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Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana (PS5) Review

Over the last few years I’ve reviewed a few games in the Ys series, both Ys IX: Monstrum Nox and Ys: Memories of Celceta. The former has an enhanced PS5 version due for release next year and the latter was an enhanced port of the original PS Vita and PC editions which launched a few years prior. Following the trend of re-releasing fan-favourite titles with updated visuals and/or performance, next week NIS America and Nihon Falcom are bringing back Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana on the PlayStation 5!

I never actually got around to completing Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana on the PS4, despite owning it since launch, so I was determined to see this new edition through to the end credits regardless of how long it took. Thankfully, we’ve had the game for a while now so I was able to put in almost 200 hours and not only reach the end but also complete it twice and grab the platinum trophy. Having done so, I have the urge to go back and do the same for the PS4 version – just like how I bought and platinumed the PS Vita version of Tokyo Xanadu after grabbing the platinum and reviewing Tokyo Xanadu eX+ on the PS4.

As stated above, Ys IX is also getting the PS5 upgrade treatment next year, despite the current PS4 version already running at 4K and 60fps when played on a PS5 console. Plus, Ys X has just been announced with a launch window of 2023 on the PS4, PS5, and Nintendo Switch. It’s a great time to be a Ys fan, even better if you’re new to the series and get to experience all of these for the first time!

So, let’s talk about the game and the PS5 upgrades (if there are any), and see if it’s worth picking up Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana on the PS5 (as it’s not a free upgrade)…

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Ys Viii 1

Adol’s looking rather dashing, with his mini Inspector Rean hugger

Despite being number eight in the mainline series, each Ys game has a self-contained story – no prior knowledge is required in order to enjoy whichever game you pick up first. However, there is one common element throughout all of the Ys games (not including Ys Origin), the red-headed protagonist is Adol Christin. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana begins with a very common event for poor Adol, the ship he’s on is attacked by a giant creature, resulting in him being washed up on a beach with no weapons, armour, or knowledge of the island.

After meeting up with a few fellow ship-wrecked passengers, they establish a base and decide they need to survey the island whilst looking out for other survivors – a fairly simple task made much more dangerous due to the island currently being inhabited by creatures ranging from plant-based monsters to giant prehistoric beasts. To top it off, since washing up on the island Adol has been having dreams about Dana, a mysterious girl from ancient times that seemingly has a connection to both the island and Adol’s fate.

As you explore the island, mapping out every single nook and cranny whilst documenting landmarks and gathering locations, you’ll begin to uncover the truth behind the woman in your dreams, unlock new abilities that allow you to explore new uncharted locations, and investigate long-forgotten dungeons in search of a fight with creatures much, much bigger than you! There’s a lot to do in Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, just like in any Nihon Falcom game, especially if you’re going for the platinum – multiple playthroughs are recommended but you can possibly do it all in one if you’re a gluten for punishment!

Ys Viii 2

This is no time to take a nap!

Gameplay
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is a JRPG with real-time combat, multiple switchable characters, unlockable and upgradable skills, and it has a big emphasis on exploration and adventure. You initially have just Adol in your team, quickly expanding to two then three people, with three others joining over time, yet you can only have three active at once. Each of the characters has their own weapons and skills, so swapping them around in order to focus on the enemy’s weak points is a must when playing on the harder difficulties – it also encourages you to play as everyone rather than sticking to Adol for the whole game.

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The game has a Metroidvania feel to it as you’ll often come across walls that are too high, swamps you sink in, water you can’t breathe under, and big piles of rubble that you’re too weak to remove on your own – each of which requires an ability or more people in your camp in order to overcome. As such, you have to move on and return once you have the required item or survivors to overcome the obstacle. What makes this even funnier is the fact that Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana literally has the Super Metroid ‘item acquisition theme’ every time you pick up a key item – this seems to be a thing that’s happened since Ys I, I’m not quite sure why though!

