Despite being the 8th installment in the long-running JRPG series, newcomers can jump in without any prior knowledge of Ys. Most of their games are stand-alone but feature the same hero, Adol, and his friend, Dogi, and this time they’re stranded on a mysterious island which is rumoured to be cursed.
Adventurers Adol and Dogi are helping out on a ship to gain passage when they’re attacked by a tentacled monster, and they and many of the ships passengers find themselves stranded on the Isle of Seirin. People are rumoured to never return once they’ve arrived, leaving Adol and the other capable passengers to fight the island’s fearsome inhabitants and to find a way to return back to mainland. There’s a whole lot more to the island than anybody could’ve guessed though, and everyone finds themselves with a whole lot more than they’d bargained for. Of course, for the adventurers, this is a dream come true!
There’s a fascinating cast to learn about here and, as with most Falcom games, things take quite a while to get going but once they do, it’s hard to tear yourself away. That said, and although I’ve enjoyed Lacrimosa of Dana a lot, something about Falcom games feels lacking to me when it comes to narrative and character development. I don’t have much to complain about in regards to them, but something vital feels missing. I think it’s the game’s reliance on anime tropes, and that the work put in to really get something out of it can sometimes feel wasted. I’ve played some of Ys IV: Memories of Celceta on Vita, and Lacrimosa of Dana plays similarly from what I remember. It’s an action-RPG with real-time combat, and you’re able to swiftly change between the members of your party of three on the fly. Each character has pros and cons which make them better or worse for certain enemies, so you’ll be making good use of each character in no time! It’s easy to hit the shoulder buttons to use various items, and you can hotkey four skills to quickly use in battle. It’s straight-forward and easy to come to grips with, but it’s fast-paced and responsive, making for some stylish and engaging battles.
Lacrimosa of Dana has some stunning art and a generally eye-catching aesthetic, but it’s undeniable that Falcom are a little behind the times when it comes to visuals. Okay, okay, I know that visuals don’t make a game and I fully agree with this, but this doesn’t look any better than something you’d expect to see from the last generation of consoles. Past that, the character design is terrific and the 2D artwork is breathtaking, leaving for much to admire despite its fairly dated visuals.
Lacrimosa of Dana boasts some outstanding voice-acting, although I think it’s about time that they finally give Adol a voice of his own — he isn’t a self-insert, after all. The music is sublime too and I left the main menu running for a fair bit just to listen to its peaceful, melodic piano track.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is a great game, but as mentioned earlier, something feels missing. Falcom games take a long time to get going but also heavily rely on anime tropes, so often it doesn’t feel like it was worth the effort. If you like JRPGs then this is worth definitely checking out, especially as you don’t need prior knowledge of the series to play this one, but don’t go in expecting something as rich as the Persona, Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is far from a bad game, but it doesn’t do enough to help it truly stand out in a world where outstanding JRPGs are easier to find than ever.