Ys: IX Monstrum Nox is an action RPG and part of a long series of games that I have not had the pleasure of playing. I had heard of the Ys series over my many years of gaming, but they never stood out enough for me to try one out. Most of the games are not easy to access, as many have not been ported over to play on any console or PC. There are a few around, but it’s only recently that they have been made available to purchase.
Since this is Ys IX, I thought it would be a sequel, but fear not, you can play this one without having played a Ys game! The main character is the same as the other games, but the storyline doesn’t make reference to prior games apart from some dialogue, and it isn’t necessary to have played them to be able to enjoy this one.
Initial release date: September 26, 2019
Composer: Yukihiro Shindō
Developers: Nihon Falcom, Engine Software, PH3 GmbH
Publishers: Nihon Falcom, NIS America, Nippon Ichi Software
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia
Monstrum Nox has a complicated plot that I will lay out without giving too much away. Your main character is Adol Christian who is also infamously named Crimson King (for his red attire). Adol is an adventurer who has traveled the world and is well-known for his journeys. He’s accused of meddling in the Romun army’s affairs and is arrested as he enters the prison city of Balduq. Eventually, he escapes from incarceration but his bad luck continues as he meets with a mysterious woman named Aprilis outside the prison. She suddenly shoots him which takes him into another dimension called the Grimswald Nox. And so your adventure as Adol really gets underway!
Others have also been called to this strange place, and are known as Monstrums. Five of them will fight by your side when you enter the Grimswald, which you enter at certain points in the plot while inside the city. There’s a magical force field that will not let you pass or enter new areas until you clear the Grimswald, but once you acquire 100 points by completing side-quests, you are able to challenge these. Each area has a boss that awaits you once you defeat enough of the monsters, though they often aren’t that difficult to take out. Once it’s over, you arrive back in the city and you can enter the new section.
Balduq is called the prison city because of its high walls and the large jail that plays a big part in the story. As you explore the city and learn more about the Monstrums, you gain an understanding of the history of the area as well, and why the Romun empire is there. There’s a political controversy going on between the Empire and the knights of the city, but it’s more of a backstory than part of the main plot.
When I play any RPG I want to be invested in the story, and even though these characters were memorable and the voice acting was good by my standards, the game didn’t delve into much detail as to what was going on for much of the game. Instead, most of your time is spent completing quests, talking with NPCs, learning the backstory of your party, and exploring the city. You play chapters that are often about a particular character’s story and Adol’s as well, then it wraps up and you start on the next chapter.
I was not given any answers to most of the questions I had as I played. Not until the very last arc of the story, that is, which was frustrating because the more I played, the more confused I felt. I don’t want to spoil the game, but suffice to say that you are left in the dark until literally the last few hours.
Ys IX drops a huge reveal that is interesting but unexpected, and so felt out of place. It was rushed instead of unfolding over time for the player. So yes, it does eventually answer most of the questions you would have as you play, but it was too much at once and you can get lost in the infodump.
Since the plot wasn’t that great in this case, I had to lean more onto the gameplay when it came to enjoying Ys IX: Monstrum Nox.
Battles only occur in dungeons or open areas and a lot of enemies can be avoided, though it’s best to fight them and level up for the boss battles. There isn’t a lot to do in terms of special moves or techniques in the beginning, but as you gain more party members and experience you gain Monstrum Gifts like gliding, double jump, and more. One of the first abilities you get is being able to “warp” from one spot of town to another, so essentially you can criss-cross quickly, which I appreciated.
Some quests involve the backstory of party members while others are just fetch-quests or defeating some monsters, which was pretty boring. At least you don’t have to walk across one area to the next for long periods of time, and load times were pretty smooth. I’ve played JRPGs where the load times were unending, even on a next gen console like Switch (I’m looking at you, Trials Of Mana).
For me, the most enjoyable battles were the bosses, since the enemies aren’t that challenging. When it came to the bosses, I was excited to see what I was up against, but I would have liked more of a reason as to why I was fighting them, instead of it just being a matter of reaching the end of the dungeon and no other real reason.
The menu wasn’t complicated, which is a relief since some RPGs give you so many options that it’s hard to figure out what to do. Certain sections are unlocked as you play, so you can’t explore everything at the start. Weapons, armor, and items are purchased in shops or found in random chests just like most games in this genre, while quests are available once you have access to your base, which is a bar called the Dandelion.
Graphics & Music
The Nintendo Switch may not be the most powerful console out there, but it has the capability of shining a little more than its competitors, PlayStation and Xbox, on some games. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case here.
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox has nice graphics when you are exploring the city or interacting with other characters. The colors are bright and detailed, especially on the party members or other important figures in the game, but when you are in a fight those colors become overwhelming from all the attacks and special moves being unleashed. In the beginning, when you are only playing as Adol or have one more party member, you don’t notice it much, but once all six are fighting in the Grimswald, it’s truly overwhelming.
There is so much going on during intense battles that it’s hard to even tell what’s happening since many attacks take up a lot of the screen and the monsters can be fairly large. It’s fun at times since you can be fighting several enemies at once, but gameplay would lag oftentimes from all the action.
The soundtrack was OK, but not very memorable. There were times when I would get tired of hearing the same tune since it would repeat so much. The foreboding tunes that you hear before the Grimswald began were a nice touch, but overall it sounded similar to most RPG music.
And so, my first foray into the Ys series was memorable and mildly enjoyable. The intense boss battles stand out in the gameplay, though there was some lag and even some glitching at times, and much of the questing was pretty standard. The Monstrums are a team that doesn’t always get along, but each member has their own reasons for sticking around, and this made them feel relatable. Their stories were interesting enough to make me want to know more about them, though for much of the game, my questions went unanswered. In terms of the plot, it certainly felt rushed and out of context for what was going on in Balduq, so the pacing could have been improved. Overall, it follows the usual formula of RPG games, but if you’re looking for some decent boss fights and anime-style aesthetics, this may be the game for you. At the end of the day, I’m glad I had the opportunity to play this game and I hope you do too!
We want to thank NIS for the review copy of YS IX: Monstrum Nox.