There are numerous additions that the PlayStation 4 and PC version of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana bring to the table, that the Vita version simply doesn't have - we've got an article coming that will go over the changes, but for now understand that this is a review of the PlayStation 4 version, and the PlayStation 4 version only. We understand it must be confusing to see the game release on both platforms at the same time in the West, even though the game had a 10-month gap between their releases in Japan, with significant content changes.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is the type of RPG that only comes along once in a while. Back when I played the game at its original Japanese PlayStation Vita release, I was hooked from start to finish - and the same can be said for my time with the PlayStation 4 release. I wasn't quite sure if I would enjoy my time with the game just as much my second time through, but I can safely say that the game holds up even separated from the hype I felt when playing the original release.
The Ys series has players controlling Adventurer Adol Christin throughout his numerous adventures, each illustrated as a literal chapter in the many journals he left behind after his death. In Ys VIII's case, players relive his journal on his adventures in the Isle of Seiren: an island where any ships that drift near it sink. After the opening of the game, Adol and the passengers of the Lombardia (a passenger ship en route from Xandria to Greek, locations in the Ys universe) find themselves stranded on this dreaded isle.
From then on, players are tasked with exploring their new surroundings, finding fellow castaways, building up and defending the group's makeshift village from attacks (set as a sort of tower defense minigame), and more. Much like Ys Seven, the playable party consists of up to three characters in the active group at once, and each character's attacks are separated into three attributes - Slash, Strike, and Pierce. Similar to Ys Seven, certain enemies are weak to certain attacks, and players are expected to swap out their characters to suit whatever obstacles are in your party's way. What wasn't in Ys Seven is the ability to "break" enemy's outer defenses by hammering on them with the right attribute long enough and significantly weakening them to every attack. Blocking and dodging are both back, as is "flash guarding", which is the ability to enhance your attacks for a short period if a block is performed at just the right time. Alongside that is the returning "flash dodging" from Ys: Memories of Celceta, which allows players to slow down time for enemies if they dodge an attack at just the right time.
As an Action RPG, Ys has always been about gameplay first and story second. Part of this is what makes Ys VIII a bit of an outlier. Much like Falcom's other well-known series, The Legend of Heroes, Ys VIII comes packed with a lot of story content, breaking up the usual fast-paced action gameplay. Besides that, the game is much more open than any of the Ys titles before it, really letting you explore parts of the island at your own pace, and giving the game a lot more content than any other Ys game up to this point. While Ys Seven on PC took me a good 20 hours to complete, Ys VIII's PS4 version took me well over 50 hours with all the side content cleared. Keep in mind, that this was well over 50 hours on what basically amounts to a second playthrough. You'll probably get even more time out of the game if you didn't already know what to look for going in.
I can't stress enough how much better the exploration is in Ys VIII than basically any other game in the franchise. Adol has remembered how to jump, and along with the usual upgrades he gains along the way (such as the ability to breathe underwater, light up dark caverns, and more), mapping out the world has never felt better. As mentioned, the game has a lot more side content than before, and each corner of the map is littered with something worth your time. Whether it be useful items, interesting enemies to fight, or even simply a good view. Even though Ys VIII is definitely not open-world, there are more than enough reasons to explore. While the PS4 version of Ys VIII might still show its Vita roots from time to time, the game still can look stunning even if the visual bar isn't hit quite as consistently, compared to as it is on Vita. For what it's worth, Ys VIII runs at 1080p with an unlocked framerate and frequently manages what feels like a solid 50-60FPS in most scenarios, although there can be dips when too much is happening on the screen.
As for Ys VIII's story, it's undoubtedly the strongest and most personal tale the franchise has seen throughout its storied history. Without spoiling anything, Dana's story, and the history of the Eternian civilization steals the show, especially with the additions to her gameplay sections exclusive to the PS4/PC release. Unfortunately, the translation isn't quite as consistent as what fans of the series might've been used to with previous titles, and I can see that affecting others' view on the otherwise fantastic story. I hope that the translation can see some polish later down the line, but it should've been better to begin with.
I mentioned that the PS4 version of Ys VIII added more content to Dana's side, but it really can't be understated just how much this really fleshes things out. Ys VIII was easily my GOTY last year, and her additions fixed what was a major complaint I had with the original Vita release's pacing. Adol's new content features an extra dungeon tied to the new Dana content and the addition of "Suppression Battles". Even the minor additions of new "boss fish" to tackle with your fishing rod around the world and the inclusion of "Night Searching" certain areas gives the game just the right amount of extra polish needed to elevate it to the next level.
Ys' gameplay has never been better. The soundtrack is perhaps my favorite in the series to date, and even minor characters are actually memorable for once. Overall, Ys VIII makes a compelling argument for being one of the best RPG releases in the West for what has already been a crowded and star-studded year. While longtime fans might be put off by the newfound emphasis on story content, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana stands out as one of the year's great RPGs.
Ys VIII sets the bar high for Adol Christin's next adventure. This is one of the best Ys titles yet, and one of the best RPGs of the year.(Review Policy)
- Fantastic Soundtrack
- Rewarding Exploration
- Believable Side Quests
- Localization Issues
- Larger Story Emphasis Might Turn Some Off