With this being the ninth entry in the Ys series, does Adol’s latest journey bring anything new to the table? And why does everyone look like they’re going to a Halloween party? Let us investigate these matters in our review of Ys IX: Monstrum Nox.
More Story & Presentation, Please!
Stepping back into the shoes of Adol, The Adventurer, Ys IX starts off the journey strong and has our protagonist gunning it out of a prison known as Balduq. He then comes across a mysterious woman known as Aprillis, who quickly shoots him dead. The end… No, she shoots him with some type of energy that transforms him into a hot-topic fanboy, called a Monstrum.
Adol is suddenly thrust into another reality where he’s forced to fight alongside a team of other Monstrums on certain nights, whilst also figuring out the mysteries and happenings in the place of his imprisonment, Balduq. There are some extra side-plots going and motivations that I won’t spoil, but overall, the story and characters are pretty solid. Nothing spectacular, but they all get the job done.
The story and characters are pretty solid. Nothing spectacular, but they all get the job done.
I would’ve liked to have seen some extra depth and characterisation from the cast though, as some of the party members definitely got the short end of the stick. And since the game is on the shorter side of regular RPGs, clocking in at around 25 hours for the main story, I feel as if there could’ve been additional moments of character building and development. I did like the dynamics of the group though, but I found it a bit difficult to become emotionally attached to them. Because of this, when some of the more intense scenes happened, I just felt more apathetic than anything else.
What’s also lacking is that there are literally zero anime cutscenes. What’s up with that? And for the in-game counterparts, you can still see some leftover PS2 jank in the animations. Characters will swivel on the spot then suddenly stop or just straight-up glitch in-between animations, mid-cutscene.
You’ve also got that awkward fade-to-black dissolve thing that happens when something cool is supposed to be happening… But how am I supposed to know that if I can’t see it?
This Is How You Combine Gameplay & Story
On a more positive note, one aspect that’s actually handled incredibly well in regards to the story is how almost all the quests (including the optional ones) relate to the main plot. As you go through the story, the game will quite literally block off your progress with walls that need to be removed, making you complete some extra quests.
It’s like the game’s saying “Nup sorry mate, you’re going way too fast – time for side-quests!”. No, but seriously, these quests are actually great examples of excellent gameplay-story integration, due to the fact that most of them directly tie-in to the plot or events related to the main cast, and they’re not just all boring fetch-quests either. Because let’s be real, how often do RPGs go “Hey, go fetch me five potato chips and I’ll give you this gigantic sword!… Also, I’m a character with no relevance whatsoever, see ya!”
These quests are actually great examples of excellent gameplay-story integration, due to the fact that most of them directly tie-in to the plot or events related to the main cast.
Now for those who are new to the Ys series, these games are mostly played as Action-based RPGs that involve your standard attack combos, dodge-rolls, managing items, magic and over-the-top anime powers, of course. So in Ys IX, you’ll fight with three of the available six party members, with each character containing four skill-slots they can readily swap out in-battle, and use a distinctive ability uniquely granted to them. These abilities, or ‘gifts’ as the game calls them are completely new to the series too. Adding a modern touch to combat, as well as streamlining and expanding player exploration around the world map.
Mind you, a few of the environments aren’t that easy on the eyes, coming across as quite bland and empty looking. Which again, does make it seem like something you’d see from a PS2 RPG.
Ys IX’s ‘Gifts’ of The Trade
That being said, the gifts do help break up the usual running around environments and statically walking into monsters like past titles in the series have suffered from. The best part is that these gifts are shared amongst the party, opening up a surprisingly vast amount of traversal options. For example, the main protagonist’s ‘gift’ is Crimson Line, which lets you hook-shot over to a fixed point at breakneck speed, or quickly close-in and strike an enemy from a distance.
Sadly, you won’t suddenly turn into Peter Parker and start smacking Doc Ock in the face… Although, the variety of ways that you can use this gift in and out of battle is impressive! One of the other abilities lets you run up walls and discover a treasure that’s out of a normal jump’s reach, which is very cool! Another ability lets you see things hidden to the naked eye and view enemies, objects and hidden paths through walls…
Hold on… This IS Persona 5!
The gift I found the most interesting though was the ability, Shadow Dive. This move basically makes the user untouchable by burrowing underground.
The gift I found the most interesting though was the ability, Shadow Dive. This move basically makes the user untouchable by burrowing underground. Meaning when a boss is about to use one of their mega-ultra attacks, you can just casually chill out below and laugh at them – this is oddly satisfying hahaha!
How’s The Actual Combat Itself?
Now let’s talk about combat. As I was saying before, since the Ys series leans more on the action side of things, it incentivises you to go all out with your skill attacks, whilst also letting you decide which of the maximum four moves you’ll bring into battle. Since your MP meter recharges when fighting, this takes the stress out of constantly needing to re-fill and manage your MP. The only meter you need to focus on is your health and the Boost Gauge, which grants you stat buffs and a limit-break attack. Also, if you dodge or guard an enemy’s attack at the perfect time, you’ll either gain a short burst of pace and invincibility or fill up your Boost Gauge and make all your attacks critical hits!
All these aspects allow you to go all-out on the battlefield and fully focus on what’s directly in front of you. This can be a lot in some cases. A LOT.
Frustration, Then Adulation
Especially on those nights in the other reality, where you have to fight waves of enemies whilst protecting a crystal. Man, these battles can be outright brutal, and sometimes not in a good way… It’s basically a tower defence game, where enemies can spawn from either in front or behind you. So you’ll have to grab their attention before they start making a beeline for the crystal. But the frustrating part is sometimes they just don’t wanna fight you, and they’ll just focus purely on the crystal, and then they’ll break it, and then you’ll be really mad because you just wasted 5 minutes button-mashing all these other enemies to death!… Oh boy! Fun!
Look, it honestly is really fun when it actually works, but when it doesn’t… Just have a spare control on hand – that’s all I’m gonna say about that!
I loved dancing around their attacks, figuring out their patterns and studying their movements, really great stuff here!
The bosses, however… This is where I had the most fun in battle. I loved dancing around their attacks, figuring out their patterns and studying their movements, really great stuff here! The designs themselves are definitely on-point too. There are some damage-sponge bosses that take WAY too long to take down, but they are few and far between. Boss battles are where the combat mechanics truly shine.
Ys IX’s Top-Tier OST!
Now, of course, you can’t talk about a Ys game, without talking about the music. And before you ask – yes, you already know it’s great. This OST really elevates the game in my opinion, especially with some of those battle tracks! Those guitar melodies are legit insane! Whoever was jamming on the electric was clearly having the time of their life!
So is Ys IX: Monstrum Nox worth a shot? I’d say yes. The fighting mechanics are crafted very well, even though they can come across a little button-mashy at times. The story and characters themselves just hit the mark, though I would’ve like to have seen more depth and characterisation from my time spent with the party. But the music and dungeon exploration definitely help make up for this. Overall, Ys IX is a solid experience and has a heap of things going for it, but at the end of the day, it can seem a little rough around the edges.
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox has a killer combat system, music and a number of refinements that help propel the series to further heights. The story and presentation are without a doubt lacking in a few areas, and it can be a little jank at times, though Ys IX does get the job done adequately. Action-RPG fans are in for a treat here.
This game was reviewed using a download code provided by NIS America. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.