I say "greater then the sum of its parts" because, honestly, if you take each part of the game on its own not much stands out. The story is rather generic and takes a while to get interesting, the visuals look dated and seem stuck somewhere between Ps2 and Ps3, the level design is pretty good but annoyingly split into small-ish "areas", etc. The only thing that stands out as really great even when comparing it to other higher budgets games is the combat, which feels fast and responsive, has nice hit detection, a nice sense of impact and sprinkles you with new skills through the entire game, which is nice. The music is also pretty good, not quite top tier, and it can feel a bit uneven at times, but still really good and I was surprised by how many tracks it has, almost every area no matter how small seems to have a unique track. Was a nice contrast to DQ11 which I played not long ago and basically uses the same 3-4 songs for 90% of the game (still loved the game though).
But when you combine it all, it comes together into this really fun game that's just a blast to play.
Alongside the combat, the best thing about YS8 is how nicely it flows, it sounds simple but it makes a big difference. I'm so tired of JRPG's with horrible pacing and lots of bloat, but this one felt different. It introduces new areas, enemies, skills and bosses at a steady pace that keeps things fun and varied all the way through.
-You are never stuck in any area for too long, there aren't giant locations just for the sake of size. They do instead feel just about right to be fun to explore without outstaying their welcome. And each new location usually introduces new enemies, new music, 2 or more bosses and occasionally new traversal mechanics. There's also not an over abundance of backtracking and there's a nice fast travel system with instant load times (at least on an SSD).
- You get levels and skills at a nice steady pace, I played on hard and just playing through the game normally and doing sidequests I never felt the need to grind
- And talking about sidequests, I love how it doesn't go overboard with them. When I saw the usual notice board appear in the village I was expecting to find 800 different fetch quests but instead they just appear in batches of 2 or 3 every now and then during various points in the story. Some of them are a bit on the fetch quest side but they usually don't take too long, have fun character moments and usually have nice rewards. And since there aren't a million of them I actually enjoyed doing them all.
- Same with crafting. If you don't rush through areas and take the time to fully explore them and pick up the resources you find, then you never really need to go farm for materials and can usually keep your party well upgraded and equipped (aside from some optional late game gear). It rewards exploration without devolving into tedium.
-The story can be a bit slow, and it definitely takes a while to introduce the central plot line (takes like 10 hours for Dana to even show up). But since the gameplay and exploration is really the focus of the game, I don't think it affects the overall experience too much.
Took me 48 hours to beat doing all the sidequests, which is pretty much the ideal JRPG length IMO.
Also the boss theme is hype as fuck: