Game Review: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA (Vita)

Will the new Ys game be good? That’s the question on nobody’s mind.  Because we know it will be. Ys has been on a decades-long streak of good games the likes of which Final Fantasy would envy forevermore. What we want to know is: just how good is it? Well, you can find the answer below. Spoilers, though: it’s very, very good.

“Lacrimosa of DANA” brings Adol to a new setting for a new adventure: the Island of Seiren, mythical place where ships sink and people disappear. While on paper the story may seem simpler than other entries in the series (Memories of Celceta, for example, had the ever-so-common amnesia shtick), it actually allows for much better character development. The restrictions placed by the geographical location forced writers to come up with some really interesting and deep NPCs that, honestly, make the game stand out even from other Ys games. I won’t spoil it for you, but you may fall in love once or twice while playing the game. A nice change of pace is that Dogi takes a bit of a back seat in this game, giving more chance to other party members to shine. I particularly took shine to Laxia, the strong-on-the-outside-tender-on-the-inside female companion Adol picks up early in the story. Her arc is complex, funny, warm and endearing.

Graphics look amazing, and remind us what the Vita is capable of: plenty.

Visually, it comes as no surprise that the game is stunning. “Memories of Celceta” already looked great, but the intervening years have allowed Ys developers to really juice the Vita for all it’s worth, and it shows. Both characters and environments look crisp, and there is rendering so far ahead of player location that you might be forgiven for thinking this is a game beginning with the letter Z running on a console made by a company whose name begins with N. It does have the occasional drop in frame rate, but it is so minute that it won’t affect gameplay at all. And honestly, gameplay is where Ys games shine, as the fluid action RPG combat is mixed with light tactics to create an unforgettable experience.

So, let’s delve deeper into said gameplay, shall we? You have the usual Ys fair of action RPG goodness, with skills and combos, and most importantly, strength and weaknesses for each character/enemy combo. So, in a single battle, you may switch from character to character as you take certain types of enemies down: Laxia might take down flying enemies while Adol takes care of some wolves. All of this makes experience points gather quickly, which levels characters up, which brings the whole thing forward. It is noteworthy that even on “Easy”, some enemies will kill you if you’re flippant about how you fight them. So, take heed and use skills and enemy types into consideration.

There’s plenty to like about the character development in “Dana”. Who will you fall for, and why?

As I mentioned before, presentation is top notch, with visuals demonstrating that there’s still life on this years-old hardware. But also of note is the voice acting: I’m usually one for going straight for Japanese voice acting. Dana doesn’t offer this, but for once, I don’t mind: the English acting is absolutely brilliant, and though not everything in the game is voiced, there’s quite a lot of it and more than enough to convey emotion and enhance the story and character arcs.

So, is there anything I didn’t like about “Lacrimosa of DANA”?

In short, no. The presentation (even with minor framedrops) is amazing; it looks prettier than ever and it sounds great to boot. The gameplay is tight as it’s ever been, with frantic action and just enough tactics to make you think before hacking and slashing. The story is warm, full of personal touches and fantastic story arcs, and it even moves away a bit from genre cliches.

“Lacrimosa of DANA” is better than “Celceta” and that’s no small praise. It’s much, much better than a lot of main entries in other RPG series, too (I’m looking at you, Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda). Receiving a game this good on the Vita, when everyone seemed to have jumped ship, is a beautiful, amazing gift to loyal fans of the series.

Grab it while the getting’s good. This one will go down in history as one of the console’s greatest.

At a glance:

  • Title: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA
  • Developer: Nihon Falcom
  • Publisher: NIS America
  • Format: PSN Download / Physical
  • Multiplayer: No
  • Memory Card Space Required: TBC
  • PlayStation TV Compatible: TBC

Vita Player Rating - 10

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