Nihon Falcom, one of the most underrated developers ever, is back with a brand new Ys game. If you aren’t familiar with Ys, the franchise began in 1987 on the PC-88 platform and has seen games released on just about everything. The franchise gained quite a bit of traction in Europe and North America with the PSP and Steam releases of games like Ys: The Oath in Felghana. Now we have the latest in the franchise releasing simultaneously on PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Steam in the form of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA. Don’t let the number bother you because this is both a fantastic game for veterans and a great way to get into the Ys games.
Ys VIII has a lot of improvements and builds upon what I love about the games in the first place. You start out on a ship and learn the basics of the controls and exploration here. The map system here is pretty great and it can be as detailed as you want and has loads of modern conveniences like fast travel to locations and more. Back to the ship, you learn a bit about the crew until calamity strikes. Once the ship is attacked, the basics of combat are shown to you and this is where things go from good to amazing. The combat is so satisfying that I almost felt like skipping all the dialogue scenes just to get into killing enemies and exploring. One thing leads to another and you find yourself on the Island of Seiren. The aim initially is to just scout out new locations around your base camp and find any remaining survivors. This allows for more shops and facilities in your camp and also gives you party members. Exploration is a lot of fun early on and I missed it in the latter parts of the game.
As you use unlocked skills, you level them up and also have a chance at unlocking new ones during combat. Switching party members is a button away and enemies have a certain affinity where you need to either use pierce, slash, or bash damage to take them out properly. Defeating enemies (there are tons of them) results in item drops which you can use in a barter system in town to upgrade or buy new equipment. While enemies are fun and the dungeon designs are superb, the highlight of Ys for me is boss fights. The Oath in Felghana and Origin have some of the best action RPG bosses ever and Ys VIII is no slouch in that department. Boss fights are accompanied by kickass music and have interesting mechanics. The only flaw here is the obvious nature of expecting a boss fight when you see a suddenly large empty area while exploring.
For a portable game, Ys VIII has a lot of conveniences that are essential in handheld releases. You can save just about anywhere and anytime and there’s quick travel between Crystals that heal you. The Base camp hub system makes things feel fresh but also fits well with portable gameplay. There’s just a ton of quality content here to keep you engrossed for a long time. My only big complaint here is that Nihon Falcom couldn’t add the new content they designed for the PS4 version into the Vita version since both are releasing simultaneously in English.
While Falcom games have never been about pushing visuals, they somehow manage to make you forget about the dated visuals for the most part through their amazing stories and gameplay. Ys VIII looks good but not great on the Vita but definitely is a step up from Memories of Celceta. The PS4 version from the demo runs and looks better but it has its roots from the Vita version in the end. Overall Ys VIII on the Vita is a joy to play and it is one of the bigger titles still coming out for the platform thanks to NIS America who keep supporting the handheld along with games coming to other platforms.
Voice acting here is available in both English and Japanese. The Japanese option will be available through free DLC around launch. Both options are fine but I would have liked more dialogue to be voiced instead of just a “huh” or a “sigh” sound when there’s actual text on the screen. Music thankfully is amazing and Falcom rarely disappoints in this aspect of their games. The localisation has a few sentence structure and formatting issues. Nothing major thankfully.
You’re looking at a near 50 hour experience here with a good story, fantastic gameplay, and a cast of characters you will grow to like. Aside from the localisation issues and a few performance troubles on the Vita, this is absolutely a must own for anyone who has a Vita (or a PS4 and PC as well for that matter).