[AnimeExpo] Ys VIII Gameplay Panel Highlights

On July 3, 2017 at 4:30pm Pacific time, the NIS America gameplay panel for Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana took place in Live Programming 3 at Anime Expo.

The people who were running the panel were Robbie Agustin, the associate product marketing manager and media relations associate for NIS America, Alan Costa who is NIS America’s senior associate producer, and- of course- Falcom’s president, Toshihiro Kondo.

Details on this panel can be found below the cut.

They first opened the panel with the trailer, which can be seen below:

Once the trailer was complete, Kondo was asked to talk about the game itself.

Kondo started by saying that the story, as a whole, is a continuous story about the adventures of Adol Christin, told through the many journals he wrote. “I hope you keep this in mind while playing the game,” he said, “and I hope you feel like you’re reading Adol’s words.”

He brought up how Ys VIII begins- that the ship Adol is on, with an added “of course,” sinks, and ends up on the Isle of Seiren, along with the other passengers from the ship. He also made it a point to add, “You all laugh, because this happens all the time. Adol gets on a boat, and it sinks. This [just] starts the same way.”

Adol and the others come across huge creatures called Ancient Species, and while exploring the island, he finds survivors of the shipwreck, brings them back, and they end up making a village together. However, Kondo added that it wouldn’t be an Ys story if that was all there was to it.

So while stranded on the island, Adol begins to experience strange dreams, following the life of a young woman named Dana, and Adol is able to realize that her life is strongly linked to the mysteries of the island they’re all stranded on.

As a result, in this Ys title, we’re not only learning about what Adol experienced, but also what Dana experienced, which was a highly praised part of the game’s story in Japan.

Kondo finished the summary off by saying, “Please enjoy what happens to Adol and Dana in Ys VIII.”

For the second part of the panel, Kondo was asked to relay some answers regarding common questions from Ys fans.

The first question NIS America brought up was asking if players would find boss battles challenging this time around.

Kondo answered that if you play on normal mode, and a beginner to action games, you’ll find a challenging experience with it. However, if you are a more advanced gamer, you should try out hard or nightmare. He added that when the programmers were tasked to working on these difficulties, “they had ‘sparkles’ in their eyes on the idea of making these modes special.”

NIS America also asked Kondo to talk about the characters that are in the game.

Unsurprisingly, he started with Dogi, by saying that he should be a familiar character to fans of the Ys series. Dogi is Adol’s partner who has traveled with him on many of his journeys. Whenever Adol is in a pinch, or locked up, Dogi comes in, busts through a wall, and saves him.

Adol doesn’t fall into much trouble if Dogi is around, and the only time to move the story forward is if Dogi isn’t there to save him.

On talking about Laxia, Kondo introduced her by saying that this is her first appearance in the series and that she can’t stand him when she first meets Adol. He added that if you want to know why, you should play the game.

Kondo said that Hummel is a mysterious figure that transports things throughout the world, and if you want to find out more about him, you should play the game. However, Kondo also added that Hummel typically does things his own ways, and there are times when he joins the party, then leaves to do something on his own. He is also the first character in the Ys series that uses a gun.

About Ricotta, Kondo stated that it’s a mystery about why a little girl like her has been on the island from the beginning, while surrounded by the Ancient Species.

NIS America took this time to show off pictures of the limited edition, giving a big shoutout to the internal design team that was responsible for the whole set. (Picture below comes from the set on display at the exhibit hall at AX2017.)

The Ys VIII Limited Edition set, shown at NIS America’s booth at the AX 2017 exhibit hall.

Before it was time for Kondo to start on playing the demo, they took one last moment to show off the slide below:

This screenshot of Adol at the start of Ys VIII shows him wearing his iconic silver armor- which was the strongest armor in Ys I. NIS America also revealed that anyone who bought the game would get the silver armor DLC, and that there would be more details about it at a later point in time.

Thanks to my friends at RPG Site who recorded Kondo’s playthrough of the Ys VIII demo!

[Editor’s Note: Much of what I have to write about, you can hear in the demo video above. However, I will clarify details, and add the notes of things that stood out from what he said during gameplay, as well as any observations that were made during the panel.]

The images below are screenshots from RPGSite’s recorded footage.

They started up the demo on the screen- which is the English version of the Japanese demo that’s current out on PSN.

Unsurprisingly, the crowd started shouting for Kondo to play the game on Inferno mode when the demo started. There was much laughter on his part, until he said that because he’s more used to the controls of Sen no Kiseki III, since that’s being worked on very hard at Falcom right now. [Kondo and Alan were both laughing at the ‘awws’ from the audience as he picked normal on the demo, as well.]

He brought up that in this demo, you play through a forest type dungeon early in the game and that it starts in an area that’s used for rest and recovery while you prepare for the dungeon. You can cook, heal up party members at the save crystal.

Kondo brought up how the recent Ys games have gone into a party system combat style, where you will need to switch party members during gameplay.

A question brought up from NIS America was for newcomers to the Ys series, and it was how important is it to switch between characters.

Kondo’s explanation was that some enemies will have weaknesses to particular types of attacks that specific party members can exploit. As example, crab-like enemies with hard shells would require a character like Sahad, who can crush their shells for more damage.

Changing characters according to enemy weaknesses is a key point of playing the game.

[Ed note: Kondo also noted at this point how he was a little confused with the gameplay, due to the X and O buttons being switched between the two regions. We all feel you there!]

Adol uses slash type attacks, and he is a powerful character overall, due to him being the main character. His attacks are best against softer enemies.

When your EX gauge fills up, you can utilize a character’s special attack. [The EX gauge is the circular gauge in the lower right hand corner with a yellow ‘fill.’] On top of it, you can also see the skills that you have set for that character. You can use these skills by holding down R and pressing the button that corresponds to it.

