YS VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana – Classic game adds nothing new
- Developer: Nihon Falcom
- Publisher: NIS America, Nihon Falcom
- Release date: 15th November 2022
- Genre: Action-Adventure, JRPG
- Platforms: PlayStation 5
- Reviewed on: PlayStation 5
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
YS VIII – Lacrimosa of Dana PS5 Review
There is no doubt that one of the best-selling and most beloved Nihon Falcom games is Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. Originally released on the PS Vita back in 2016, it has now been given a PS5 makeover, enabling new and old fans to experience this wonderful adventure. Even though this game is the eighth in the series, you don’t need to have played any of the previous games to enjoy what Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana has to offer, other than knowing the main protagonist, Adol, returns with his trusty sidekick Dogi, and they both get shipwrecked on a mysterious island.
Initially, the story tasks you with locating the other shipwrecked passengers and crew scattered around the island, but in doing so Adol starts to discover there is a whole different mystery afoot. To keep the review spoiler free, I won’t go into any more details but suffice it to say it’s a classic adventure of complete escapism, that will keep you hooked all the way through (and it is chock full of dinosaurs!) The story starts slowly but as you enter the third and fourth chapters, events really kick the game into gear. It’s no wonder this game is regarded as one of Nihon Falcom’s best games.
The action for this game is unlike classic turn-based JRPGs. Ys VIII is a simplified real-time action hack-and-slash game. The combat is trite and basic with only one attack button, but there are lots of actions to cast as the characters grow and develop. The other aspect of combat, Flash Move and Flash Guard, is actually key to the game. If you dodge or parry an enemy’s attack at the last moment, this will slow down time, creating a small window of opportunity for you to strike back at enemies with extra power.
Although this mechanic is nothing new, you will be required to use these techniques often if you want to play well. On normal difficulty, you can in essence button mash the combat and get by without using the flash move/flash guard mechanic, but I would recommend playing the game on hard mode to help you experience and get to grips with the nuances these moves bring to the combat.
Other than the basic melee weapon attack, each character has additional skills, and the enemies you face have specific weaknesses that can be exploited by one or more of your team. For example, there are three types of effects with melee weapons. Thrust, slash, or in the case of hammers, smash. As some enemies are resistant to one or more of these types of attacks, you have to change characters on the fly to find the enemies’ weaknesses.
The last aspect of Ys VIII’s combat is the superb and satisfying special move each character can unleash after filling a meter by performing special attacks. These attacks come complete with their own cinematic buildup and land a devastating blow. Managing your team and knowing when best to unleash these attacks can turn the tide of a losing battle back in your favour.
Each character plays vastly differently from the others, so it means you have to adjust to each play style and get to know the idiosyncrasies of each playable character. Gaining this knowledge makes the harder fights that bit easier to battle. Getting to understand and know each character was part of the enjoyment of the game and kept things fresh, even when ploughing through many quick and simple fights on your way to your objective.
Finding your way to an objective is a little bit more uncomfortable than it should be. The aim of the start of the game is to unlock the map, which will be greyed out until you have travelled there. What is frustrating is that as your way marker for the next objective is in a clouded part of the map, it isn’t always clear how to get there. This is exacerbated when paths are intentionally blocked until you have found enough people to move the object in the way. I ended up going down many dead ends and having to backtrack en route to my objectives.
As you explore, more paths are found, and the land is littered with enemies to slay, items to find and people to meet. Defeating enemies and finding items will grant you materials to help craft stronger items for you and your team back in the hub world. As you strike out further and further from the base, you can start to camp out in the wilds to save time travelling. However, your base itself periodically comes under attack, played out in a tower defence-like manner when you defend it. Items can be crafted to defend your base, such as barriers that make it harder for enemies to infiltrate. These sections are a nice change of pace, and original to play in a JRPG, but occasionally happen too frequently, interrupting the flow of gameplay.
The world about you, although not entirely bland, isn’t exactly brimming with detail or life either. There was a vast array of different enemy types to face, however, the foliage of the surrounding land has more detail and interest than the bland enemy character models. Unfortunately, the overall visual feel of the game is that of bland textures that just give the whole game a bit of a blocky feel to it. The PS Vita roots of Ys VIII clearly show.
The audio of the game is fairly standard, but the voice acting stands out in a positive way; Although the game is full of the normal JRPG character tropes, they each had a weight to their performances. The in-game effects in combat and the background tracks were lacking in interest, but it was noticeable that they had at least put effort into environmental effects, such as when talking or battling in caves, where the sound echoed convincingly.
YS VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana ticks every box of what you would expect of an action JRPG, and it has been well-documented why this is such a classy game to dive into, especially if you are new to the series. However, there is one big elephant in the room. I’m really struggling to recommend the PS5 version of the game as there are barely any technical upgrades over the PS4 version. Having played Ys VIII on the PS4, all my eyes can discern graphically is that lines are sharper and the colour saturation appears to have been increased, causing the visuals to pop a little too much. For a simple game originally designed for the PS Vita, it wasn’t really pushing the PS5, so it easily maintained a steady 60 fps throughout. The DLC included was also nothing more than character skins, but the most egregious missed opportunity is the lack of haptic feedback for anything in the game.
It is also worth noting that the PS4 versions of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana and Ys IX: Monstrom Nox are currently included as part of the PlayStation Plus Extra service.
YS VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is a classic JRPG adventure and one of the best games from Nihon Falcom. A true adventure game of pure escapism that, even though it’s six years old, is still as enjoyable an experience to play through today as it was back in 2016. It combines a captivating story with excellent yet simple game mechanics, and features a wonderful cast of interesting characters, with never a dull moment.
However, as much as I support Nihon Falcom revisiting its historic game library for new console owners to experience, releasing an old game with minimal technical upgrades at near the full RRP of the original won’t win them many new fans. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is an all-time classic that frankly deserved more love, care and attention than it got for this PS5 version.
The Latin translation of Lacrimosa means weeping/tearful. Ironically, this is the feeling I got playing Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. Nihon Falcom had the opportunity to harness the PS5’s power and do something special for this deserving game, but sadly it wasn’t to be.