Ys VIII brings addictive ARPG qualities to Switch

Posted on July 17, 2018

With the Switch becoming increasingly popular as an option to port previous titles over to its handheld stylings, it’s surprising honestly that developers haven’t taken advantage of this in the JRPG space; with Octopath Traveler proving excellent and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 also holding up as quite popular, there is definitely room for other big hitters in this popular genre. Enter Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, releasing on PS4 last year but now available in the palms of your hands.

In our original review of the PS4 version last year, we said: “With several JRPGs making worldwide names for themselves, it’s hard to truly take notice of the hidden gem that is Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. Its addictive gameplay and interesting story are certainly worth praising, as this is an enjoyable game to spend many hours on.”

“It’s just a shame that it’s marred by a slight lack of originality and at times simplistic feel. Overall however, if you consider yourself a JRPG fan-boy like me, you should at least consider looking into picking up a copy of this latest instalment in the long-running Ys gaming series. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.”

Ys (pronounced “ease” – I checked) is definitely not a title that is going to change the way you think about JRPGs, but it does everything so solidly that you’re not likely to care if you have any interest in the genre at all. You start off with your protagonist, quickly gaining members of your party to explore a land, fight monsters and so forth. There are some cool wrinkles to the formula that do make Lacrimosa of Dana stand out a little bit, however.

There are survival elements at play, where you have a home base of sorts that needs supplies, and quests spawn from there too, including finding other shipwreck survivors to build up your community, which can then be used to access other areas. It’s a neat way of providing a consistent goal of development, something that JRPGs can lack if they are just on a “save the world” style narrative. This gives you missions that are based around growing and building, gathering supplies and such, along with defending your home against attacking monsters. The island itself is worth exploring too; while there are specific tasks to complete, there are optional dungeons and caves that warrant a look for hidden secrets.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana

It does suffer from a weak story and a lack of originality, mind you. As Kieren stated in his review, there are some JRPG tropes when it comes to the characters and writing that make the cast feel relatively forgettable. They’re not unlikable, they just don’t have any traits that set them apart.

Where it lacks in this department it makes up for with fast paced and addictive combat. I really enjoyed changing which character I was in control of on the fly, utilising a variety of abilities in quick succession to take down tricky bosses and stronger foes. The rock-paper-scissors style also means you’ll need to target enemy weaknesses with the relevant character, so it’s built into the tactics as well as being just plain fun.

Also, Ys VIII is not the best looking title when it comes to textures and visual fidelity. I like the enemy design and characters enough, but looking at any of the cliff faces or water effects quickly shows some shaky resolution in this port, especially in handheld mode. The frame-rate also dips on occasion. I know that this was a game that was designed for the PS Vita initially before coming to PS4 and now Switch, so graphical quality expectations should be lowered, but it’s still disappointing that some environments tend to look so ugly when I’m playing on the go.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana coming to Switch was a smart decision, filling a much needed gap in JRPGs, I would love nothing more than Nintendo’s newest success story to become a home for this style of game, as I feel like having a genre with this much depth on a platform that is so accessible just makes sense. While the port isn’t perfect, the gameplay itself holds up and is enjoyable throughout, making this still worth recommending for those eager to hack and slash their way through a generic but comfortable romp.