To be fair, I’m not that heavily oriented into the Ys saga. True, I played a lot of Ys Book I & II on the TurboDuo (how’s that for old school?) and I recently got a little bit back into Ys Origin on the Xbox One. But between the two, I haven’t really revisited the series that much, just because it’s not really my bag.
But leave it to NIS America’s Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana to spark that interest again. Not that I’m going to swear off other action/adventure games, mind you. I will simply take a look back at other games that could take me by surprise like this one has. And what’s more, you can take it with you on the go, thanks to the convenience of the Nintendo Switch.
The game puts you in control of a young hero named Adol Christin, who finds himself shipwrecked when a massive sea creature (okay, the Kraken) wrecks him and leaves him on a cursed island by the name of Seiren. He’ll have to do some looking around, saving other castaways and dealing with some dangerous creatures along the way.
The game does take a little while to get started, and at first, that kind of threw me off from investing more time in Ys VIII. But I’m glad I stuck around, because as you start to get into battles and choices that you can make with your makeshift team, it opens up tremendously.
That’s not to say the story doesn’t have its weird moments, because it does. But fortunately, the characters have a lot of charm to them, and watching them interact makes Ys VIII more enjoyable than it probably deserves to be. And there’s no requirement of Ys history to get into this game. You could be stepping in for the first time and finding a similarly enjoyable experience. It’s not often you get to see a sequel do that.
The combat in Ys VIII isn’t your usual role-playing style, as it all takes place in real-time. This opens up a lot of choices for you, as you can chain together some great hack and slash attacks, as well as defensive moves like blocks and dodge. Putting these together makes each battle rewarding, whether you’re facing off against smaller sea urchin or rather large boss characters.
There’s also an easy switch-off between your party characters and it’s pretty surprising to see what each one introduces here, with combat techniques that you can put together in an effective way. What’s more, one you master putting foes into a Break state with the right attacks, you can deliver extra damage and get even more satisfaction out of winning the fight.
You can also trigger special techniques like Flash Move and Flash Guard, which give you an even greater advantage. This is especially useful against larger opponents, and give you a better chance of survival. They can take a little time to master, but it’s worth it. The air juggles and Extra Skills are great too, rounding out a combat system that’s right up there with the best hack-and-slash games.
Exploration plays a part as well, though. With this, you’ll find secrets all over the island, along with new castaways that can help you out. And it never hurts to have new folks in your battle party, especially when they can do stuff your general character can’t do, such as move rocks.
The game’s presentation isn’t too shabby. You won’t find anything of Xenoblade quality here, but for Ys, it’s well done. The character design is pretty cool; the island environments are wonderful and worth looking around; and the larger enemies offer some great diversity in their attacks and stances.
That said, the game does run a little sluggishly in portable mode, compared to on the TV. The frame rate drops to around 20 FPS or no. That’s hardly a deal breaker, but it never hurts to know what you’re in for. Otherwise, the game looks good.
The audio is alright too, with a great music score and top-notch sound effects. But the voice acting could’ve been better (it’s a bit odd in some places). Maybe part of that blame goes to the script as well, which is kind of uneven in quality. The characters have great conversations, but sometimes things get thrown for a loop and you don’t quite expect it. It can be slightly melodramatic, though, again, not an entirely negative thing.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana may sound like a game that’s more accustomed to veterans of the series, but don’t be intimidated. This is a surprisingly good jump-off point into the saga, with characters that have a lot to offer and a robust combat system that’s so addicting, you’ll be eager to see who you can face off against next.
While the graphics and sound aren’t always on the mark, they do work together suitably for the most part, making for a good if not perfect experience. Play on the television if you can; that’s the better way to go.
So if you’re looking for a good surprise on the Nintendo Switch, or just long for the next big adventure while you wait to see what the next Fire Emblem brings, you’ll be able to slip into this game with ease. Or, rather, Ys?0comments
WWG’s Score: 4 out of 5.
Disclaimer: A review code was provided by the publisher.