Hunting Monsters is Like X, Y, and Z

Welcome to Save State, where we hunt monsters and drink lemonade, and I’m all out of lemonade. Seriously, life hasn’t even given lemons lately, I call hacks. So over the last couple weeks, I was looking for lemons but the only things I could find were my Nintendo Switch and a copy of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. That’s probably what I get for trying to search for lemons in my living room, rather than a grocery store.

As you may have surmised, the first game we’ll talk about this week is Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. The Ys series has been around for a very, very long time, with the protagonist Adol getting shipwrecked many times over the course of the series 33 years of existence (seriously, Adol and boats just do not get along). This is actually one of my personal favorite series as many years ago I stumbled across Ys VI: Ark of Napishtim for the Playstation 2. From there, I wound up experiencing almost every other game in the series, which is largely disconnected outside of a few references here or there. Lacrimosa of Dana, for some reason or another, has sat unfinished in my backlog for longer than I’d like to admit, so I took a moment to finally reach the end of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana.

Combat largely consists of using your regular attacks and skills to dispatch enemies. Your primary attack is performed with one button, with different aerial attacks being performed depending on if you’re ascending or descending in your jump. Regular attacks produce SP which you can spend to perform powerful skills, and performing skills fills up your Extra meter which you can use to execute a very powerful attack that pauses the entire screen while it is active (including against bosses). You can bring up to 3 characters with you in battle and swap among them at any time- given that each character has a unique weapon and skills to go along with it, the added party members go quite a way toward keeping combat fresh.

Each character’s weapon as an attribute- Adol the protagonist, for example, has the slash attribute, so he’s strongest against soft targets. Characters with piercing weapons are great at eliminating flying enemies, and heavy weapons break enemy shells. Enough attacks of an enemy’s weakness and they Break, allowing you to deal huge amounts of damage to them. You also have a dodge and guard at your disposal, and using these at just the right time can create tremendous advantages for the player. For example, dodging at the last second will do a Flash Dodge, which creates a Witch Time like effect where your enemies slow down for you to repeatedly wail on them for a time. Similarly, guarding at just the right time will yield a Flash Guard, which makes you invincible and turns all of your attacks into critical hits for a short time.

The combat is simple, but incredibly satisfying when you’re Flash Guarding and Dodging every attempt of a boss to hit you and mercilessly attacking them during the openings that you’ve created. Combat is very similar to the Tales of series, except Ys VIII is not instanced (you don’t get teleported to a battlefield just to fight when you encounter enemies), and generally much faster. You get to use your skills almost constantly as your SP refills whenever you attack, which makes you feel quite powerful and is incredibly fun. Of course, should you find the combat too easy, there are multiple difficulties to choose from, so you can more easily tune the difficulty how you like it. I was able to complete the entire game on Nightmare, though a newcomer to the series would probably be more at home on Normal or Hard mode, and while I haven’t tried Inferno yet I’m sure it’s quite the challenge.

Lacrimosa of Dana features an insanely good musical score, with blood-pumping guitar riffs and synth for dungeons and bosses, as well as beautiful, calming tracks that would be right at home in the Trails series in dialogue scenes. Falcom always hits it out of the park when it comes to their OSTs, especially in regard to the Ys series, and VIII does not buck this trend. VIII’s soundtrack hits hard, and it doesn’t let up for the entire time that you play.

All in all, Lacrimosa of Dana is among the best entries of the Ys series since Oath of Felghana or Origin, and certainly the Ys game I’ve enjoyed most since they’ve started using the party system. It’s a well-composed, complete package that I could easily recommend to any fan of action RPGs, or just JRPGs in general. With that said, the second game we’ll talk about this week is actually from another series near-and-dear to my heart.

Rather than a game from the overflowing mess that is my backlog, it’s the demo of a new entry in a series I’m very excited for (which, you may have even heard about my excitement already if you’ve listened to the GiN Lounge Podcast). Given the sheer amount of time spent on the Monster Hunter Rise demo, I figured it was only proper this be the second game for this particular column.

Demos for the Monster Hunter series have a penchant for being… well, ludicrously bad. Demos for past game practically threw you, naked and afraid, into the cold due to the series’ philosophy on tutorials: “What is a tutorial?” Thankfully, Rise’s demo at least gives you a couple of brief missions in which you can run around, climb, get used to the controls, and with your chosen weapon (assuming you’re willing to listen to the tutorial NPC tell you to hurry up, of course). There’s a lot more effort that could have been put in to explain things to the player or to give you more of an idea how to play your weapon, but Rise’s demo is probably better than any demo the series has had in recent memory since it at least teaches you the basics of using the wirebug mechanics, and how to perform wyvern riding.

For the most part, you start up the demo, select which of the two quests you want to play, and then you can even join other players to take down a monster using your selected weapon. All fourteen non-Prowler weapons are returning in Rise, though some have been substantially changed, like the Hunting Horn. A lot of the weapons are closer to their World incarnations, so if you used the bow in World, you have a strong idea of how to use it in Rise, also. You can pick the two tutorial quests to give yourself an idea of how to play your weapon, since the weapon controls are in the Hunters Notes section of the menu (not ideal, but better than nothing, I suppose).

Of course, the real thing that you’d want to check out the demo for would be to see how the implementation of the wirebugs revamp gameplay, and all in all they seem to have a very positive effect on the combat. Wirebugs can be used freely but have a cooldown until you can utilize them again, and different actions seem to have longer cooldowns than others. For the most part, there are three ways to use the general wirebug actions: ZL plus a face button controls how you utilize the wirebug, so with your weapon sheathed you can jump into the air, another action will make your hunter leap forward, and another will make your hunter jump where the camera is pointing. The latter action seems to be very useful since you can use a wirebug to close distances to very specific monster parts (like their head or tail) regardless of which direction your hunter was facing.

If you hold A after using a wirebug, you can hang in the air for a few seconds as well- the easiest, most obvious application for this is retreating into the air to dodge a large, sweeping ground attack, and then delivering a powerful counterattack once its safe. You can do some crazy moves with the wirebugs- jumping away from attacks, running along walls, then leaping off the walls and slamming a monster in the head for a knockout with the hunting horn is immensely satisfying. This inclusion of vertical movement means monsters also have attacks that are revamped to hit mid air as well, so while you’re springing all around the monster like Trashcan Spiderman, be careful not to get swatted out of the air by Mizutsune’s tail. If you’re hit by an attack that would knock you flat onto the ground, you can recover instantly if you have a wirebug available, making combat seem so much faster- almost like performing a breakfall tech in Super Smash Bros for the first time.

Each weapon also gets a couple of wirebug specific actions in the demo, called silkbind attacks. The longsword, for example, gets an attack that quickly pops you into the air and lets you kick a monster in the face, which you can then follow up with a plunging thrust that builds mount damage against the monster, or you could follow up with the powerful Helmsplitter attack if your sword is going red, to do the most damage. It seems like, at least for the purpose of the demo, each weapon gets an offensive silkbind action and a defensive one- the defensive one for the longsword functioning very similarly to the Critical Juncture hunter art from Generations Ultimate; it’s powerful counterattack that deals a hefty chunk of damage when used just as an attack is about to connect with you.

A new feature of Rise is adjusting the mount mechanic to let you actually ride the wyverns instead. Hitting a monster with aerial attacks will build up mount damage until you can tie them with the wirebug’s silk, allowing you to hop on the monster and control them with silk reins. It can appear a little janky, but this mechanic basically allows you to temporarily control a monster to fight another. It’s really, really cool to see a flying wyvern like Rathian try to interrupt your hunt of a Mizutsune, so you hit her with aerial attacks until you can bind and use Rathian’s fireballs to deal great damage to the other beast. The flinch shot mechanic from World actually lives on in Rise through wyvern riding because you can slam the monster into things a few times while riding, including walls and other monsters. As someone who just accepted mounting when it was introduced in Monster Hunter 4, but always thought it was a little odd, I find wyvern riding to be a great evolution of both mounting from past games and the clutch claw from Monster Hunter World’s Iceborne expansion.

The combat of Rise can’t really be fully extrapolated from a demo, given that there’s only two monsters of what will assuredly be dozens available in the final roster, but from everything shown thus far, Rise is a nice combination of World’s mechanics and Generations Ultimate’s customization, because there are plenty more silkbind actions and other abilities weapons have that were shown in trailers, but aren’t present in the demo (apparently gunlance can fire shells to leap toward targets? That’s awesome). Mixing Generations Ultimate’s plethora of options with World’s weapon mechanics, at least from this demo, seems to be a great way to keep vets interested and to bring even more new players to the table thanks to the increased accessibility.

In fact, speaking of accessibility, Rise has a ton of options for allowing you to change how you can control the game. Do you want to swap what the shoulder buttons do, change how the camera performs, turn off the targeting arrow, change the hit effects, or turn off damage indicators? You can change all of that. You can even swap functions for the various ways you use items, to be more in line with pre-World Monster Hunter games, make the things like radial menus and item wheel more like World, or do a mixture of both. Having difficulty aiming while using a bowgun or bow? You can turn on the gyroscope controls, and they can be on all the time like in Splatoon, or only turn on when you’re aiming. Seeing just how much control the player has over their experience in just the demo makes me very hopeful for the full game, because it

The graphics of Rise are gorgeous for a game in the portable series, and the music is absolutely incredible. Not a lot of it can be heard yet since this is, of course, a demo, but Mizutsune’s new theme perfectly embodies the elegant dance-like attacks of the leviathan. Performance was far, far better than expected when playing solo, though lag spikes were pretty common while playing online with other players. The development team has stated this issue won’t be present in the full game, which is always nice to hear since the multiplayer component of Monster Hunter is incredibly important, overall.

All in all, Rise is looking quite good. The demo is free and gives you 30 hunts you can play solo or with other players online, and if you like everything enough to the extent that you run out of hunts to play, you can just erase your save file for the demo to refresh that total. Rise looks interesting, fresh, and gives me a lot to look forward to when the game fully releases this March. Yes, by the way, I spent a good portion of this time gushing about a demo you could just download for free off the eShop- go try it yourself, and if you see someone named PookandPie make sure to poke fun at me when I get smacked out of the air because I’m pretending to be Dollar Store Spiderman.

With that, this week’s Save State comes to a close. See us again next week when hopefully I don’t no-life a game demo for two weeks straight. Maybe in the next couple weeks I’ll learn to belly dance? Who knows for certain.

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