YS 9 changes up the Ys series by setting the game within a city, an almost sandbox JRPG (with dungeons of course). You are the Monstrum, supported by a whole team, who have to activate the Grimwald Nox to escape the city. So the name should make sense now…kind of.
I reviewed YS 8 (or VIII if you prefer Roman numerals) and although I gave it a 7.5 upon reflection I really didn’t love it. Monstrum Nox has had a really different affect on me and has made me want to play everything else in the series and even go back to 8! So what’s it all about….
The monstrums are essentially your team of power rangers who have been forced into fighting monsters for an unknown lady called Asprilis, and for a mystery reason. Being a monstrum is a curse that won’t let you leave the city of Balduq (at the beginning anyway) but also gives you really cool abilities, the down side is you’re constantly forced to fight monsters. The curse gives each monstrum a different ability which can be used to traverse the city and dungeon and uncover clues; these are powers such as flight, running up walls and seeing through walls. Each chapter of the game focuses on a different Monstrum’s story and with each one you meet you unlock their ability for the whole party to use……
Quick note in case you don’t know, in the YS games you have a party of 3 which you can switch between with 1 button. So you can fight/explore with a party of 3 but it’s controlled by 1 character model running around…
…….so as you’re running around you’re switching between your chosen party on the fly with the abilities of all Monstrums unlocked thus far. The whole point in running around is to unlock more of the city until you eventually escape it, after initially escaping prison. Because you’re in ‘trouble (seemingly for just being an adventurer) you must disguise yourself and hide out in a local Inn. The local inn is abandoned but as you play more you start to make it better and more and more of a lovely pub!
But why are you running around?! You must complete side quests to build up your Nox meter which activates the Grimwald Nox and when this happens you get the chance to complete them to unlock further parts of the city. Whilst all of this is happening there’s the over looming, and huge, prison. You’ve escaped it early game but you must continually make trips inside to free prisoners and find out just what on earth is going on inside. By the way some of the prisoners you free come back to the inn to become part of your helpful gang, as do some of the people met in side quests!
Of course the game is massively about it’s combat as well it’s general Japanese fun. You may not have played and YS game before but it’s played as an open world action game, you’ll encounter enemies only when activated within the city but free roaming in dungeons and outside of the city walls. The combat isn’t exactly complex, but I kind of like that. You need to hit square to attack and use special attacks by holding R1 and pressing a corresponding button. You’ve also got a special meter when once filled allows you to perform a special attack. You can also time your blocks and dodges to slow enemies down, in a kind of parry. You’ll also encounter tonnes of bosses, each dungeon has at least 2. They really change the combat up and mean that you need to approach the combat a little differently, perhaps jumping away from area attacks, only attacking certain parts of them or avoiding damage from the arena itself.
As well as fighting lots of monsters (called Lemures in this) you’ll be completing side quests and exploring the city, this part of the game REALLY shines and is what’s kept me coming back for more and more. You’re tasked with finding all of the graffiti, or landmarks for example and I don’t know why I just wand to find them all, and that’s how I know it has it’s claws in me. And there are lots of fun and interesting characters and vendors you’ll meet along the way. I really liked how important the side quests are as they would often revolve around the Monstrum you’ll be unlocking for you team next or a character to help your team. Or of course you may just be finding the local peeping tom…..
Accompanying you the whole time is a completely brilliant soundtrack, when you’re fighting there’s a full on metal riff of simple awesomeness and when generally exploring there’s an orchestral loveliness behind you. Anyway…… is it a good game? It depends on what you want from your games, it’s not particularly thought provoking or doing anything hugely different with the genre but it is thoroughly enjoyable and charming. I love the fact that it’s essentially a sandbox game within a jpg and It has some brilliantly flashy combat, interesting characters and a fantastic story however sometimes it does look a bit cheap AND there are just some….janky moments. It’s not blowing me away and it’s not perfect but I simply can’t stop playing it.
For the time being Monstrum Nox gets a …..