Ys IX: Monstrum Nox takes modest steps to remain true to its origins while moving forward, using new mechanics, gameplay elements, and plenty more to deliver one of the best experiences the famed Nihon Falcom series has had to offer since its inception. Here’s our review for Ys IX: Monstrum Nox.
+Enjoyable gameplay elements that change based on each member of your party that has been recruited
+Upgrades and character improvements have a sense of added weight to them
+Fun, flashy, and visually pops from its predecessors
-Random difficulty spikes that can be rather overwhelming
-Framerate issues that crop up quite a bit
No matter when you’ve had a chance to experience the 30+-year-old franchise from Nihon Falcom, each one can feel like your very first, each one stands out on its own, and it offers both fans new and old a chance to go on a seemingly standalone experience in an adventure with franchise protagonist Adol Christin.
Whether you experienced the series for the first time with Ys: The Oath of Felghana or even one of the latest releases such as Ys: Memories of Celceta, each title is a perfect experience to have, and each one won’t make you feel completely lost without having played a previous entry.
Each entry, however, does feature its own array of changes from gameplay mechanics to self-contained stories, which in ways, evolve how combat is experienced from its predecessor. Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is the latest entry in the series to continue on this legacy and is also the very first one to evolve story development and world-building in ways the series has never before seen.
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is one of the strongest entries to date thanks to some of its creative narrative changes and gameplay evolutions
The biggest change comes into focus with both story and narrative designs, which means that Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is a much different beast, focusing on previous adventures of Adol Christin more than ever before. Each one is brought into question, forming much of what has happened to him and has led to a warrant for his arrest.
All of them have happened before he ever stepped foot into the city of Balduq, one where he will find himself being both an inmate, and a vigilante on the run within. The story takes its biggest twist when he is assisted by a mysterious figure by the name of Aprillis who ends up shooting Adol in his attempt to escape the Balduq prison, and ultimately, Aprillis leading up to how he becomes one of the six Monstrums running about the city’s streets.
It’s in those very streets that our latest story unfolds as Adol teams up with the other five Monstrums, using their abilities to run up walls, see the terrain about them, and even dart across the city like a superhero from a comic-book series. The character development happens fast, building up what you need to know within the very first chapter before evolving further, bringing the stories full circle, and delivering one of the strongest stories within the franchise.
It’s an impressive story that has a clear focus on character development, relying less on cutscenes and more on graphic novel-like interactions. While it does make the experience feel like it’s dragging, it’ll open up the rest of the game, drawing you in as the world-building story itself begins, expanding on a few of the cast members even further.
While the scenery has drastically changed, this is very much a Ys title, which is a significant accomplishment for the franchise
Unlike Ys: Memories of Celceta or Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, Monstrum parts ways with you trekking your way through wave-crushed islands, lush forests, and forests in exchange for the confined walls of a city. It’s a harsh change for Adol, but, it’s not unexpected as it runs with the confined prison-like elements of Monstrum Nox and reinforces the idea of being a prisoner of fate.
Now, unlike its predecessors, Ys IX: Monstrum Nox follows in the steps of its predecessor titles, often using new means of exploration to add depth to the overall experience. Things such as wall-running, gliding, using a grappling hook-like mechanic (Crimson Line), and plenty more add to the game. It’s a nice change that’s quite unexpected. It makes world-building and the sense of depth even bigger, which, is welcomed as a long-time fan of the franchise.
Ys IX also does more than that to set the bar even higher. Combat in Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is faster-paced, it’s far more chaotic, and you can swap instantly between members of your three-man squad on the fly. Each party member comes with its own damage type as well, which is critical in some encounters, making team composition all-the-more important.
Combat pacing can be changed by using your attention to timing to the best of your ability, allowing you to slow time using Flash Dodge maneuvers and Flash Guard to parry damage so that you can unleash a flurry of attacks before time catches back up. Each character has its own handful of special attacks that can be unlocked through leveling up and finding ability books that allow you to power up even faster.
Character and item upgrades in Ys IX: Monstrum Nox are worthwhile investments and shouldn’t be shoved to the side
Upgrades in Ys IX are important. You’ll want to take the time to do so before jumping into a Nox-based mission, allowing you to better defend your crystal, pushing enemies back as much as you can, and biding yourself a bit more time than before.
It’s critical to ensure that you do this, but it is also critical you constantly stay on top of upgrading your character’s gear and ensuring that the best pieces are equipped. All of them have their benefits and having an edge against some of the bosses is of the utmost importance.
Some of these upgrades could be the change between winning or losing a battle, which honestly, is a damn shame as it does make the overall experience a bit tougher than before, and it will help give you the upper hand when the difficulty spikes hit harder than they would have.
If it’s not the gear that kills you, however, it will be the framerate dips that hit all-too-often while playing on a PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 4 Pro. One can only hope there is an optimization patch in the roadmap as the game needs one quite badly.
There’s no denying that Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is the best the series has had to offer in modern times. Combat is fast, it’s flash, exploration has seen a massive overhaul since the release of Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, Adol’s story matters, which brings over 30 years of games into a full circle in a brilliant way.
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publisher: NIS America
Release Date: Available Now
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox has also raised the bar for future entries, making it so that one could only wonder where the story is now and where it could go in the future. Will traversal be much the same or if there are more evolutions in the pipeline in the works for future titles? We only hope.
Our review is based upon a retail version of the game provided to us by the publisher for the review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native video game reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook today.