Ah, Ys. Yes to more Ys games (see what I did there). Joking aside, Ys is one of the oldest franchises in gaming spanning through multiple platforms. My first encounter with it was via Sega Master System and the game called Ys: The Vanished Omens. Released in 1989 and it made its way into my home somewhere around 1994. I was a little kid back then and it was a pretty difficult game to me (mostly due to my lack of English at that time) but I found it incredibly captivating. So, 32 years after its first release I have the ninth game in the series in my hands. Adol is back, along with its red hair so let’s see if there’s anything new in this installment.
Our renowned protagonist Adol and his companion Dogi arrive at Balduq, a city annexed by the Romun Empire, only for Adol to be detained before setting foot inside. While imprisoned, he meets a mysterious woman named Aprilis who turns him into a Monstrum, a being with supernatural Gifts and the power to exorcise monsters. Now, Adol must ally with other Monstrums to fend off the fearsome threats emerging from a shadowy dimension called the Grimwald Nox, as well as unravel the mysteries of the Monstrum curse, and the truth behind the unrest within Balduq. Now, despite finishing the game I have yet to understand what peculiar gift Adol has compared to other Monstrums (aka playable characters). Oh, I just remembered. You learn to teleport on the ledges in the levels and it’s all pretty underwhelming considering what gifts other playable characters have And speaking of playable characters…..
This is where it gets interesting. Balduq is a huge city with plenty of chests to open, collectibles to find, and side quests to solve. You won’t be able to do all of those right away since the game is divided into chapters. Ys IX: Monstrum Nox puts a bigger emphasis on open-world and exploration this time. You’ll have to go the extra mile if you want to max upgrade all the armor and weapons, as well as upgrading all the traps and decoys during the siege moments. What, traps and decoys?! Well, yeah. Every once in a while, in order to unlock the new section of Balduq you have to accumulate enough Nox points. Those are usually earned by doing sidequests and fighting monsters all over the streets of Balduq. Get those Nox points to 100 and a red sphere will appear somewhere in the city. Destroy that sphere and you will unlock a new region of the city or some new region outside of Balduq. And how exactly you destroy a sphere? This is where things get interesting. You are then teleported into a Grimwald Nox dimension where you have to protect your sphere from monster attacks. Sometimes it’s just one wave of enemies and sometimes it can be up to five. And those traps and decoys at your disposal (especially when upgraded later on) will be incredibly useful to you. Now, let’s talk more about the gifts – which is just a fancy word for character abilities. As you progress through the story and more playable characters are added to your party, each of them will come with a unique character ability (that everyone in the party can freely use once available). That way you will learn to glide across the rooftops, run up to the walls, see through the walls, destroy weak points in the walls, and so on. Of course, you won’t only rely on those gifts alone in order to dispatch enemies since Ys IX: Monstrum Nox has a pretty intricate combat system now. As you level up, there will be plenty more special attacks to obtain, as well as activating boost mode, a short window where you inflict far more damage to the enemies. Although I’d recommend saving that for bosses the most.
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox has received an overhaul, especially noticeable on level textures and playable characters. Balduq is huge as it is fun to explore. Sure, you don’t need to open every chest and the contents of most are pretty disappointing. It’s usually some items that you can buy in almost every shop but damn, it feels good exploring every section of the city and opening all the chests for that 100% completion. I should also mention insane monster design and I do mean insane since some of the bosses look like they came out of Lovecraft’s stories. The jump in visual quality is especially evident if you played the previous entry Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA like I recently did.
You can choose between the English and Japanese voices as you play and after a while, I did notice that the lip-sync can be a bit off at times if you prefer playing it in English. It doesn’t happen too often that I could consider it immersion breaking, but it’s there. As far as music goes, no complaints there. The music during the siege sections is intense and engaging. It’s also not anything to write essays about but it never crosses the line of being annoying, which is honestly all l ask when it comes to RPG games.
If you’re already a fan of the Ys series, then this purchase is a no-brainer for you. If you’re not, now is the best time to become one. Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is the most comprehensive game from the series so far, with an engaging story and intricate combat system. It’s not as linear as the previous games, with way more sidequests to unravel and things to unlock. Some will even reward you with alternate outfits and powerful weapons, so it pays off to be a completionist in this game. It’s also a tad easier in difficulty compared to other Ys games (I remember some being notoriously hard) so this is a perfect opportunity to join Adol on his journey in and outside of Balduq.
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