Okay, dedicating an article to a single character is a bit much but hear me out: it’s needed. The character Dana from Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is given a character arc which couldn’t be discussed in the review because of spoilers. Now then, if you haven’t played the game I implore you to play the game first before reading this. This mainly because I cover character arcs which are best experienced for its full effect.
JRPGs normally have the eponymous character of the title front and centre, but here Falcom have brought her more towards the third act with the isle of Siren, which has been explored pretty in depth. They hint at her in the opening of the second act, Adol dreaming about her and how she becomes the Maiden of the Great Tree in Eternia. Slowly de-mystifying her as a character, once the second act hits the ground running, we finally play as her, exploring the city of Eternia prior its collapse. With the finale of the second act being Dana joining Adol and Co. in present day, where they renew their exploration of Eternia.
During the “dream sequences”, the switch in perspectives and playstyle makes a nice mechanical change from the main cast’s fighting style. Exploring Eternia and seeing its people changes the overall pace, with the interactions affecting the present. The game is able to provide a puzzle and exploration experience that the Ancient Species infested island isn’t able to. It’s during our time here we get to fully grasp the tomboy maidan’s past and characterisation, which most of the characters throughout the game don’t get to do. Adol being the character you’re meant to embody, doesn’t really grow as expected. Laxia is a lite-tsuntsun who isn’t the full ojou-sama archetype, her main backstory is left rather unexplored with her character growth being really slow. Sahad doesn’t change and struggles to grow from being the strong armed sailor who’s super superstitious. Ricotta is a bit of a one trick pony, as is Hummel, although considering how young she is, the lack of growth is to be expected. Hummel’s backstory though is something the game could’ve explored more with, his upbringing being so contorted extra dialogue chains would’ve been appreciated. That isn’t to say they’re all badly written, on the contrary they’re written really well. It’s just that the game doesn’t go further or beyond in that regard. Laxia and Hummel being prime material for a deeper character exploration and interaction, Part of this could be the English VA for the two, who really sell the characters. However, that isn’t to say the entire cast is a colourful bunch.
Dana on the other hand is given a full backstory and character arc with Adol, as they discover her past and lapse in memory. As Adol, we help give the strength and courage that Dana lacked - even with her title as the tomboy maiden. We see what made her as righteous as she is, with her mother’s death being preventable if it weren’t for her fears and sadness brought on by her ability to see into the future. From there she becomes an outgoing person who tries her best. However, this is then stunted by the Crimson Premonition. The mystery aspect of this was done really well, and I have few faults thanks to how well paced it is. But the post crimson premonition isn’t delved as fully. Whilst the game “explains” why when they see into the past it’s limited with the crystals, it doesn’t avoid the criticisms I have for it. For one, the overall pacing isn’t as well crafted compared to the main campaign during the present day. With the linear experience effectively creating a weird dual narrative where she’s either helping Adol out by planting Prayer Trees to affect the present, or exploring a hidden dungeon underneath Eternia, which can’t be explored during the present day. Even if the dungeons weren’t populated with enemies or filled with loot, it would’ve made for a nice area for exploration. Granted this might not be for everyone’s taste, but considering Adol and Co. experience the past as well. It wouldn’t be a far shout for them to explore it and have Dana give out some dialogue explaining how she felt.
As Dana’s past is uncovered further, some characters die and we see her two friends, Olga and Sarai, coping as events unfold. We see her faith waver further as the Crimson Premonition comes to fruition. The city of Eternia goes into revolt with the ensuing ash clouds blotting out the sun. Surviving the meteorite shower becomes a pipe dream for its inhabitants. With the grimness setting in, we see the goodness of those around Dana come out in full force. Even though experience with some of the characters is limited from the past, the snapshots shown hit their mark with some characters dying, or have died. These deaths, whilst put on the wayside, have an effect on Dana that we understand thanks to the dialogue shared, even if we as the player don’t feel anything. However, these deaths send her into a pit of despair like her childhood. Her resolve develops and deepens to the point that her revelation to being transported to the present, whilst expected, still presents an element of surprise that many would be caught off guard in how drastic her approach is. Giving a slight macabre sensation, there’s an element of beauty with her faith in Adol and his ability to make changes.
Fast forward to the present, as everyone begins to see her as the Maiden of the Great Tree. Obviously she doesn’t see herself as that, more akin to a failure since her people died during her watch. This is where the timeline gets a bit messy since there’s a small time travelling aspect with her premonitions and how the past is affecting the present day. As well as who saw each other first, since she gained her strength through seeing Adol but Adol doesn’t go exploring into the ruins and pressing forward if it weren’t for seeing Dana and the past. Creating a bit of a chicken or the egg situation. Regardless, the long and short of it is that we see Dana and Adol depend on each other for strength and knowledge, respectively. From a pragmatic standpoint, this type of relationship is to be expected, especially with Dana’s ability to use Energy to operate Eternian technology and constructs.
Through the personal character interactions between Dana and Adol, aspects of the dialogue hint towards a more romantic intention from Dana. With her approach to Adol, she’s able to open up to him. We help her get closure with the death of Olga, consoling her from the revelation of what the Maidens are actually tasked with once we defeat Io. Comforting her during her lows, we see her hesitate to fully opening up to him and expressing her feelings. However, we know she’s had a premonition, but we as the player aren’t told/shown what it is. With the ending spelling out my personal worst desire for the game, I was left in shock hoping everything would turn out okay. With everyone thereabouts forgetting the events that unfolded, I was slightly dismayed with the ending. Whilst everyone entering the ship to escapes the island, the credits and epilogues ensue. Achieving the true ending, we get to see her once more after one of the more difficult boss fights. After this ordeal, we’re told she saw what was going to happen. And just as they lean in close to each other in the final scene and her departure to being a divine being who oversees evolution, they don’t kiss. It was at this point I wanted to flip a table.