Initial Release Date: Japan September 26, 2019; Worldwide (PS4) February 2, 2021; Nintendo Switch Summer 2021; PC Summer 2021
Composer(s): Hayato Sonoda; Takahiro Unisuga; Yukihiro Jindo; Mitsuo Singa
Developers: Nihon Falcom, Engine Software, PH3 GmbH
Publishers: Nihon Falcom, Nippon Ichi Software, NIS America
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows
Genres: Video game, Role-playing game
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Adol The Red. That name alone is the name of a man who has led a life of adventure and wonder that exceeds any adventure that Link of The Legend of Zelda series has ever embarked on as while Link may have the same link across one or two adventures, in the Ys franchise it’s the same Adol in every game just at different points in his life. Ys is a historic franchise that has been a mainstay of Nihon Falcom for as long as The Legend of Zelda has been in existence. While it has never reached the mainstream success of Nintendo’s iconic franchise and has always remained a niche series; it has pushed the action adventure genre far beyond anything else any other title has ever done and with each entry it has continued to do so time and again all the while reinventing itself to not be complacent upon its laurels.
Ys, as a franchise, has always had a very strong story at it’s core centered around its world and the adventures of Adol Christin which is what has lead many to believe that it spurred Nintendo to attempt to make story more central in it’s Zelda series over the decades of which only the last two Zelda games have essentially had voice acting and stronger story narratives which is something Ys has nearly had since its inception well over 30 years ago. With eight previously powerful entries in the franchise, save for Ys V: Lost Kingdom of Kefin (We don’t talk about that one), Y’s is now entering it’s tenth canon entry that will be continuing the story of Adol the Red past his last chronological adventure in Ys SEVEN. Does Ys IX: Monstrum Nox live up to the extremely strong fanfare of the last mainline entry Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA or does it fail to achieve the same greatness and end up a forgotten story in Adol’s legend the same way as Ys V is? Let’s find out!
Monstrum Nox kicks off with wandering adventurer Adol Christin and long time companion and best friend Dogi the Wallcrusher traveling to Balduq better known as “The Prison City” which is under Romun control and is to the northeast of Esteria in the Gllia region. Upon arriving to the city, Adol and Dogi see that there is a commotion at the gate and head forward to see what is going on only to have Adol arrested and accused of being responsible for the disappearance of a Romun fleet during a voyage across the Atlas Ocean. During his escape, Adol happens across a mysterious cloaked woman known as Aprillis and is then shot with a bullet from her gun and is then cursed allowing him to turn into a being known as a Monstrum called the “Crimson King”. Upon escape, Adol finds himself caught up in a war between the cryptic Prison City of Balduq and its Hieroglyph Knights vs the Monstrum. What fate befalls Adol in this most perilous of adventures in his fabled legend?
If you love the Ys series and loved Ys VIII Lacrimosa of DANA then you’ll love this game as it basically takes the groundwork and foundation that game laid out while intermixing aspects of Ys Memories of Celceta and Ys SEVEN and brings it all together to deliver one of the best Ys games ever made. You can run, sprint, attack, jump, dodge roll, and more! Everything that you were able to do in Ys VIII you can do in this game.
So, if this is basically allowing you to do everything you did in the last game then what exactly makes this game anything more than a glorified update to a 4 year old game?
It’s much more than just an update, it’s a full-blown sequel in every sense of the word.
As you find more of the Monstrums you will be able to gain new abilities such as the ability to scale walls by running straight up them called Heaven’s Run, the Hunter’s Descent ability allowing you to glide across environments, and the like. The first new ability you gain is the Crimson Line ability which, if you’ve ever played the Devil May Cry 4 and 5 and are familiar with Nero and his Devil Bringer ability, you’ll be right at home with how this functions as it allows you to perform a Snatch style technique that will pull Adol towards red highlighted areas almost instantaneously.
You can use Crimson Line not only for getting around the environment quickly but also to be able to close the gap between you and your enemy allowing you to continue your combo strings of attacks. This feature is especially useful when in the tower defense mode with enemy waves requiring you to protect the pillar and more allowing you to get back to the area you need to stave off enemies with ease.
Each character will fall under one of three different damage types from Slash, Strike, and Pierce which operates in a Rock, Papers, Scissors type deal with each one having higher effectiveness over certain enemies vs other attacks. Slash is effective vs the majority of enemies you’ll encounter and is most effective against fleshy or soft enemies. Strike works best when encountering enemies that are armored such as crustaceans and the like. Finally, we have Pierce which is best used against any of the numerous aerial enemies like birds and bats especially the returning bat boss from Ys 1.
The game gives you a great selection of characters to choose from such as series hero Adol; complete with everything he had in Lacrimosa of DANA. Adol has several new moves in his new Crimson King Monstrum form with skills such as Demonic Pierce, Abyssal Blade, Rising Smash, and more. Some of the other characters you can unlock are Krysha the White Cat who is this games' hand to hand brawler similar to Duran from Memories. Her strikes allow you to smash hard shelled enemies and break through their defenses. Credo or Hawk is a dual blade user who is able to utilize techniques to pierce enemies and damage them with rapid stabbing and slashes. There are several more characters that you will gain as the story goes on such as Doll, Raging Bull, Renegade and Aprilis each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
Each character has Skills that they can learn as they level up and find various items through out the game. You can assign up to 4 Skills for each character to be set to any of the 4 face buttons being Square, Circle, Triangle, and Cross.
You can switch between any of the 3 active party members with ease by pressing the Circle button to change up your offensive tactics and be able to bring the pain. For the remaining two AI controlled companions; you can press the left section of the Touch Pad on either your DualShock 4 or DualSense controller (if you are playing this on the PS4 or PS5 respectively) allowing you to designate to your allies if you want to have them focus on Offense or Defense. Offense will have them focusing on sticking with you and relentlessly attacking while Defense will have them focusing on evading enemy attacks and staying alive. Quite honestly this is some of the best companion AI I’ve ever experienced in a game where I never have to worry about the AI doing something dumb and costing me a companion. It’s literally set it and forget it as the battle situations change.
Returning from previous Ys games are the Flash Move and Flash Guard techniques. Executed in the exact same way as they were done in Ys VIII; Flash Move and Flash Guard allow you to get the upper hand on your opponents allowing you to dish out the pain. Flash Move is activated by pressing L1 right before an enemy attack lands on you and if done properly, you will gain a few moments of invincibility along with a Bullet Time like slowdown allowing you to get in tons of hits on enemies. Flash Guard allows you to not only avoid taking damage but also allows you to build up your Boost Gauge and allows you to deliver some critical hits with all of your attacks for a brief moment.
Holding R1 and pressing L1 will cause your character to active the Boost mode which will allow you to enhance not only your attacks and skills but also take less damage, recover your SP rate and restore HP, and generally ramp up your character speed. Activating this function means you will need to build your Boost Gauge by Boosting which is done by successfully landing attacks or using Flash Guard. Your Boost Gauge will deplete is you never end up activating it.
EXTRA Skills are activated by holding R1 and pressing L1 after activating Boost Mode and allow you to activate the most devastating attacks for each of your characters and leveling the surrounding enemies in the environment. Once activating the EXTRA Skill you will see a cut in animation and which will lead to your character doing their move and once finished it will fully drain you Boost Gauge.
While roaming about the city and fields you’ll come across various black sphere pillars which will bring about Lemures which will switch you from your regular form to your Monstrum form to do battle with the demons of Grimwald Nox.
As you continue to defeat more and more of the Lemures, you’ll eventually start building up your NOX Gauge, which once filled, will bring about miasma vortexes that act as barriers to progressing in the City and surrounding areas. You’ll need to enter the miasma vortexes and conquer the Grimwald Nox within to progress in the story and explore new areas. Each miasma vortex will have information as to what you will be facing as well as what’s the recommending level you should be at before attempting to enter it. Defeating enemies in the Grimwald Nox as well as the fields and dungeons will give you various items you can use towards upgrading weapons and gear at areas like Tito’s Smithy and Arche’s Material Exchange.
Quests are available both at the bulletin board at the Dandelion or found in the city by approaching NPC’s with a green exclamation point over their heads. Examining quests at the bulletin board will give you all the pertinent story information for the quest from the client’s name, the priority of the quest, the deadline to complete it, and the reward for doing so. I HIGHLY implore you to make it a point to explore as much as you can and complete as much of the quests as you can from both the bulletin board as well as the ones found on the field/city as they will not only give you some needed and rare items but also further expound on the story of the City of Balduq and its inhabitants.
While I could continue on about the various aspects of this game’s gameplay, I’d rather you dive in and find out more about this title for yourself as you play it. Just know that there is so much more to this game than first meets the eye as completing this game will take you well over 40 hours on your first try.
