By William Haderlie / September 12th, 2017
Gaining new villagers will also drastically help you with both Interceptions and Suppressions as well. Even though they are ostensibly fighting on the other front (if you are fighting on the shore, they will fight on the mountain or vice versa), they will assist your combat party as well, but only one at a time. There is a timer that ticks down and each castaway will offer their own particular brand of help. Most of your merchants will help by restoring your defenses or giving buffs, while villagers like Dogi and the most badass grandma ever,, (with respect to Rosie Beestinger) Sylvia, will help by joining briefly for a very devastating area attack. Working on the affection of your fellow castaways will increase the effectiveness of their assist abilities and some will not even help at all until you get their affection high enough (most of those are not castaways, though, they are island natives). So while you do not change the weapons and equipment of all the members of the village, working on their affection is just as important as it is for your combat party. As a result, there becomes quite the large list of interesting characters that Adol gets to know and love, a far larger cast than in previous Ys games. As you would imagine, you learn more about every character as their affection increases as well. Once the affection is maxed, you will have a special scene just between Adol Christin and that character.
Even though the relationships you form with all the villagers are interesting, they will never supersede your combat group. In fact, this is easily my favorite group of characters in an Ys game, and I’ve been trying to decide why. I suspect that it’s probably a mixture of both really enjoying the way they were written and acted, but also because you spend around twice as much time with them than your group in any previous Ys game. Your two party members with Piercing attacks are Laxia and Hummel. Laxia is the daughter of a noble family but is a studious researcher and seems to be much more educated about the ancient species (basically dinosaurs) that occupy this island than your average citizen would be. Hummel is a very secretive young man that seems to be either in his older teens or young twenties, and it will take a while before he joins your party as a permanent member and even longer before you learn about what he is doing there at all. Your two strike characters are extremely different, Sahad and Ricotta. Sahad is a large boisterous fisherman from Greek (the Ys version of Greece) who has a wife and child waiting for him to come back home, he has a lot of health and damage but is pretty slow. Ricotta however was not a member of the initial ship’s manifest, she is a young teenage girl who has been shipwrecked on the island since before she could form memories. She’s a bit like Tarzan in that she learned to talk to the animals and a couple of them took her under their wing, but a couple years ago an older gentleman also arrived on the island who basically adopted her as his own child and taught her about people and how to speak.
You may notice that at this point in the review I have not even talked about what the title of this game means and who is Dana. I’m still not going to say what the Lacrimosa is, that is way too much of a spoiler, but if you would like to go into this game not knowing anything about Dana, skip the following couple paragraphs. Frankly I consider it preferable to not know going in, so you can be surprised a bit, but the story remains a very good one even knowing what will happen. Through the first 30 hours of the game Adol Christin was dreaming of a girl who became the Maiden of the Tree in a kingdom that he didn’t recognize. And he only started having those dreams after crashing on the Island of Sihren. His dreams initially are short snippets of the girl’s life and he learns that her name is Dana. Eventually, after she becomes the Maiden, his dreams become much more pronounced and you (as the player) are able to control Dana for short periods while you complete certain quests. Once you reach a certain part of the island, almost half way through the game, you realize that Dana was in fact from the very distant past and living in a kingdom that used to be located on this island. Dana starts to dream about Adol as well and they slowly realize that they are not dreaming and they are basically sharing events from each other’s time. As a result Dana is able to offer some small assistance to the party in Adol’s time by establishing routes to areas that they are cut off from. Initially that is all in the effort of searching for the remainder of the castaways, but eventually it becomes a lot more important to find out what happened to Dana and her people, the Eternians. Through a series of events that you will not understand fully for a lot longer, Dana is able to join your party in the future. She is able to be the counterpart to Adol in the party, also using slash type attacks, and is a very powerful character in her own right.
