PlayStation 4
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Game Info:

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA
Developed By: Nihon Falcom
Published By: NIS America
Release Date: September 12, 2017 (PS4, Vita); Windows coming Winter 2017
Available On: PS4, PS Vita, Windows (coming soon)
Genre: Action Role-Playing Game
Number of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: Teen for Blood, Fantasy Violence, Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol
MSRP: $59.99
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Thank you NIS America for sending us this game to review!

Ever since my first time playing Ys: Memories of Celceta, the Ys series (pronounced like geese without the 'g') has held a special place in my heart. I have since played and reviewed almost every game in the series, and I really enjoy them all. With Ys VIII, Falcom has pulled out all of the stops and made a game that's perhaps not only the best game in the series, but a fantastic game by any measure.

Adol, the Ys series' hero, has historically had bad luck with boats. This is a running joke in the series, and true to form, our adventure begins on a boat – and then it wrecks shortly thereafter. Everyone onboard, both guests and crew, are cast into the sea. Adol drifts ashore onto a deserted island, and it's not too long before he finds other castaways in a similar situation. He runs into Captain Barbaros and his longtime pal Dogi, who begin to create Castaway Village as a defensible outpost for everyone to live in and work to survive – with the eventual goal of figuring out how to go home.

Adol starts his time on the island with a rusty sword that he finds near the shore, and it's not too long until he's back in form eliminating local monsters and wildlife at a speed only he can. As the third evolution (and a big one at that) of the Ys Seven engine, he eventually gains friends that help him slash, strike, or pierce their opponents into oblivion. For the first time since Ys: Oath in Felghana (or Origin), they can jump again, which is great and was badly missed in Seven and Memories of Celceta.

Another big change is that the perspective is slightly shifted; it's still a third person action game, but rather than being from an overhead perspective, you see Adol and his friends from a behind view most of the time. This makes the action much more personal; despite having to worry about camera positioning more than before, you are closer to what's going on. These two changes put you right into the thick of it, and are a net positive.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA
Highlights:

Strong Points: Adol's longest adventure yet, and incredibly engaging every step of the way; very enjoyable action; fun bosses; fantastic music and voice acting; very memorable characters; fun skill and loot system
Weak Points: Localization is uneven, with some terminology that doesn't match XSEED's previous efforts; delayed PC release
Moral Warnings: Action violence, with occasional blood splatter; magic is used by some player characters and lots of enemies; some females wear extremely revealing clothing with lots of cleavage (like the titular Dana); Adol sees a woman with only a towel on, which falls (but he closes his eyes, as he is a gentleman) and he then gets slapped; one character mentions that he has lots of lovers to choose from around the world; alcohol is used on several occasions, with some being visibly drunk (though Adol mentions he doesn't like to get drunk); words like 'd*mn', 'sh*t' used, and some potty humor; undead enemies, and one scene where you talk to ghosts; many references to various gods and goddesses, including the Star Sculpt God and another reference to Tritheism from Ys Seven; hexagrams present

There is a solid loot and crafting system here as well. When you defeat enemies, they often drop various resources. You can also farm some kinds at resource points throughout the map; neither of these have changed much since Ys Seven. Rather than exchanging things for money, you can instead exchange resources for others of equal value. Since this island has a small number of people on it, barter is the most appropriate system for local merchants to engage in, and it makes sense. You can improve your weapons at the blacksmith, have a tailor custom make things for you, or have various accessories made for you.

Also not unlike Memories of Celceta, you can learn skills which require SP (skill points) to use. They seem to spark somewhat randomly in many cases, though there are books and even a trainer for some very powerful skills. There is also an Extra meter that allows you to use a very powerful attack once it's full. Though usually reserved for bosses, I found myself using my Extra skill a couple of times to get out of some really tough situations where I was being overrun by enemies.

Your characters, skills, and weapons all have a level that can be increased. Weapon leveling is fairly simple – just bring your sword to the blacksmith along with whatever materials are required to make it more powerful. Max level is three. Skills require repetitive use to gain levels; they start at level one, and like your weapons, max out at level three. Characters gain experience and levels like they do in many other games. The maximum in this case is level 99.

New to Ys VIII is the Interception or Suppression battles. They are two new tower defense style arenas, where Interceptions have you defending the town gate against hordes of monsters, while for Suppressions you go to their turf and capture points on the map to draw out the boss, which must then be defeated. They are fun and have good rewards, but they do interrupt the flow of the rest of the game.

It's hard to put my finger on exactly what makes this game so special. Thinking more on it, it's probably a combination of the rock solid base game mechanics, as beating up Adol's enemies has probably never been more fun, and the wonderful characters that you meet as you map out this mysterious island together. The sense of openness and exploration is excellent as well; while certainly not as open as Elder Scrolls or Zelda: Breath of the Wild, there are tons of places to explore and lots of loot and lore to find.