Also, if you have a save file of either Ys VIII Lacrimosa of DANA or Ys Memories of Celceta then you will receive in game bonus items of the Old Seal Ring from Ys VIII and the Celcetan Wreath from Memories. Both of these games along with all the others are heavily referenced in this game.
if compared to other modern games like Ghost of Tsushima, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Resident Evil 2 and 3 Remake then this game won’t win any awards in the graphics department. Even Trails of Mana, Dragon Quest XI, and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity all look a lot better than this game does, HOWEVER, that does not mean this is a bad looking game by any means. Yes it does have a lot of stilted animation and reused assets from the previous games and the Trails of Cold Steel series, it still is a very beautiful game in its own right and has a vibrancy and charm to it that a lot of modern games don’t and I love it all the more for it.
The character models for the main characters like Adol in both his normal/disguised forms and his Monstrum “Crismon King” form look really good and are very well detailed while the NPCs will often reuse the same models over and over with some story characters such as Tito’s dad sharing the same character model as enumerable Balduq citizens.
There’s also the draw distance and texture pop-in that happens that can be shocking to see in a previous/current generation title. I would expect that in something from the PS2 and PS3 era but not something built from the ground up for the PS4 originally.
Those issues aside, the game’s world feels very much alive with what is honestly the first ever Ys title to ever have so many NPCs that are walking around in a bustling town ever. Not even Ys SEVEN or Memories of Celceta or even Lacrimosa of DANA achieved this. Yes there’s jank here and there but this honestly leaves me excited for what is to come in future installments in the franchise on a next generation engine.
This is a Falcom game so of course the music is GOD TIER! There is not a single bad track in this game as each song fits the gothic setting and scences perfectly. The music has a plethora of composers from Mitsuo Singa (Feel Force), Yukihiro Jindo (Heart Beat Shaker), Hayato Sonoda (Stagnant Pool), and Takahiro Unisuga (Aprillis) who have delivered on every front from screaming metal guitar riffs to upbeat melodic tunes all the way to gothic and ominous melodies inviting mystery and intrigue.
While there is no is no equivalent to Ys VIII’s “Sunshine Coastline”, the closest this game gets to that timeless theme is “Heart Beat Shaker” which, while very good in its own right, doesn’t reach to the heights of Sunshine Coastline in catchiness.
The main theme of the game being “Aprillis” (composed by Takahiro Unisuga) delivers in so many ways a haunting and majestic organ filled melody that if you listen closely enough, tells a tragic tale of our heroine and her fated meeting with Adol the Red.
Simply put, Falcom needs to go down as the one company that has for well over 30 years continued to pump out the most amazing music in gaming. There is absolutely NO WAY that you can listen to this OST and not be drawn in to how amazing it is. STOP reading the review right now and go listen to “Forgotten Days”, “Invitation to the Crimson Night”, or “Gria Recollection” by Hayato Sonoda or better yet go play “Strategic Zone” by Yukihiro Jindo and then talk to me!
I only have two negatives for this game: the FREQUENT crashes that I experienced playing this on my PlayStation 5 causing me to lose A LOT of progress and the second issue being the very low-quality compressed videos for when you enter the miasma vortexes and Aprillis delivers her repeated speech before you engage in the tower defense battles.
I have no idea how no one at NISA/Falcom didn’t QA test this game for the crashing issues on PS5 other than they didn’t put much thought into how it runs on PS5 and focused solely on it’s PS4 performance. If this were XSEED handling the Ys franchise still, then this would never have been a thing and you’d get a perfectly performing game out the gate.
I have heard many say that they did not experience any issues with the game crashing for them on PS4, PS4 Slim, or PS4 Pro yet I’ve also heard just as many if not more having frequent crashing on the same platforms, so I am not sure. All I know is NISA & Falcom will probably fix this with a launch day patch.
The compressed low-quality video for Aprillis’ speech upon entering the miasma vortexes is just strange and has me questioning why Falcom didn’t have this bit have higher quality is beyond me and is not only noticeable coming from the normal in-game graphics but is ultimately jarring over all.
That’s about all I have to say as far as the issues.
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is a 2021 GAME OF THE YEAR contender. Seriously, go and BUY THIS GAME as it’s hands down one of the greatest action RPGs out there and one of the very best in the Ys series. If you felt that Ys VIII was amazing with its amazing content and gameplay then you’ll most definitely love Ys IX. For many, Ys VIII was their first entry into the franchise and is for many long time series vets like myself one of the most cherished entries in the series; as much as I love Ys VIII, Ys IX is THAT MUCH GRANDER AND BETTER!
With a phenomenal story, fantastically written characters, a sprawling world to explore, dungeons to raid, baddies to put down, and some of the best most fluid gameplay in any action RPG that doesn’t forget that it is a video game; Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is a game you MUST OWN if you have a PS4 or PS5! This is a great first step into the grandeur vision of what Ys is going to become in the years ahead of us!