[PlayStation 5] Ys IX: Monstrum Nox Review
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox from Nihon Falcom and NIS America is the latest entry in the long-running franchise, which has now landed on PS5. Check our Ys IX: Monstrum Nox review!
Experience the thrilling adventure of Ys IX: Monstrum Nox as it pierces through the shadows onto PS5™! After being cursed by a mysterious woman, Adol Christin becomes a Monstrum—a powerful being who can exorcize monsters. To escape from the prison city of Balduq, Adol must ally with five other Monstrums, each with their own unique Gifts, and stop the Grimwald Nox, a shadowy dimension on the brink of overflowing into the real world!
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is the latest installment in the long-running Ys action RPG franchise that began way back in 1987. This game is the first Ys release since Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, which I loved and ended up naming as my favorite game of 2017. Chronologically speaking, it is slightly more confusing, but since each game is self-contained, it can certainly be played as a starting point.
In this new release, and as is always the case with Ys games, you’ll be following Adol Christin and his inseparable friend Dogi as they arrive in the Prison City of Balduq. As is always the case with Adol, his entrance is remarkable, and he is immediately imprisoned as a suspect for events that occurred in previous games. Having played Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana will give you some additional information on the events, but, as I already mentioned, it is definitively not required to enjoy this action RPG. If you did play either Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana or Ys IV: Memories of Celceta, importing your save game could give you some bonus items at the beginning of your adventure.
Once you gain control of Adol, the gameplay basics will be explained to you. You’ll get into an underground passage where you’ll meet the first enemies of the game. After a few battles, Adol eventually reaches a dead end and is shot by Aprilis, a mysterious girl, which turns him into a Monstrum! Still being chased down by prison soldiers – and confused – he’ll need to resort to his Monstrum Gift, a grapple-like feature that allows him to reach new heights in an instant.
Including Adol, there are six Monstrums in Balduq, and they are usually feared by most citizens, but some do realize they do great deeds. Thanks to his red hair color, Adol turns to the Crimson King. Monstrums can change to their normal form when they’re outside of the dungeons, which is how they blend with the people of the city. Each of the Monstrums is slowly introduced one by one in the game, so you’ll discover their individual backstories as the game progresses.
In Balduq, Monstrums are restricted to their specific districts because of their curse. They must wander into the Grimwald Nox to fight monsters to unlock their progression. The Grimwald Nox is an alternate dimension of the city where time is frozen and monsters exist. The Grimwald Nox is like an action tower defense game in which you have to get rid of all the enemies – known as Lemures – while protecting a huge crystal pillar. Lemures can spawn in the city, and you can destroy spawning points for Nox points, which are used to unlock barriers blocking the different districts.
As is often the case with recent Ys releases, you’ll eventually build a small community in the city by recruiting people in a fashion similar to Lacrimosa of Dana. The game opens slowly but should be fully unlocked after a few hours. And when it opens up, there are a lot of things to do, including finding treasure chests, finding landmarks, recipes, graffiti, and flower petals, each giving you extra items as you find them. I thought that exploring the city of Balduq was less interesting than exploring the Isle of Sirein of Lacrimosa of Dana, and the city itself feels smaller than the Isle.
On the gameplay side, if you’ve already played a Ys game, then the action RPG mechanics are nearly identical to previous releases. The selected character attacks with the Square button, and you can use skills with the R1 button and the skill assigned to the DualSense button. As before, you can perform Flash moves by evading at the right time for increased damage and speed. The level design had more depth than previous games in the series as they have multiple layers accessible by the Monstrum gifts. This will, in turn, add some backtracking if you’re looking to collect everything in every dungeon, as many treasures are hidden.
The presentation of this game is where I was highly disappointed. The city of Balduq is grand – albeit definitively not huge – and the game is colorful. When I was playing the PlayStation 4 version on my PS4 two years ago, I recall that the framerate was often dipping, and this has been fixed in this PlayStation 5 version, which is no surprise. What was surprising is how the draw distance was set so close that it ended up distracting me in some areas, like the agricultural district, where the wheat disappears a few steps in front of you as you move around. The pre-rendered videos are also of a way-too-compressed quality, and that clashes with the sharp image for the gameplay. Given the power of the PlayStation 5, I would have expected the videos to be revisited. All in all, on the presentation side, this game felt like not enough love was given to the jump from PS4 to PS5.
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is a great addition to the Ys franchise. I liked the game, but my favorite of the franchise is still Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. I liked how the adventure unlocks progressively as you add more Monstrums to your party. This PlayStation 5 version also includes all the DLC that was offered in the PlayStation 4 version right from the start.
Since this game is a PlayStation 5 native version, I would have liked a better draw distance and better pre-rendered videos, along with no loading at all. Unfortunately, this port falls short. If you already have the PlayStation 4 version and want to give it a second go, I would recommend just reinstalling the PS4 version on your PlayStation 5. I can only recommend this game to players that haven’t already played it on Sony’s previous home console.
This Ys IX: Monstrum Nox review is based on a PlayStation copy provided by NIS America.