Ys IX Monstrum Nox introduces a brand new location with a fantastic setting offering an amazing adventure together with a likable cast of characters. Adol Christin is a red-haired hero that has an adventurous lifestyle. Each one of his ventures ends up spanning a new entry in the Ys series. The best part of these games is that every entry is standalone, which helps to bring in newcomers while also retaining popularity among the older dedicated fans.
In Monstrum Nox, the game opens up with Adol and his friend Dogi arriving in a new city called Balduq. This is famous for its underground prison that appears to hide many secrets. The authorities of the city capture Adol due to his adventurous past blaming him for many of the incidents that happened around the world. It is actually an interesting way to open the game while reminding the players what Adol has experienced in the past. You will be able to recall his adventures as Adol gets questioned about the catastrophic events linked to him around the world.
Adol is kept in the underground prison of Balduq after his capture where he soon finds an opportunity to escape thanks to a mysterious stranger. During his escape, he encounters Aprillis who ends up granting Adol new Monstrum abilities. Not only do these change his appearance but they also grant him the ability to use a grappling hook that helps him escape from the catacombs of the prison. The opening chapter takes a while to get going but introduces the concept of Monstrums, which are humans with special abilities just like Adol. Despite their abilities, Monstrums can’t get out of Balduq due to a mysterious curse. Adol and others have to figure out a way to break it to escape from the city.
Ys IX Monstrum Nox’s story is chapter-based. In terms of the narrative, this is perhaps the most ambitious Ys yet with multiple cutscenes and a lot of dialogue. The main story beats are all properly laid out in the first chapter after which Adol is free to move around Balduq. To progress, it is necessary to beat some of the side stories and these can drag on for a while. The main quest is to activate a Miasma Vortex once after completing the side activities and it comes with a minimum level requirement. You can enter the vortex and beat its monsters to unlock new locations Balduq which then help progress the story.
Adol is not alone in this adventure and has other Monstrums to help him clear the Miasma Vortex. You have limited control for your other party members by either making them go all defensive or become aggressive in battles. As you progress through the story, it will be possible to recruit and unlock new characters which are controlled in battle. It is possible to create stylish combos and chain-together attacks with the ability to switch characters in the middle of battle thus improving the overall flow of combat. Some enemies are also weak to certain attacks so it becomes necessary to capitalize on their weakness.
Balduq is an interesting place with a lot of lovely-looking architecture, but the visuals overall are a hit or miss. In certain sequences, they can look great with a bright and colorful palette, but it is also easy to spot low-quality or repetitive textures boiled down to a lower budget. The game retains its dark and gothic-looking vibe so it feels vastly different from its predecessor set on an Island. In terms of the side content, there is no shortage of them. Broadly speaking, you will always have a task at hand, either looking for secret locations or using your newfound ability to reach areas around the city.
The most impressive overhaul is perhaps for the combat. It is incredibly fast-paced and with the mix of the new Monstrum abilities, you will have no shortage of attacks. It is not a mere hack-and-slash game with skills e.g the first Monstrum ability that Adol gains allow him to use a hook to pull closer to enemies which reminded me of Devil May Cry 4. The combat is frenetic and full of fun with a single button press switching characters in the middle of battle, it never gets boring. The developers have also added a score screen at the end of every vortex where the player gets points based on their performance in battle.
Getting to the conclusion, this is a worthy successor that doesn’t suffer from any major flaws. The sidequests and progression system could be more interesting perhaps, or the visuals a little more polished, but speaking strictly in terms of a Ys game, this is incredibly ambitious with a strong focus on narrative offering cutscenes and multiple-choice dialogue, and a dynamic combat system that is stylish but with a touch of strategy to keep the player on their toes. Overall, this is a highly enjoyable action RPG that is easy to recommend for both Ys fans and newcomers.