One of the key gameplay mechanics of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana has to be the dual-era sections. Most of the game is played from Adol’s perspective as he investigates the island, but you also get to play as the mysterious Dana rather than simply watching a cutscene or finding notes to read. The interesting thing is, Dana can also feel Adol in the future, so she (under your control) can do things such as fixing the flow of water or plating trees so that they create paths and unlock routes for Adol in the future. Ys IX had a similar mechanic with Adol and the prisoner, but I like how Ys VIII basically has a time manipulation aspect to it.

Ys Viii 3

The bigger they are, the harder they fall!

Combat
I simply love the combat in the Ys games, it’s always very fluid, satisfying, and intense – Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is no exception. Each of the characters has four skills assigned at once, which are activated by holding R1 and one of the face buttons. The more you use them, the more powerful they get. Then, as the character levels up, they obtain new skills which can be swapped in. If you’re going for the platinum them you have to max out every skill, so you’re effectively forced to be diverse and use every character and all their skills for numerous hours – which is great as I would have probably just stuck to the initial skills if I didn’t have to level them all up. 

Although you can create and find new armour and accessories, the weapons you use are much more limited. Sure, once you have a blacksmith you can give her materials and she’ll level up your current weapon a few notches, but you have to progress in the story and get a key item before she’ll actually create a new weapon for each of the characters. On one hand I found this refreshing, as I don’t like being overwhelmed with hundreds of weapons as I try and figure out which one I should use, but it also means you may find some enemies take a long time to kill on the higher difficulties.

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However, once you’ve got a decent weapon, you’ve found the skills you love, your party consists of two other people you’ve kitted out and assigned fun skills to, and there are a lot of enemies begging to be slaughtered, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is a dream to play and so, so satisfying! I replayed a few of the raids multiple times simply because you have a massive horde of creatures running at you whilst you simply stand there and slash away until the battlefield is layered with all their dead bodies (well, until they fade away upon death).

Ys Viii 4

She may look cute, but you don’t want to mess with her!

Raids and Hunts
Aside from the main gameplay where you’re running around the island starting a fight with every creature you see, you’ll periodically be called back to your base due to an invasion from the aforementioned beasts that have tracked you down. These side activities come in two flavours, Raids and Hunts. The Raids have you basically defending your base from numerous waves of enemies that increase in strength. For example, you may start with a few groups of alien worm-like creatures and birds, then some small dinosaur-like beasts, followed by giant T-Rex monsters looking for food. 

The hunts are a little different as this time you’re the attacker and they’re defending – kinda. You have to light torches whilst taking out giant bug nests that continuously spawn enemies. Once you have control of the area with the lights, the big boss appears with a bunch of minions. Simply take it down as fast as you can, and as creatively as you can, and victory will be yours!

Most of these side activities are optional unless you’re going for the platinum, with only a few pushing the story forward at certain points. As I mentioned above, I really enjoyed working through these as all of my characters were badasses and it was lots of fun having waves of enemies to simply butcher without too much difficulty, but it did take a while to get through them all. However, this was a great place to get all of my skills up to their maximum level – you can simply spam the attacks in the field, whether attacking an enemy or not, but you may as well kill two birds with one stone (sometimes literally).

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Ys Viii 5

That’s a bit unfair… he has no chance!

Side Missions
If you’ve played a Nihon Falcom game before, you’ll know how much they love to cram in as many side activities and missions as they can. In Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, we see the return of the journal – just like in Trails of Cold Steel 1, 2, 3, 4 and Tokyo Xanadu eX+. However, I found filling out the various pages in here much easier thanks to the detailed list of requirements and the fact there are literally no locations you can’t return to before facing the final boss.

First of all, almost every survivor you bring back to your village will eventually as you to do a quest for them via the notice board. Completing all of these gains you reputation points which leads to the ‘true ending’ and additional support during Raids. I, stupidly, missed a quest in my first ‘Easy’ playthrough so I had to complete every quest again during my second ‘Nightmare’ run (which made it a little harder). Also, there are a bunch of gifts you can find in various chests or on the floor, or you can craft them in your base, which you can give to your new roommates in order to unlock information about them and also raise your reputation.

