Ys IX: Monstrum Nox
Publisher – NIS America
Developer – Nihon Falcom
Review Platform – PS4 played on the PS5
Release Date – February 2, 2021 (NA), February 5, 2021 (EU), February 12, 2021 (ANZ)
Also available – Nintendo Switch, PC: Summer 2021
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is a JRPG published by NIS America and developed by Nihon Falcom portraying another amazing adventure of Adol Christin. It is the tenth title of the Ys series, origins & 1-9, and is its own story letting players enjoy the game without needing to play the previous titles.
Adol the Red arrives in Balduq, Gllia a territory of the Romun Empire, with his good buddy Dogi and at the security checkpoint Adol gets thrown into jail. Adol what did you do?! You just got there!! Apparently Adol is a suspect in the disappearance of a Romun Fleet because his previous adventures reported were deemed questionable not helping his case. Now Balduq is known as the Prison City because it has the largest prison in the Romun Empire. Proving his innocence is getting harder to prove and Adol finds a way to escape. During his escape Adol runs into a mysterious woman, Aprilis, who shoots him with a magic bullet turning him into a Monstrum bequeathing him the name Crimson King. With his new powers Adol escapes the prison using his gift, Crimson Line an ability to warp to marked locations, and fights against monsters along the way. After Adol escapes he finds out he is now a wanted fugitive and cursed, he cannot leave Balduq there are magical barriers preventing him from leaving.
Adol needs to find out how to prove his innocence and the answers seem at the prison because something shady is happening there. To investigate throughout Balduq smoothly Adol wears a disguise and dyes his hair black to hide his trademark red hair. While investigating Adol gets pulled in Grimwald Nox, a realm where the line between humans and monsters, called Lemures, becomes obscured. There Adol meets other Monstrums, learns they are all supernaturally gifted individuals forced to exterminate Lemures in the Grimwald Nox and like him cursed from leaving Balduq. Not only are Monstrums forced to fight Lemures in Grimwald Nox but if they don’t conquer the waves there will be consequences in the human realm. Back in the human realm there are barriers all over Balduq hindering Adol’s investigation, especially from advancing areas related to the prison. Monstrums can disable the barriers after conditions are met which is by entering its miasma vortex and conquering a Grimwald Nox wave.
Investigate the prison -> Barriers blocking the prison -> Get rid of the barriers by conquering Grimwald Nox -> Can only conquer Grimwald Nox by fighting Lemures as a Monstrum -> Get to the prison to find answers to prove his innocence and break the curse
Adol – An adventurer exploring throughout the Eresian continent encountering monsters, gods, ancient cities, and defeating a higher being saving the world.
Dogi – A former thief known as the “Wallcrusher” has been Adol’s partner for many adventures.
Aprilis – Mysterious woman shoots Adol with a magic bullet turning him into a monstrum.
Monstrums – Supernaturally gifted individuals of Balduq exterminating monsters in the Grimald Nox. Adol’s fellow cursed party members: White Cat, Hawk, skillful Doll, Raging Bull, Renegade.
The Dandelion – Companions who support Adol’s Monstrum activities. Through quests and side and story events Adol gains more allies: smithy, prep for waves, material exchange for crafting, etc.
Hieroglyphs Knights – A religious order of knights maintaining peace and spreading the word of the Hieroglyph Church defending Balduq alongside the Romun Garrison.
Romun Garrison – An occupying force of Romuns defending Balduq.
Maxim – Black market dealer.
Everything in Ys IX: Monstrum Nox has a purpose making gameplay not feel like a player is grinding. To progressed in the story Adol needs to get into the prison and a lot of the entrances to the prison are blocked by barriers. Players need to dispel the barriers but to do that players need to go into its miasma vortex. Miasma vortexes manifest after filling up the NOX Gauge by completing quests and defeating Lemures. Throughout Balduq there are black pillars, players approach the black pillars to initiate a battle with Lemures. This aspect of the game makes it not feel like players are grinding because players can control when to fight enemies and the battles are short. Battles can end quickly when players utilize Advanced Tactics and Damage Types.
Advanced Tactics - Flash Move evading an enemy grants temporary invincibility and increased mobility, Flash Guard blocking an enemy fills the Boost Gauge and briefly makes all attacks critical hits.
Damage Types – Slash effective against soft enemies, Strike effective against armored enemies, Pierce effective against aerial enemies. Locking on enemies allows players to see an enemy’s weakness.
Adol can be in a party up to 3 people and each member has a damage type. Players can switch the leader and utilize the damage type best against an enemy. As the Monstrums level up they acquire Skills dealing more damage to the Lemures. Regular attacks reward players to fill up the SP Gauge and Skills are then available to use with those SP. The Skills are helpful to cut down enemies HP ending the battles faster.
Skills – Special attacks dealing more damage. Skills cost SP (skill points) and the SP Gauge fills up by attacking enemies.
Boost has been brought back to the Ys series. In other titles there was Skills then EXTRA Skill and now in Ys IX: Monstrum Nox there’s also Boost that literally enhances the performances of the Monstrum. Boost can be activated when the Boost Gauge is half full and more. Sharing the Boost Gauge is EXTRA Skill a powerful attack damaging surrounding enemies. EXTRA Skill is great to use against waves in Grimwald Nox because there are hordes of Lemures attacking and cutting down enemy’s numbers help tremendously. The Boost Gauge fills up by attacking enemies, using Skills, and Flash Guard. At half full and more players can activate Boost and the effect lasts until the gauge depletes and activating EXTRA Skill uses up the whole gauge. Players shouldn’t recklessly use EXTRA Skill whenever they can, maybe activate EXTRA Skill when the gauge is almost empty.
Boost – When the Boost Gauge is filled holding R1 + L1 activates Boosting. Boosting enhances skills and attacks, reduces damage taken, increases SP recovery, increases movement speed, and HP regenerates. Boost Gauge fills up by attacking enemies.
EXTRA Skill – A powerful attack damaging surrounding enemies activated during a Boost by holding R1 +L1. Activating an EXTRA Skill consumes the Boost Gauge.
The miasma vortex appears and the Monstrums can enter to conquer Grimwald Nox. Conquering Grimwald Nox is like horde/survival mode, protect the base from increasingly difficult waves of enemies until the end. The Monstrums protect an obelisk, Sphene, from approaching enemies. Waves of Lemures will spawn from black pillars scattered across the field. The waves can get chaotic identifying enemies’ weakness, using Crimson line in battle, Boost, and EXTRA Skill will help a lot in Grimwald Nox.
Crimson Line in Battle – Pressing R2 closes the gap with a locked-on enemy.
Companions from The Dandelion will also provide support during Grimwald Nox with Support Skills which can be enhanced by raising Affinity levels with the companions. At The Dandelion players talk to Dogi to prep for waves like enhancing the Sphene, creating/enhancing decoys, and creating Lux Cannons that stun enemies. After conquering Grimwald Nox players are awarded items depending on the results. These items can be used for wave prep, enhancing equipment, and more.
Grimwald Nox has been conquered, the barrier is dispelled, and Adol can now advance further to investigate the prison. There are clues and leads all over Balduq and the deeper players get into the story the more complicated the situation seems to be. The prison is an intricate fortress with layers of labyrinths that locals don’t even know about and the Romun Empire running the prison seems to be up to a lot of suspicious stuff that may be connected to the manifestation of the Lemures and Grimwald Nox. A lot of shady stuff is happening, fortunately Adol and the Monstrums use their Gifts to help them uncover the truth.
