By Anthony L. Cuaycong and Alexander O. Cuaycong
IT’S NOT HARD to understand why Nihon Falcom and NIS America have moved to port Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana in the Nintendo Switch. Having seen the title generate positive reception upon its release on the PlayStation Vita in 2016, on the PS4 last year, and on the PC earlier this year, they understand its potential to reach a new set of gamers via the hybrid console. Their confidence is not unfounded, and not simply because they carry a lot of weight in the gaming industry. More importantly, their latest contribution to the Ys franchise has been praised as the best yet.
In Ys VIII, longtime series protagonist Adol Christin again takes center stage, shipwrecked and stranded on the cursed island of Seiren, from which no one comes home. The game has him teaming up with other castaways, building and securing a base to house them all, and ultimately uncovering the mystery that surrounds the island. And for players, it helps that their sense of discovery is heightened in no small measure by the game’s compelling tone.
On the Switch, Ys VIII’s soundtrack is clear and manages to set scenes superbly; from the soothing orchestral pieces to the more intense combat music, the auditory experience, whether via the built-in speakers or through an attached headset, evokes wonderment. Meanwhile, the visuals, while not spectacular even on a monitor with the console docked, are nonetheless eye-catching and set the stage competently all the same.
Which is well and good, because no matter the setting (from lush jungle villages to dark and forgotten dungeons), there’s always something new for players to find. And, needless to say, exploration is integral to progression much in the same way as in the series’ other titles. Players will run through dungeons, scavenge for supplies, rescue fellow survivors, and slowly develop their quaint little village. Keeping it safe is top priority, thus requiring them to continually defend the village.
Thankfully, Ys VIII’s combat system is on point; employing a rock-paper-scissors approach to fighting, it evolves from its seeming simplicity, underscoring the importance of developing multiple skills and special attacks. These, along with a fluid grasp of the controls, are integral to beating some of the tougher monsters and bosses. And, certainly, real-time fighting is made more intense by the availability of up to six characters with distinct skill sets.
Story-wise, Ys VIII boasts of one of the better ones in the series. Set up nicely by the underlying narrative of the island’s curse, the need to survive is given due prominence. In this regard, the Switch makes for an ideal platform. It provides an especially unique experience on the go. True, it suffers from technical issues on occasion; frame drops and slowdowns, especially when there is a lot of onscreen activity, become evident and stunt graphical rendering, and it’s nowhere near to approximating the splendor churned out on a gaming rig. On the flip-side, the compromises on vibrancy and detail in favor of smoothness are such that it retains its visual appeal while allowing for complete portability. And though the Vita version offers the same, it’s such a marked improvement that any comparison is rendered moot.
Overall, Ys VIII is arguably the best game in the series to date, and the Switch does well to introduce it to Nintendo-loyal gamers who don’t own the other media it has already been released in. The good news is that its development on the hybrid console continues; four patches have already been released to address translation, downloadable content, and gameplay issues that hitherto bugged other incarnations, particularly that for the PC. Parenthetically, it should prove just as enticing to those who have played it before; its engrossing storyline and adrenaline-laced combat are well suited for undocked gameplay. It doesn’t come cheap at $59.99, but its depth and content (especially with all the DLCs ever released available from the get-go), not to mention propensity to coax those who pick it up to play it to completion, ensure game time in the high two figures. It takes a long, long while to finish, but its engrossing gameplay makes the hours pass by quickly, and the rewards are well worth the effort.
Video Game Review
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
• Compelling story
• Enjoyable, fast-paced, and rewarding combat mechanics
• Great soundtrack with nice visuals
• Provides a fantastic experience
• Technical issues on the go offset by complete portability
• Hardware limitations when docked make it a second choice vis-a-vis the PS4
• Flow and pace can be stunted by side quests
• Can show frame drops due to busy screen in handheld mode