Release Date: 2/2/2021
Publisher: Nihon Falcom, Nippon Ichi Software, NIS America
Developer: Nihon Falcom, Engine Software, PH3 GmbH
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4/5, Microsoft Windows
Review By: Roger Harper on Playstation 5
Disclaimer: Production copy provided by NIS America. Product was not purchased
For those of you still unfamiliar, which is probably a lot of you: Ys is an extremely popular series of Action RPG’s. When I say extremely popular, I mean in Japan. However, with the release of 2017’s Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana on the Playstation 4, PC, and later the Nintendo Switch, the series finally had a hit here in the states on a home console, after a long line of overlooked releases on Sony’s handheld systems like the PSP and Vita. Ys VIII was considered by many to be one of the best action RPG’s on the previous generation of consoles and Nintendo Switch. Could Falcom follow up on their breakthrough in the American market with another critical and commercial success?
Well, time will tell if it’s a critical and commercial success, as at the time of this writing the game is sitting at an 80 on Metacritic, with only a handful of reviews published. I’ve spent about ten hours with the title, and I have mostly great things to say about it.
Ys IX kicks off by dropping you into the story better than any of the titles before it, save perhaps Ys Origin. Like almost every other entry in the series, you are Adol Christin, a man with a unique profession of an Adventurer. You’ve arrived in the prison city of Balduq with your long time trusted sidekick Dogi, who once again, like in the previous entry has been designated an NPC instead of an active party member (Oh Ys Seven, you spoiled us with the playable Dogi). When you arrive to town you immediately find a commotion going on at the gates where you first hear of the Monstrums who have been wreaking havoc upon the town. You’re immediately recognized as Adol, you’re a famous adventurer afterall. But since you always seem tied up in some major world events on your adventures, that means you obviously must have something to do with the Monstrums, and you are immediately thrown into the prison – a former fortress that is so large even guards get lost forever among its depths.
So our adventure starts with a quick interrogation, clueing you in on some of Adol’s previous escapades, followed by breaking out of prison. During your escape you meet the mysterious Aprillis, who shoots you. Wait what? So in the first half hour of the newest entry of the Ys series, the series main protagonist gets arrested for being himself, and then shot. Is this prologue some sort of reboot or something? Anyways, after being shot, Adol quickly changes appearance and gets a much more adequate weapon for his prison break, as the gunshot made him into a monstrum. Welp, I guess he really does find himself involved in all the world’s problems.
The games story finds him teaming up with other monstrums. Mysteries begin to unravel in the early chapters of the game. Adol takes up a disguise so nobody recognizes him and puts him back in prison, and finds that he can switch back and forth between his normal self, and his monstrum persona who has been given the moniker “The Crimson King”. You are joined early on by other monstrums, starting with “The White Cat” and “The Hawk”. Each time a monstrum joins your party, you learn a bit about their backstory and their life up to the point where they became a monstrum.
One thing the game is immediately better at than it’s predecessors is making side quests, and primary objectives much more personal. It finds ways in storytelling to make you more invested in things going on in Balduq – constantly tying events in one way or another to Adol and his companions. This is much appreciated as in previous games in the series things often felt rushed and characters felt disjointed from events going on around them aside from the fact that “Hey this character is here so we might as well include them”.
Gameplay wise, Ys IX treads in pretty familiar territory. The Ys series is known for re-inventing its combat every so often. This entry however sticks to the tried and true party system that was introduced in each seven. There are three main attack types – slash, pierce, and strike. You’ll be able to switch party members on the fly and can have up to three active members in your party at a time. Battles take place in real time with no transitions in and out of them. It’s important to switch up party members depending on different enemies you encounter in order to exploit their weaknesses. Attacking enemies with the proper attack type can put them into a “break” status which makes them temporarily vulnerable to all attack types. You level up your characters and learn new combat skills which can also be leveled up by frequency of use in battle.
As per usual, the soundtrack for Ys IX is phenomenal. The music in this series is always top notch and this is no exception. To use some terms that the kids will understand, dungeon and battle tracks in this title are absolute bangers. Music in town and in more somber situations is nice and subtle. I’ve never been disappointed with the soundtracks in the series and this entry definitely didn’t let me down in that department.
Graphically, don’t go into Ys IX expecting a groundbreaking experience. Don’t take that comment the wrong way. The game looks fine, but it also looks like it could probably be pulled off on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. If you’re playing this on the Playstation 5 you’re going to have very smooth performance but don’t expect anything extra as far as graphic fidelity is concerned – as there are no graphical enhancements made for the title.
Speaking of the Playstation 5, that brings me to my only complaint about the game. I’ve spoken with some other reviewers over at Digital Emelas (For those of you unfamiliar, this is basically the top Ys fan site in the world) and on Reddit. Around the beginning of chapter three I started experiencing some fairly frequent crashes on the PS5. I was able to confirm with them that the issue seemed to be an isolated one to the Playstation 5, as the Playstation 4 version continued to run without problems.
UPDATE: Day One Patch: It looks like the issue on the Playstation 5 has been resolved. I have since played for a couple more hours since launch day and I haven’t had any further problems with crashes.
Overall, I’m super excited to continue this adventure. I’ve completed every Ys game up to this point and will no doubt be finishing this one up over the next few weeks. If you’ve played and enjoyed other entries in the Ys series then you’ll enjoy this one just as much if not more. It’s too early for me to decide if this is my favorite in the series (A designation that’s always belonged to Lacrimosa of Dana and Oath in Felghana. Give this game a shot if you’re a fan of the series, and if you’ve never played an Ys game, it’s not a bad place to start!