Ys IX: Monstrum Nox - PlayStation 4 Review

ys_monstrum-nox_splash Ys IX: Monstrum Nox - PlayStation 4 Review

Welcome to the city of Balduq... you're imprisoned now.

  • System: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC (Steam), Switch
  • Publisher: NIS America
  • Developer: Nihon Falcom
  • Release Date: February 2, 2021 (PS4, PS5) - PC and Switch TBA

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox - Combat Trailer (PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC)

Who it Caters to

ys_monstrum-nox_splash Ys IX: Monstrum Nox - PlayStation 4 Review
Ys, as niche as it is outside of Japan, is one of the oldest JRPG franchises still active. Of course, it's not as popular as the likes of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, but there are many reasons why it's still alive and kicking, one of them being that all games feature the same protagonist, Adol Christin, so all of them share the same timeline and are interconnected one way or the other—one of the things the fans like the most about Ys.

If you like action role-playing games that are more concerned about the fights than they are about the story—and we're not saying the plot is weak, much on the contrary—but you also enjoy running and jumping around a semi-open world in search of monsters to grind and collectibles, this could be a game for you!

What to Expect

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Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is a continuation of what happened in Ys Seven and Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, and there are a lot of references to old adventures and companions of Adol that, if you haven't played all 8 games in the main saga—or you forgot about them—will fly over your head. Does this mean you can't enjoy this one without having played the whole collection before? Nah, not really, but understanding where Adol comes from and what he has been up to will help with context and storytelling.

What you can expect from this game is a by-the-book JRPG with a strong focus on fast-paced combat and grinding that can also be enjoyed casually if you feel like making the least effort in the easiest difficulty levels.


ys_monstrum-nox_splash Ys IX: Monstrum Nox - PlayStation 4 Review

Well, this is our main issue with Ys IX. This franchise was never the most visually stunning, so we all were skeptical when in 2016, Ys VIII finally ditched the top-down camera in favor of a true 3D adventure with a third-person perspective. In the end, they did an amazing job conveying the essence of the past 3 decades while updating how it all looks, but we were still waiting for a true leap of faith. Sadly, Monstrum Nox won't be remembered as the best-looking Ys...

Although it may sound harsh, Ys IX is closer to a mediocre game from the last decade than it is to more recent Japanese role-playing titles, not only because of the rough animations but mostly thanks to its boring environments, clipping objects and awful textures. We know some of you could ignore a good game just because of how poor their graphics are, yet although Ys IX is far from being unplayable, it's not as pleasant to the eye as we'd like it to be.

Sound, Music

ys_monstrum-nox_splash Ys IX: Monstrum Nox - PlayStation 4 Review
In such a fast-paced game, you definitely need catchy songs that pump you up while mashing buttons to crush that giant monster that's coming after you. In this aspect, just like in every past Ys game, they delivered. The soundtrack is, along with the gameplay mechanics, one of the strongest elements of Ys IX: Monstrum Nox.

Drums and ominous bells are always epic, but we also loved the use of strings. There are some epic songs, some melancholic pieces, a few remixes of classic songs... and, of course, you can't have a JRPG OST without electric guitar solos and playful piano riffs. Ys IX: Monstrum Nox might not look that good, but it definitely sounds amazingly good!


ys_monstrum-nox_splash Ys IX: Monstrum Nox - PlayStation 4 Review
After the events of Ys VIII, Adol and his buddy Dogi arrive at Balduq, a fortified city that doubles as a giant high-security prison. Could they avoid visiting it? Probably yes, but upon arrival, Adol is thrown into jail and heavily interrogated by a beautiful woman who seems to know everything about the infamous adventurer. After several days, Adol finally could escape his jail when suddenly, a mysterious hooded lady shot him an arrow to the chest and... cursed him??!

