Ys IX: Monstrum Nox (Switch) – Review
Follow Genre: ARPG
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publisher: Nihon Falcom
Platform: Switch, PC, Stadia, PS4
Tested on: Switch

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox (Switch) – Review

Site Score
Good: Satisfying and fun combat system
Bad: Serious visual issues that detract from gameplay
User Score
(1 votes)
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VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 4.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Nihon Falcom’s Ys series is the perfect example of a franchise that’s been around for decades and has a very dedicated audience, but that never really entered the mainstream consciousness. This makes the Ys franchise somewhat of a hidden gem, as anyone that played the excellent Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA can attest to. This ARPG was met with positive reviews and was the fastest-selling title in the series so far, even though it only translated to a relatively small number of 500.000 copies sold over two years. Still, the series has its audience, who have been eagerly awaiting Ys IX: Monstrum Nox ever since Lacrimosa of DANA released in 2016. The wait is finally over though, and fans in the West can finally get stuck in Monstrum Nox on Switch, PC and Google Stadia, after the game got a timed exclusive release on PS4 in February. Was Monstrum Nox worth the wait?


As is usually the case with games in the Ys franchise, you can ignore the number in the title and play it as a standalone game. While Monstrum Nox brings back the familiar face of Adol as the protagonist, any references to previous titles in the series are nothing more but small nods, and newcomers will feel right at home here. Monstrum Nox starts with Adol as a prisoner in the city of Balduq. He’s been wrongfully arrested for things he did on his previous adventures. Adol manages to break free with the aid of one of his fellow inmates and the enigmatic Aprilis, who turns Adol into a Monstrum. At this point you might wonder what a Monstrum is, as Aprilis remains vague about them before disappearing. Adol quickly finds out what they’re all about and what his new destiny is.

The Monstrums are a group of cursed vigilantes, chosen and recruited by Aprilis, that are tasked with defending Balduq from an invasion of powerful monsters, known as Lemures. The citizens of Balduq are unable to see these monsters, and they consider the Monstrums themselves to be the actual threats instead. Being a Monstrum is both a blessing and a curse: Monstrums gain powerful new abilities but they cannot leave Balduq. The only way for Adol to ever regain his freedom is to fully eradicate the invaders. This is easier said than done, and Adol will need to gain the trust of each of the five other Monstrums and reluctantly form an Avengers-style superhero team in order to attain this. As if that wasn’t enough, there is also the Romun Empire to deal with, who would rather see the Monstrums wiped out than anything else. The game takes its time explaining everything and the narrative arc isn’t perfect, with the first half of the story feeling very slow, but the pace picks up later on.


Monstrum Nox’ graphics are the weakest element here, up to the point where we actually had to knock down the game’s overall score because of its visual performance. The main issue lies with the game’s frame rate, which drops significantly whenever there is too much action going on. Exploring the city of Balduq loses a lot of its appeal because of this. It would be easy to point to the processing power of the Switch as the culprit for this problem, but from what we found these issues are prevalent in the PS4 version as well (even when running the game on PS5), so it seems that this is a case of very poor optimization on Falcom’s behalf. Admittedly, we’ve been informed that several patches are on the way, but we’re judging the game on what we’re getting right now. These issues appear to be less frequent on the PC version, so if you’ve still on the fence on which platform you’re going to play Monstrum Nox, then picking up the Steam version seems to be your best bet right now.

We’d forgive Nihon Falcom for these issues if the game was graphically taxing too, but that isn’t even the case. The game boasts fairly simplistic visuals, both with character models and environments. Part of this is due to the game being set in a prison city, of course, and the drab stonework is a far cry from the lush tropical jungles from the previous titles. Nonetheless, even without keeping the setting in mind, it’s apparent that Monstrum Nox cuts corners wherever it can. Several actions that would require complex animations aren’t shown but happen off-screen. Clipping and jagged edges are also everywhere. Finally, the game suffers from poor draw distance, especially when exploring the world, but this is somewhat masked by fog. Given that the art direction itself is fantastic, with great character and creature designs, it’s a shame to see that things were executed so poorly. While the Switch isn’t a graphical powerhouse, we’ve seen what it is capable of with titles like Monster Hunter Rise and Xenoblade Chronicles, so getting offered up Monstrum Nox’ lukewarm visuals left a bad aftertaste in our mouths.


