequently stranded on a mysterious island that no one has visited and lived to tell about it. Finding castaways and utilizing their individual skill sets in your camp is one of the best new features of the game, and the combat remains as top notch as ever. It doesn’t hurt that the game performs well, even on the Vita console, and there is no shortage of places to explore on the island. The localization suffers from a myriad amount of spelling and grammatical issues, and many of the translation choices were baffling. That said, a patch is said to be released in the near future to address these issues, but even without it you’re still left with one of the best action RPG’s to release this year.