Reviews - Updated on March 31, 2022

The Ys series is one of the oldest Japanese RPGs in history. The first part was released back in 1987, and since then we have received nine numbered issues, as well as many spin-offs, crossovers, compilations and add-ons. The main character is mainly the red-haired adventurer Adol Christin. The latest licensed part to date, Ys IX: Monstrum Nox, was released in Japan on the PlayStation 4 in 2019, and in the winter of this year a world release took place on the same console. And finally, in July, she made it to PC and Switch.

Initially, some fans expected Monstrum Nox with restraint and distrust – firstly, they were embarrassed by the new setting, where Eidol was forcibly locked up in the gloomy prison city of Balduq, and secondly, much, it would seem, cooler than Ys VIII: The 2016 Lacrimosa of DANA, considered by many to be the best in the series. What did the fans end up with in the PC version of Monstrum Nox?

Last century

However, I’ll start with what they didn’t get – a normal technical performance. The graphics and animation in Ys IX have improved a little compared to the eighth part, more videos and cut-scenes have appeared, the level of directing has increased, but in general this is, of course, the last century – the game is still made on the 2009 Ys SEVEN engine and looks moral outdated.

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox: Review

It is impossible to look at textures without tears.

At the same time, optimization in the computer version leaves much to be desired – constant loading, and not the fastest, there are brakes and freezes. Thank God, character design and art in general, as always in the series, on the level. All the characters look bright and exactly as they should look in an exemplary anime. And of course, we are allowed to change and select their costumes, hats, blindfolds and other elements, of which there are a great many.

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox: Review

Characters can look very colorful.

monsters vs monsters

But we got a new fascinating story. Eidol has an amazing ability to find adventures on his ass, and in the new game he does not get bored either. It is precisely because he constantly finds himself in the center of important events that Eidol was thrown into the Balduk prison with the intention of interrogating and finding out what is so special about him and what is the reason for such an activity of the protagonist.

Our hero escapes from prison, but runs into a strange girl in a hood and with artificial limbs instead of hands. After apologizing, she shoots Eidol, which turns him into an enhanced, superhero version of himself, the titular monstrum called the Scarlet King. He knows how to hit painfully with blades and instantly teleport.

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox: Review

This is not visible here, but the hero just teleported.

Aprilis (that’s the name of the strange girl) explained that it was both a gift and a curse. It is in this form that Eidol will periodically, not quite of his own free will, fight demons who are trying to break into the world of people. The battles take place in a special dimension of The Grimvald Nox, where we have to protect some important crystal. This is somewhat reminiscent of the tower defense genre – enemies attack in waves, trying to break through to the crystal, and on their way you can place towers that delay and attack the aggressors. At the same time, both the crystal itself and the towers are allowed to be pumped for the collected resources. And it will not work to get rid of these duties: monstrums cannot leave the city – they are stopped by magical barriers.

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox: Review

None of them signed up for it.

Yes, the Scarlet King does not fight alone. Aprilis has assembled a whole squad of monstrums of six people, each of which is colorful in its own way and has unique superpowers. There is, for example, a doll that in its normal state sits on the window of an antique store, and in the form of a monstrum it turns into a real killer, endowed with super vision – she sees through walls.

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox: Review

And the girl in the foreground is able to break through walls. Guess what?

The modest and sweet flower lover Krisha turns into a nimble cat girl with ears and ponytails, running along the walls. The Creed guard becomes a psychotic berserker named Hawk, who can fly. Well, and so on. A sort of suicide squad – “super”, doomed to constantly fight with superior forces of demons, although no one really sees or appreciates this.

In the city, the attitude towards monsterums is ambiguous. Someone admires their superpowers and appearance, someone is afraid of them, and local guardsmen, guards and their leaders simply announced a hunt for monsters.

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox: Review

Eidol in some episodes is helped by such a miracle. Speaking, by the way.

