The long-running Y’s Franchise brings its combat-heavy style RPGs into the modern era with this new, vibrant entry. But is it worth your time?
Traditionally, I’m not a big RPG fan. I always think they look like fun, but I don’t tend to have the patience or time to sink into them nowadays. But just as I was looking around for my next big game to sink my teeth into, along comes Y’s VII: Lacrimosa of Dana. So I thought I’d give it a shot.
And believe me, I wasn’t disappointed.
In case, like me, you were unaware of the juggernaut that is the Y’s franchise, then allow me to fill you in on the important bits. You play as the hero Adol Christin who has, over time, saved the world more times than you have had hot dinners. Consequentially he has no issues with introducing himself as an adventurer, and has a loyal follower Dogi, who travels with him towards a new and exciting adventure.
But, the adventure they are aiming for is not the adventure they end up on.
The tutorial at the start of the game takes place on the Lacrimosa, a ship that Adol and Dogi have boarded to travel to their next destination, working as part of the crew to pay for their passage. And this tutorial works very well. It gradually introduces you to the basic mechanics of the game and teases you with backstory and plot elements that will prove important down the line – most notably the mention of the Isle of Seiren, a mysterious island that causes any ships nearby to crash. And wouldn’t you know, just as the Lacrimosa is travelling past the Isle, it is attacked by giant tentacles (because, well, it’s Japanese. Why not giant tentacles!)
Once Adol has defended the ship against one tentacle (teaching you the simple yet exciting combat mechanics in the process), then the ship is destroyed by the rest, and Adol finds himself washed up, alone, on the shores of an island.
And here is where the game proper starts. You soon find some other castaways, and then you begin the game, with the twin objectives of finding all the castaways, and keeping everyone safe while you figure out a rescue plan.
I’m not going to go into any more detail regarding the plot, as it’s nice to keep some things a surprise, but it is pretty engaging and will give you onwards monmentum by wondering what will happen next.
So, what’s the gameplay itself like? It’s an action-RPG, with the emphasis firmly on action. There’s a lot of fighting beasts in this game, which is great. You very quickly end up with a three-strong party all of whom have strengths and weaknesses, and you can instantly switch between them with a press of a button, allowing you to easily mix up your combat styles when you are being set upon by multiple beasts at once.
Your main story quests are normally pretty well signposted too, so you don’t end up suffering from RPG-fatigue (where you can’t figure out what you are meant to do next) which is always a good thing in my book. There are also a decent array of side quests (even if most of them are fetch-quest based) so you do get plenty of game for your money.
The combat mechanics are great. With one attack button, it may sound a bit limited, but the addition of equippable skills and other mechanics, combined with the different attacks by different members of your party and the different attack methods from the variety of enemies, mean that one fight will usually feel different to the next.
And the enemies are excellent! There are lots of low-level enemies about (as you would expect) but I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly you encounter other, bigger beasts. The biggest ones tend to show up and lock you into an arena style battle – and they can be difficult, but so rewarding once you have defeated them. Your best friend in these battles is the dodge roll, but it’s not as forgiving a mechanic as it is in other games – you get very few frames of invincibility, so you need to be sure you are dodging out of the way, not just rolling, as you’ll still get hit otherwise!
Special mention must also go to the music, as it’s beautiful and perfectly fitting. Yes, occasionally you do end up hearing the same piece a few too many times (especially when you are exploring around the island), but really it is perfect for the game.
So I really liked this game, right? Well, yes and no. I enjoyed it immensely, but there were a few niggles that I wish had been improved.
Because it was originally designed as a PS Vita game, Y’s VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is very segmented in its world. Each area is divided into smaller sections, and whenever you enter them you get a (usually very short) loading screen. This is both good and bad. It’s great if you are trying to achieve a particular goal, as if you haven’t done everything in that section it won’t let you continue, but it’s bad in that it just makes the world feel a bit piecemeal. The other issue with it is that every enemy (with the exception of the big boss beasts) respawn every time you cross into a new section. So if you are exploring an area and crossing back and forwards as you try to locate a marking on your map, then you’ll be fighting the same creatures time and time and time again.
Speaking of the map, it’s almost brilliantly designed. It gives you clear markings of where you need to go to continue the main story as well as other important things marked on it as well. Unfortunately, these markings are pretty large, so if you’re trying to locate one particular place, then it’s not going to help you narrow it down to an exact match – but that’s a petty quibble.
My other niggle is with the number of invisible walls in the game. Again, I suspect this is due to the fact it was originally designed for the PS Vita (and I know I’ve been spoiled by Zelda: Breath of the Wild as well), but it’s frustrating that you cannot jump off a cliff path to drop to the floor 8 feet below in some sections, but you can in others. Especially when you can always follow the path round and then it’ll be fine.
But as I said, these issues are minor. It’s a fun game, and certainly sucked me into spending hours on it. It doesn’t really do anything new with the Action-JRPG genre, but if it sounds like your kind of game, then I highly recommend it.