That's how Adol's new alter ego, the Crimson King, was born. The start feels too rushed and nonsensical, full of events that don't have a reasonable explanation other than serving the plot, and yet, this new transformation is what gives life to Ys IX. Aprilis, the hooded lady, is the leader of the Monstrums, a group of cursed people she can summon to another dimension known as Grimwald Nox to fight the Lemures, powerful beasts that lurk around Balduw but can't be seen by regular people. But why is Adol the Monstrums' new addition and why are they forced by Aprilis to fight the Lemures? Well, you will discover all that at some point, and most importantly, you'll get to know who the Monstrums really are and how they feel about this curse that doesn't allow them to leave Balduq.

ys_monstrum-nox_splash Ys IX: Monstrum Nox - PlayStation 4 Review
All Monstrums have a special skill they can share with each other, and all of them will join Adol's party and be playable. The story is divided into several chapters that follow the same formula: a Monstrum joins you, you learn their motives and feelings, you learn a new special skill that will help you with exploration in that specific segment, and then, they will—voluntarily or not—their true identity to you. It's not the best idea as the titles of these chapters give it all away and make it all much more predictable, but still, it kinda works. Other than Aprilis, who you can't play as, the other Monstrums are White Cat, Hawk, Doll, Raging Bull and Renegade.

Balduq's underground prison is one giant maze full of passages that not even the officers in charge know fully, while the city is a semi-open world section with some blocked paths you can open later on. To be honest, there are several things that encourage you to explore every corner of the city, from side quests to shops and soon-to-be allies, but both the prison and the city feel too empty and boring design-wise. However, doing side quests is important if you want to fill the Nox bar and open new entrances to the Grimwald Nox, ultimately removing seals and opening access to new areas. Unlike previous games, raid sections (aka Grimwald Nox) will allow you to prepare yourself for the battles and are way less annoying; now all your companions will fight and help you in real time, but sometimes you even decide when to enter the Grimwald Nox.

ys_monstrum-nox_splash Ys IX: Monstrum Nox - PlayStation 4 Review
Killing Lemures is fun, both in the Grimwald Nox and when they invade the city, but not everyone enjoys the raid mechanics. If you're new to this, basically Grimwald Nox is all about vanquishing several waves of enemies before they destroy a pillar, or maybe destroying all Lacrimae stones before the time runs out. Outside of this red-sky world, however, you can kill Lemures and loot them everytime you walk near a portal, but you can also face regular monsters and over a dozen of brutal, giant bosses in the prison dungeons. As you can see, there are plenty of ways you can enjoy yourself exterminating foes with the help of the Monstrums!

If you are a casual player, you can just do the minimum and still enjoy the story. If you are a hardcore JRPG fan, then you can raise your affinity levels by giving presents to your companions, collect all azure petals, unlock all recipes, find all graffitis and chests on each part of the city, forge and upgrade new weapons, etc. That means over a hundred of hours of gameplay!

Honey's Gameplay Consensus:

ys_monstrum-nox_splash Ys IX: Monstrum Nox - PlayStation 4 Review
Ys IX: Monstrums of Nox is a rough-looking game, but at its core, it has everything you need from a classic JRPG. It fixed a lot of issues from the previous games, it brings new things to the table in terms of combat and world-building, and yet it 100% feels like playing Ys VIII (in a good way).

It features a cool soundtrack, noteworthy storytelling, and a lot of challenging battles against gigantic beasts that will test your button-mashing skills. Does this saga need to improve on a lot of things if they want to be relevant still? It sure does, but we're sure that despite all its flaws, all Ys fans will recognize the charm of it and enjoy themselves.

Honey's Pros:

  • Great episodic narrative and character development.
  • Combat, as always, is incredibly fun.
  • A lot of punishing difficluty options for hardcore players, and several boss fights are satisfyingly hard even in the easiest modes!

Honey's Cons:

  • Graphically, it looks like a mediocre game from the beginning of the past decade.
  • Running around this lifeless prison city gets old really fast, especially with such boring room designs and textures.

Honey's Final Verdict:

A prison city is not as attractive as a whole island, but we have to say Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is a (short, sadly) step forward. We're glad to see this franchise is still around after more than 3 decades, and we're looking forward to more adventures with Adol and company... even more so if it comes with improved graphics according to the new generation of JRPG!

If you want to try Ys IX: Monstrum Nox, it's already available on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, and if you're not sure about buying it, you can download the free demo. The PC and Switch versions of the game will be released at a later date.

ys_monstrum-nox_splash Ys IX: Monstrum Nox - PlayStation 4 Review


Author: Rod Locksley

Hey! I'm Rod, and when I'm not watching anime or playing video games I'm probably writing about them, but I'm also a graphic and web designer, and I even published a comic book and worked like 4 years for a well-known MMORPG. Curiously, my favorite series are quite different from each other, so I'm still trying to understand what I really like in an anime...

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