As we move along the plot, the rest of the superheroes gradually join our party, and we learn a lot of interesting things about each of them – it is with the personal stories and characters of monsterums, to which even separate chapters are devoted, that a large share of intrigue in the plot is connected. In addition, I wonder what this “monstrous” curse is connected with and how it will all end – Aprilis refuses to share details for the time being.

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox: Review

There are a lot of questions for her.

This is their city

We also got the opportunity to explore a large open city, divided into districts. Using monster super skills like teleportation, running on rooftops, flying and breaking through walls, we gain access to previously closed places. Locations compared to the eighth part have become more vertical.

In the process, we are looking for chests and resources, discovering new attractions and gradually filling up the percentage of the study of the map – and for every 10% and for each new attraction there is a reward.

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox: Review

It’s good that the fast travel system works.

Access to many areas is closed, and in order to remove the barrier, you need to activate the portal to Grimwald Nox and defeat the demons there. The portal opens after we accumulate 100 Nox points, which are issued for defeating monsters and completing quests.

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox: Review

There are monster spawn points on the streets, but ordinary citizens do not see them.

There are enough tasks – in addition to the plot, there are also side ones, where, for example, you need to save a family that has disappeared in the demonic dimension, attract customers to a flower shop, find out who is spying on girls in local baths, and even go to a masquerade ball. In general, entertainment for every taste.

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox: Review

You have to communicate a lot with ordinary citizens.

Dandelion for heroes

Also, Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is full of mechanics, many of which moved here straight from Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA. The base for Eidol and his associates is the Dandelion bar, which is run by an imposing gay man – this, of course, is not an agenda, but a reason to smile.

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox: Review

He does not hide his desires.

In the bar, we communicate with the gradually replenished composition of our assistants. From someone you can buy or cook food from the ingredients we have collected, which heals and gives buffs; others craft us or improve equipment; still others exchange some resources for cooler ones, going just for crafting and enchanting. There is also a mysterious girl in a mask who instantly buys the necessary equipment and consumables from the range of all the stores we open – this is also why it is important to explore the streets.

There, in the bar, we are free to communicate with allies and give them gifts – this strengthens the bond with them and increases the effectiveness of the passive bonuses that each comrade helps us with during the battles in Grimwald Knox.

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox: Review

The monsters are very colorful.

Not hardcore hardcore

With so many support mechanics, a bunch of opportunities for crafting, buying and upgrading equipment, Eidol and his comrades, even on hard, turn into a kill squad. Yes, some enemies and bosses can cause trouble (and more and more), but in general, the game, it seemed to me, lacked a challenge, especially at first. Therefore, the grind is needed here, rather, not to strengthen the party, but to gain knock points and advance in the story.

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox: Review

And with such monsters, you have to tinker.

The battles themselves turned out to be dynamic and bright. By tradition, they take place in real time and resemble spectacular, albeit somewhat chaotic slashers: on the go we switch between heroes, juggle skills (four for each fighter), save up energy and enter the local rage mode, the repeated activation of which allows you to carry out juicy finishing moves. There is both a block and an evasion, the perfect execution of which slightly slows down time. As a result, we gain experience and fill levels, learning new and improving old skills.

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox: Review

We ourselves choose the equipment and skills for the characters.

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is a big, varied and exciting game, rich in mechanics and adventure. In some ways, it even surpasses Ys VIII. Moreover, fears that we would be locked up in one city were not confirmed – they also let us out into nature and the spaces surrounding Balduk. However, the antediluvian technical performance does not allow me to call the game amazing. Although this will not stop true fans of the series and, in principle, Japanese RPGs, for them the game is a must-have.

Pros: intriguing plot; bright, elaborate characters with unique skills; a large open city that is fun to explore; many quests; dynamic battles; a lot of mechanics for pumping characters and improving their equipment.

Cons: the game is technically outdated and poorly optimized; some real challenge is missing.

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