The Ys series has been around for three decades and has made its appearance on the Vita, the PC, and of course, the PS4. Now, we have Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. Lacrimosa is actually Latin for "weeping," which begs the question: will you be crying as a result of this game?
Now that I've sunk a ton of time into this meaty JRPG, it's time to find out if this game will have you crying tears of joy and celebrating the series, or if you'll be mourning its demise.
The Adventures of Adol Christin
Fans of the Ys series will know its main protagonist very well. The redheaded adventurer Adol Christin is the protagonist in each of the game's entries. He's done it all, from fighting gods to stopping even the most daunting of conspiracies.
He's the stuff of legend. In his world, these kinds of things are par for the course. I myself have always known about the Ys series, but I've never been able to get into one myself, so I figured this would be the perfect opportunity.
As someone who grew up planning all of the JRPG staples, I was honestly a little ashamed I hadn't experienced more of this series. Even so, it's three-decade pedigree left me with some high expectations.
Jumping right into it, Lacrimosa of Dana begins on board a ship called the Lombardia. Adol and his trusty companion Dogi are heading to the content of Eresia to seek out adventure. In the process of this, adventure finds them.
A massive sea monster appears and, despite their efforts, destroys the ship near the shores of an island steeped in myth. Adol awakes on the shores of Seiren island, a place where no ship has ever returned from.
Stranded and alone, Adol must focus on his own survival first and foremost. Soon, you'll come across other survivors and form a home base known as Castaway Village. From here, you set out with your companions to find more survivors and resources.
Ultimately, the collective hope of the people you bring into your cause is that one day they will be able to escape the cursed island. The story is most definitely a slow burn, but I really enjoyed how we got to know each character Adol comes across.
These people you come across as not only survivors with their own stories, but they also come back to contribute to the village. The doctor will become your person to buy medicine and potions from. The tailor will create clothing and outfits for you, and so on.
These characters also have their own quests to offer that help improve the quality of life in the village and offer more insight into them. This is a far cry from the usual NPC that you purchase items or weapons from.
Instead, every character in Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana feels like they are there for a purpose and a reason. It really drives home the survival aspect of the game as it makes you feel like you have people depending on you and vice versa.
Among all of these intertwining stories, Adol also begins seeing a blue-haired woman in his dreams. This is, of course, Dana herself. Despite being in the title, this aspect of the story takes a long while to get moving.
I didn't mind so much because of the compelling survival story that was in the forefront, but it did seem odd to keep this aspect of the game's story under wraps for the first several hours into the game.
Despite this small complaint, I absolutely loved the characters and survival story in Ys VIII. That alone was enough to pull me in and make me care about what was going on.
JRPGs can oftentimes have stories that are too simplistic or stories that are too convoluted to follow. Lacrimosa of Dana finds a perfect balance and makes the smart decision to lean into the present problems and the desperate need for survival and escape.
Even if the greater plot is a slow burn, this was enough to instantly hook me and keep me engaged throughout the narrative. Let's find out if the gameplay helped out with that as well.
Superb Combat and a Rich Selection of Gameplay Mechanics
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana employs a real-time combat system that offers a basic attack and several skills to use. When fully charged, each character also has an impressive ultimate attack that fills the screen.
While simple at first, the combat gains depth through a weakness system that allows you to do maximum damage by employing the right type of attack on certain enemies.
For example, Adol has a slash attack, Laxia has a piercing attack, and Sahad has a crushingly heavy attack. Depending on the enemy you're facing, you can switch between characters that you're controlling, or allow the AI to do their thing as well.
In either case, one specific type of attack will "break" the enemy's defense, thus drastically lowering their defense and making them vulnerable to huge attacks from the same type.
It's a kind of rock, paper, scissors mechanic, but it really keeps the combat engaging without being too complicated to handle on the fly. Furthermore, blocking or dodging at just the right time can give you an edge, along with XP bonuses for killing enemies with a skill.
It's smooth and satisfying combat with just enough strategy to keep it from becoming repetitive. The wide variety of enemy types also keeps things interesting as your adventure progresses.
Beyond the core combat, Ys VIII also offers excellent survival mechanics, side quests, base defense, and unique currency. As far as survival goes, you won't need to worry about your thirst or your hunger, but you will have the option to go fishing, cook meals, and set up camp out in the wilderness.
The fishing is simple, but fun. The game also keeps track of your record sizes for each fish. The meat from these fish can be used in your cooking. Cooking dishes not only heals your party but also adds beneficial bonuses for a time as well.
The side quests given out by characters in Castaway Village also directly benefit the village itself. You'll provide valuable resources to better improve the overall quality of life in the village.
These resources also act as your currency, since money has no use on a deserted island. They can be found by defeating enemies, cutting down plants, or breaking open piles of rocks and more.
The helpful mini-map does a pretty good job of conveying all of this to you as you explore. Icons will appear where you can collect resources, and green markers will point out places of interest and side events.
Crystals you'll find in the world also act as fast-travel points so you can quickly get around the massive island. My only complaint here is that the map could use a little more detail. I often found myself confused about certain paths I could or could not take.
As you progress, you'll find upgrades to help you traverse more of the world, but a little more communication on the map itself would have been nice as I did spend a lot of time wandering around looking for the way forward.
Beyond that note, I really can't find much to critique here. This is an absolutely excellent JRPG with some unique survival mechanics and positively engaging combat. The smooth frame rate rarely ever stutters and the controls feel great. Let's tie everything together.
Colorful and Sharp Presentation
YS VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is a game that appears both on the Vita and the PS4. The PS4 version has a lot of colors and sharp textures for the main characters.
The environments are varied and interesting, but you will notice some muddy looking textures on the landscape. It's not distracting or detrimental to the gameplay. What really matters is the frame rate, and I am happy to say that everything here is smooth and responsive.
The Ys series is also known for its music, and I would be remiss not to mention that here. I absolutely loved this soundtrack. It has classic soft tunes for quiet moments, great lofty melodies for exploration, and amazing rock rhythms for the battles.
It's a soundtrack that proves the talented composer is a jack-of-all-trades. It effortlessly switches to adapt for each situation and makes for an audio treat to match the crisp visuals and excellent gameplay.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana brings back all of the things I loved about JRPGs when I was young. It pieces together elements from all the greats, and while the story can be a slow burn, it's nothing short of excellent in my eyes.
My only regret is that I wasn't a fan of this series sooner. Every JRPG fan needs to give this one a shot.
Final Score: 9.0/10
A copy of YS VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 9/21/17