Archive for September, 2017

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana or How About A JRPG Holiday?

Posted in Hands On with tags , , , , on September 18, 2017 by Rabidgames

First of all, what the fuck is wrong with Japanese companies and their otherworldly game titles? Dissidia Duodecim or Star Ocean’s nonsensical Integrity and Faithlessness were weird enough, but using the game title, the number and a subtitle all makes together is weird – and with Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana it’s not even easy to abbreviate it – YsLoD sounds pretty bad now, doesn’t it?

So anyway, YsDan8 (okay, that doesn’t work either) is a different kind of JRPG – not as epic as Final Fantasy XV, not as snarky as Tales of Berseria, and not as weird as Nier Automata. Instead, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana feels more like an old-fashioned JRPG with traditional storytelling, engaging but light-hearted dialogues and music (from calm village tracks to fast-paced rock tracks) and the real-time action RPG battles fans of the series will be familiar with. And of course, the quirky and somewhat cutesy atmosphere JPRGs have been known for.

But the premise is a different one this time – after a short introduction to the characters and the systems, you’re stranded on an island and your first tasks are finding more survivors and fortifying your hideout that slowly turns into a village. By means of being able to open blocked paths once you’ve found enough people, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana opens up the secrets of its big but not massive world slowly but surely. So in a way, there is a certain Lost feeling as you gather the castaways trying to build and strengthen your village.

But it also feels strangely directionless for a JRPG at times. It can happen that you will need to scour everywhere you’ve been to before because you missed an essential conversation in the corner of the map, or that you didn’t spot another area with a NPC waiting for you. That’s not necessarily bad as Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana gives you plenty of experience to level up and plenty of ingredients to craft new, better stuff, and let’s face it, exploring should mean you have to explore thoroughly.

The fighting system of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is very action-oriented and rewards timing and accuracy, but if it’s more your thing, you can hack away, too, at least on lower difficulties. To be fair though, the fighting is fun but not really a highlight of the game as there is less suspense and more forgiveness than in Nier Automata and there is less tactical thinking required than in Tales of Berseria. But on the plus side, it’s a more accessible system so you can just walk around and casually kill monsters if you feel like it – isn’t that we all usually do during our holidays after all?

Apart from fighting, exploring and all the while gathering stuff you can go back to your base, trade or craft your gathered materials, do some side quest to make everyone like you better or play some kind of village defence mini-game where you kill of waves of enemies until you get goodies, and of course, everyone likes you more. Here, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana doesn’t go the extra mile, but you won’t miss more as the exploration part keeps you busy anyway. Besides getting that fucking call to defend the village while you’re knee-deep in a dungeon is just plain annoying! And there’s fishing. Well. Fishing. It nets you items and you can feed a bird with your fishes, but well, fishing just isn’t that exciting. For most of us at least.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana’s story can be split into the daily survival and exploration of the Seiren Islands, and then there are the nocturnal dreams where we follow the story of the eponymous Dana, a mysterious destined for mysterious greatness. Both are bound to combine at some point, but for the first 30 hours played, they are only connected by dreams (more on that later). For whatever reason the two big nations in the game are called Romun Empire and

But in one department, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is simply too Japanese – the gender stereotypes and generally the clichés are just a bit too much. Sure, it is just a JRPG and we kind of expect it, but after Tales of Berseria gave us interesting characters and a sarcastic heroine, Ys VIII (better, but still not a great abbreviation) pretty much just gives a box of talking stereotypes. It seems like a wasted opportunity, but oh well.

And then, there’s the DLC problem – do we really need goddessdamn 25 pieces of minor, “unfree” DLC at launch (and that’s just the PS4 version, the PS Vita one has different DLC!)? No, we don’t. The Witcher 3 and Yakuza Kiwami actually prove we don’t! So for fuck’s sake, publishers, stop this shit already!

Oh yeah, Dana might be the heroine who gives Ys LacriDana (okay, no) the title, but you won’t see much of her for the first 20 or 30 hours of the game, but be warned the beginning chapters of the game take that long, too. So it will take a while until you get to see what the story is really about. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is a long, mostly entertaining and also forgiving game that you can always pop in during a rainy autumn day. If you have become a bit weary of all the angst and impending doom (or of the bro-talk) in FF 15, Tales of Berseria or Nier: Automata, you can always pop in Ys Dana (there we go!), sit back and start playing without philosophy or despair wearing your adventures down if you want to enjoy an interesting but not too thought-provoking story.

