Thanks to NIS AMERICA for the review code
Title: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 06/26/2018
In a surprising move, the stellar action RPG Ys VIII has been ported to the Nintendo Switch, nine months after originally releasing on the PSVita and PS4. I already reviewed the PS Vita version and all the quirks it had back when it launched, and most of those points will still stand, thus I won’t repeat everything I said before when it comes to the gameplay. I also covered the PS4 version during my end of 2017 wrap-up, so I thus have knowledge of two other versions of Ys VIII to go off on, and so this review will mainly be comparing the Switch port to the other two versions to see how it holds up.
One big bonus this version has that the Vita version lacked comes from the inclusion of the PS4-exclusive areas, meant to flesh out the story of Dana. Thus, the Switch has the same story content as the PS4 version and isn’t based on the Vita version.
Compared to playing Vita Ys VIII on a Playstation TV and on PS4, Ys VIII on Switch is in the middle when it comes to the visuals in docked mode, having the shorter loading times and expanded Castaway Village of the PS4 version, but also dealing with a huge loss in framerate, with the game running no more than 30FPS, just like the Vita version. The Game still looks decent in docked mode, and the godlike music plays as perfectly fine as ever, but going from the super smooth PS4 version to this compromise really makes experiencing the game in docked mode not the best way to do so, especially when you start to explore the more massive dungeons of the game, such as the Eroded Valley in Chapter 2, a dungeon that outright caused the visuals to become terrible for a short while before fixing itself, and like on the Vita version holding down the fast forward button to speed through cutscenes makes them look super choppy.
In handheld mode, the situation feels a lot more natural, as the downgraded visuals look perfect on the Switch’s screen (Save for said resolution dips like in the aforementioned dungeon, which look awful in handheld as well) and the framerate being a bit more consistent than the Vita version make this version the best looking handheld one by far, all things considered. In all honesty, I strongly advise that you just play this title exclusively in handheld, solely because it does feel like an upgrade from the Vita version in terms of performance and content, and playing in TV should only be done if you don’t care for the reduced framerate and the game not looking as pretty as on PS4. It should also be noted that out of the box, there’s no Japanese voice acting to speak of, and I’m unsure if it would come via a free DLC patch like on the Vita, but since the English VA is still as solid as ever (using the tweaked script from recent updates to fix some badly translated item descriptions among other minor things, thus causing all the VA lines in english to be redone) I don’t consider it too big of a loss, though you may want to wait for news on if a Japanese VA DLC will release if you prefer the original voice cast.
Gameplay wise, the 30FPS is certainly noticeable if you’ve only played the PS4 version beforehand, especially when it comes to how the special “Flash Move” and “Flash Guard” techniques are performed. On the Vita/PSTV version, since the game was ported to the Vita with the limitations in mind, pulling off flash moves and guards were still mostly doable despite that version suffering from worse framerate dips than on Switch, which mostly maintains 30FPS save for a few minor dips here and there, and the aforementioned major dips in huge dungeons that will occasionally kick in.
While on Switch I found myself still able to pull off flash moves successfully after adjusting to the timing, Flash Guards in particular were significantly harder to pull than on the PS4 and Vita versions. While on the earlier difficulties mastering this technique isn’t really required, you’ll certainly have to readjust to the difference in framerate and master it if you dare to challenge the Nightmare and Inferno difficulties, which are still as evil as they always have been, and since Inferno was absolutely not made with 30FPS gameplay in mind the timing is even more apparent in that difficulty. Playing in handheld mode is again recommended in these instances due to instantaneous button presses and thus a lower risk of having to deal with input lag, a crucial factor in pulling the techniques off.
Besides that, things still play like normal, offering the usage of all the buttons on the Nintendo Switch to control the game, along with the access to the button remapping that the PS4 version offered (Giving an edge over playing the PS Vita version on a PSTV, which just auto-mapped the Map and Item buttons to the shoulder buttons while making it impossible to change them) so you can reorganize a wide variety of commands in any way that suits your playstyle. Content wise, mostly everything from the PS4 version is here, from Inferno Mode, the extra story content, fighting enemies and using their weapon weaknesses to break their defenses, a bestiary, fishing log, recipe book, and all the sidequests to complete, giving you a lot of high quality content to do outside of the main story for the $60 pricetag. That is, everything but the achievements from every other version of the game.
While the PS4 version mainly rewarded you for doing basic things such as completing all the sidequests or beating the game on Nightmare, (Strangely making Inferno entirely optional for 100%) it did have a few special achievements that were fun to do and offered a bit more replay value, even though the in-game journal does a good job of keeping track of most of the things the achievements would reward you for to begin with. Despite NIS successfully including in-game achievements in Disgaea 5 Complete, Touhou Burst Battle and even The Longest Five minutes, Ys VIII is disappointingly lacking these, a move I don’t really understand considering how continuing the tradition would help make the game even better despite the FPS compromise. It’s not a dealbreaker by any means as you’ll still have plenty of content worth the $60 if you choose to complete the journal and do everything optional, but I do wish NIS continued the tradition of including in-game achievements. It should also be noted I had an odd bug where the autosave file was labeled as HARD Difficulty at all times even though my main save was Easy and always easy, although loading the autosave didn’t actually change the difficulty. Outside of that strange quirk, I noticed no major bugs in the slightest during my time with the time, and this will be one I plan to continue playing for months to come.
In conclusion, Ys VIII on Switch is a fairly good port, much better in quality than the trainwreck of a PC port that launched a few months ago, and even having tons of advantages over the Vita version. (While also including the Vita exclusive DLC for free, preloaded into the base game from the getgo, giving this game an edge over the PS4 version in that regard!) For newcomers interested in trying out this godlike game, you certainly are getting a higher quality version than the Vita one, save for the lack of the in-game achievements, but this is still a far cry from the PS4 version, which offers a much smoother 60FPS experience and achievements to go for, although it’s not portable.
While I deeply, deeply wish that NIS found some way to bring the glorious 60FPS experience to Switch without having to cut the framerate, (a move that I’m quite upset at considering how they even advertised the Switch port with 60FPS footage early on) moreso for the sake of having the flash techniques as easy to pull off as on the PS4, I’m at least happy the game doesn’t dip nearly as badly as on the Vita, which was very noticeable on the PSTV. Still, this port isn’t flawless, and there are still dips and even resolution downgrades from time to time, but overall, this port is an excellent second-place to the PS4 version of the game, and Switch owners are in for the best action RPG experience out of the entire Nintendo Switch library to date.
It’s just a shame that a bit more effort couldn’t have been done to add the in-game achievements or somehow pull of the miracle of 60FPS in docked mode. Definitely grab this game if you’re looking for a lengthy action RPG to play on your Switch, doubly so if you tend to play the Switch in handheld mode, and if you’ve played the other versions of Ys VIII like I have and are wondering if the Switch version is worth a buy, well there’s nothing truly exclusive here content wise (everything here is from the PS4 version save for the built in DLC) so if you’re satisfied with the PS4 version then there’s not much of a reason to double dip outside of solid portable play, but since this port will no doubt lead to a new audience of Nintendo fans playing such a godlike game, I’m more than willing to begrudgingly deal with some of the sacrifices it took to bring the game to the platform, and if this leads to smaller-scale Falcom titles getting ported to Switch, (The Trails in the Sky trilogy, Ys I/II and Oath, and Zwei, if NIS partners with XSEED to use their script like DotEmu did with Origin’s PS4 Port) then Nintendo Switch owners are in for a very excellent lineup indeed.
I give the Switch version of Ys VIII a 9 out of 10.