A lot of these quests are very similar, taking out a group of enemies or delivering certain resources, but some are a little different such as climbing a mountain to return a fallen egg or escorting a nun on a pilgrimage. Dana, when you control her in the past, also has her own missions for you to complete – seriously, there’s quite a lot to do outside of the main story missions if you’re going for 100% and the platinum trophy. You’re also required to catch every single type of fish and feed it to a bird and cook every meal to feed to the legendary Mishy from the Trails series (maybe it originated here and was a guest over there?).

Ys Viii 6

1, 2, 3, 4, 5; once I caught a fish alive…

The grind
If you’re looking for a quick 20-30 hour game, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana isn’t the game for you! Nihon Falcom games often have the same bunch of long-winded trophies which usually result in hours upon hours of grinding and running around like a headless chicken. Thankfully, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana was one of the easiest and less confusing games to grab the elusive platinum within, having only looked at a guide for the fish locations. Aside from that, I was able to easily work everything else out for myself even though it took me probably twice as long as resorting to a guide (around 180 hours for two playthroughs).

So, what are the longer trophies? As we’ve seen many times before, you have to defeat one of every enemy, catch all the fish, make all the meals, 100% complete the map, open all chests in one playthrough, collect every item (over 400 of them), find all the landmarks, complete all the quests, get max reputation, and unlock every character profile text. This seems like a lot, and it is, but you’ll get most of these organically and only a few things are missable – mainly the quests if you don’t complete them in time.

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As I said above though, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana‘s journal makes it very easy to see what you’ve missed – it tells you how many chests you have in each region, missing enemies are listed under the location they’re in, character profile texts aren’t time-sensitive as they are based on gifts and events with each character, and every section of your inventory has a tally letting you know how many items you’re missing in each. As such, as long as you pay attention to the quests and ensure you fully map out each area and open all the chests, you can easily complete the game without outside help – which is very satisfying.

Left: PS4 | Right: PS5

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ps5

PS5 features
Here’s what you’ve all been waiting for – what’s the difference between the PlayStation 4 and 5 versions? Sadly, not a lot. I took a screenshot on both the PS4 and PS5 above, you can swipe to see the subtle differences – outside of the resolution (PS4 is 1080p and the PS5 is 4K), there’s not much difference. However, the NIS America blog mentioned that it has “improved textures and shadow detail, as well as increased draw distances”. Additionally, you can natively play the game with a keyboard and mouse, with every key fully re-mappable in the menu.

There is a secret mode on the PS5 version though – you can run it at 1080p and 120fps, but ONLY if you manually set your PS5 output to 1080p in the system settings before loading Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. Otherwise, the game will simply load at 4K and 60fps by default – there’s no in-game toggle to switch between the two modes. I liked the 120fps mode, but the dip to 1080p was too much for me (it also looks like various visual effects and settings are also lowered, such as lighting and shadow quality). As such, I opted to play at 4K/60 about 90% of the time – it was much sharper and there were literally no dips under 60, not even when I had a screen full of enemies attacking me and I was constantly using particle-heavy skills over and over again (Which really slows down the original PS4 version).

I find it sad that the 120fps mode is limited to 1080p – I imagine there’s a lot of headroom on the PS5 so it would have been better to see a 1440p mode or even a 2160p mode with an unlocked framerate for those of us with a VRR display. If games like Uncharted 4, God of War Ragnarok, and Spider-Man can, I don’t see why Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana can’t.

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In terms of load times, they practically don’t exist. You’re asked if you want to disable loading screen tips to decrease the wait times, resulting in around 1-2 seconds at most when entering a new place or fast travelling. Sadly, there’s no support for the adaptive triggers – which could have worked well if they were adjusted to react differently depending on what skill you’re performing, and there were no activity cards either – although these may appear when the trophies go live as I’ve had it before where they’re not there until the trophies are active. 