Gifts – Superhuman abilities unique to each Monstrum: Crimson Line an ability to quickly warp to locations marked and enemies locked-on, Heaven’s Run an ability to run up walls, Hunter’s Descent an ability to glide through the air, Third Eye an ability to see objects and enemies through walls, Shadow Dive an ability to plunge into the darkness and move about underground making it easy to sneak up on enemies or access tightly secured areas, Valkyrie Hammer an ability to destroy makeshift walls or cracked masonry.
The Gifts make exploring Balduq enjoyable and opens access to a variety of areas. Each location explored players can locate and activate fast travel points: Relief Tiles and Landmarks. These fast travel points make it so easy to progress the story and multiple quests at the same time. There will be times players will need to travel all over the map or go back and forth multiple times, these fast travel points make it feel less tedious. An example would be enhancing armor and needing certain materials, players can fast travel to the The Dandelion to exchange for the higher quality materials and fast travel back a point closest to the blacksmith. Players can also fast travel into dungeons (prison) they previously cleared.
At the surface players investigate throughout Balduq looking for leads, complete quests, The Dandelion, dispel barriers, and more. At Grimwald Nox players defend the Sphene and exterminate Lemures. Then players infiltrate the prison looking for leads while fighting Lemures along the way. And throughout the game players learn the story and back story of Balduq and each Monstrum. In other titles party members’ stories are told but it was more like who they are, why they’re there, and their motivation. Ys VIII added more by using their backstories to explain their personalities. Ys IX gets a little deeper by making the backstory relevant to the present because the Romun’s Empire occupation drastically influenced Balduq still affecting the party members, their circumstance, and their disposition.
There’s A LOT of voice acting, Ys IX has dialogue for the protagonist, the Monstrums, and NPCs. One of my favorite NPCs is Chante, the bar manager of The Dandelion, because he has so much flare and sassiness to his lines its fabulous. Each Monstrum has their own distinct personality and issues the voice actors did a great job portraying them through the dialogue.
Music has a soundtrack similar to previous titles and doesn’t have anything popping out like Ys VIII’s Sunshine Coastline. There is a unique theme to Ys IX compared to the other titles which is an eerie, mystical, gothic like sound reminding me of the games Labyrinth of Refrain and Tales of Berseria.
Colors really pop in this game, maybe its because there are dark colored scenes creating contrast for anything colorful. There are more details in the clothes like showing the texture of the stitching and threads from the cloth. There is a better balance of light/dark, shading/highlighting especially in characters’ hair. Attacks are more vivid. In previous titles attacks portrayed the motion and direction with a white colored effect. In Ys IX attacks are colored to that character: red – Crimson King, blue – Hawk, pink – Raging Bull, etc. EXTRA skills in Ys VIII filled up the whole screen almost to the point of being blinding because it’s so bright from its fantastical effects and in Ys IX EXTRA Skills start out close to the character and then zooms out showing the powerful attack affecting the area which makes sense since it’s an attack damaging surrounding enemies. As someone who has played multiple titles of the Ys series, I can see the improvement the developers made for each new title. Ys IX so far has the best graphics.
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is an amazing 2021 game. The story gets more intricate as players progress into the game. There are also stories from party members and NPCs making the Ys world feel more real like this could have been a place in our world where similar events have happened, except for the supernatural part. Everything done for gameplay is not wasted from exploring, collecting, crafting, and fighting. Multiple fast travel points make it easier to explore and creates motivation for players to explore searching for these fast travel points. Quests are optional but also related to the game’s story making it feel its not out of the way while also helping fill up the NOX gauge. Fighting Lemures doesn’t feel like players are grinding because it helps fill up the NOX gauge, gives experience, and drops are used as materials for enhancing equipment and such. Grimwald Nox, horde mode like waves, also have a purpose because by successfully protecting the Sphene barriers are dispelled allowing players to advance into areas progressing the story. And the whole-time players are uncovering the mystery of Balduq the Prison City, the shadiness happening in the prison, connection to Lemures, Grimwald Nox, and the Monstrum curse.