Each of the castaways have unique personalities, and are a joy to get to know as the game progresses. Each of them has at least one side quest and a gift that they can receive, which increases their approval of you. If you max that out, you also have a chance to get to know them even better, where you learn more about their character or back stories. Instilling confidence in a medical student, learning about a mother of six, or watching children grow up into the challenges of being stuck on an island together is a joy.

What really took me by surprise is how much you come to love the titular character, Dana. Without going too far into spoiler territory, Adol has strange dreams about this woman in a seemingly different place throughout his time on the island. Before long, she becomes central to the plot, and much of the story has you taking control of her, where you get to know her more and more, before finally meeting her. She is a wonderful character, that could have easily had her own series of games. The emotional investment and impact of her and what she brings to the story is hard to overstate.

Honestly, that may be one of the most challenging aspects of this game to me: how are they possibly going to surpass it when it's time for Ys IX? The story definitely veers into 'save not just us but the world' territory, and without just copying the same formula again and again in the future, I have a hard time imagining how they could possibly top this magnificent game for future episodes. This game is probably my personal game of the year and then some, which is most definitely saying something considering the incredible games that have come out in 2017.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 90%
Gameplay - 19/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 3/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 68%
Violence - 6/10
Language - 7/10
Sexual Content - 5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 6/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

Despite all of this (deserved) praise, there are a few things that are less than perfect. First of all, it has to be said that the localization is nowhere near the quality that Ys' previous publisher's releases have had in the past. There are also terminology inconsistencies between those games and this one, including some real head scratchers like what is clearly a fruit being called a 'Wall Nut'. Also some of the item descriptions were swapped, which can cause significant frustration when you want to use the correct healing item in the midst of battle. I even noticed a line that they forgot to voice over into English – the unexpected Japanese sure was a bit of a shock.

Thankfully, NIS America has acknowledged the issues and is spending significant resources to solve it, even up to and including recording new voice lines. That is fantastic, because this game deserves that and much more. The PC version has also been delayed by several months because of similar issues, as well as some really bad technical ones. Again, thankfully they are going to make sure that when it is finally released, it will be to everyone's satisfaction. The PS4 version ran quite well for me on my PS4 Pro with a 4k screen; though there were occasional frame rate drops, they were never so bad that it impacted gameplay in any way.

The graphical fidelity is a rather large step up from every Ys game to date, and has a very nice art style that I appreciate. The soundtrack is of course awesome. I would definitely enjoy the soundtrack CDs if I have the chance to grab them. The voice acting is excellent. This is also the first game where Adol actually has some lines; his voice is good most of the time, but I did not like his 'surfer dude' fishing voice lines one bit.

The only thing that struck me as odd is that even to the end of the game I couldn't quite get the music vs. voices vs. sound effects volume quite right. I prefer voices as loud as they can be, and sound effects and music at a similar, but lower, volume. But no matter what I did, the attack sounds always seemed louder than everything else. Perhaps some of the attack sounds were affected by the wrong slider? I am not sure. I listened to this game in my home theater at fairly high levels, so having those effects be too loud (while wanting to hear the voices well) was an unfortunate frustration.

Another bug I noticed is that if I tried to set the Extra skill key combination to anything other than the default, it would not activate. This is especially annoying since the dodge and block buttons are the same as those used to activate Extra, and I triggered it on accident many times as a result.

From an appropriateness perspective, it has plenty of animated violence, as you battle creatures around you. There are some blood splatters, but it's not too frequent or noticeable. Enemies include animals, larger beasts like dinosaurs, and magical and undead enemies like dragons and skeletons. Dana uses magic a lot as a character, and her attacks do too. The rest of them use it far less so, though some attacks that are fire, wind, or ice based are probably easiest to explain as a magical attack. Adol dreams about Dana, and Dana has visions about Adol and his friends. She is a skilled energy user, which is like magic, and has an important role as a leader of the local religion which worships a massive tree. There are also discussions about various gods and goddesses, including a nun of the Star Sculpt God.

Several females, especially Dana herself, wear very skimpy outfits. Her clothes are little more than ribbons around her top half, with a lot of cleavage shown on her and other females. There is a scene with another woman where Adol walks in on her as she finishes bathing. In surprise she drops her towel, and he therefore gets slapped, despite his best attempts to close his eyes. The nun mentioned previously had to tear up her habit a bit, and she exposes far more of her legs than were probably necessary. On the flipside, there is a well meaning man who says things that will likely draw a laugh, but are not things men would normally say in the presence of a lady. Things like he 'took a satisfying dump' and that his 'body shrivels up especially down there'. It's kind of a running joke, and he has noted how he 'ate and took a sh*t' and was ready to go. There are several moments of celebration where alcohol is consumed, even to drunkenness. Adol points out that he does not like to get drunk.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA is a fantastic entry into the storied Ys series, and perhaps my favorite. It's Adol's longest adventure to date, and there's even post game and new game+ content as well. While there are some appropriateness issues to keep in mind, Ys VIII is now one of my new favorite games. I sincerely hope that NIS America resolves the localization and PC version issues, and that Falcom grants us another Ys game this great!

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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