The Backstory: The Ys series has been running for a staggering 35 years, on more platforms than you can count. Although they’ve always been ARPGs, the formula has been tweaked over time — you’d be hard-pressed to find anything close to the good old ‘bump attack’ system in recent entries. On the other hand, mysterious and demure Adol Christin is still there — although he’s getting more talkative as games go by. Anyway, we’re in for a major stretch, as the last (and only) Ys entries I played are the 7th generation remakes of the first two episodes. Will the gameplay change be too much to bear, or will I slide effortlessly into modern Ys?
The Game: Skippable cutscenes and in medias res introduction that lets you play right off the bat always make for a great combo. So do stellar physics and a slick fighting system that includes the genre’s best staples (tweakable aiming that automatically transfers to the next foe, variety of attacks and combos) as well as some neat novelties (a ‘zapping’ feature that brings you right next to a faraway foe, to mention the one I could uncover during my limited playtime).
Indeed, a good chunk of Ys IX’s gameplay is based on using the various abilities of your posse of characters to your advantage. Because indeed — again — you don’t solely handle good old Adol Christin, but rather six different characters you can switch between. From what I understand, that new playstyle was introduced in Ys VIII, and is hailed as the series’ best thing since bumping attack by some fans and as absolute rubbish by others. As for me, I don’t care either way — as long as I can slash at stuff, I’m good!
Talking about slashing at stuff, I couldn’t do it nearly as much as I wanted. After that glorious intro that let me claw my way out of a sordid prison, I was introduced to a slew of cutscenes and some quieter gameplay bits involving exploration and item-finding, and… it was kinda boring. Still, I played these bits and skipped cutscenes like it was going out of fashion; next thing I knew, I was thrown into a hectic battle with a bunch of CPU-controlled allies. I could barely spot Adol amidst all that chaos, and… it wasn’t really fun.
The Verdict: As much as it pains me to admit it, Ys IX is no New Classic of mine. Bar the initial bout of dungeon-crawling, I had no fun playing it; and nothing about it feels moreish. I cannot lie to myself — but I don’t have to either; as I said, I don’t have to love every single instalment of every single series!