There's something dodgy going on in the foreboding stone city of Balduq, and seasoned adventurer Adol Christin finds that out the hard way when he's abruptly arrested upon arrival. Our red-haired hero escapes his captors with the help of a mysterious woman, but her assistance comes at a cost. Now saddled with a curse that prevents him from leaving the city, Adol has no choice but to obey his saviour, and strike at the corruption that spreads across Balduq.
Right off the bat, Ys IX: Monstrum Nox serves up an interesting basis for its story. Falcom's series has always placed recurring protagonist Adol in creative situations, and this latest instalment is no different. This time around, Adol isn't just some plucky swordsman looking for adventure — he's a wanted fugitive, and the first few hours of the game set the tone for an altogether darker tale.
Fans will find the overall structure of Monstrum Nox familiar, however — especially if you've played Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. The 2016 release saw Adol shipwrecked on a long forgotten island, where he had to band together with other survivors in order to escape. Monstrum Nox's setting may be completely different, but you'll still find yourself gathering allies, returning regularly to a base of operations, and steadily unlocking new areas of exploration.
Unfortunately, Monstrum Nox just doesn't feel as cohesive as its predecessor, and this is mostly down to the city of Balduq itself. Ys VIII's Isle of Seiren presented a large and varied landscape — a memorable mix of pristine island paradise, ominous ruins, and unknown danger. Balduq, on the other hand, is disappointingly drab and dreary. It's all grey streets and grey buildings, set against a motionless grey sky. It's clearly going for a kind of oppressive, gothic tone — but lacklustre visuals undo the illusion almost immediately.
It's a good job, then, that the city keeps you preoccupied with its many secrets. Over the course of the game, you gain access to various platforming abilities. Before long, you'll be sprinting up walls and gliding from great heights. It's a far cry from the gorgeous style and satisfying slickness of Marvel's Spider-Man, but Balduq becomes a much more interesting locale once you're dashing across its rooftops like a true renegade. There are loads of hidden treasures to discover, and respawning monster portals ensure that you're never too far from any sword-swinging action.
Platforming also plays a key role when it comes to dungeon crawling. Balduq is home to many an underground labyrinth, all of which put your dexterity to the test as well as your combat skills. In typical Ys fashion, dungeons are fast-paced affairs, keeping you on your toes with monster-mashing brawls, some light puzzle solving, and, of course, over-the-top boss fights. Once again, the stone grey architecture makes everything feel a bit too samey, but overall, hacking and slashing through the dungeons of Monstrum Nox is good fun.
Indeed, it's really the tried and tested Ys combat system that holds everything together. The controls are as responsive as ever, with Adol and other playable party members able to pull off flashy combos and special attacks, all while performing evasive rolls, jumps, and dashes at a moment's notice. It's all so smooth and satisfying — especially once you've unlocked each character's full range of techniques.
As for the plot, things move at a slightly slower pace than long-time Ys fans might expect. Monstrum Nox boasts a pretty big cast, and it likes to give each new face a reasonable amount of time in the spotlight. As a result, we get whole story chapters dedicated to a single party member, usually exploring their personality and motivations. In that sense, Ys IX can feel more character-driven than its predecessors, which leads to some surprisingly impactful interactions later on.
However, the focus on individuals means that the overarching plot often takes a backseat. Main story elements tend to lose steam quite quickly, as they're brushed aside for the latest dose of character development. We're left with a core narrative that feels fragmented and even a little contrived once all's said and done.
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is another solid action RPG, but it lacks the overall cohesion of its island-based predecessor. The city of Balduq is a disappointingly monotonous setting, and the game's storytelling often feels disjointed. But as is usually the case with Falcom's long-running series, it's the fast-paced, satisfying, and addictive gameplay that elevates the experience. Adol's latest adventure certainly isn't a classic, but for the most part, it's still a fun ride.
Happy to answer any questions about the game — just make sure to copy me into your comment with @ShogunRok.
Pretty much what I was expecting from the trailers, but I'm still really excited to play it.
It looked pretty good in trailers but I’ve played almost every Ys game except VIII now and I understand how the series could rest on its laurels. It did the same thing from Ark to Origin, barely making any changes which meant that the setting was the deciding factor.
It looked very drab in the trailer, but happy to hear the gameplay holds it up. Great series.
This is what i was expecting based on what i've heard from the Japanese release, and from playing the demo. It's a shame that the City is so dull,but ultimately the gameplay wins out as ever.
I really hope Falcom can strike it big one day, but they definitely need to upgrade their graphics engine to stop the majority of people from not giving their games a second look.