Unlike the visuals, the game’s soundtrack is quite good. The music shifts to fit the mood of what’s happening on screen, and the tunes are atmospheric and lend a suitable degree of epicness to the events that transpire. Voice acting is generally excellent as well, although voice work is only audible during key scenes and not throughout the entirety of the game. Adol himself is a silent protagonist, apart from the occasional grunt or gasp, but the rest of the cast is clearly having fun, with some delightfully hammy performances as a result; especially from the voice actor who portrays the eccentric and campy Shante.


Monstrum Nox is an ARPG that builds upon the foundation laid by Lacrimosa of DANA, the previous title in the Ys series. This means that most of the game’s core mechanics make a welcome return and anyone that played the previous game should feel right at home. Although Monstrum Nox is technically set in an open world, that world is limited to a single city. Admittedly, this city is quite massive, but the game still feels more confined and restricted than the tropical island setting seen in Lacrimosa of DANA. The aim of Monstrum Nox is of course to play through the main story and maybe do a few side quests on the way. Monstrum Nox takes a very linear approach to the core narrative, continuously reminding you where to go and what to do next. The main story should take you roughly 30 hours to complete, though you can squeeze an additional 20 hours out of it if you’re looking to do and see everything the game has to offer.

You start out playing as Adol, with additional characters joining you on your team as you progress through the game. Walking around the city of Balduq sees you occasionally joined by a team member as required by the story, and your active party will also fight alongside you as NPCs. Team members include the titular Monstrums, though other characters will join you as well. You can only have a single non-Monstrum character on your combat team, however, as they’ll need a special lantern to be able to see the invading monsters. Party organization is done in The Dandelion, a derelict bar that you’ll gain access to a few hours into the game, and that serves as a base of sorts for Adol and his friends.

Every time a new Monstrum joins your team, any of the Monstrum team members are able to use that Monstrum’s Gift. These Gifts then allow you to explore Balduq in a new way. Whether it’s Hawk’s ability to glide or White Cat’s ability to run up walls, each Gift allows you to explore the city and uncover secrets you couldn’t reach before, incentivizing you to revisit old areas. What stands out here is Balduq’s verticality, and at times the game almost feels a bit like a Metroidvania because of the way additional areas are unlocked. Any Monstrum can use any of the unlocked Gifts, so you don’t have to continuously switch characters in order to reach some of the game’s more complex locations, although you can also change characters on the fly should you want to. In theory, exploring Balduq and running, jumping, and gliding from roof to roof should be a joy, but our old friend mister frame rate ruins the fun here as well. Navigating some of the city’s trickier sections is made harder by screen stuttering and landing jumps can be frustratingly imprecise as a result.

Combat is fast-paced, frantic, and incredibly fun. You’ve got your basic attack and charged special moves of course, but the game keeps you on the edge of your seat, and more often than not a battle requires strategic thinking rather than mindless button bashing. Key here are the dodging and blocking mechanics. If you do either one right before an enemy attack connects, you’re rewarded with a brief moment of invincibility or a huge boost to the damage you dish out. To outsiders, seeing a battle in Monstrum Nox might seem chaotic but for the player, it’s a carefully calculated dance of death. The only issue we really had with combat is that when you are facing hordes of enemies -which happens quite a few times in the game- then the frame rate drops again, and given how important dodging and blocking works, this can lead to unfair hits. This isn’t as prevalent when taking on bosses or smaller numbers of enemies though.

There’s a fair bit of DLC available for Monstrum Nox as well, although none of it is story content (so far). If you want to throw Nihon Falcom some extra cash, you’ll get items and outfits for the effort. There are a few free “sample pack” DLCs and having save data from previous Ys titles will reward you with some goodies as well, so you can get a small boost when you’re starting a new game without actually spending an additional penny. Sadly, a lot of the available DLC feels like a pay-to-win early game boost. Given that Monstrum Nox already comes with a hefty price tag, and that the non-cosmetic paid DLC doesn’t offer anything you can’t obtain simply by playing the game, we’d recommend not splurging on these unless you really want to avoid grinding. At the time of writing, some of the DLC bundles are also more expensive than buying the contents separately, so be wary before you buy.


Although Monstrum Nox’ gameplay is excellent in theory, the game’s visual performance is poor enough to detract from the overall experience. As such, the game is a showcase of wasted potential. We really hope that the promised patches fix the frame rate issues, because right now, Monstrum Nox is difficult to recommend, especially when you also consider the premium price tag. We really wanted to love this game, but as it stands, Monstrum Nox could’ve used some more time in the oven. We won’t dismiss Monstrum Nox just yet, so we’re recommending a wait-and-see approach in the hope that the game’s biggest issues are fixed in a month or two.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 4.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
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Ys IX: Monstrum Nox (Switch) - Review, 4.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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