Review: Ys VIII – Lacrimosa of Dana

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As the latest ent­ry in a series span­ning over 30 years, Ys VIII cer­tain­ly has a lega­cy to live up to. Thank­ful­ly, the game deli­vers what fans have come to expect from the series while also intro­du­cing a more expan­si­ve sto­ry than usu­al.

Like many pre­vious Ys games, Ys VIII opens with red-hai­red prot­ago­nist Adol on the search of a new adven­ture. Working as a deck­hand on the pas­sen­ger ship the Lom­bar­dia, the game intro­du­ces you to the crew and peop­le onboard the ship. Unsur­pri­sin­gly though, things go wrong quick­ly, as a lar­ge sea crea­tu­re des­troys the boat and lea­ves Adol stran­ded on a see­min­gly deser­ted island.

You quick­ly learn that the place you have was­hed up, Sei­ren Island, is full of dan­ge­rous mons­ters. Thus begins Adol’s jour­ney to find the sur­vi­vors of the ship­w­reck and attempt to find his way off the island. Even during the pro­lo­gue of Ys VIII, it’s evi­dent that the game has a much lar­ger focus on sto­ry than pre­vious ent­ries. Star­ting with Ys Seven, Fal­com have been slow­ly increa­sing the amount of sto­ry con­tent that each game has, which has lead to Ys VIII being the lon­gest one so far by a wide mar­gin.

The sto­ry its­elf isn’t too bad, as you find more pas­sen­gers and dis­co­ver new secrets about the island. Howe­ver, the charm of Ys VIII is mar­red by the some­what lack­lust­re loca­li­sa­ti­on by NISA. Cha­rac­ters can come off as more bland than inten­ded, and the­re are more than a few lines that defi­ni­te­ly haven’t been proofread. Adding to this are various stran­ge naming choices for are­as (the now infa­mous “Big Hole” being one of them), along with mista­kes in item descrip­ti­ons. The­se issu­es don’t make it impos­si­ble to enjoy the sto­ry over­all, but they’re disap­poin­ting con­si­de­ring the excel­lent loca­li­sa­ti­ons by XSeed for ear­lier Ys games. As a final note on the Eng­lish loca­li­sa­ti­on of Ys VIII, the voice acting is rather hit and miss. Dual audio is inclu­ded, but more effort in the Eng­lish dub would have been appre­cia­ted.

NISA have recent­ly announ­ced that a revi­sed ver­si­on of Ys VIII’s loca­li­sa­ti­on is is in the works, inclu­ding redo­ne voice acting if necessa­ry. While this is a step in the right direc­tion, this should not have been nee­ded in the first place. Hope­ful­ly NISA will learn from their mista­kes for future releases, Fal­com rela­ted or other­wi­se.

It’s one thing to have a decent sto­ry, but Ys games have always been known for their fast-paced game­play. Ys VIII sha­res the same batt­le sys­tem as Seven and Cel­ce­ta with mini­mal chan­ges. This means par­ty based com­bat is back for a third time. Nor­mal attacks build SP that you use for skills, the­se being your main way of dealing dama­ge. Some enemies are weak to spe­ci­fic types of dama­ge, so you’ll always want cha­rac­ters with one of each dama­ge type in your par­ty.

Also retur­ning are the flash guard and flash move. The L1 but­ton is used to dodge at any time, but if you time it just befo­re being hit flash move is activa­ted. This brief­ly slows down ever­ything asi­de from your par­ty, giving you a chan­ce to repo­si­ti­on or attack befo­re enemies are able to react. On the other hand, flash guard allows you to nega­te dama­ge ent­i­re­ly, with the added bonus of a tem­pora­ry attack buff. The timing on flash guards is much stric­ter than flash moving and will likely lead to taking dama­ge if you fail. This means that more con­fi­dent play­ers can rely on using flash guard to defeat enemies fas­ter, while others can just used dod­ging as a safer alter­na­ti­ve.

As with every Ys game, Ys VIII’s bos­ses are the real star of the show. The­se will test your know­ledge of the game’s mecha­nics and are gene­ral­ly whe­re most deaths will come from. Other than a coup­le of rela­tively disap­poin­ting bos­ses, the rest are fun to fight with vary­ing attack pat­terns and abi­li­ties. On lower dif­fi­cul­ties, bos­ses can be stun­ned after a cer­tain amount of dama­ge, offe­ring a brief respi­te befo­re they get back up to attack again.