Rabidgames reminiscences: In some ways, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana reminds one of the simple times of JRPGs; you need a simple story, simple characters (aka stereotypes), simple battles of the easy to learn, hard to master type, and then you go ahead and simply grind.

 

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Yakuza Kiwami or Majima’s Paradise in the Far East

Posted in Hands On with tags , , on September 6, 2017 by Rabidgames

If you happen to be a Yakuza fan, Sony has kinda spoilt you recently, right? Yakuza 4 and 5 on PSN+, Yakuza 0 a few months ago, and now the first game is remastered as Yakuza Kiwami (kiwami meaning ultimate or extreme, which makes sense as you’ll see).

And what a remaster it is! It looks considerably better (well, obviously), the UI and the gameplay mechanics have been updated (you can now save whenever and wherever you want for instance), the story of Yakuza has been enhanced and smoothed, and you can now choose between 4 different fighting styles, from balanced to lightning-quick but relatively weak to slow but strong. Plus, there’s going to be 4 different DLC packs to be released in the weeks following the launch of the game.

The fighting in Yakuza Kiwami is ironically the biggest strength as well as the biggest weakness of the game – it is fun, but boy, does it get repetitive! The fun part is combining fighting styles and showing of brutal finishers, expanding your repertoire, grabbing weapons – either lying around or from your inventory, and generally punishing assholes standing in your way.

But there’s also a downside to fighting …

When you just want or need to get from A to B, but enemies C to Z are in your way, it can become a bit tiresome. Plus boss fights … they are a chore. Not only can’t you grab most of them (meaning no grappling finishers), some will never fall down (again, no finishers), they have absurd amounts of health and enjoy regenerating their health for an extra measure of annoyance. Most of the time, you just attack a boss with the same attack pattern while you defend his attacks with the same pattern – and that can go on for up to 5 minutes. Provided you carry plenty of healing items – and in Yakuza Kiwami, you should ALWAYS carry of healing items around – there is hardly any challenge in boss fights, it’s just battles of attrition.

And then Majima … oh yes, he’s one of the coolest characters in Yakuza, and sure, it makes sense to give such a cool character a bigger role, but THAT big and omnipresent? Remember the random battles – well, random goons go down quickly, but imagine you fight Majima, a pretty tough boss battle, 3 times within 5 minutes, completely randomly. He packs a punch, and he has tons of health, too, obviously. The only thing making those fights bearable in Yakuza Kiwami is the fact that the more you beat him, the more you unlock of your legendary and devastating dragon style.

So, lots of fighting to do, eh? But don’t worry, there are countless mini-games to distract you or waste some time, something the Yakuza series is famous for, and the remake of the first game obviously is no exception; you can play a very strange card game with women dressed as bugs (don’t ask), you can race toy cars, play golf or bowling, sing karaoke (if you insist, it is boring as always), you can gamble in a secret casino, and you also can play mah-jong. And more.

And last but definitely not least, there is the excellent and dark crime story about murder, revenge, betrayal, stolen money and a little girl, with quite a few twists and turns and broken bones and friendships along the bumpy road. It’s best to experience it yourselves, so the less said here, the better. The dialogues is now also entirely in Japanese audio, to immerse you deeper into the world of Yakuza, so be warned you need to read. A lot. Sadly, not all dialogues are voiced, which alongside some archaic UI systems makes you aware of the age of Yakuza Kiwami.

So, how great is it? Objectively speaking, Yakuza Kiwami is a good, maybe even a very good game (if we take the age of the game into account). But … there is tiny bit too much of Majima in the game, and while it is always fun in small games, the repetitive, random and constant fighting around every corner can become a bit too much after an hour. On the other hand, Yakuza can also be described as a mix of Shenmue and GTA, and this remake does a great job of serving as a great way to get introduced to the series and to the sometimes weird world of Japanese daily living – and dying in its underworld, of course!

Rabidgames fights: Yakuza Kiwami can best be described as a fight – with the enemies, with the system to throw Majima in your way way too often or fighting the random thugs who become an annoying waste of time after 10 hours, but then again, it’s a price worth paying to jump into the twisted world of Yakuza – and there’s no shame playing on easy if you want to bring the story forwards instead of breaking your thumbs fighting the not so good fight!