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Game Review

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana

A lengthy island adventure that’s great for Ys novices and vets alike.

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There’s something to be said for lengthy games, especially if you’re a gamer on a budget. Sure, you’ve got blockbusters like Witcher 3 and Persona 5 that stretch your $60 quite a bit further than a more compressed experience might. While I understand some folks might prefer titles that are a little more respectful to players without a lot of free time, I’ll readily admit to loving a nice, long JRPG that promises a week or more of adventure.

Case in point: Nihon Falcom’s long-running Ys titles, which are accommodating adventures to new players and vets alike that promise an eventful journey full of excitement and some great combat. The latest entry, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, really exemplifies those qualities, making for an easy recommendation.

Our heroes Adol and Dogi have more nautical-related problems when their ship is wrecked yet again. This has to be, what, the fifth time now? Adol should probably just stay off of any sort of seafaring vessel at this point. Anyway, they find themselves stranded on the Isle of Seiren, a legendary island known to be a deathtrap for any sailors who find themselves in the nearby waters. Nobody has ever been known to be shipwrecked on Seiren and make it out alive, but Adol’s not just anyone, so it’s time to find other survivors from the wreck, discover the secrets of the Isle of Seiren and find a way back to civilization.

Ys VIII doesn’t diverge wholesale from the formula we’re used to in the series’ contemporary entries. There’s still a strong focus on high-speed action-RPGing, namely running around as quickly as possible, hacking up baddies, whacking loot gathering spots and opening treasure chests. The skill system from recent Ys titles returns in a slightly modified form, as skills are now randomly Sparked from normal attacks a-la the Saga games instead of being tied to gear; as in that game, you’re encouraged to use skills often as the SP used to fuel them is readily available. Likewise, the focus on switching your active party members to exploit enemies’ weak points returns as well.

Many of the changes in VIII are a result of the castaway setting. You’re on a deserted island, after all, so a lot of what you’ll be doing involves survivalist tropes like crafting. You’ll make your own gear using loot from enemies and the environment, search for survivors to help you get past obstacles and provide helpful services back at base and fish for food and loot. This all boils down to more ways to make that gloriously snappy combat more rewarding; you’ve got more reasons to kill enemies, which you’ll probably enjoy doing anyway.

The biggest change to said combat is the presence of Platinum-style just guard and just dodge abilities, where blocking or dodging at the last possible moment before an attack hits your character will result in temporary and powerful buffs that can really help out. That’s particularly valuable when it comes to the giant bosses that show up throughout Ys VIII. Battling a huge foe is as fun as it ever was, though it’s worth noting that the much greater availability of healing items (that you can pause the game and use whenever) means that this is often a less challenging game than other recent Ys titles.

This is the first time Ys has made it to current-generation consoles and for the most part it shows. The game runs at a gloriously smooth clip. Characters and environments are nice and detailed, though you shouldn’t expect extreme levels of realism from this one; the more stylistic approach really nails the Ys flavor, so it’s not a huge deal. As is typical with Ys games, the real highlight of the presentation here is the music, a sort of fantasy/butt-rock combination that does a great job setting the tone for running around at maximum speed slaying baddies and grabbing loot as quickly as possible. It’s really nice, and on the whole Lacrimosa of Dana is a joy to play just as Ys Seven was before it.

My sole complaint regarding presentation here is that the translation seems to be a little stilted. Characters often seem to be talking at each other rather than to each other; the writing could certainly have used a little more work to seem more natural, as we see with noblewoman Laxia’s insistence on using Adol’s full name at all times (something that may have been less strange in the original Japanese.) It’s not as bad as the sort of localization you’d have seen even a decade ago, but there’s definitely some awkwardness here and there that breaks one’s immersion.

This aside, at around 50 hours per playthrough, RPG fans are bound to get value for money out of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. It’s clearly got some love put into it; even if this isn’t the most graphically stunning title to show up on the PlayStation 4, the move to a modern platform was clearly for the better. If you have the time to put into a lengthy experience like this one – say, you just wrapped up Persona 5 – then Ys VIII is a great candidate for your next addiction.