A relatively easy one, could be done in one playthrough but I wasn’t courageous enough to play on Nightmare from the beginning, so put it off until New Game+ and dashed through the game in about 10 hours =)

Ys IX Monstrum Nox

I’m actually surprised by how much I liked Ys IX. I enjoyed it enough to be playing it for the second time now, to get that damn platinum trophy =) I wouldn’t say that I’m a diehard Ys fan — I did play Ys VIII, it was good but that’s it. Yeah, I was going to check out the latest installment in this action-JRPG series eventually, but the demo and reviews I saw didn’t sell the game to me. After enjoying the gorgeous (well, according to Falcom standards) views of lush greenery in Lacrimosa of Dana everything in Ys IX looked dull and grey. Turned out that a prison city could be a perfect location for an exciting adventure =)

For me running all over Balduq, trying to find all the treasure chests, graffities and azure petals was more fascinating than exploring an island full of ruins and dinosaurs. Yeah, I myself can’t believe that I’m writing this. I could try to come up with a reasonable explanation why Monstrum Nox is such a fun game, whether it’s verticality Ys IX locations have or better written characters, but the fact is that it was very difficult for me to put down the controller every evening. “I just got to the new part of the city and I can already see that damn azure petal on that roof. Okay, 5 more minutes and I’m done for today”. I wish there were more secret rooms and passages in Balduq (there are maybe 6 or 7 total), to add to that sense of adventure when you can accidentally stumble upon, you know, something, but in any case that boring-looking, enclosed city ended up being a great place to explore.

What’s next… story and characters. The plot of Monstrum Nox is okay. It’s not something mind-blowing, we’ve seen stories about homunculi before, but it’s well-written and reasonably logical. For some time, for example, I was like “oh boy, all the playable characters are orphans, what’s wrong with the writers?” and then it turned out that, well yeah, you can’t exactly expect artificially created humans to be a part of a family naturally =) Some elements of the game definitely were inspired by Lacrimosa of Dana. For instance, having two parallel story lines: Adol and Dana in Lacrimosa of Dana, Adol and… Adol in Mostrum Nox. Speaking of Dana — I kind of missed her in Ys IX. I liked her as a heroine, I liked her storyline and whereas overall the Monstrums and their companions are written better than the castaways there’s no one who would stand out as a character. Aprilis, The Doll, Credo (and Interrogator Ingrid!) are probably the best ones but still, they are not Dana.

I initially was very skeptical of the idea of Grimwald Nox. Basically it’s the same raids mechanic from Ys VIII, which I was successfully ignoring there, but this time it was made mandatory. Not sure whether it’s the fact that finishing a nox would unlock access to another location or I just misunderstood something in the previous game — but in Mostrum Nox I didn’t have much trouble with them. Gameplay-wise the two Adol’s adventures I played look like Sedin Brothers (who doesn’t like Swedish twins?), even though Ys IX certainly uses verticality more. I wouldn’t say that the Gifts is something that changed the game entirely and not all of them are equally useful unfortunately, but it was a nice improvement over the “artifacts” from Ys VIII.

If I had to say something bad about the game I’d name two things. First of all, some animations are just atrocious. If a character is going away, he or she first makes a series of 90-degrees turns to face the desired direction and then finally starts walking with those really weird, kind of sliding, movements. Secondly, on normal difficulty the game is too easy. I definitely should’ve played on hard because lower difficulties provide no challenge whatsoever.

I have to repeat myself — Ys IX Monstrum Nox is a pleasant surprise, a super fun game with a decent plot, polished combat system and, most importantly, it’s full of spirit of adventure. And what else are we looking for in an Ys game if not that? Adol the Adventurer, we’ll meet again soon, in Ys X =)

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox_20220123204148

I watched Encanto the other day and oh man, either I’m getting really old or Disney took a wrong turn somewhere. I used to be a huge fan of this studio and was excited about every new cartoon they’d release. I still diligently check out every new film they put out but in the last 5 years or so the excitement has vanished. Moana, Raya, the second Frozen, Coco (yeah, i know that some of these are probably Pixar but let’s be honest — they all are Disney now) are amazing visually… but feel sterile and boring. The same goes to Encanto. It’s stunningly beautiful. And made me yawn during its entire 90 minutes. It’s predictable, with unsympathetic characters, with about zero touching moments and its songs, frankly, suck. Probably I should give up and just go back to the huge library of cartoons this studio already has — after all, there are still so many I haven’t seen yet.

