Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana review for PS Vita, PS4

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS4, PC
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Medium: Digital/Card/Disc
Players: 1
Online: No

As I wrote a few years ago, Ys has long been one of my favourite franchises. Ys Seven is one of my all-time favourite games, and Ys: Memories of Celceta has been a mainstay on the first page of my Vita since it came out. So my big question for Ys VIII was: would it live up to my expectations?

The answer is a pretty definitive yes. In fact, re-reading my review of Memories of Celceta, I’m struck by how much of what I liked about that game goes for Ys VIII, too.

The combat, of course, is still enjoyably fast-paced. You have your choice of a number of characters, all with different fighting styles, and can switch between them with ease. Similarly, the monsters are delightfully varied; while you see some of them repeating, you never get a sense that you’re just fighting the same few creatures over and over again.

Ys VIII’s map is also pretty huge — but, at the same time, it always feels manageable. Key destinations and points of interest are helpfully marked, so you never feel as if you’re just wandering aimlessly, hoping to stumble across something. Seeing as the point of the game is to map an enormous island, that’s a pretty nice feature.

And, to round out the theme of “it’s like the last game, in a good way”: Ys VIII maintains the ability to save your game everywhere.

In other respects, however, Ys VIII goes well beyond its predecessor. For starters, it’s gorgeous, even on the Vita. I went back and compared it to Memories of Celceta, just to be sure that I wasn’t succumbing to recency bias, and there’s really no question that this is the nicer-looking game. Not only do the cutscenes look miles beyond what the previous game ever even attempted, the in-game visuals look substantially better. Where everything looking like it was covered in vaseline last time out, this time around the characters and their environment look crisp and clear.

Ys VIII also features much more compelling characters. The game breaks up the Adol and Dogi for the first little while, which gives some of the other supporting cast a chance to be developed. Admittedly, this isn’t all good: it means that the game gives itself over to a little bit of fanservice when Adol first meets a female character who, for no apparent reason, is bathing in a river. Even worse, more talking means that the game gives itself more opportunities to show off some interesting translations, which may distract from the game’s overall effect.

Even if the translation leaves a little to be desired, however, that’s all in Ys VIII that does. It’s another stellar entry in a franchise that’s full of them, and if you’re after an RPG that pushes the Vita to its limits (without ever breaking them), it’s a definite must-play.

Grade: A