Review: Ys IX Monstrum Nox

World-renowned adventurer Adol Christin is back in Ys IX: Monstrum Nox and this time embarks on an adventure in the prison city of Balduq. Monstrum Nox is the ninth installment of the Ys series and is set either directly or after the story of Ys Seven, which ironically is chronologically the eighth. With quite a few hours in the game we are going to share our findings and see if this adventure of Adol is worth playing.

No shipwreck for the first time

Normally, Adol's adventures always start with a shipwreck and as a result he loses all his previous equipment. However, in Ys IX: Monstrum Nox, the story begins at the gates of the Prison City Balduq. Adol and his loyal comrade Dogi are on a journey through the land of Gillia. Unfortunately for the duo, Adol is arrested at the gate on suspicion of involvement in weird accidents in Balduq. An interrogation takes place in the prison, in which the game then makes fun of itself. Questions such as 'how did you end up in a shipwreck so often' or 'where did your legendary equipment go' come back here. It soon becomes clear to Adol that it is not all right and decides to escape.

During the escape you run into a mysterious woman named Aprilis who turns Adol into a Monstrum. As a Monstrum, you have superpowers that come with a curse. For example, you cannot leave the city of Balduq and must fight in the Grimwald Nox, a kind of battle royal against monsters. According to Aprilis, to get rid of the curse you have to discover the secrets of the prison, that's how the story of Monstrum Nox starts.

Freedom or not?

After a prison break, the player creates a base in Balduq and starts exploring the city from there. The first impression of the city makes you immediately want to discover everything, but then you see it, overall barriers. The adventurer's fire in the player is extinguished faster than it started, all thanks to the curse of the Monstrums. The curse keeps Monstrums within Balduq and places limitations on your ability to explore.

How do you access these areas? Well, you do that by completing a Grimwald Nox. A Grimwald Nox is a portal at the beginning of a barrier. This portal leads to an alternate dimension where you have to play some kind of battle royal tower defense game. To activate a Grimwald Nox you must first collect 100 Nox points, which you can get by completing side quests or Nox battles. This of course sounds exciting, but it is absolutely not. The game forces you to complete generic side quests and because you don't have enough points yet, you also have to farm nox points so that you can finally unlock new areas.

This for me is the biggest shortcoming in Ys IX: Monstrum Nox, the game practically begs you to start exploring, but at the same time it also holds you back. I had to drag myself through the first half of the game. The game only really comes to life when you have unlocked more characters and freedom. It's mostly the unique skills of a Monstrum that make discovering Balduq fun. As a Monstrum you have super natural powers called 'Gifts' and these are unique per Monstrum. Adol has the gift called Crimson Line that allows you to teleport to places or enemies in your vision. In Monstrum Nox, you take control of six different Monstrums, each with their own unique ability. The six gifts are listed below.

  • Crimson Line: Teleport to places or enemies in your vision.
  • Heaven's Run: Allows you to run up vertical walls.
  • Hunter's Descent: Gives the player wings for temporary gliding.
  • Third Eye: Makes the invisible visible. look through walls or find a hidden switch, for example.
  • Shadow Dive: Dive into the ground like a shadow and gain access to the most hidden places.
  • Valkyrie Hammer: Charge up power to destroy damaged walls or masonry.

As you can see, the gifts are designed to give the player more and more freedom when it comes to discovering the world. Once you own all the gifts, you see how well designed the world is and how everything interacts very dynamically.

Witness the strength of the Crimson King

Combat in Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is exactly as usual from the series, dynamic hack and slash with a touch of RPG. Monstrum Nox has the best combat system in the series. This is the main reason why fans keep coming back. Each character has a standard combo, different skills and a super attack called extra skill. Dodging is done with L1 and skills are used with R1. That's not the only function of the L1 and R1, because two crucial mechanics, the Flash Move and Flash Guard, are also on these buttons. Flash Move happens when you dodge an attack with L1 with precise timing. Time slows down temporarily, allowing you to inflict more damage on an enemy or keep yourself safe. Flash Guard works as a parry in other games.Press R1 just before an attack hits you and you temporarily get a 100% critical hit chance.

If you prefer to avoid damage, go for the Flash Move and for the more aggressive approach Flash Guard. This all sounds pretty simple on paper, so what makes Ys' combat system so beloved. Every action you take is fluid and every animation can be interrupted in the middle if you want. Because this happens so smoothly without any input lag, it always makes for a great hack and slash experience.

What has always been a hot topic among Ys fans is that Ys games have huge difficulty spikes in random places, especially at the end of the games. From my own memory I remember that in Oath in Felghena and Memories of Celceta the last areas were quite difficult, while I had no trouble with the rest of the game. Fortunately, this is less the case in Monstrum Nox. The difficulty is more streamlined throughout the game, making for a pleasant experience. It's never too easy or too hard (I played on Hard myself).

Verdict – Is Adol's Story Worth It?

Adol the Red's latest adventure is one with a rough start that pays off in the end. It is mainly the story and combat system that takes the lead in making the beginning of the game fun and interesting. Collecting Nox points to unlock new areas, however, sometimes gets in the way of the fun. It is an unnecessary grind mechanic that can sometimes take an hour per chapter. For players with less time, who just want to relax, this can be experienced as a negative.

Graphically, the game is not a masterpiece, but if you are familiar with the developer you also know that Falcom, graphics do not come first. Ys is a game that you play for the gameplay and that needs to be emphasized. The music in Ys is great as usual, every music fits the environment or the situation. In conclusion you can say that Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is a great game for the connoisseur, but it can go in all directions for someone who goes into this blindly.

 

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