My fears were heightened as soon as i loaded the demo and was dropped into a sewer level. Sewers should be banned from games 😂
Looking forward to this arriving next week amd thanks for the review @shogunrok
The combat in the game is fun from what I saw in the demo and the characters look cool. The graphics I hope will be better when they do a Y's X on PS5, which I'm excited about. Still have to play Lacrimosa of Dana.
I'm a little disappointed that the graphics and the overall look of the game being held in equal regard as the gameplay in this review. The Ys games have never been much to write home about in the graphical stakes and I wouldn't hold that against it even if the tone of this one is less ebullient than previous games. Ys games are about the sublime gameplay, secrets and the combat. I'm fortunate enough to have played games in this franchise but if I had never there's absolutely no light shed in the review as to how this game actually plays. It could be turn-based for all we'd know, the review assumes I'm already familiar with it. Having said that I'm glad that you have reviewed it as these games often get overlooked for being too 'niche'.
I expected as much. It just doesn't look as good as YS VIII. I'm still looking forward to it though. I bought YS: Memories of Celceta the other day too, so I'll have two YS games to play through.
@Hyperluminal I think the review makes it pretty clear that the combat isn't turn based. It talks about hacking and slashing and being able to dodge and jump.
Ys 8 actually look better than this game.word up son
@Bentley-Ma- you can't hack, slash or dodge in turn based games?
Anyway you're missing the point. Hack, slash, dodge and roll is in every game with combat in it, its hardly describing combat mechanics. If you reviewed FFXV or Persona 5 and all you said about the combat system was you can hack, slash, roll and jump would you think thats adequate for a review? Maybe so for people familiar with the games. So I suppose it depends on who these reviews are aimed at. Everybody or just those who've already played them.
I think Ys games are a hidden gem and more people should experience them. Its a shame that they're not being given more exposition to better illustrate what they offer.
I'll still get it eventually, but it's not a priority. I loved playing VIII on my Switch, but will probably get this one on PS4.
I'm guessing Ys VIII will be the standard-bearer for the series for quite a while. It did almost everything right.
Anyway, this review broadly lines up with what I remember importers saying about the game. But I'm still looking forward to it.
@Bentley-Ma- Celceta is brilliant. The story isnt as present as Ys VIII, but i really liked the world and characters. And the soundtrack is FANTASTIC
i should chime in and probably hammer in just how awesome the battles are. one thing that wasn't mentioned in the review was the tower defense-like battles that you can take on (similar to Ys VIII when you protected the fort from invaders).
just like its predecessor, there are some helluva crazy battles waiting in store for you. it can get to the point that there are so many more enemies on screen at the same time compared to even VIII's max amount thrown at you. with all the insane chains into finishers pulled off one after another while whole hordes of enemies kept coming at me, i had to let out a "yeah, this is definitely an Ys game" moment.
sure overall it's not at the same level of greatness as VIII (I've played all parts except V, and VIII is the best), but the battles are some of the best I've had for sure. there's a really good twist of the story at the climax of IX though so it's definitely a lot more memorable than other Ys series, excluding VIII of course.
VIII will forever remain one of my most memorable gaming experiences. It was just phenomenal in every way, if rough in a few areas, and the story, environments, and the Dana character in particular really struck the right chords. I think after that, almost anything would have been a let-down.
I love the Ys series and thought that Ys VIII was easily the best in the whole series. I'm glad that this has reviewed well, even if it hasn't done enough to surpass Ys VIII. I'm definitely going to pick it up at some point
@ShogunRok Did you also have the crashing problems on PS5 that RPG Site reported on?
@ShogunRok Hopefully That New Graphics Engine That They Made For The Next Trails Game Helps Make Ys Look Better As Well.
@IonMagus I actually did have a few crashes during a very specific point in the game, but I figured it was just some weird bug. They only happened in Chapter 3, and once I got past a certain point, I never had another crash.
If other sites are reporting it, I suppose something must be wrong. Even weirder if they're exclusive to playing on PS5.
@Areus For sure. What little we've seen of that new engine looks great!
@Rob_230 That sewer song is dope af tho
@ShogunRok Yeah NISA said to RPG site that they are working on a Patch so its a known problem^^
@IonMagus Well that's reassuring at least. Hopefully it isn't a problem for much longer.
I agree that the Prison City setting as pretty much the only setting likely brought down the score - esp in comparison to Ys VIII. Gameplay is still king and that's most important. Bought the game and can't wait to jump in...(after I finish the second half of Ys Seven on VITA)
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