Dana does not have to fight quite as much as your normal party does in the future, under normal circumstances. But there is an optional dungeon exclusive to her time that will allow you to reach the True Ending of the game. So if you want that outcome it’s very important that you get really good at fighting with her solo. To assist with that she eventually earns two new forms that she can switch into (using the same button you would switch characters in your main party) that change many aspects of how she attacks, the damage type, and the properties of her special moves. Even her EXE moves (basically limit breaks) change between each form. As she moves through that dungeon old school fans will notice that it is much more similar to the dungeons of the old Ys games, which is a nice throwback. Some of the bosses in there can get fairly tricky and there is an added difficulty of not being able to die or you will get an automatic Game Over screen (she does not have any other party members to hit her with a revive item). But it never felt brutally difficult, it stayed fun and I was able to get 100% of all the treasures in that dungeon.
One of the interesting features that is a large improvement over Celceta is in the dungeon size and design. The world itself is a lot larger than the one in that game, but also the dungeons are much more frequent and they are also much larger. I also find it very interesting that they tended to feel almost like dungeons you would find in a Legend of Zelda game (well a classic one anyway, it’s my largest complaint about Breath of the Wild). Not only are there puzzles to be found, but there are also items that you gain in the dungeons that help you navigate them easier, midbosses that usually guard the dungeon items, and then a final boss to clear the dungeon. Not only are there quite a few of these dungeons, some small and some large, but several of them also change form (and difficulty) by adding on a Night Exploration form. You always need to accept a quest to gain access to a dungeon’s Night Exploration initially, but after you have performed that quest you can go back to that night version of the place again if you want. And there is good reason to do so, you gain more experience and you can harvest much better items over night, some of them exclusive to that region.
Falcom is known for putting a lot of love and care into their games, which is a good reason why there is such a long wait between games (Ys VII was 2009 and Memories of Celceta was 2012). If anything, I would say that they went even above and beyond what they were capable of before. Everything in this game, from the enemy designs to the map to the ancient city architecture, just bleeds attention to detail. NIS America also did a really good job on localizing the script and getting some really solid voice acting out of their English crew. They also provide the Japanese track with the game, not needing to download any DLC in order to use it. I think that the Japanese cast is slightly better, but for a game like this where they are ostensibly in the Mediterranean, there is really no need to choose one track over the other than for personal taste. However, as good as the voice work is, there is no doubt that the soundtrack is where this game truly shines. This is by far my favorite soundtrack of the Ys series and is in a tight race with Persona 5 for my favorite game soundtrack of the year. Right from the opening title screen you will be struck at how beautiful the music is, and it stays consistent throughout the entire game. There is an extremely small gripe that I wish this game was only made for PlayStation 4 and PC because you can tell that the PS Vita port held them back a bit. But it still looks like a very beautiful game and is a massive upgrade over Ys: Memories of Celceta (also on PS Vita). Playing the PS4 version you will even be surprised that some of the visuals would even be possible to port over to the handheld, and a lot of that is because of outstanding art direction.
Throughout the Ys series, replaying the games has been a major staple, from accessing all new dungeons and characters to achieving new endings. Likewise with this game you have many reasons to start a game of New Game+, and many different options to choose from with what data you want to carry over and what difficulty you want to go with. There are far too many New Game+ options to be able to list here, but the adjustable difficulty going from Easy all the way to Inferno is a major part of the replayability as well. I went through the game on Normal, and the game was just challenging enough for my controlled character to die a few times, but not enough that I ever had to grind levels or see a Game Over screen. And it was a good thing I didn’t have to take the time to grind levels, because this is a very massive game. The final boss and a couple optional bosses were higher levels than I was at the end, but not so high that I couldn’t beat them. All told it took me just over 80 hours to achieve the True Ending for the game. That time is without doing any of the New Game+ stuff and is before I did some of the Time Trials that are unlocked after finishing the game. You could get an ending faster than that, but without speed running and incurring a lot of risk you are not going to finish the game much faster than that. This game is simply around twice as long as the largest Ys game previous to it. It stayed extremely fun throughout and the carrot on the stick of finding new castaways to upgrade the village was a powerful drug for me. Many times I just could not stop playing this game and it impacted my sleep schedule severely. So is this worth a full $59.99 game price? Without a doubt, and this game is even pushing games like Persona 5, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Neir: Automata for my game of the year thus far. I have liked the Ys series thus far, but these changes are exactly what I needed to make me love it.
Review Copy Provided By The Publisher
Pages: 1 2FalcomJRPGNIS AmericaPlayStation 4YsYs VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana