As someone who hasn’t played a YS game before, I was quite excited when I saw YS 8 announced for Switch. I came into Ys with rather low expectations; it looked like a fun game to precede Xenoblade 2. After playing Ys 8, I can certainly attest to the popular opinion that its combat system is brilliant. But the rest of game left me wishing for more.
Ys starts you off on the Lambardia, following the storyline of Adol. Unfortunately, the Lambardia soon gets sunk and you wash up on a deserted island. Adol must then go around the island, looking for other survivors, finding the secrets of the island, and overall a way to escape the island. The story was very disappointing to me. The ending is great, but the first 20 hours of the game is basically spent by you going and exploring an area, returning to castaway village. They tell you good job and instruct you to explore somewhere else. Nothing happens in the story and everything just feels like it was going in circle.
Overall the story was slow to progress and was nothing special until near the end, but Ys 8 did a great job of having meaningful character progression. They built up the personalities and the personal stories of the main characters as you progress, which helped you connect with them. The voice acting is pretty bad with most characters, but that was something I was able to look past most of the time. Finally, there is not really any cinematic cut scenes in the game and whenever something other than a stock motion is needed, the game often cuts to a black screen and makes a sound effect. The lack of eventful cutscenes really helped to exemplify the dragging story.
While the story was underwhelming, the combat is where YS 8 shines. Ys is an action RPG game that lets you play as 6 different characters (not all are available the whole game). Each character has a certain type of enemy they are most powerful against, but they all have their own unique weapons and playing style. For example, Hummel uses a gun that can attack at distance, Sahhad is slow to attack but deals a lot of damage, and Adol has a sword that attacks quickly. Each character has their base attacks, along with special attacks that you unlock as you level up. These special attacks take magic and adds a lot variety to the combat. Finally, your main attack that takes a long time to charge up but will deal a lot of damage when used.
YS also has a dodge element with flash dodges and flash blocks that can be used right once an enemies is about to attack you. If you time it right, you will trigger a slow motioned attack. All these elements add to an in-depth and unique battle system that just works wonders. But by the end of the game, I was kind of growing tired of the combat system; the slow start took a lot steam out this game. You face a wide variety of enemies in Ys: Bugs, animals, and later in the game ancient animals (aka dinosaurs). The variety of enemies is pleasantly surprising and all have their own attacks and weaknesses. I never felt any had cheap attacks or they loaded an area with way to many that it was unreasonable.
Ys absolutely nailed its bosses, they are just fantastic. While most bosses are a bit basic, they do an excellent job of not over staying there welcome, but at the same time not under staying it. Each one is boss battle is unique in their own way and there is just so many of them to do. Some are crazy long, while others are brief, but they were the main motivation for me to continue on the path forward for the first 20 or so hours.
The main hub for Ys 8 is castaway village. This is the where you and your fellow castaways decide to settle and it overall serves as central command. The developers added in an interesting idea of the gradually expansion of castaway village as you bring more castaways back. They open shops, provide services to you, and give you side quests. You will also need to complete defense quest of castaway village where you face waves of enemies. I mostly enjoyed these, but by 7th one they assigned me I mostly rolled my eyes, it began to feel a chore rather than a special event. Side quests are also on an announcement board within the village; all quests are only available for limited amount of time so you must check back often. The amount of side quests is rather light and most try to not be a simple fetch quest.
The Biomes and areas you explore are a bit uninspiring. The budget look is something I can forgive and overlook, but the terrible resolution at times is not. It drops to around 300p in handheld mode in later parts of the game and the framerate can be terrible in later portions of the game (take a look at a screenshot I took below). The level and world design is also a bit basic and nothing to brag about for most of the game. It’s basically narrow passage way, which leads to big open area, rinse and repeat. While this design works, it doesn’t end up feeling like anything special and all the different biomes just feel the same, just with different enemies. This does significantly change near the end of the game, where Ys lets you explore some more interesting areas, but I would like to keep it broad since its spoilers.
Finally, I faced a bug in a side mission that didn’t trigger the 2nd portion of it. I looked up multiple walkthrough to see how it was done (from PS4 version) and was unable to trigger the mission. Considering I would have to load up a save point from 2 hours ago to fix this, I decided to press on. But to get the good ending in this game, you must do all of the side missions, I didn’t get the good ending due to 1 bugged side mission, that kind of pissed me off.
Ys is a decent game, the story isn’t anything amazing and has one of the most boring/slow starts a game could have. But the combat is so well refined and enjoyable that it keeps you going. The level design can be very basic and uneventful, but if you play YS to the end it gets a lot better. The enemy designs are overall great with a wide variety, including the bosses which are where I think this game shines its best. But overall I left with a sour taste in my mouth, portable frame rate and resolution is rather pitiful and overall the game started to get a bit old. If you’re a fan of action RPG and YS I would overall advise you to get this game, but if you’re looking to get into this genre with Ys 8; I would advise you to skip this title.
+solid last 8 hours of the game
+Lots of great bosses
-Low resolution and bad framerate in portable mode
-Boring first 20 hours/ story goes no where
-Side mission is bugged, preventing attaining the good ending
-Feels very repetitive by the end