Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Jan 132023

This morning, I finally finished Ys IX: Monstrum Nox, which I started last year but put on hold for a while.

This is only the second Ys game I’ve played, which I regret in some ways because I could tell certain moments were meant to be callbacks to previous entries, but it was still an enjoyable and largely standalone story.

Ys IX sees adventurer Adol Christin arriving at the prison city of Balduq, where he is immediately arrested. While trying to escape the prison, a strange encounter leads to him becoming a Monstrum, someone with supernatural powers bound to the city of Balduq to fight in the monster-infested alternate world of the Grimwald Nox.

What this means from a gameplay perspective is that you have a bunch of special abilities to help you explore the city. Adol can now zip to special vantage points, and as more party members join you, you gain additional Monstrum skills, such as running up walls and gliding. The Monstrum curse keeps you confined to certain areas at first, but as you complete quests and fight enemies in the city, you’re able to break these barriers.

This was probably my favorite part of Ys IX. I loved being able to explore more of the city each time I gained a new ability, and gradually opening up new sectors kept it from feeling too overwhelming. The city is also filled with collectibles, making its exploration remind me a bit of the 3D platformers I love.

Meanwhile, the weakest link is the Grimwald Nox. A cursed alternate dimension under a blood-red moon sounds fantastic, but in practice it just means you fight waves of enemies while defending a giant crystal. These sections can be fun, since your entire party participates while other allies lend support, but I would have much preferred being able to actually explore the Grimwald Nox realm.

Between the curse and the Grimwald Nox itself, though, this aspect of the story lends almost a gothic horror flavor to some parts, which I appreciated.

The story is interesting enough, with an element of mystery that had me curious for quite a while about what was actually going on, and the characters are likeable. There are plenty of NPCs throughout the city whose dialogue changes as the game progresses, as well.

Overall, I enjoyed playing Ys IX: Monstrum Nox. I’m looking forward to learning more about the recently-announced Ys X, and maybe I’ll have even caught up a bit more on the series by then!

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  2 Responses to “Ys IX: Monstrum Nox – Exploring a Cursed City”

  1. I feel like once a game reaches, like, 9 entries, there have to be ways to balance older game references for super-fans with accessibility for newer fans, or else that overwhelming hurdle of needing to “catch up” on past entries can prevent you from getting into the newer games. Games like Final Fantasy get away with it by having everything be self-contained with only thematic references and such between games, but others (like Kingdom Hearts) really do have a lot of lore built up over time… I am not sure where Ys falls on the spectrum between Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts 😂

    • Ys falls somewhere in between those two examples. With a couple of exceptions, each game is presented as another one of Adol’s adventures, a series of standalone stories that all follow the same character. So no overarching plot and only a couple of recurring characters, but a single universe that all of these games fit into.

      Ys IX in particular, though, was designed in a way so that there are intended to be nods and callbacks to the previous games that you’ll recognize if you’ve played them. I’ve only played Ys I so far, but I recognized one of the bosses as being a reference to one of Ys I’s bosses, for example.

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