Ys IX: Monstrum Nox Review

A monster of a good time.

Release Date
February 2, 2021
Developed BY
Nihon Falcom
Published by:
Nipon Ichi Software
Action Adventure
Available on
PlayStation 4, Switch and Steam
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Ys VIII was my introduction to the Ys franchise. Falcom has been crafting Ys games for over 30 years now. Adol is a character that I idolize in a way. His never-ending thirst for a new adventure, his courage and warm-heartedness, and his ability to not let the tragedies he encounters weigh heavily on his soul. His previous adventure set a very tall benchmark. It had a great setting, a great secondary cast, and a striking ending.  Adol’s sequel adventure, also the first built for the PlayStation 4, manages to capture most of the elements that made the previous entry great, even if it’s on a smaller overall scale.

Continuing on his adventure from the Isle of Seiren, Adol now makes his way to the prison city, Balduq. Upon arrival, he is arrested by the Romun empire. His crime? The nearly catastrophic results of all of his adventures. Adol, not being the idle type, makes an escape attempt. Still, just as he is about to escape, he meets a mysterious woman who, for reasons not immediately clear, shoots Adol and awakens his “Monstrum.” With this new power, he manages to escape barely. After passing out and being found by his journeyman’s best friend Dogi, he is nursed back to health and begins to explore the many mysteries that a prison city has to offer. This is where the masterclass of Falcom’s world-building ability comes into play. Not only do we have a wonderful colorful cast starring Adol, but Balduq is a unique character of its own. The city has a series of mysteries layered on each other. Who are the Monstrums? Why was Adol added to their group? Where do these awful creatures, the Lemures come from?

All of these and more are revealed at a near-perfect clip. Ys’ particular brand of exploration and combat in their current locale is still a treat. You start with only Adol, who can only go through limited parts of the city because of the curse now freshly laid upon him. I really enjoyed how, through exploring the city and discovering, both personas of the main cast are woven together. Each of the playable characters in this story host not only has their normal selves but change into a Monstrum with a unique “gift.” A new party member means more of the city to open up. Not only does this allow the story to progress comfortably, but it lets the character arcs play out without leaving unresolved issues by the end of the game. Through my 30 hour journey, I got just about everything you can get from the game’s well-rounded story. I laughed quite a bit. I got tense and honestly dropped a few tears during some of the more tender moments. It really speaks to Adol as a protagonist, he can connect with people in the most unexpected ways, and we get to see the best emerge from all he befriended.

As for the gameplay, I am somewhat more mixed on. If you have played Ys VIII, the gameplay will feel more or less the same. They nerfed the air dodge ability pretty heavily. Which is kind of a shame because not only does it limit in-game movement, but it also reduces its usefulness in combat as well. While the ability to use the Monstrum Gifts adds some variety to the combat, only three are consistently useful in battle. The others work fantastic as traversal tools but have little to no use in combat. The raids also return from the previous game, and my thoughts on those remain unchanged. They may be hard in the more serious difficulties, but I managed to clear them all with either S or a very close A ranking even harder. The difficulty is pretty consistent throughout. The early enemies and bosses are overly weak. I was glad to find the progression of enemy difficulty does go up, and some of the boss fights in this game are kind of awesome. The final few boss fights before the climax are especially cool from a design and lore standpoint.

This also leads me to another problem: the game has some performance issues during the really heavy combat segments. The frame rate suddenly chugs, and it can take a bit to get back to being stable. I was surprised by this because the game is not what I would call graphically intensive, yet it takes a while to load between major segments. This is while I played on my PlayStation 4 Pro. I tried playing the game for a while on my PlayStation 5, and the game runs amazingly well without any major patches. I know additional patches are coming, so the bugs I encountered could be fixed by the time you play it.

Despite the occasional performance issues during combat, Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is a solid game overall. It may not be my favorite in the franchise, but I appreciate what it has to offer. The story ends with nothing left unspoken, and I left with a warm feeling. It’s another great adventure for the Ys series.

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox Review
Another monstrous time.
While the majority of the formula isn't shaken up, the city of Balduq and its citizens have many sides to it. With an interesting story and a well laid out large city to explore Ys IX Monstrum Nox is another great adventure.
Solid story that has a satisfying finale
Great cast of characters and a unique city to explore
Pacing is just about perfect
No real advancement for the series
Combat can make frame rate dicey
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