Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is the latest entry in the 34-year-old long-running Ys series. As such, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Nihon Falcom aimed to do something a bit different this time with both its narrative and gameplay structure. I have to admit that I’ve never played a Ys game, but ever since it was first revealed, I couldn’t help but dive in to see what I’ve been missing all these years.
A Different Story
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox follows our recurring protagonist, Adol Christin, who has been on many adventures and misadventures over the years. This time, Adol’s journey takes him to the strange prison city of Balduq. Where things go awry yet again as he’s captured by the city’s authorities, which have detailed knowledge on all his past adventures and are determined to question him on each and every one of them. After answering said questions, he’s then rudely thrown into jail. He eventually escapes and runs into Aprilis, a cool-looking magical young lady who introduces herself by shooting him with a magic bullet. This transforms him into a ‘Monstrum’ known as the Crimson King. But with the powers of a Monstrum comes a curse. Adol can no longer leave the city that aims for his head and will have to fight monsters alongside other cursed Monstrums in another dimension called the Grimwald Nox, before finding a way to undo the curse.
Ys IX’s story is told in a typical JRPG structure. Adol makes connections throughout the city and eventually uncovers the identities of his Monstrum mates and forms a close bond with them. Each Monstrum have their own story to tell and interesting backgrounds. As such, the plot mostly revolves around them. Once you eventually clear their plotlines, they join your party and focus shifts to the next Monstrum.
Graphics & Gameplay
The first thing most players will notice upon starting Adol’s journey is the game’s graphical fidelity or lack thereof. Nihon Falcom’s Ys engine has never been a show stopper or jaw dropper, and the case remains true for YSIX. While its visuals aren’t magnificent, the level designs and especially the character designs, are really what grabbed my attention. Each of the Monstrums’ outfits and looks are heavily detailed and expresses who they are as characters, especially Aprilis, whose character design and model have to be one of the coolest I’ve seen in a JRPG in a long time.
As for the meat and potatoes of the game, which is the gameplay, I have to say I was surprised at how Nihom handled it. While the core mechanics don’t go beyond mashing several buttons in real-time, the main event of combat is seen during the Grimwald Nox battles. This section is akin to a raid where all party members/ Monstrums wail on progressively difficult hordes of enemies, all of whom aim their sights on a specific crystal column you’re there to defend. Go a bit farther in the game, and you’ll be able to add items to the arena to make your job a lot easier, such as decoy columns to take aggro, enemy debuff items, and more. This section of the game is frankly my favorite. While it doesn’t offer enough difficulty initially, it progressively does and becomes more fun in the process, especially once you’re able to control every Monstrum and use their powers.
Players can also freely switch between party members on the fly, which aids the fast-paced combat I always appreciate. Each party member has a strike, slash, or pierce attack type with heavy attacks, light attacks, and dodge moves. Each enemy is weak to a specific attack type, so switching characters around is usually optimal. Once you deal enough damage, you’ll be able to use your cool-looking ultimate move, which is unique to each character. Players can also use all manner of healing items, accessories, food items, and more for buffs and debuffs.
A City to Explore
Outside the Grimawald Nox, players can enjoy exploring Balduq’s open-ended map filled with pedestrians and all manner of shops in between main missions or during side quests. As I mentioned earlier, once a character’s plotline is cleared, they’ll be able to join your party. As a bonus, you’ll also be able to use their powers even outside of combat which helps in all manner of situations. For example, White Cat can sprint on walls, and when she joins your party, Adol will inherit the same powers as well. Using the various methods the game hand you to transverse its world is honestly one of the most fun parts of Ys IX. The experience is made even better thanks to the game’s well-designed and easy-to-read map, complete with snappy fast traveling.
Unfortunately, the world still isn’t your oyster in Ys IX. At least not at first, as players will have to unlock each segment of the map bit by bit, thanks to that darn curse. This can be done by playing through the story, finishing side quests, and then activating the Grimwald Nox and beating the waves of enemies it comes with. Afterwards, you’ll finally able to unlock that next part of the map. As with most JRPGs, Ys IX also comes with dungeons to explore, plunder, and conquer. While some enemy types in some dungeons can be annoying, especially those you’ll need to switch characters for, each dungeon ends with an epic boss fight, of which are really well designed.
While gameplay can be quite fun, one significant aspect of the game is its tendency to be a bit repetitive. As you’ll need to unlock a Grimwald Nox to progress the story, this process usually involves playing a bunch of side quests to fill the meter quickly before meeting the next Monstrum. As a result, you’ll need to do that for every chapter, which gets irritating halfway through the game. Though it didn’t ruin my experience with the gameplay and story regardless.
It’s hard not to point out the similarities between Ys IX and another notable JRPG, Tales of Berseria. Like Ys IX, the narrative aspects include a much darker tone and subject matter, and the gameplay is quite similar. It’s just a shame the graphical elements aren’t up to par with Bandai’s stellar series.
Overall, Ys IX: Monstrum Nox surprised me with how much of a great experience it provided. While the gameplay is simple, it is still genuinely fun and liberating. The story is engaging, and the characters are endearing. Though the structure can be a bit repetitive and the graphics are somewhat unremarkable, it’s hard not to acknowledge that the game is an excellent entry in the franchise, even for newcomers of the series.
Are you a fan of the Ys series? Have you played Ys IX: Monstrum Nox yet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox surprised me with how much of a great experience it provided. While the gameplay is simple, it is still genuinely fun and liberating. The story is engaging, and the characters are endearing.
- Interesting plot
- Endearing characters
- Fun combat
- Simplistic gameplay