Do you know the name "Adol Christin"?
If you don't know who he is, don't feel bad. Adol is the red-haired hero of the Ys series, a well-loved but niche JRPG series by Nihon Falcom. Silent and brave, Adol Christin has been slaying monsters, demons and gods with his sword since 1987. Thirty years later, Adol is taking on his biggest quest yet with Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana.
Ys VIII is the newest tale featuring Adol Christin, a fictional adventurer who has written journals about his travels, with each game being a tome of his work. His first recorded adventures were chronicled in Ys I & II. Ys VIII is an interquel, with the events of VIII being set between V and VI. The whole Ys saga is one continuous narrative but it isn't necessary to play all of the games; each one is a self-contained story.
Once again, Adol Christin finds himself shipwrecked in a new land. This time he finds himself stranded on the Seiren Isle, a cursed island known to sailors as a land that can never be escaped from. Fortunately, Adol isn't the only survivor. Upon meeting the Captain, Adol is tasked with exploring the island while seeking out survivors of the Lombardia, the passenger ship he was on before the shipwreck. He is also tasked to draw a map of the island and set up camps throughout during his expedition. As he maps out his findings, Adol finds new allies that help him out in his quest and they all band together to find out the mysteries of Seiren Isle and hopefully escape.
Intermittently, Adol will have dreams of a young woman named Dana, who seems to be linked to the island. As the story goes on, Adol will learn more about the island, the mysterious beasts there and Dana's role in the adventure herself.
Ys is known for its fast-paced action-packed battles. The battles are all in real time and fighting is more like a hack and slash game than a typical RPG, however, you do level up. Grinding doesn't feel like a chore at all and even then, there's no need to grind if you're playing normally. Nihon Falcom is famous for placing anti-grinding measures in their games to let the player move forward in the story. Adol doesn't fight alone: he and two other allies can fight at once. Each fighter has a specific weapon attribute that is used to defeat enemies with specific defenses, so there is an incentive to switch your characters up. Your characters learn skills as they fight so using these skills (and learning to defend and dodge effectively) is helpful in defeating the trademark giant monsters the series if famous for. And exploring the island automatically charts your map, so it's hard to get lost and it also evokes an exciting feeling of discovering uncharted territory. Ys never fails to show off nice scenery in each game and VIII is no different.
New toYs VIII is a tower defense game mechanic.The beasts of Seiren Isle are violent and it's up to the survivors to create a makeshift fortress and defend themselves. Throughout your adventure, you'll discover numerous resources and survivors and on occasion, you'll be alerted of an interception. Interceptions happen when a huge wave of monsters are closing in at your village and it's imperative that you fortify your defenses and be strategic in your offense when the waves come in. Helping out your fellow survivors via sidequests will make them like you more, which in turn gives you a better chance at successfully defending the village. The better the offense and defense, the fewer monsters reach your base. If the monsters completely destroy your defenses, it's game over. Others may like this new addition to the classic Ys formula, but personally, I'm not a fan of this mode. It breaks up the flow of the main adventure and I'm not big into tower defense games in general.
The only other thing that bugs me about Ys VIII is the localization. Localization duties are handled by NIS America this time and while the voice acting and the overall script are tolerable, there are inconsistent names, awkward locale translations, grammatical errors and a misleading objective for a sidequest. Thankfully, as of this writing, NIS America is issuing a patch to fix these issues. Hopefully, they'll be more careful with future releases.
Mind you, the rest of the game is amazing. The environments are colorful and easy on the eyes, the action is fast and the tunes are rockin' as always. The core boss theme in this game is becoming one of my all-time personal favorites in video game boss music songs. Ys is one of my favorite JRPG series and aside from the aforementioned localization issues, Ys VIII may be the best game yet.
Hint: Be sure to talk to the Captain every time you hit a 10% goal of charting your map (10%, 20% and so forth...)! You'll get a reward each time when you do. See him when your map is halfway done (50%) and you'll be able to fight like it's 1987!
by Ray n.
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