In case you didn’t know, this is my third time reviewing this game as last year I reviewed this on PS4 then earlier this year I reviewed it on STEAM and now I’m reviewing it on Nintendo Switch. For those that may not know, Ys VIII originally released in 2016 in Japan on the PlayStation Vita and is part of the 30 plus year series that in many ways rivals The Legend of Zelda as both series originated roughly around the same time. While Zelda has been one of the pioneers and landmark franchises of Nintendo and has had a lot of classic after classic (and many flops such as the CDi entries) , the Ys series has never caught on in the west nor has it been warmly received nor able to maintain a continued stream of mainstream success and has often been relegated to a niche franchise that while in Japan would be regularly released and is highly beloved, we in the west would sparingly get the games and often times from various publishers and many taking various liberties with plot and other aspects of the game thus fragmenting our ability to get into the series, that is until Falcom have allowed XSEED Games took the helm and bring nearly all the entries to the PSP/PS Vita and other Playstation home consoles and now with the 8th entry (or 9th Entry if you include Origins) and NIS America at the helms we are now able to experience this masterpiece on the Nintendo Switch.
Ys VIII Lacrimosa of Dana stars our series protagonist Adol Christin and deuteragonist Dana as their stories happen between two different time periods separated by millenia on the land that once was and an island where no one leaves. Adol and his companion Dogi are off on another of their legendary adventures and they eventually become lampooned on the curesd Isle of Seiren when the Lombardia that they were working/traveling on comes under attack from an an enormous kraken-esque beast which strand Adol and the other survivors on the Isle of Seiren of which they will need to work together in order to escape the that has the reputation for death to any who are unfortunate to land there. Adol must explore the isle and search for the ship’s crew. These crewmates are crucial to survival. They include a smithy forge, item shop, cooking, doctor, armor shop, and more. What’s more, without any gold in the game, your only currency is trade. Collecting loot is important, as you’ll be using it to trade. Much of the common loot is easy to find, so rounding up items for potions won’t be hard. Dana happens to be an inhabitant of the very same island a millenia in the past and serves as the seer of sorts for the Eternian civilization and she foresees the imminent destruction of her world. What ties Adol to Dana? How does he have dreams of the past and she of the future? That is one of the many mysteries you’ll want to uncover as you traverse the Isle of Sieren and the story and storylines start to blur and evolve into an experience that’s grand and memorable adventure that will stay with you.
Even though the Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Steam versions of Ys VIII do still show its Vita roots from time to time, the game still can look stunning even if the visual bar isn’t hit quite as consistently, compared to as it is on Vita.Ys VIII runs at 1080p with an unlocked framerate and frequently hits what feels like a solid 50-60FPS in most scenarios, although there can be dips when too much is happening on the screen. On the Switch in portable mode it runs at 720p at what seems to be 60-50fps; when I first played the game it felt like its would chug with poor optimization however a small patch update that fixed all those issues. The game’s animations aren’t perfect, it largely uses the texture quality of a PS3 game which further shows that the game was worked on a lower budget than most which will result in many cutscenes and many of your side-quest animations and story being detailed through text. Ultimately this means don’t expect a visual masterpiece. It does makes up for those shortcomings with its beautiful, artistic presentation. Detailed character models, beautiful vistas of the Island of Seiren give the world its own identity. The most beautiful part of this game and all Ys games is the character artwork, visible in the main menu. It is some of the best anime character art I’ve seen in an RPG ever.
The action is fierce and addicting! The beauty here is that certain fighters are better against certain enemies, and switching out the lead (player controlled) fighter in the middle of combat is the key to success. Combat is handled in real time, as Adol and his team, which consists of two other active adventurers, hacking and slashing their way all over Seiren Island. Adol is a swordsman, and his attacks are rather basic. Laxia and Hummel are both “marksmen” (with Laxia using a classy fencer’s sword and Hummel using a rifle), while Sahad is a tank, who uses half of a ship’s anchor to crush enemies. On-the-fly character swaps make combat fun and exciting, without making it too complicated. Depending on your console of choice, by pressing the Y Button (Nintendo Switch), Square button (PS4/Vita), or if you’re on PC and using an Xbox Controller you’d press the X Button which switches the characters, so Adol could attack a giant crab, and then the player can turn their attention to a swarm of wasps by switching to Laxia, who is strong against flying types. In the same beat, a shelled crab could attack, which could be easily defeated by Sahad and his weighty anchor. Each character also has a mapped set of combat skills that can be devastating when effectively used
Ys VIII easily has one of the best in game soundtracks I’ve experienced in a while, and my return to the Isle of Seiren confirmed that. Ys I & II were composed by Yuzo Koshiro, known for Streets of Rage, Etrian Odyssey, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, and Actraiser. Ys VI: Ark of Napishtim had arguably one of the best soundtracks on the PS2, thanks in part to its epic, heavy metal boss theme, “Mighty Obstacle.” All that being said what Ys VIII brings to the table are so many beautiful melodies from such eclectic styles. Jazz, rock, metal, and other kinds of music are found here. One of my favorite songs when I’m in battle is called Smash Up and when I’m roaming the island, Sunshine Coastline is everything you could expect in which you’ll hear beautiful strings, piano, and guitars, all suiting the mood that branches between an island adventure and a mystical epic, uncovering the truth of a secret civilization. I finished the game months ago before its initial PS4 release, and the soundtrack is already inspiring nostalgia. Ys VIII has a beautiful soundtrack, one that stands near the level of games, like NieR: Automata, Persona 5, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Worth mentioning for those of you getting this on PC is that Ys VIII for PC is very clearly a PS4 port. The team who ported it didn’t change the tutorial screens. While using my Xbox One controller, the game explained all of the button prompts with PS4 controller inputs. While that minor complaint isn’t really an issue in and of itself its still worth mentioning.
What can I say to wrap up this review other than Ys VIII is a beautiful game with a beautiful story? There’s tons of mystery to be uncovered on the Isle of Seiren, tons of extras to unlock, and characters you’ll remember for a heartfelt adventure. If you’ve been eagerly awaiting the launch of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, and especially on the switch, then I wouldn’t hesitate to buy this now. There’s no reason to be passing on one of the best JRPGs of this generation of games. KASANOVA APPROVED!