Just a fun fact: “lacrimosa” is latin for “weeping”. This really fits into the overall story in YS VIII.
When YS VIII first launched in September of 2017 for PS4/Vita everywhere outside of Japan, it was met with… quite a bit of fan backlash due to having an abysmal translation. Other than this, it was praised as an amazing game. In a letter to all customers of YS VIII, the CEO of Nis America, Mr. Takuro Yamashita apologized to all fans for the awful translation, and said they hired a new translation team to fix all of the issues. Thankfully, we get the re-tranlsated version of the game on the Switch.
YS VIII reminds me of Final Fantasy 15. What do I mean by that? I mean that YS VIII does an incredible job of getting you to care for the characters in the game. Within two hours of starting YS, I was already excited and looking forward to what I would come to understand about the characters that you meet. Whether that be Adol, Dogi, Sahad, Laxia, etc. They all have an endearing quality about them. Sure, there are some cliches and tropes mixed in with their personality, Adol is “the chosen one”, Sahad is “the big loveable oaf”, Laxia is “the character who looks like they wouldn’t be able to fight but also the character who can actually kick anyone’s ass”. YS does a fine job of crafting these character’s relationships through random voiced dialogue while you roam the over world, during cutscenes, or body language.
As previously mentioned, there are some aspects of the story in YS VIII that are cliched, or played out, but honestly, in 2018, is there any new media created that isn’t cliched in some way? The story of YS VIII starts out, yep, you guessed it, quite cliched. The main character, Adol, and his trusty sidekick and friend, Dogi, on a ship named The Lombardia, heading to Eresia. Sadly, this trip is cut short by a massive sea creature, who I am going to assume is Cthulhu. This battle leaves the Lombardia sinking in the sea, and Adol washes up on the shores of Seiren Island, a place where no one has ever returned from.
While trapped on the island, you will meet up with your pal Dogi, and many other passengers from the Lombardia. Your goal then becomes “save everyone that you can, and get the hell off the island!” Because Seiren Island is cursed, you don’t really have any way to get off, nor do you trust using a raft, because the waters are much too rough. While plotting of a way to get back to civilization, you come across the Captain of the Lombardia, Captain Barbaros, he comes up with the idea of creating some sort of safe area for all the rescued castaways, dubbed… “Castaway Village”.
The music of YS VIII, and from what I can tell, the YS series in general, has always been meticulously created to fit each scene, the music helps the player relate with the story, and what the characters are going through. The genres of the music in YS VIII range from almost metal, punky, to more classic, and very grandiose and orchestrated.
Personally, I think that art direction is a much more important thing than just having the best graphics. There are many games out there that sure, look gorgeous but the art direction is just boring, or a mess. YS VIII may not have the most pretty graphics out there, some parts of the game, especially on Switch, look like they’re straight out of a late PS2/early PS3 game. And to me, that’s absolutely fine. I’ve actually spent most of my time playing YS VIII in handheld mode.
The graphics definitely take a hit when you play in handheld, but the performance works as you’d expect. Docked mode looks good! It’s once again, nothing that will blow you away, but popping the Switch into the dock and going straight to Docked mode is great. Playing YS VIII on the big screen is great too.
If you’re unfamiliar with the YS series, like I was, the combat and exploration can be summed up as a mix between the Tales of series, with a little bit of Zelda splashed in there. The combat is incredibly smooth, with an easy to learn, hard to master skill cap. I really enjoy that the battle system is completely open, allowing you to just run away from hordes of enemies, there’s no loading screen when you start battling. You have three party members, and they each have basic blocking, dodging, and combo attacks, then each character can have 4 skills equipped to them at each time, the skills can range from simple spinning sword attacks, to poisoning the enemy.
Movement in Ys is designed with speed and rhythm as the primary components. You’re character naturally moves fast on their own and the added roll, which can be used indefinitely with no cooldown, extends your locomotion into a frenzy. It actually feels like you are playing a game designed by a speed runner. The roll covers a good distance and can also be combined with your jump to cover even further. Although it looks goofy, it feels very satisfying to chain your jumps and rolls together to quickly move around the island.
In other games of this genre, movement may be hindered by design or by limitation. A large explorable island that has a consistent stream of enemies and pulsing rhythmic battle demands fast precise movement and thankfully Ys delivered on that.
As I haven’t played YS VIII on PS4/Vita, I can’t comment on the fact that it runs at 30fps on the Switch, but from my time playing it, I haven’t run into a single frame drop that my untrained eye can see, I’d say that if you were to place the three versions side by side, the Switch version would sit much closer to the PS4 than the Vita version.
Where the combat in YS VIII really shines is in its boss fights, and there are quite a few, thankfully! The boss fights are always a fun time, having to learn their attacks, then counter with yours. It sounds like a simple boss fight that has been in every JRPG before, but I don’t know, there’s just something about the boss fights in YS VIII that feel very carefully crafted. No attacks that bosses use are broken, and none that you, the player use, are broken. So it’s just purely about skill, there’s no crappy mechanics involved.
When it comes down to it, YS VIII is a great game. It begins with a bit of a slow burn, but starts ramping up a few hours in. The developers do a fantastic job of creating a world where you care about its inhabitants, especially the main cast and crew.