Trails of Cold Steel II

It pains me to be writing such heresy but Trails of Cold Steel 2 is not a very good game. It’s certainly the weakest of 6 Kiseki games I’ve played and unlikely I’ll want to give it another shot any time soon. The pacing, plot, dialogues — sadly everything is below average.

A regular reminder that I’m a pervert and have been playing this saga out of order. Soo… the way Cold Steel II is structured is immediately recognizable by anyone who played the last game of the arc. First we’re looking for friends and allies, then there’s a huge “open-world”-like chapter with a ship as the home base. I didn’t especially enjoy this structure when I was playing CS IV, so take a guess what I was thinking during my CS II playthrough, considering that the last game, being the same under the hood, improved on a lot of things. CS II doesn’t have anything close to the night before the final battle in Mishelam Wonderland, it doesn’t have insane Rean, even the liberation of Trista, which was supposed to be a powerful and inspirational moment doesn’t live up to the scene in CS IV when we get to see Leeves again. Even the most boring Trails games still have moments I’m going to remember for a long time but I have virtually nothing after having finished this one. Oh well, at least Altina is as cute as ever.

Not only the structure and pacing are meh, the plot is not aiming for the stars either. The Chancellor is “dead”, the Noble Alliance and the Imperial Army are at war, Elise and Alfin are kidnapped and Rean with his friends basically go on one very long rescue mission, simultaneously crashing those pesky nobles. Yah, Class VII is declaring every 20 minutes that they’re going to be neutral, that they’re going to be the third force, only to side with Osborne on every step. So much for being an additional side in the conflict. I have to admit though that the epilogue is really, really good. Rean, who’s become The Ashen Chevalier, finally has to participate in actual military operations and what can be more depressing than basically work for people you hate? Then there’s a brief, a little awkward but heartful, reunion with his classmates and, finally, they have to say goodbye to each other, walking away from Thors and trying to find their own paths in life. The ending felt bittersweet, honey and clover-ish, despite the fact that I knew that they all would meet again in CS III =)

However, the epilogue is probably the only things about Cold Steel II story I genuinely enjoyed. Continuing the whipping of the game I have to say that even the dialogues, something that I’d never thought Falcom could fuck up, were bad. Few conversations were interesting to follow, few comments were smart, half of the time I had to read various inspirational speeches about friendship, comradery and that people could be an unstoppable force if they’re working together. “We can do it as Class VII!” The same goes to character development or, I should say, the lack of thereof. This is definitely not the biggest issue because the characters themselves are fine the way they are, but it would be nice if they matured a bit throughout the game. There’s one annoying moment regarding one specific character though. We’re supposed to care about Crow, his death should be another punch in the nuts for Rean — but c’mon! He was someone I never even thought of spending time with in CS I, the backstory about his granddad, explaining how Crow came to hate the Chancellor, belongs to “oh, interesting. Anyway, speaking about Altina…” category and considering that I had already known the “unexpected” twist with his death and resurrection in the next game — it’s easy to see why I had to sign every time another character would start mumbling something about missing “our friend and classmate”. Crow wasn’t a good playable character and he definitely is not a great antagonist.

Again and again I have to praise the decision to begin my Erebonian journey with CS III. CS II is a pretty average JRPG with great combat system (which Trails game doesn’t have it?) but lacking in all other departments. It’s totally possible that I would’ve stopped playing this series after this disappointment and, thus, missed out on the next, brilliant, chapter of the saga. Now it seems that I’m taking a break from Kiseki games until Trails from Zero, which is coming out this fall. I am genuinely looking forward to playing it — I already have a couple of characters I like there (Tio and Randy) and will be more than happy to spend another hundred or two hours with them =)