YS is a series that's been around since 1987 when the first game, Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished released. With such a rich history spread across 16 games in total, it's one of the oldest franchises in the gaming world. If you haven't heard or paid much attention to it, it's because it's one of those RPG's that's far more popular in the east than the west.
With Lacrimosa of Dana, the developer Nihon Falcom looked to change with the original release on the PlayStation Vita back in 2016, following the release on PS4 and Xbox a year later. And now with the Nintendo Switch release, the franchise is sure to reach new heights and an even broader audience. Thankfully so, as the game satisfies both fans of standard JRPG's as well as those looking for a solid story-driven action game. I can say right off the bat that it's an experience fully worthy of your time. Read on to find out why.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is available for purchase at Nintendo E-shop.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is as you'd expect from a JRPG, a story heavy game. A rather slow-start story that is told through the heavy use of in-game cutscenes with both written and voiced dialogue. As with previous games, you follow a young man called Adol Christin and the adventure begins in the Ys usual manner – a shipwreck, this time caused by a Kraken-like creature. You do get to attend a party aboard the ship before that as a tutorial of sorts where you meet a few characters you'll deal with later.
You wash ashore and as if you weren't lucky enough, you find yourself stranded on an Island of Seiren from which no sailor ever returned. You get your bearings and set off in search of your friends and other survivors. Most of your adventure is fueled by the mysteries set up in the first hour of the game. What is the creature that attacked you? Why is Adol having visions? What is happening on the island? Just what exactly is a Lacrimosa? You'll get your answers to these questions as many others spring up but rest assured, all is crystal clear by the time the credits roll. As you'd expect from an RPG of this sort, the adventure quickly spirals from a simple shipwreck to a plot that's larger than life as the fate of the entire world rests on your shoulders.
Despite seeming as cliched as they get, the supporting cast is anything but. They are in fact fully fleshed out characters with explorable backgrounds and clearly defined motivations as to why they want to leave the island. They find strength in their differences and form a community that grows proportionately to them growing as characters. This can't be said for the mute main protagonist that features no other personality trait other than the fact that he likes adventure.
The usual JRPG tropes aside, the 40-hour story was mostly not predictable and bigger revelations often threw a curveball that sent the plot in a completely different direction. The mystery fuel always kept me going and I was genuinely interested in what would happen next. The fact that a dozen of Ys games precede Lacrimosa of Dana doesn't detract from the experience one bit as you are pretty much eased into the world and the story that is as self-contained as they get.
Gameplay-wise, in Lacrimosa of Dana, your time will be divided mostly between searching for survivors and fighting a ton of enemies in between. Much of the game's progression is in fact centered around finding and rescuing the shipwrecked crewmates in both the story and gameplay sense.
After you stumble across your first few survivors, you'll get to establish a base called Castaway Villiage which will serve as your hub area for the rest of the game. This hub can be upgraded by finding certain crewmates and you'll spend a lot of time here talking to characters, starting quests as well as upgrading existing and crafting new gear. Once a certain facility is established by a crewmate it can be further upgraded by doing a quest for that particular character. These usually consist of killing an x amount of enemies or gathering an x amount of certain resource. This is easily accomplished as the islands are teeming with hostile wildlife which respawn upon leaving an area. These quests, despite their fetch nature, are never dull thanks to the combat.
Unlike many JRPGS, Ys series always had a dynamic and real-time action combat as one of its greatest strengths and such is the case here. Each of the 6 characters features an attack attribute in form of strike, pierce and slash and it's a good idea to have characters that feature one of each You'll always be in a team of three and can freely switch characters to take advantage of their skills when going up against enemies with different weaknesses. The remaining two characters are not brain-dead while you go about your hacking and slashing and actually contribute to the fight making this one of the rare instances where AI doesn't need any handholding.
The combat itself is a combination of attacks, blocks, dodges and using skills. This occurs in real time means that it's highly dynamic, fast-paced and skill based. This translates to a whole lot of fun as it's not a pure numbers game, although better stats still do make a huge difference. Boss fights are particularly entertaining and the break meter mechanic made fighting them feel like playing Monster Hunter or Dauntless as you can use their weakness to make them dazed or drop to the ground for an even more devastating attack. Each character is sufficiently different and their skills emphasize their weapon of choice and personality.
Aside from story quests and the ones that upgrade your HUB, you'll often take part in quests that have you defending it from waves of enemies as well as other activities such as fishing that can net you some good loot if you invest enough time in doing it. It's important to note that the Switch version also features all the DLC released for other versions of the game. These don't offer anything in terms of story and quests but are mainly cosmetic items which are still a welcome addition.
VISUALS AND AUDIO
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana on the Nintendo Switch won't take any rewards home when it comes to the visuals. You'll immediately see that this game is an improved Vita port that even by 2016 standards looks a bit dated. There is also the fact that the game runs at 30 FPS in both docked and handheld mode. Despite this seeming painfully slow, the decision to have it locked at 30 FPS is probably much better than letting framerate run amock whenever anything of note happens on screen.
This resulted in smooth sailing and minimal slowdowns only in the most crowded, effect-heavy combat encounters. A fact also worthy of note is that what the game lacks in terms of graphical fidelity and detail – it more than makes up in the design department. Aesthetically Inspired by anime, it features a huge and vibrant world to explore as well as plenty of imaginatively designed enemies and characters. Everything blends well and is appealing to the eye enough so that you won't really notice much of the aforementioned shortcomings.
When it comes to music, Lacrimosa of Dana is an absolute treat. It features both some of the best energetic combat music in an RPG to date as well as the more orchestral and nostalgic music that perfectly instills a sense of adventure. This is also the case for voice acting, even though it's nothing to write home about, the voice actors do a good job to fit right in with the lighthearted tone of the game.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is a perfect blend comprised of an adventurous story, fun and energetic combat, vibrant visuals and great music. It's a perfect fit for a portable, handheld console and despite it being out on the Vita for quite some time, the Nintendo Switch feels like it's where it belongs. It was a joy to play as it has enough modern elements for it to feel fresh as well as plenty of small details that make it very endearing and capable of evoking a great sense of nostalgia. If you are a fan of anime and RPG's, despite small issues, buying Lacrimosa of Dana is a no-brainer.
|+ Mystery fueled story and characters||– Dated visuals|
|+ Fast and fun combat system||– Minor technical issues|
|+ Awesome music||– Takes some time to get really interesting|
|+ The AI and the inclusion of all DLC||– Blank main character|