YS IX: Monstrum Nox is an action RPG Developed by Nihon Falcom and Produced by NIS America, currently on PS4/PS5 but will be released on Windows and the Nintendo Switch later this year. As the Roman numerals state, this is the ninth main game of the YS series following the adventurer, Adol.
This fantasy adventure starts with a jailbreak and the appearance of a mysterious woman with a robotic left arm and leg. With a sincere apology, she shoots our intrepid hero, not fatally, however, painful all the same but left without a mark. As your character rises you feel a power that was not there before; you are cursed, you are a Monstrum. After learning of the Nox, an astral plane-like place where dark creatures lurk, desperately seek a way into your reality, you must team up with a ragtag group of Monstrum and an even more diverse group of allies. It is your job to both stop the baddies, the Lemures, from invading your world, all the while uncovering the secrets being held deep within the fortress prison of Balduq.
This game excited me a lot, Nihon Falcom and NIS America do great work, so let us start at the beginning difficulty settings. There are six in total with three of them being above hard so not liking this game cause it’s not challenging enough is out of the question. Even in the more difficult versions, the game is still well balanced and will ultimately come down to skill level. There is a tutorial, I think this is the first game in a while that I’ve reviewed that has one. Top marks for making it the prison break as it made it less like a standard boring tutorial and more exciting. It has your usual JRPG button line up, where square is your action/attack button, X to jump, circle to change character. Pretty standard stuff.
Each character has a unique ability or gift if you prefer, once a new payable character joins your team you gain that gift. For example, the first gift you get is Adol’s which allows him to teleport to certain ledges. Each gift is triggered by a different button, Adol’s is by pressing the R2 trigger. As you collect their gifts, new ways to traverse the city and the dungeons below open to you, and I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty dope.
Combat is fun if sometimes a little chaotic. Attacking is simple; press square over and over. Dodge, if done at the right time, slows enemies, or guard, again done at the right time, can increase SP gain temporarily. You can lock on to a target by simply moving your lock on which should be simple however, it becomes more of a hassle since a lot of your enemies move constantly. Trying to switch enemies during a fight is probably not recommended as it’s easier to just lock onto one and hit that one until it dies.
Special abilities, one of my favourite parts. While holding R1 press one of the four shape buttons to use a special attack, just be careful your finger doesn’t slip off that R1 changing character, turning the lock on-off or even jumping off a cliff into a chasm is not fun. Pressing both R1 and L1 now that’s fun, unleashing a boost speed and power for a while. Why stop there, why not hit those two buttons again for your ultimate ass kickery, yes, please.
The combat is kept interesting by switching up the types of fights you have. The first is your standard fight. Next, you have the Nox fights which split into two types; ‘wave’ and ‘crystal break’. Wave is as it sounds, waves of monsters are thrown at you until the final boss wave. Crystal break requires you to break all the crystals in the area or defeat all the monsters and summon the boss and take him out before time runs out. All relatively simple but change things up enough to keep it interesting. As you collect allies, they will use special abilities that help you during Nox fights, and giving them gifts will level up these abilities. You can also set up and power up defenses in the Nox, but to do this you need materials.
Probably the hardest part of this game is the material gathering. It is a grind but the outcomes they provide are very necessary. You can use a lot of lower-level materials to make higher-tier materials. Though gathering and upgrading is not the hard part, it is the sheer amount you need that can be daunting. If you plan to upgrade something, make sure it will be worth it because those materials could be used elsewhere. Make sure you stay on top of your character’s gear; they jump in power and defense by a decent amount so try not to fall behind.
The main characters in this game as well as the supporting NPCs all have a unique look and style, leaning heavily to the anime look. The town folk and city guards are not as fleshed out but in good RPG fashion, they still have the things they talk about. So even if you do not directly speak to them, they are not just background pieces and it helps make the city feel more alive. Speaking of the city and landscape, the art in this game is stunning. I found myself a few times going to a high point just to take in the view. Dialogue changes from voice acting to text frequently which is not a bad thing, but I do prefer full-voiced games due to my love for voice actors. The music is good but not spectacular some hit hard and are perfect for the situation, some missed, not making the scene as impactful as it should have been.
I love these types of games and this one especially there are so many things going on that it is hard to put down once you start. Luckily, you can save at any point, so it is a good rule of thumb to do so often. Fans of the YS series will like this, but I believe any fan of RPGs or JRPGs will enjoy this as well. It is safe to say that this game will make it into my top ten for 2021 outstanding work from Nihon Falcom and NIS America, you have not let me down and I cannot wait to see what you have next.
- Fun and engaging story
- Easy controls
- Plenty of farming and exploring to keep you busy
- Visually beautiful
- Vibrant characters and supporting NPCs
- Exciting combat
- Music a bit hit and miss
- NPCs, city guards especially do not react to you even though you are wanted