Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Release: September 26th, 2019
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PS4, PC
The Ys series returns to the Nintendo Switch with Ys IX: Monstrum Nox. The series started in 1987, with Ys IX being the second game in the series brought to the Switch (the previous entry, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, landed on the Switch in 2018).
You don’t need to play the previous entries to enjoy Ys IX, but I will admit, the beginning of the game was a bit confusing. If you haven’t played the series before, you play as Adol Christin, an adventurer that seems to find trouble (or trouble finds him). The game takes place in the prison city of Balduq, and Adol is imprisoned for his “antics''. While imprisoned, he runs into a mysterious character named Aprilis, who “curses” him with a superpower, making him a Monstrum. With his new abilities, he starts to discover others with these abilities, and uncovers a dark secret hiding within the city.
The game is broken into chapters, with each chapter revolving around the different Monstrums that eventually join your party. The game really starts opening up about an hour after the game begins, when the first Monstrum joins your party. The game is an action RPG and at first the battles are pretty scarce (and very story heavy), but after the first chapter is complete, the battle elements really start to open up. You have your standard attack and as you progress in the game, you start to unlock special attacks. The special attacks are mapped to the top shoulder button plus pushing either X, Y, A, B. As you unlock new special attacks by leveling up your character or by finding “recipes” unlocking the special abilities, you can decide which button the special attack is tied to. You consume Skill Points (SP) when you use these special attacks, however SP does replenish when you land normal attacks.
Besides the special attacks, you also have a “power up” mode, which is achieved by filling up a meter that’s also replenished by landing attacks. When the meter is filled to a certain point, you can activate the “power up” mode, which increases your attack and gives you some health as well.
The game progresses as you unlock new crew members. There are areas in the city that you can’t get to unless you have access to a different characters’ special move abilities. For instance, one of the first characters you unlock allows you to walk up walls, which is required to get to certain parts of the city and to progress the story. The city is huge and there is plenty of stuff to do there with many different side quests to take on. The game also gates progress through the game by locking the different sections of the city behind barriers. The barriers are unlocked by entering into the Grimwald Nox and defeating waves of monsters, the final wave being the boss of the Grimwald Nox. The Grimwald Nox battles are a bit different, as they’re more like tower defense, where the monsters are trying to destroy a crystal and your team of Monstrums need to protect it. And unlike the rest of the game, all the Monstrums join you in the battle, regardless if you unlocked them or not.
The Grimwald Nox is only accessible once the Nox meter is at 100. To increase the Nox meter, you need to do side quests or go around and kill monsters in the city. This adds an interesting aspect of the game, you don’t need to do any of the side quests, but you get more Nox points by doing side quests than you do by just killing monsters.
Most of the side quests are accessed through a kiosk found in The Dandelion, a bar that operates as your base of operations which you unlock an hour or so in. At The Dandelion you can interact with different characters that, for some gold and materials, can craft items for you like food, weapons, armor, and new mods for your equipment. What I found interesting is that some side quests open up different people that can craft items for you, but you don’t need to do the side quests to progress in the game. Again, this is an interesting way to encourage you to do the side quests, but doesn’t necessarily force your hand to do so.
The most intriguing part of the game is the story. You get to learn more about each Monstrum throughout the different chapters, and in doing so you become more attached to the different characters. And the mystery of what is going on with the monsters that are attacking the city and the secrets around the prison itself will keep you hooked.
Final Grade: A+
I didn’t know what to expect at first when I started to play Ys IX, I was a bit lost at first and while the game started off slow with a lot of story, after the first hour I was hooked. The combat is fun and deep with plenty of side content to explore as well. Whether you are a veteran to the Ys franchise or a newcomer, if you are a fan of action RPGs, this is a game that should be part of your library.
Review code provided by NIS America