A Gift or Curse?

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox releases in North America February 2nd and in Europe on February 5th for PS4, with Nintendo Switch and PC versions coming Summer 2021. We’ll take a mostly spoiler free look into Ys IX (as spoiler free as possible anyway, spoilers may be present). With that out of the way, welcome to Balduq the next destination for Adol the Red.

Story and Gameplay

This time through we start off with our favorite adventurer arriving in the prison city of Balduq only to be quickly arrested and thrown behind bars. It is here you’ll gain your “gift” as the Crimson King and the story begins, but is being the Crimson King really a gift, or have you just become cursed? This is one of the truth’s you’ll try to answer for yourself during your time in Balduq. Many trials await you, but luckily you wont have to face them alone. Early on you are introduced to a team of Monstrums (those individuals who also have similar “gifts”) and become enlightened to the fact that you yourself are now one.

The main gameplay is split between exploring dungeons and doing battle in an open space called the Grimwald Nox. We’ll go more in-depth in the Battle section of this review. Now, I mentioned main gameplay as I did spend A LOT of time outside of fighting in the Grimwald Nox and dungeons just having an absolute blast exploring the city and surrounding areas. As you meet more of your Monstrum companions you gain the ability to share their gifts, allowing you to do everything from running up walls to sprouting wings and gliding down from heights. With a plethora of treasure chests, graffiti, and azure petals to find, you’re almost guaranteed to have a blast zipping through town searching for as many hidden goodies as you can find.

Aside from exploration, dungeons, and the Grimwald Nox you also have side quests to complete. Some of which are readily made available to you through a bulletin board. In a way its similar to how you receive some quests in certain Legend of Heroes games.

These quests can range from short and sweet, to longer missions that ultimately may let you recruit more allies.

All things taken into consideration, there is a lot of game here for you to enjoy and we haven’t even touched on my favorite part yet, fighting.

Battle

This is no doubt where Ys shines, The battles are incredibly enjoyable and make it hard to set the controller down. There are a handful of mechanics in play here but lets start with the basics. You’ll be keeping an eye on that round guage in the bottom right hand corner of your screen. The blue represents your SP guage that can be used to unleash various different skills. Inflicting damage also fills in an inner orange ring that can be activated either at 50% or 100% that provides a stat increase, health regen, and the ability to use a finshing move. Activating this guage will also deplete it every second it is active. In a way it is similar to a CP guage in Trails of Cold Steel, however, unlike Trails of Cold Steel the strength of your finishing move is the same regardless of when you use it (its just as strong when used with 1% left or 100%).

Also included in battle are mechanics known as flash move and flash guard. Mastering these two mechanics is vital to success the later in the game you get or the higher the difficulty you play on. A perfectly timed dodge activates flash move, slowing down time around you while also providing a buff to your SP meter. A perfectly timed guard will activate flash guard, turning all of your attacks into critical strikes. All of this is complimented by a brilliant soundtrack that only adds to the experience. The battle system feels rewarding to execute, although I will admit the control scheme did take awhile for me to adjust to. Primarily the lock-on function with the sheer amount of enemies on screen at times.

PS4 or PS5?

I do want to note that the first half of my playthrough took place on PS5 while the second half on a PS4 Pro. I did encounter some issues while playing on PS5. I reported these to NIS America and they were very responsive to any comments I had which gives me confidence that they will be resolved. I am happy to report that the game ran perfectly on my PS4 Pro.

Closing Thoughts

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox was an absolute joy to play through and I find myself already embarking on my New Game + adventure. From the wanderlust feelings instilled, to the addictive combat Ys fans will find joy in picking up this latest entry. While not a perfect game Ys IX: Monsturm Nox definitely still hits the mark for me, and if you are looking for a good action RPG to play, give this one a whirl. Also to dispel the IX in the title, Ys IX can definitely be your entry point to the series, you may miss out on some past game references but it’s not so much that it would impact your ability to play the game at all.

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