June 19, 2018

Ys VIII Lacrimosa of DANA - Review

Being honest, I never gave the Ys series a look in before, each time I saw the game, I thought, oh another JRPG, but with the most recent entry making the jump to Switch, I figured, what the heck and would give it a go. Normally, JRPG’s are not my thing, but after dropping 40+ hours into this one, I can say I am a convert to the series.

The game kicks off, with Adol, the main character, staring off the side of a ship, as it makes its way to a new location for him to explore, but he is not a passenger on the ship, he is working as payment for passage. After inspecting all the guest of the ship, based on instruction by the captain, the ship is attacked and after a valiant effort, the ship is sunk and Adol washes ashore on a deserted island, but not just any island, the Isle of Seiren. After a bit, Adol meets up with the first of the survivors, Laxia and then soon after the Captain, together they start to plan, the main quest for Adol and his group, locate survivors and survey the island, so everyone can learn what is nearby. The story picks up quickly, with Adol having dreams of a girl and another civilization, but just as there are mysteries about his dreams, the island holds a lot of them as well.

The game, while a JRPG in presentation, is much more western in how it plays, which is perhaps why the game appealed to me, all the fights, outside of the bosses, takes place completely in real time and they don’t get dropped on you, if you see a creature, you can fight it, or just run past it. It was this system that let me get past my normal JRPG hold ups and I am grateful for it, knowing that I could avoid fighting creatures, simply by ignoring them, made me want to play the game more and more. As I progressed though, I found myself, testing out new skills and combos against the enemies, even more when I hit the north side of the island.

Of course, combat is only one part of the game, another part is the exploration, given that it is one of the two tasks that Adol and his group are venturing out for, it makes sense. As you explore the world, more of the map fills in, Little Paro might give you an idea of things in areas, but until you visit that particular space, you will have no idea about what lies around the corner. The best time and really the only time that it was an issue, was when I encountered an area bathed in fog, walking through it proved to be disastrous, due to the large and dangerous creature living within. Exploring the island is made easy by use of crystals that allow you to fast travel to areas that you have been to before, but they also hold another purpose, later in the game, they allow you to travel back in time.

Well, not so much back in time, but they allow you to control another character, Dana, who lives in the past, when you combine the two stories and locations together, things take a very dramatic turn and while I am all for dramatics, I just did not like how this story played out. Thankfully, getting out there an exploring the world as Dana, or at least the city, was a nice break from the constant fighting that Adol and crew were doing, learning more about the history of Dana’s people was also nice. The only part of the game that I really did not like were the raids, which was a shame, as you would think they could be something truly special.

At random points, or at least, not long after you passed a warp crystal, Little Paro would arrive to let you know that the village you were building, was under threat from the creatures of the island. Now apart from a few, you could choose to ignore the bulk of them, but your village would take a beating, I did not ignore them, because I did not want to see any of the progress I had made, be washed away, but at the same time, whenever that raid symbol appeared on the screen, I would get a little angry. Now the raids themselves were not too difficult, but there was a level of frustration that came from having to fight large amounts of creatures, with the reward being the same items that you could find out in the world.

The only reason I did them all, was as I said, to make sure my village was not damaged in any way, as you progress through the game, you will be given more and more chances to do quests for people, which can, in turn, improve the village. What starts out as basically a fire pit and a tree stump, soon has a proper kitchen and medical space, a blacksmith and more, even one the earliest quests has Laxia and Allison requesting some curtains, to help separate the ladies sleeping quarters from the mens, but that single mission, makes the interior feel different. It is important to note that you don’t have to do these quests, nor do you need to complete them, if you start them, at one point, I was attempting to find some material to build a small boat, but I could never get the final piece of resin that I needed, so no boat for me, except the game needed the boat in order to progress the story and while I failed the mission, I was able move forward in the story.

The reason that the boat was needed, was due to a single character refusing to work with people, so they steal it only to find themselves taken out by the giant creature that lives near the island. The problem with this character, was that I did not like them at all, so seeing them killed off, was a relief, because they never did anything but complain. The only sad part was that the games presentation feels very much stuck in the PlayStation 2 animation era, so a lot of cuts and emoticons appear over the heads of people, rather than complete animations. The problem with this is simple, it looks crap, there is no way to say it nicer than that, watching a character turn around on the spot, whilst doing a walking animation looks strange, but seeing the shocked reactions of Sahad, were just hilarious, something I am sure the developer was trying to avoid, given the subjects being spoken about at the time.

Speaking of, well speaking, the game features spoken dialogue, at least at times, characters will speak for a while, only to go mute and have their words replaced by written text, the problem is, they will still randomly pop up with a single word or two, even in those moments. The fact that the game can’t decide what type of presentation it wants to keep, just results in a garbled bag, again something you would find in a PlayStation 2 game, the music though, that is great. Exploring the Coral Forests or the caves throughout the world, are accompanied with a wonderful musical score, something I did not expect and the trips through time, also changed up the score, to help sell the difference.

Ys VIII Lacrimosa of DANA is a great game, it’s not a full JRPG, meaning people who avoid them, will have no reason to here, but it still keeps a foot in the genre, allowing those who enjoy those type of games to find a lot here. The island you explore is varied enough, that finding the out of the way locations, is fun and never to difficult, but some forced elements and inconsistent presentation will confuse some players.

Review copy provided by NIS America

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