Game Title: Ys VIII Lacrimosa of Dana
Company: Falcom, NIS America
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Availability: Retail, Digital Download
Download Size: 3.3 GB
PSTV Support: Yes
The Ys series is a special focal point for my website. The very first review I published here was for Ys: Memories of Celceta, and I have been a fan of the series for long before that. Across 3 PSP titles, and now 3 PS Vita titles, there is a lot of the franchise to go around. It was only a matter of time until I got dragged back into the adventures of Adol Cristin.
In an odd turn of events, the new Ys game for the PS Vita is coming West from NIS America rather than XSEED Games, whom had previously published all of the Ys games in the West aside from Dot Emu’s PlayStation 4 and PS Vita ports of Ys Origin. After getting through the twists, turns, and emotional episodes of this new adventure, I am ready to give you a review.
Here is my review of the PS Vita and PSTV version of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana!
Lacrimosa takes place an unexplained amount of time before Ys Seven with Adol and Dogi serving as temporary sailors on a ship. On their voyage, the ship is attacked by a giant squid-like monster, tossing Adol and the rest of the ship’s crew and passengers plummeting into the sea, only to be washed up on a nearby deserted island, filled with giant monsters.
With the Squid roaming around in the sea, Adol begins exploring the island to rescue the missing passengers and make preparations to escape the island. Unknown to him, the island holds a secret about the beasts wandering around and the world itself that he is pulled into.
The plot of Lacrimosa is one that really has that big JRPG feel, and also the feel that you could take its plot and expand an entire franchise just off of it. It takes very little from the franchise to back itself up and creates a story that not only fits within the Ys franchise but is full of backstory and emotional tugs that even someone unfamiliar with Ys can really get into and enjoy.
Lacrimosa is an Action RPG with exploration elements as well as some light Tower Defense elements thrown into the mix. Despite its looks, it retains the core gameplay set in stone with Ys Seven and Memories of Celceta, so if you’re familiar with them, the way the game handles and plays should feel right at home.
First off, I want to say that Lacrimosa is a perfect example of how changing the camera angle of an experience can drastically change the feel of it. The game plays very much like Celceta, but due to the camera angle being behind the characters instead of above them (on top of the graphical design being much more life like in terms of character size), it gives the entire experience a much larger and grander feel, from exploring areas to the actual gameplay itself. It is the same, yet it feels totally different.
Now, game progression. You main task when you start the game is to develop your “Castaway Village” and explore the island to find and rescue more passengers of your ship. The latter is very similar to the exploration of the forest in Memories of Celceta, though this island is far larger.
The exploration is pretty simple. You move from area to area, fighting off monsters and collecting materials while looking for castaways. For the sake of game progression, a lot of areas are initially locked behind obstacles that require you to get help from your fellow castaways to get past. While most of these areas are optional, some are required and are set so you cannot access them until you get to a certain point in the Main Story.
The game’s most unique aspect, though, is the Village. A lot of features are built around this Village Building process. Every time you rescue a passenger, they join your village and add something, be it a farm where you can grow fruit or building a smithy so you can synthesize and upgrade your equipment. You, more or less, create a base of operations and all of the standard facilities that you need for combat.
The second side of this is the Tower Defense element I mentioned earlier. Once you start increasing your village’s population, monsters will begin targeting the village, aiming to attack it. Whenever this happens, you will be recalled from your explorations to take part in a Raid Battle, where you fight off waves of enemies, protecting the village gates.
There is good and bad to this. The good is the level you can customize this experience. You are able to place and upgrade various types of defenses and equipment for these Raid Battles, and further enhance the placement and strength of these defenses with materials you find out on the island. You can simply put decoys to attract monster attention or can even put a large Battle Gong that will stun enemies if you hit it with your weapon.
The bad part is that this feature is very over-used. While the first half of the game is pure exploration with rescuing castaways, the second half is where the story takes over and you are introduced to the game’s female lead and the ‘real’ story begins. There are dozens of times where a crucial story event will happen and as soon as something big is about to occur, you get a notification to come back to the village for a random Raid Battle.
At first, this was alright, but the more it happened, the more annoying it got. Towards the end of the game, it felt more like a nuisance than a feature and often got ignored by me for the sake of seeing more of the story that was unfolding.
Now aside from exploration and the village, combat is pretty similar to Seven and Celceta. Each character has a specific type of attack (Slash, Pierce, or Smash), and all enemies have a weakness, so you need to cycle your party members around to take advantage of different situations. The skill system returns as well, with Skill Points being gains by attacking enemies and creating combos through the skills your characters learn as they fight through the game.
Finally, Ys VIII introduces Character Approval and Multiple Endings to the series. When you do a Quest for a certain character or give them a Gift Item they like, their approval goes up. You get a different Ending depending on your Approval Ratings between all the different characters.
Speaking of ending, how long is the game? The developers claimed it was 40-60 hours long, and they are not correct in that claim. It took me almost 30 hours to go from Start to Finish while doing a few of the side quests, but mostly just sticking to exploring along the main story paths and getting to the end of the game’s plot. I then took another 5 hours or so doing other quests and working on approval for the True Ending. So, the game is around 30-35 hours.
Once you beat the game, you can either reload your Clear Data at the final boss to work on your approval for better endings or do New Game + where you can bring over your data for a new run. Unlike the Trails of Cold Steel games, you are not restricted with what you can take over, Character Levels, Items, Skills, etc. All of it can be pushed over, a great way of handling a Normal Playthrough leading into a Nightmare Difficulty playthrough.
Controls are pretty simple, but also pretty nice/ Unlike Origins, Ys VIII is fully compatible with the PlayStation TV and has a couple nice additions for the micro console. In addition to the normal buttons, you can click the R3 button to center the camera and the R2 button to access items rather than using the D-Pad.
The scheme is, as I said above, simple. Move around with the Left Analog Stick and the Right Analog moves the camera. The L and R buttons are used for dodging and guarding and Start for pausing the game. Then the face buttons come in. While all of these are paired with R for shortcut battle skills, they have functions on their own.
You use X for physical attacks and Circle for jumping. Square switches your controlled party member, and triangle is mostly there for skills. It does not do anything by itself.
Pretty simple, really. The game does a nice job of presenting and explaining it, too.
Graphically, Ys VIII looks good and looks not so good at the same time. If you have ever played a game where the character models look better the closer they are to the camera, this is one of those games. When you see characters really close to the camera, they look really good. During gameplay, it looks a bit grainy with jagged edges all over the place.
Performance is not without its share of flaws as well. While the loading sequences are not very long, the frame rate is steady, but not quite at 30 fps. Over the course of the game, I would guess that the average fps of the game is around 25 or so. Smooth enough to be playable and enjoyable, but not smooth like 30 fps is.
In conclusion, Ys VIII is a great addition to the series as well as something that can hold its own as a separate entity in the JRPG world. Although there are some technical issues and the Raid Battle system ending up more of a nuisance than a fun asset, everything else about the game is the definition of what a Grand RPG is all about. If you are a Ys or Action RPG fan, it is an experience worth every penny.