- Fantasy Violence
- Suggestive Themes
- Use of Alcohol
Editor’s Note: Since the publication of this review, a NIS America representative has clarified that there will be three patches beginning with one on release day to fix text issues.
“Progress. Progress never changes.” While a reference to Fallout, the statement also has some truth to it. Consider the fact that progress is forward movement to an intended destination- except once that destination is reached, there is another destination to be reach, followed by another. There is always progress to be made in our lives and operations, or else we would simply stop. Therefore, progress never changes. How does this relate to Ys Viii: Lacrimosa Of Dana, you may ask? Well, it is the core of the game’s lifeline. While researching for this review, I learned that this is the first 3D Ys game from developer Nihon Falcom. They took a decades old beloved action role-playing game (ARPG from this point forward) series and progressed it to the next logical point in the overall progression arch for the series. Luckily for newcomers to the series (like myself), the different games in the series are all standalone with minor mentions to the past and future games in the series timeline. Now, for the real question: how does this game standup on the Switch?
As mentioned above, this is Nihon Falcom’s first 3D Ys game, and it is very clear that they were inexperienced during the creation process of the game. The game is not a graphical masterpiece, even when it was first released in 2016, but it is impressive the developers made the jump to go full 3D which causes the two to cancel each other out. All the while, the game is presented as an open world game, but has boundaries that triggers loading scenes as the player is moved to a different area. This can get frustrating as you can head in the wrong direction after fast traveling and because some areas are just too small in this type of setup. Luckily, the loading screens are lightning quick. As such, the player is neither punished for heading in the wrong direction, nor has to look at a loading screen for too long. All of the above really levels each other out, but there are some very obvious issues that does not have a true “cancellation buddy.”
The first issue I take with Ys Viii is that the background feels flat when you compare it to the 3D character models; if you look closely, the clothes are pretty stagnant and “painted on.” I do try to give them some benefit of the doubt, as this is their first 3D game in the series. However, the list continues. Secondly (and sadly), there is a focus issue, in which the background consistently stutters as if it is going in and out of focus during cut screens. It may do it just once a cut screen or several times, but with its unfortunate consistency the player will spot it relatively quickly and grow tired of it soon after. Of course we also have to touch on the localization issues this game has had with earlier ports. Looking at reference photos from when the backlash happened, it is clear this version luckily has the new translation. However, there are still typos and grammatical errors even with the revision. This is disappointing, but at least publisher NIS America has actively attempted to make this issue right.
Despite the aforementioned issues, progress prompts forward motion, which is translated with grace into the gameplay. In particular, the combat is the smoothest area of the game. The combat can be best described as a quicker paced Xenoblade Chronicles 2, where instead of auto-attacking as you get close, the player manually attacks in real time. It is a highly addictive hack-and-slash combat loop that feels almost effortless, as it features largely no complex mechanics, thereby adding an emphasis on feeling fun. The player should be warned that there will be a lot of tutorials popping up- even 15 to 20 hours into the game. This normally would be fine, except they leave out important details (e.g., health does not auto-regenerate in dungeons) and it is not always clear you are in a dungeon unless you bring up the full map that then tells you. This is a minor complaint, but these quality of life additions would make for a more pleasing play through. The player will also enjoy the fact there are multiple fast travel locations in dungeons.
This is partly due to the fact that the story includes raids on the base camp that the castaways build after getting shipwrecked by a water-based beast during the opening chapter of the game. Once the raid “minigame” is presented to the player, it never fails to trigger while the player is in the middle of a dungeon. This may be by design, but the helpful mid-dungeon fast travel crystals makes the choice to save the camp much easier. While the beginning of the game is a slow burn, the ship part could have just been an extended opening cut screen, and really amounts to a bunch of back-to-back fetch guests. The flashes of the bigger story plot we get while Adol, the main protagonist, is sleeping keeps the player invested while the game builds to the point of Adol meeting Dana. The beginning of “Chapter Three” is probably the best teaser of what is to come, as the player gets to control Dana for a short period of time in an Inception-type dream of some sort.
The player should be warned that the game is heavy on the dialogue. Depending on the play style of the player, “Chapter Three” may not be reached until the 20-hour mark. This is mostly due to the dialogue, but this is also because “Chapter Two” is one of the longer- if not the longest- chapters in the game. It also is capped off by a plot-twisting murder mystery case that is wrapped up as quickly as it came. It does provide a nice change of pace for an otherwise above average story, but it should have been longer. Ideally, that murder mystery plot would have been its own chapter and would have taken about half of “Chapter Two” for it to all unfold. The biggest issue with the story is that it has to encompass the ARPG elements of the series with the base building elements of finding castaways and protecting them with a dash of ‘slice-of-life’ elements, such as fishing and doing quests for the castaways to keep them happy. It weighs on the story and the ‘slice-of-life’ elements just overall feel arbitrary.
Ys Viii: Lacrimosa Of Dana is a difficult game to rate as there are some glaring issues, but it is a massively fun and addicting game that allows the player to get fully immersed, with a beautiful soundtrack to boot. If it was based solely off of the story, gameplay, and music it would land around an eight out of ten. On the flip side, if it was based solely off of the graphics, technical performance, and localization it would be close to a five out of ten. Ultimately, I value the former a bit more than the latter, especially with a game that managed to get its tentacles around me and kept dragging me in to play or had me saying “just let me finish this quest.” If you are like me and value immersion in your games while seeing through some glaring issues, then this is a perfect game to purchase and spend many hours in. Truthfully, at least we can all appreciate Laxia nerding out over dinosaurs! (Ryan Williford; Gaming Editor)
Review Copy provided by NIS America; all games played in handheld mode.