A Wonderful Curse

Ys is the latest JRPG hit to receive a new entry into its ever-growing franchise and it is quite possibly the best entry yet. It follows our beloved Ys Hero Adol Christin in a rather unfortunate predicament. After his many adventures, sailing the seas in search of hidden relics Adol now finds himself interrogated and under arrest for the events that he finds himself in. Unlucky! Well not for long as of course, all Heroes are able to secure an escape. Adol is no different but more than meets the eye to the prison that he is in. As he escapes he finds himself injected with a power that turns him into more badassery than normal and once outside finds out that the prison is arresting people on such unlawful charges. Adol then meets some other unlikely heroes who have been infused with the same power and he and the Monstrum who they are known as must uncover the secrets of the city who have a fear of them being dangerous criminals.

Ys IX is a very different affair from past games in the series but definitely retains a lot of what makes the series good. Each of the characters that Adol befriends has their own personalities which are all very different. You have the good-natured White Cat and Hawk who is a very Hot-Blooded always wants to scrap Guy. They all work well with the story’s narrative and Adol’s response to these personalities is worth the playtime alone. The game primarily takes place in the City of Balduq but not the full City. To begin with, much of the city is blocked off by an invisible force which must be unlocked by either progressing the story or by ridding Vortex Miasmas that appear before them. To do this the Monstrum are transferred to a battlefield where you partake in special battles where you must protect a crystal and are awarded for your efforts with loot based on your rank. Once Miasmas disappear much of Balduq becomes more accessible and it is a large city and at one point I actually thought the whole game would be based inside it but this isn’t the case. Once Adol is free of the prison he has a base set up on the outskirts in an old abandoned building which apparently none of the knights that are after him never seem to check.

There is much to do in the sprawling City of Balduq, The Monstrum are instilled with Gifts which are special powers and each Monstrum possesses a certain one. Adol can instantly warp himself to certain ledges and White Cat can run up the side of buildings, as you have access to more Monstrums it becomes clear that the City becomes even more accessible. There are many secrets that can be uncovered with the use of these powers and there are NPC’s some of which will reward you for exploring for example finding so many Landmarks or for uncovering a certain percentage of the city itself. Battles are fast-paced and in most cases are over in seconds while collecting a plethora of different ingredients. Ingredients are used to upgrade weapons or are used to brew potions and healing items and create meals that give buffs such as extra exp or have a temporary health regen. There are many shops that increasingly become available as more of Balduq opens. Requests also become available from your base or from NPC’s which can be completed straight away or not bearing in mind that there is a timer on these for example you will lose certain requests if you progress the story further. You can buy gifts for certain characters who dwell in your base who will gift you usually unique rewards in doing so. Balduq is a grand city and exploring it is so much fun, small tears can be found all over which act as battle points should you wish to grind. Dungeons exist within the City and these are acceptable in length and cleverly created to make use of Monstrums certain abilities to add depth and exploration to them. The game may seem rather easy from the offset but don’t let the generous amounts of Healing panels fool you.

Ys IX is rather easy, to begin with, but this is an issue common with the series as of late, that is down to how the gameplay works so I’d recommend turning the difficulty up if you seek more of a Challenge. I set it to Hard and struggled with one of the early dungeon bosses due to some of the enemies using up all my healing items before, I was left with a couple of resurrection items and a exp boosting meal, I will definitely make sure I am well prepared before venturing into the next Labyrinth, Flying enemies are a nightmare in this game and some have some very hard to dodge attacks but when you do you it is satisfying to get the swoop in on them. Bosses are great as they generally have large pools of health and do require some thinking to take down and have phases during the fight where they become more powerful usually when they start to become low on health. My biggest surprise was when I found out I had to use my Monstroms Gifts to actually keep myself alive and dodge certain mechanics of boss fights entirely. This makes Ys IX a grind if you really want it or an easy adventure should you want it. Ys IX caters to all players abilities.

What can I say about the music except that it screams Ys. It is great but not amazing like we have had in previous games in the series. They are not super memorable but the Balduq theme is definitely one that you will have in your mind as you take time to explore it. Ys IX doesn’t win any awards in terms of graphics but what it lacks there is made up for in spades in everything else. Ys IX is an absolute solid addition to the Ys series and possibly one of my favourites. There is a lot of charm in the characters, story and the depth in each of these makes for an unforgettable experience.

A PlayStation 4 Review Code was provided by NIS America