I'm a huge Ys VIII (8) fan. Love that game. Top 10 all time for me. It simply did everything right, well, except that ending.
I was terribly skeptical about this. The demo certainly didn't do any favors either - as seems to be the common case, they focused on combat rather than the actual plot/story.
But now that I've played through the game, it's clear that they're trying to begin the bridge to the crossover known as Ys vs. Trails. Because this plays nothing like an Ys game and everything like a Trails game.
For some, this is not a good thing. For me, it was a necessary evolution from a ghetto Zelda into a more mature product that can wholly stand on its own outside of the hardcore fans of the past.
What I Liked
✅ Great (not excellent) music. Three of the tracks are quite amazing, but you're not in those areas long enough.
✅ All-star cast of English voice actors - well done when it plays.
✅ Interesting battle mechanics and use of the city and surrounding areas, going beyond a single plane.
✅ It doesn't end in a deus ex machina like Ys VIII did.
✅ It's much easier to complete maps and quests. It's also easier to 100% the chest locations thanks to the map and your Gifts.
What I Didn't Like
🚫 Ys VIII was a Vita port. Yet, I found that game visually more detailed than Ys IX on PS4. There's tons of pop-in, the LOD (level of detail) is extremely low and the game uses low textures both close and in the distance, plus it can't sustain anywhere near 60fps in town, even on a PS4 Pro.
🚫 Ys IX does the nonsense from Ys Seven, where the voice acting just does one or two lines and then cuts out. It's not constant, but there's enough to be annoying. The entire middle of the game is extremely short on voice acting, and it's disjointed.
🚫 Adol. I know, you're like "huh"? See, there's Adol and then there's "Adol". "Adol" is who you primarily play as for the bulk of the game, then Adol has segments where he can't level up and can't use skills, but must sludge through what feels like a throwback to fans of Felghana...a bunch of platforming and puzzles that simply isn't fun. Fortunately, they let you skip the most of them. They're horrible. Many reviewers said they didn't enjoy the Grimwald Nox as disruptive; that's how I felt about Adol's sections.
🚫 The story/climax. It's a straight up 80% rip from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's episode "Whispers". I won't say any more, you can Google it at your own peril, or just watch it, but basically, what happened there is largely what happened here, and it's slightly annoying. (Still better than the blatant deus ex machina ending of Ys VIII though.)
🚫 I personally felt, with the exception of Anemona and Credo, that the character development took a steep backseat in this one compared to Ys VIII, where almost everyone was focused on quite well.
🚫 Some enemies are ridiculously strong on Normal, like Buladh-Orgh. Yes, he's considered an "Extra" enemy, yet this same guy is normal and reasonable on Easy. That's not how it should be. Especially when he's twice as powerful as many of the bosses.
🚫 It feels like Affinity takes way too much effort this time to max out for the majority of characters.
Still certainly worth playing. But I wouldn't put it above Ys VIII nor would I say it's a significant step back. It's clear they're trying to evolve the series, and it's mostly a fun experience overall.