Ys VIII 8

Don’t we all look pretty…

Additional content
Just like the PS4 version, when you complete the game you get the option to speedrun each boss in a new menu, as well as take part in a boss rush where you face one after another. However, there are no trophies relating to this mode so it’s just for fun. Also, as part of the new PS5 version you get the following DLCs by default:

– Laxia’s ‘School Swimsuit’ Costume (previously PS4 Japan exclusive)
– Laxia’s ‘Greek Summer’ Costume (previously PS4 Japan exclusive)
– Hug Hug Instructor Rean (previously PS4 Japan exclusive)
– Adol’s ‘Silver Armor’ Costume
– Adol’s ‘Adventurer Clothes’ Costume
– Laxia’s ‘Eternian Scholar’ Costume
– Tropic Swimwear Costume Set – For Adol, Laxia, Dana, and Ricotta
– Deserted Pirate Costume Set – For Adol, Laxia, Sahad, Hummel, Dana, and Ricotta
– Hug Hug Accessory Set – Feena, Lilia, and Dark
– Ancient Mask Set
– Stylish Glasses Set
– Stylish Sunglasses Set

If it’s anything like the previous versions of the game, we may also get some free resources DLCs and paid-for packs once the game goes live. However, due to this version now being ‘different’ to the already existing PS4 version (as it has DLC included), there’s no free or paid upgrade for the game. This means that if you own the game on the PS4 (or through PS Plus), you have to pay full price should you wish to upgrade.

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Finally, if you’re able to get your hands on the physical Limited Edition of the game, you’ll get the game, a poster, bookends, an art book, a hardcover book about Adol’s journey, a steel book, a collector’s box, and a CD with five tracks, two of which are Christmas themed and have never been officially distributed outside of Japan before. There’s also a physical ‘Deluxe Edition’ which contains the game, art book, and the aforementioned CD.

Left: 1080p / 120fps Mode | Right: 2160p / 60fps mode

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ps5

Should you pick this up?
Yes and no. If you’ve never played the game before, or you really like the game and want to play it all over again and grab a new set of trophies, then yes – this is the definitive console version of the game although it would have been nice if the developers would have implemented the co-op feature they added to the PC version back in 2020. I had a blast playing through it again, I had forgotten most of the story so it felt new to me, yet I instantly recognised and loved the fluid combat which was even more satisfying now there were no slow down or performance issues.

However, if you’ve recently played the game or you’ve just started it via PS Plus, it’s really hard to recommend as there’s almost no difference outside of the resolution, minor visual effects, and a handful of costumes when you play the PS4 version on a PS5 console. Also, there’s no option to import PS4 saves into the PS5 version so you can’t carry on from where you’re up to or (thankfully) import and claim a 10-second platinum trophy.

Personally, I would have loved it if the game had the same treatment as Tokyo Xanadu did when jumping from Vita to PS4, giving you more content to justify buying the game again. However, the game is literally identical to the PS4 version, with the localisation improvements which were patched in when the Switch version was released a few years ago. Even if it just had the co-op function as a unique feature, that would have been enough to recommend you pick it up should you wish to play with a friend or family member, but that’s a pc-only feature at the moment. Or, considering this is a PS5-only enhanced edition, some outfits based on popular PlayStation franchises would have been a nice extra, like we see in Sackboy almost every month.

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In short, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana on the PS5 is brilliant, it looks and plays beautifully, it’s just not very different to its last-gen slightly-uglier identical brother.

Official trailer:

Final Conclusion:
I loved playing through Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, clocking in almost 200 hours over the last few weeks. The PS5 allows the game to run super smooth and without any performance issues at a solid 4K and 60fps (or 1080p and 120fps if you adjust the system settings), delivering the definitive console edition. The combat is satisfying, the story is intriguing, there’s always something to do, and mapping out the entire island is very addictive and fun. If you’ve not played the game before or you loved it on last-gen machines, this enhanced version is for you; if you’ve recently played it on the PS4, this is essentially the same game but at a higher resolution and with no option to import your saves. 

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana (PS5) Review

9

Final Score

9.0/10

The Good:

  • Great story with lots of lore and intriguing moments
  • The combat is silky smooth and satisfying
  • Lots of things to do whilst mapping the entire island
  • One of the best JRPG games on the PS4/5
  • Has both a 4K/60 and 1080p/120 mode

The Bad:

  • No upgrade option for existing owners
  • No save import
  • No use of Adaptive Triggers, Trophy Tracking, or Activity Cards
  • No additional content over the PS4 version, bar some costumes
  • Doesn't include the PC-only Co-op mode
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