An amazing adventure from start to finish.
I am absolutely floored by how much I enjoyed Ys VIII. Barring only two story elements that really bother me, this game is an almost perfect one. The story that takes place, the exploration of an unfamiliar land, the combat, and the characters you meet all come together to create this absolute masterpiece. For a first foray into a JRPG that plays with the camera at the back instead of above, Falcom has hit it out of the park. I recommend Ys VIII to every Switch owner.
The Ys series started back in 1987 and has been going strong ever since. Every game has brought excellent story and gameplay elements to the table with favorable reviews. This being my first step into the Ys-pool, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I got was an epic adventure with an expansive story and combat that reminds me of a fine tuned game from the Tales Of series!
Ys VIII takes place on the Island of Seiren, a mysterious island that no ship has ever been able to escape. All who enter vanish. This is evident by the Captain’s stories and the skeletons you find on the island detailing the fact they’re stranded. Oh, let’s not forget the shipwrecks you find strewn about certain areas of the map.
When traveling the island, you figure out that each area is a series of sections. Instead of rendering the entire island all at once, the game renders sections, marking them by different colored dots. Red dots indicates the next area is within the same area or zone. Yellow dots indicate you’re about to enter a new named location. This keeps confusion to a minimum while you explore each and every corner of the named areas.
Red and Yellow intersections are also marked on the map, which is visible on the left side of the screen. Clicking the left control stick will makes the map rotate through different sizes.
Also marked on the map are enemies as red dots, story destinations yellow triangles with red exclamation points, sidequest locations as blue triangles with yellow exclamation points, and salvage spots as various small icons indicating you can find fruit, plants, and ores. This will help you map out where you need to go for collection side quests and where to find ores to power up your weapons.
Any crystals you discover, which heal you, your party, and will recover any status ailments, can be WARPED to. Yes, even from the start of the game. Barring certain story events, you can warp to any crystal. Ys VIII’s version of fast travel is extraordinarily helpful if you have to backtrack or you forgot to explore that .01% of a named location and have to go find it.
It’s not that crazy… Okay, maybe it is.
Story (Spoiler Warning)
Ys VIII’s story follows Adol and Dogi, two best friends and adventurers who are aboard the Lombardia, a ship they are able to be on for free in trade for their services on the ship. After welcoming everyone on the ship, the Captain tells Adol of the cursed island of Seiren and how no ship has ever escaped its waters. He regales Adol with tales of ships sailing near it and failing to make it out. Adol’s adventure sense is itching to get in on that action. After the Captain offers to sail close to the island, a giant sea creature attacks the ship!
After an easy, short boss battle, the sea creature rips the Lombardia apart, sending the crew and all passengers into the sea. Adol wakes up on the shores of the Island of Seiren and his adventure begins. Adol must find the castaways, explore the island, fight off giant monsters, and figure out who this blue-haired woman in his dreams is.
As the story progresses, there are certain details that tell of a much darker and deeper story than just “find the castaways, build a ship, go home.” I had not noticed them until after I had fought and killed the sea creature that sank the Lombardia. From there, the story takes off and continues to surprise me as I unearth more bits of story through sidequests and exploring the lost Kingdom of Eternia.
The graphics in Ys VIII are great! Many enemies can be taken on at once because of the decision to render each area of the island separately. This made raid battles much more fun when you can clear 10-15 enemies in a single blow. Enemies have interesting and unique designs, with only a handful being reused for use in later parts of the game. Environments feel large and expansive making exploring them more interesting because you want to see every corner of the map, find every Location Point, and fight every enemy. Also, the boss designs are on point. It’s as if Monster Hunter snuck into a Tales of game, making for some very menacing and dangerous looking boss monsters.
The UI is clean and easy to understand.
Ooooo. Falcom Sound Team JDK have outdone themselves. Nearly every single music track in Ys VIII sounds like it should be in a rock opera. Boss battles sound 10x more epic with guitars blaring around me, adding to the feeling of danger while fighting T-Rex type baddie. Exploration is much more satisfying with the Sunshine Coastline theme playing as you run through an area.
While I have never played any previous Ys Games, I have listened to a lot of their soundtracks and this is one of their best ones. The Oath in Felghana soundtrack is really good, and Memories of Celceta was top notch; however, Ys VIII’s will have you wanting to see how far you can get before your Switch battery dies, again.
She probably has more toughness in one finger than you do in your entire body.
You are able to pick your difficulty at the beginning of the game and change it at any point during the game, allowing you to make this experience as fun and as challenging as you like! Even on normal difficulty settings, I still had problems fighting some enemies. The difficulty came when fighting many giant monsters at once. Other than those few scenarios, boss characters won’t pose much of a threat unless you are underleveled when trying to fight them.
If you are weaker, focus on using combo-based skill attacks. Blade Rush and Speil Round Dance are great for this. You will take SIGNIFICANTLY less damage if enemies attack you while performing a combo. Plus, regular enemy attacks can’t break your combo, which makes fighting tough enemies much easier.
The combat system in Ys VIII is similar to other JRPGs but stands out due to a few unique factors. For example, you can switch between the three party members by pressing the Y button. This makes fighting enemies with specific weaknesses much easier than if you only played as Adol. Speaking of weaknesses, enemies on the island will have one of three weaknesses: slice, pierce, and strike. It’s fairly obvious what each enemy is weak. The characters in your party will yell at whomever the enemy is weak against, meaning that person’s weapon. I find that hilarious. Almost every battle starts with someone yelling at someone else. That’s teamwork.
Skill attacks are relegated to holding the R button and pressing A, B, X, or Y to execute them. They will also level up as you use them increasing in power and strength.
They are also a part of a new addition to Ys VIII‘s battle system: Flash Guard and Flash Moves. A Flash Guard happens if you press R right before an enemy attack hits you. An orange bar will appear on screen and your SP Bar will fill a great amount, filling even more with each hit you land on the enemy. It will also replenish fast even while using skills that consume a lot of SP. Flash Moves happen when you dodge just before an enemy attack hits you with the L button. The enemy will slow and its guard will drop, severely dropping it’s defense. Now is the time to unload on the enemy. The Blue bar that appears on screen after executing a Flash Move will deplete quickly, so unload quickly!
There are few things more terrifying.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana was a game I was excited about ever since I saw the trailer in a Nintendo Direct. The game delivered on that excitement in spades. If you’ve played a previous Ys game, this one will deliver on all of the awesomeness the previous games gave you and more. If you’ve never played or never heard of these games, I recommend playing YsVIII. While the game series has an expansive story, this one is more of a side story that doesn’t have any bearing on the main, overarching story of the Ys games. I highly recommend checking Ys VIII out.
The copy of Ys VIII used for this review was purchased by James and not provided by NIS America. You can read our ethics policy for more information.