September 11, 2017

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana Review


Every once in a while, a game comes along that catches me by surprise and completely overtakes my social life. Prior to writing this review, I didn't know what to expect from NIS America’s latest JRPG: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana. My childhood memories of playing the retro titles were foggy, and I didn’t follow any of the game’s announcements until recently. I’m glad I walked into this gem with little expectations, because the experience turned out to be one of the most pleasant RPG surprises of the year.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana begins like a conventional JRPG. Our hero Adol finds himself as the passenger of the Lombardia ship headed from Xandria to the continent of Eresia. After an unexpected sea monster attack, Adol awakens on a mysterious island whose mythical stories have bewildered adventures for decades. He soon finds some of the ship’s survivors, including the captain and another curious traveler, and they decide to map out the strange island while searching for other survivors.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana beautifully captures the vibe from the PS2 generation, a time I personally consider the golden era of JRPGs in the West. There isn’t one particular things that makes Ys VIII such a standout title, but it’s rather the combination of different gameplay elements and influences from both its own predecessors and other RPGs that ties everything together into a genuinely impressive and enjoyable experience.


"Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana beautifully captures the vibe from the PS2 generation, a time I personally consider the golden era of JRPGs in the West."

The plot delivers enough charm, personality and surprises to separate itself from other role playing adventures, despite being filled with JRPG tropes. Thanks to the game’s more action-oriented pacing, Ys VIII doesn’t waste much time before it tosses players into action. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana is a third-person action RPG at heart. Strategic team management plays a big role, but the emphasis remains on exhilarating combat that runs at a solid 60fps.

The gameplay is very reminiscent of Koei Tecmo's Warriors franchise, but on a smaller, more concentrated scale. Even though you’re not fighting hundreds of NPCs on screen, the fast action delivers a similar energy and flashiness, which works wonderfully when contrasted with the other, more exploratory side of the adventure.


"The fast action delivers a similar energy and flashiness to Koei Tecmo's Warriors franchise, which works wonderfully when contrasted with the other, more exploratory side of the adventure."

You have full control over your team of three warriors, and can easily switch between characters mid-combat to better suit different scenarios. Each character has a combat specialty (or preference) that’s suited for fighting specific enemy types, so the avatar switching is an imperative tool for varying your strategy. You can assign up to four abilities to face buttons that are triggered by holding down R1, a similar mechanic seen in Bioware’s Dragon Age. This simplicity keeps Ys VIII from becoming stale during grindier parts of the narrative, and it’s a tremendous advantage this latest adventure has over similar titles in the genre.

As the plot progresses, a new lead is introduced. Her journey of fulfilling a sacred maiden duty begins to unfold alongside Adol’s tale of uncovering the island's secrets. The story isn’t groundbreaking by any means, but there’s definitely enough lore building to keep role playing fans intrigued throughout. So far, I’ve put in approximately 60 hours into the campaign, and I never felt the narrative overstayed its welcome.


"Mix in a surprisingly memorable story and characters with excellent performances across all platforms, and you have yourself a journey that simply has to be experienced."

The PS4 and PC releases of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana are ports of the VITA release, and I have to say the game looks impressive across all platforms. While it’s not the technological marvel like Horizon Zero Dawn or Uncharted, Ys VIII brims with charisma and personality. The charming visuals are accentuated by the rock solid 60fps performance from beginning to end. I think a lot of younger gamers who grew up with modern AAA behemoths aren’t going to be particularly impressed with the aesthetic simplicity, but if you’re like me and you’ve spent your entire young adulthood playing titles like Dark Cloud, Rogue Galaxy or Dragon Quest, you’ll appreciate the style Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana is going for.

Conclusion: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana is a no-brainer for adventure fans. The game’s sublime combat will keep you immersed for countless hours, and the nostalgic vibe is endearing for anyone who fell in love with JRPGs from the good ol’ PS2 days. Mix in a surprisingly memorable story and characters with excellent performances across all platforms, and you have yourself a journey that simply has to be experienced.

8

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