So let’s go ahead and get this out of the way, I’m a huge fan of the Ys series. I love games that have existed for a decade or more and you can see the iteration process that the creative teams have gone through to arrive at the newest title. Rarely do we get a series like Ys where you have a singular main character and get to follow him around on his adventures though? Ys is more like a fantasy novel of old, like the R. A. Salvatore Drizzt novels where you have a core set of characters and each story arc is three books long and the author works hard at developing the characters within that trilogies theme. Every trilogy of games in the Ys series has a core gameplay idea and the team over at Falcom iterates on it and includes the last trilogy ideas in there as well. This series has been around for almost two decades and distinguished itself from other JRPGs by being an action RPG focused on bullet hell-style combat with a rich world and lore that is constantly expanding.
Ys IX is no exception here. The team-swapping mechanic from the last two games is even more important now, needing you to juggle element types and weaknesses of enemies by switching between character mid-boss fights as it shoots a hundred lightning balls at your face all while you have to dodge at the exact last second before you’re hit just so you can slow down time and hopefully make some advance on the newest boss in front of you and smash his defenses and open them up to deal REAL damage. It’s downright craziness that forces you to walk a tightrope over a pit of alligators who just so happen to have spikes on their backs too. Ys as a series always expects you to play within their rules but as long as you’re in there you are guaranteed to have a fun time. There is a total of six different difficulties, I played on the second to last hardest because I am a masochist. The other difficulties are also just fine as well and I was super impressed with the way the games were tuned to different play styles.
Outside of the usual gameplay, the series is expected to have there are some neat additions mostly from the open-world nature of the game which is accented with fun movement options. Every open-world game has collections on the side which will usually give you some sort of skin or weapon but in Ys IX the collections are very specific for each character in your party. If you complete a character’s side content they get a stat boost in combat. Whatever items you are looking for will reflect that character’s story and you will learn more about them and Balduq, the city you are exploring, through collecting these items. It’s a fun way to pad the game and force you to get your hands dirty and see use the fun new teleportation and wall-running abilities Adol has at his disposal.
Now for the kicker, is Ys IX worth it? If you are a fan of the series it is an obvious no-brainer. There is no other game series that does it like Ys and we all come back to these games every few years for a reason. If you aren’t a fan of the series though I will also say it’s worth it. If you want a bullet hell in an anime fantasy setting that has light RPG mechanics with a story that has been woven over the last twenty years, get it. If you’re nervous about hopping in a series at the ninth entry don’t be too concerned, Ys stories are designed to be standalone with cheeky mentions of the past games. But if you go back and consume the rest of the series you will definitely come out with a greater appreciation for the series as a whole.