Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA (Switch) Review
The Ys series has been totally under my radar until now. I knew of its origins on the TurboGrafx, and to my own detriment wrote it off as just another anime themed action RPG I didn’t need to pay attention to. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA taught me how wrong I was to have this mindset. Endlessly compelling and varied, Ys VIII has so many interesting and intertwined things to do that I found it hard to put down.
After a disastrous ship voyage, Adol Christin washes up on a seemingly deserted island. With nothing else to do and nobody else around, you begin to explore and find some castaways who have survived the same naval disaster and washed up here. You and the other survivors form a small village, and from here your true adventure really begins. Your first task is to search the island for other survivors, which necessitates you defending yourself against the myriad and varied forms of aggressive local wildlife through real-time action combat.
Fights are fast paced and dynamic, with enemies having interesting attack patterns and weaknesses to particular types of damage that you need to pay close attention to. Characters each deal a certain kind of damage based on the weapons they use, and you’ll be quickly switching between up to three characters in your party to maximise the damage you deal and ‘break’ enemies’ guard, stunning them and leaving them defenseless for a few moments. Each member of your party can be assigned up to four special attacks which have their own special effects and damage properties. Attacks are dodged simply by moving out of the way, but to really gain the upper hand you’ll need to master the timing of Flash Move and Flash Guard. By performing a dodge or guard at the very moment you’re about to be hit by an attack you enter a brief period of invincibility where you can recklessly attack trying to rack up as much damage as possible. As complex as it sounds, the combat isn’t difficult to come to grips with and along with the power metal infused soundtrack keeps things rolling along at a swift pace.
This swift pace carries over to the rest of the game. There are so many elements at play, all intermingling to the point where near every action feels like it is contributing to your overall progress. You’ll get quests from villagers that will help you gain their favour and build up the villages defenses or resources. While you’re out exploring you’ll find new castaways who will offer their services back at the village, and harvest materials throughout the world that you’ll bring back to complete village projects or upgrade weapons, brew medicine or a bunch of other advantageous actions. Each new character you find adds their own element to the overall story, and some have their own personal stories that contribute to their unique flavour. Outside the village your exploration uncovers new areas of the island with new creatures and story revelations that keep the narrative flowing at a similarly brisk clip.
The quickly moving story is intriguing, enough so that I found the moments where control is pulled away in favour of character cutscenes never felt like a drag, but a welcome reprieve from the action. The individual characters you find on the island aren’t terribly interesting and fill fairly simple descriptions like the mysterious and secretive rifleman or the boundlessly positive fisherman but their interplay keeps things interesting. Along with these characters, our main character dreams of a mysterious woman from what appears to be a lost civilisation whose destiny seems somehow intertwined with that of our crew of survivors and Adol specifically. This makes for a compelling story which along with all the other systems going on in the game kept me wanting more.
Ys VIII employs a great looking anime-style aesthetic that looks fantastic, even with the limited graphical power of the Switch. Characters are expressive through their animation and visual design, with their movement and silhouettes reinforcing their personalities. Environments feel a little lacking in detail, it looks almost like a game from a different generation to Breath of the Wild and somehow even with this the console often struggles to maintain a smooth frame rate during fights and other busy scenes. The game employs a dynamic resolution system as well, and I found this mostly noticeable while playing in handheld mode. While in the village, even without moving the camera sometimes I noticed the resolution changing, backgrounds losing definition in an effort to keep performance reasonable on the portable system. I never felt that the game was less enjoyable to play as a result of these hitches, Switch is a fine place to play Ys VIII (and certainly better than the Vita version performance wise, at least!) but the stutters are certainly noticeable in the code I used for review.
Ys VIII has so many systems, somehow simultaneously intricately intertwined and immediately understandable. Every achievement feels like progress to some goal. Whether it’s upgrading gear, expanding and defending your village of castaways or exploring the varied, expansive world – it all feels great to play and contributes to your ability to forge ahead at a breakneck pace toward fulfilling story and combat progress. It’s an RPG that asks a large time commitment and doesn’t offer particularly deep character storylines but the combat, overall story and character progression make Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA a journey well worth taking.
It’s an RPG that asks a hefty time commitment and doesn’t offer particularly deep character storylines – but the combat, overall story and character progression make Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA a journey well worth taking.
Fast paced, dynamic combat
Huge world to explore
Intriguing overall story
Intricate but understandable systems
Shallow character stories