Com­bat ends up fee­ling fas­ter than both Seven and Cel­ce­ta thanks to bet­ter per­for­mance on the PS4 ver­si­on of VIII. Not being locked to por­ta­bles is a mas­si­ve impro­ve­ment, sin­ce both afo­re­men­tio­ned games suf­fe­red from noti­ce­ab­le FPS issu­es. Action games like Ys real­ly bene­fit from hig­her frame­ra­tes, and for the most part Ys VIII runs at a smooth 60 FPS. The­re are some drops when many enemies are on screen, though this is rare.

The com­bat sys­tem isn’t per­fect though. You gain a lot of SP from a sin­gle basic attack, so you’ll often find yours­elf just spamming skills to deal with regu­lar enemies. The par­ty sys­tem also brings along the same pro­blems that were pre­sent in Seven and Cel­ce­ta. You effec­tively have access to three health bars and death isn’t as big an issue as ear­lier Ys games. This, com­bi­ned with the libe­ral amount of save points that ful­ly heal your par­ty, leads to the game gene­ral­ly being pret­ty easy. This does make Ys VIII a good game for new­co­mers, but for series vete­rans the­re wont be too much of a chal­len­ge. The addi­ti­on of infer­no mode that speeds up ene­my attacks and limits healing items does help with the dif­fi­cul­ty, but it feels like the lower item limits should have been in all modes.

Explo­ra­ti­on has seen the big­gest impro­ve­ment in Ys VIII. Sei­ren Island has a good selec­tion of are­as and dun­ge­ons to dis­co­ver. From the ope­ning beaches to the ruins of a lost civi­li­sa­ti­on, the game never stops mixing things up. Some­thing that fur­ther helps with explo­ra­ti­on is the rein­tro­duc­tion of jum­ping. This is not­hing new to the Ys series over­all, but has been mis­sing from most of the recent tit­les. One pro­blem I had with Seven and Cel­ce­ta was how flat many of the are­as could feel due to the lack of jum­ping. Now that it’s back, Fal­com were able to crea­te envi­ron­ments with more ver­ti­ca­li­ty.

Being an updated port of a Vita game, the PS4 ver­si­on of Ys VIII is held back in a few ways. Are­as aren’t par­ti­cu­lar­ly lar­ge most of the time, mea­ning you’ll end up going through a lot of loa­ding screens when tra­vel­ling for lon­ger peri­ods of time. Loa­ding is fast, but it’s unfor­tu­n­a­te that they could remo­ve them for this updated ver­si­on of the game. The­re are also times whe­re you wont be able to jump off hills or hig­her up are­as thanks to invi­si­ble walls, though this doesn’t beco­me a big issue.

As you fur­ther explo­re the island, sur­vi­vors that you save band tog­e­ther to form the aptly named Cas­ta­way Vil­la­ge. The more peop­le you find, the more faci­li­ties that beco­me avail­ab­le in the vil­la­ge. From wea­pon upgrades to healing items, this is whe­re you’ll spend you time gearing up cha­rac­ters and taking on side­quests for the vil­la­gers. From time to time the vil­la­ge will be atta­cked by mons­ters, lea­ding to inter­cep­ti­on mis­si­ons.

During inter­cep­ti­on mis­si­ons waves of enemies will try to break through the gate lea­ding to Cas­ta­way Vil­la­ge. Befo­re taking on the­se mis­si­ons, you can crea­te various defen­ces to help delay the monster’s attack. The vil­la­gers them­sel­ves also aid you with abi­li­ties that impro­ve as they begin to trust you more. Sup­pres­si­on mis­si­ons act as some­what the oppo­si­te of inter­cep­ti­ons. Here, you tear through enemies to des­troy nests and even­tual­ly defeat a boss mons­ter. The­se mis­si­on types don’t chan­ge up game­play too much, but add a litt­le extra varie­ty on top of the usu­al mons­ter slay­ing.

This wouldn’t be a review of an Ys game wit­hout men­ti­on the excel­lent sound­track. Fal­com has always been known for pro­du­cing some ama­zing songs, and Ys VIII is no dif­fe­rent. Whe­ther run­ning across a beach or figh­t­ing a power­ful ene­my, there’ll always be a memo­r­able song play­ing in the back­ground. I’d honest­ly say Ys VIII’s sound­track is one of Falcom’s stron­gest over­all.


Even with the poor loca­li­sa­ti­on brin­ging down the game’s sto­ry, Ys VIII is still a gre­at game over­all. The fast-paced com­bat and ener­ge­tic sound­track are the best they’ve ever been, and show that Fal­com still know how to make ama­zing action games.

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