Another question from NIS America: does the blue gauge [SP Gauge] fill quickly? Is it recommended to use your skills often?

Kondo answered by saying that you want to use skills often, and the gauge can fill up rather quickly, so you can charge your EX gauge by using skills in combat.

When speaking about flash guard, one of the game’s defensive abilities, Kondo explained that he was having issues getting the timing again.

At a point after successfully using a flash move, Kondo said that when you activate it, it slows the enemy down so that you can get more attacks on it. Using both flash guard and flash move can make the battle more exciting.

He also pointed out the targeting system, that when you target them, you can always keep the enemy in your sight, and that this is a recommended feature if you’re not used to action games.

Kondo skipped the cut scene at this point in the demo to get to the boss, which still held the ‘Merciless Shivering Vase’ translation that had been brought up on twitter from E3. Alan, however, pointed out that this has been fixed in the translation, and even commenting afterwards, “Yes, we pay attention to what’s online, too.”

During the boss fight, Kondo pointed out that all bosses have a pattern, so you need to watch for it to be able to exploit it. Bosses don’t have a specific weakness to characters like regular enemies, though, so instead you need to watch carefully for their movements and find the best attack patterns to use. As the bosses get weaker, you will want to pay attention to them, as they will change their attack patterns.

As you’re playing through the main part of the game, you might notice how quickly you fly through enemies in general, but Kondo said that they wanted the boss battles to be special, as they’re something different.

During the boss battle, Kondo pulls off a chain from a flash move and into a flash guard, and in the end, he took down the boss- three levels below its level, even. At the end of the demo, he apologized, saying, “Sorry it took me so long to get used to the controls again.”

After Kondo finished the gameplay sample from the demo, they opened a mic for attendees to ask questions.

Q & A Session

Question: Are you looking to port this to more platforms, like the Switch?

Answer: I really feel that the Nintendo Switch is a very “Nintendo Like” system. In a good way, of course. However, at Falcom we’re not a very huge company. So we need to be careful on where we put our human resources. If the opportunity arises, we’ll look into it, but for now, no.

Question: Q: Did you work on Ys Origin? And how did you go about incorporating old methods into the game, like talking to the Roos?

Answer: I worked on the game, with one other person. I wrote Yunica’s story and the NPC dialogue.

The start of Ys Origin is interesting – we were told, “You have one year to make a new Ys game.” So that was a difficult task, and we thought hard on how we could do that. We realized that making large field maps or tons of dungeons couldn’t be done in a year. So [we asked] why don’t we use Darm Tower from Ys I & II? That said, if the game feels smaller, the fans won’t be happy about it either. So we thought what would make the fans happen: what if we took the game to 700 years before with the goddesses?

Question: What is your favorite thing about the Ys series?

Answer: I’ve worked on many Ys games and enjoy them.

What I like about them, in contrast of the Kiseki series, [is that] the gameplay and story is well integrated. Originally, Ys was supposed to be a continuation of [Asteka II: Temple of the Sun] [ed note: released in English on the NES as Tombs and Treasure.] with lots of usable items and dungeons. We wanted to continue on in that direction.

Question: We currently have multiple characters in gameplay, but will we have a coop multiplayer mode?

Answer: I really would like to implement something like that. But for this game in particular, there are no plans for it. As a side note, Ys vs Sora no Kiseki allows you to actually fight two players, using characters from the series. That’s something we’d like to work on again in the future if possible.

Question: Ys VI was amazing, and Ys: the Oath in Felghana was super amazing. Will you be making a return to Ys V?

Answer: One thing that’s surprised me when coming to America, is that I’ve been asked that like five times. I can’t promise anything here and now, but as it is the final game that hasn’t been remade, and we want to remake it.

Actually, we have the original game design document and what made it into the game is not what was in the original document. We plan to look at that plan and see what wasn’t incorporated and incorporate it into the game.

Question: I have a question about Laxia… Adol seems like a chick magnet, but because of her reactions to him… Is she kind of a tsundere?

Answer: (Laughing) It might be exactly as you’re thinking. When you look at the party, you have the tsundere, the old man, the cool looking guy, the loli…

The game has already come out in Japan, and we’ve already got a lot of user feedback. People all thought she was going to be another tsundere, but she- and the other characters- have a lot more depth to her. And think about why she’s like that, and why the other characters act the way they do.

Question: Falcom is known for their soundtracks – which specific songs are your favorite?

Answer: That’s a hard one… There are about 5,000 tracks in our library. One track in particular has always stood out, [since] I played Ys II when I was in Jr High. [It is] a track that the JDK Band still plays to this day and I still listen to – it’s TO MAKE THE END OF BATTLE.

Question: The Kiseki series has been renowned for its characters and story, Ys was known for combat – Ys VIII is a lot more like Kiseki in the story. Was this natural or a change in thinking with the game?

Answer: When we started the development of Ys VIII, we didn’t know how much time we had to write the scenario, so first step was to make this ‘the most fun Ys game ever.’ There are several events related to gameplay: the village building, Dana, etc. These were all gameplay first, but had a huge impact when it came time to talk about the scenario.

People in Japan really liked the Dana parts of the game, but I don’t remember it being too difficult to write it. That goes back to the beginning of development, which was ‘I want to do gameplay first.’

And so that’s how it came to be. Now I’m worried about what to do next, and how we’re going to top this. Both systems, the gameplay and story, were highly reviewed in Japan. I hope all of you have a chance to play it in September.

Bonus Picture

Alan was wearing one of the Ys VIII t-shirts that NIS America is selling online. This is one of the pre-production shirts that was shown in the live stream sometime before Anime Expo.

According to NIS America’s store, the shirts are now in stock. There is also a Dana version of the shirt, as well.

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