Music, magic and teddy bears work together to bring color back to a dying world. Here’s our review of 9 Years of Shadow, a look at its gameplay and story.
9 Years of Shadows is a Metroidvania game currently available pc, a switch release is coming In the second-quarter of 2023. We covered this game during last year’s Steam Next Face. last time out March 27, 2023, I can say that I have no regrets recommending it. Although I haven’t completely finished the game, I’m confident enough to review it.
Without further ado, let’s dive into our review of 9 Years of Shadows, its gameplay and its story. Beware of spoilers below.
9 Years of Shadows Review
9 years of shadow background
As mentioned above, this game is a Metroidvania game. It is a sidescrolling platformer with combat mechanics. While this formula may seem a bit out of date to some, it is still a lot of fun to play. The game adds just enough mechanics and tweaks to the formula that it doesn’t feel copied or run-of-the-mill. So first, let’s take a look at the gameplay.
9 years of shadow gameplay
As a Metroidvania game, this game ticks all the check marks. Sidescrolling action, room-to-room levels, backtracking, jumping through platforms, and more. I felt right at home. It didn’t take me long to become accustomed to the game’s controls and combat mechanics. However, there were a few things that I needed to get used to, as they were what made this game stand out from the others.
For starters, the player only has one melee weapon in the game: the halberd. Unlike other games where the player could switch weapons from their inventory, or pick up weapons from the ground, you only had access to one melee weapon. However, that doesn’t mean that the gameplay becomes sluggish, or that the combat is the same throughout the game. One of the key mechanics of the game is Elemental Armor. As the name suggests, this armor fills your character, Europa, with different elements that you can switch freely between. These elements affect your attacks, movement, etc. Let us learn about them one by one.
Switching elements changes how your character attacks. For example, using the Zeus Armor causes your weapon to fire lightning, and forces Europa to swing its wings when attacking. Using the Poseidon Armor, on the other hand, makes you more prone to stabbing rather than wielding it. However, it is not just the attack patterns that change. Your attacks take on the element itself. This is important because throughout your journey in the game, you will see enemies that have colored outlines. Attacking these enemies with a matching element will cause them more damage, as well as pass through their shields. Quickly changing elements to match your enemy’s weakness is an important part of the game’s combat.
Switching elements also has an additional feature, in that they open up more maps as you explore. For example, the player will encounter locked gates while exploring. These gates have a yellow outline, and thus attacking them while wearing the Zeus armor will open them. The player will also encounter waterfalls that push them down the slope. Once the player unlocks the mermaid form of the Poseidon Armor, they are able to swim across waterfalls and retreat more easily.
What I like about it is that the game doesn’t just throw these armors at you, then explain what they do with long text-filled tutorials. They point you to the different exploration options on the map and allow you to quickly try out elemental powers to get used to them. For example, before unlocking the Poseidon armor, I had to go down various waterfalls and fight a swimming fish boss. I was basically stuck in the area with no means of going up. Once I defeated the boss, and unlocked the ability to swim, I was able to quickly retreat while learning to get in and out of my armor. It’s these kinds of hidden tutorials that I appreciate so much in games.
Another important thing I have to mention is that the game’s health system is also different from others I’ve played. Europa has a shield meter that depletes when hit. If she is hit again when her shield is empty, she will take damage to HP. Instead of an HP bar, Europa has a number of hits she can take before she dies. Curiously, her shield meter is also tied to her magic attack, which she uses to deal damage and destroy crystals from a distance, whether on enemies or while exploring. Therefore, it is important to manage your shield bar properly, as using your magic attacks all the time leaves you vulnerable to attack.
Recharging your Shield Bar is easy, and there are three ways to do it. The first is to hug your teddy bear companion, Epino. This regenerates about half of your shield bar. The second way is through a quick-time event that you unlock early in the game. As your shield gets low, a QTE pops up, and if you manage to hit it, your shield is replenished. The last way to regenerate your shield is to attack your enemies with normal attacks. It slowly heals your shield per hit.
Overall, the game handles the difficulty curve very smoothly. It doesn’t put you in positions he knows you’re not ready for. All boss fights and levels are well designed that you will always have a way to win. All you have to do is watch it like this.
9 years of shadow story
The story follows Europa, who lives in a world devoid of color. With nothing to lose, she ventures into the depths of Talos, trying to find a way to bring color back to the world. However, she fails and finally collapses on the floor, seemingly defeated. That is, until a friendly floating bear named Apino helps her recover, and in doing so brings color back to Europa. His strength now rekindled, he must continue his fight and plunge into Talos.
The premise of the game is simple, and it doesn’t need to be much more than that. You are a warrior on a quest to eradicate a curse that has long plagued your world. It’s up to you to keep fighting and keep moving forward no matter how hard the battle gets, 9 Years of Shadows is the perfect example of a story that doesn’t need to be inflated to be interesting. This is already enough to hook you from the get-go.
Even better is how it is presented. The use of color in the game world is wonderful, because it makes you realize how beautiful the world is, and how much you’re missing out on without color. Not only this but the music of the game adds to the atmosphere of the game. And it should be, because the musicians behind the music are a powerhouse. Miguel Hassan, Michiru Yamane (Castlevania series), and Norihiko Hibino (Metal Gear Solid series) all composed the music for the game, and it’s beautiful. You also encounter them in the game as NPCs who help Europa.
9 Years of Shadows Review Summary
Overall, I believe that 9 Years of Shadow is worth the price. 9 Years of Shadows’ simple, yet engaging gameplay, partnered with its lovely story, are all complemented by a nice soundtrack and beautiful set pieces that work together to make a game that’s worth playing. While it may be a short game, it is still one to experience, and one that you should try. You may experience crashes, but I don’t think they are enough to diminish the beauty of this game.
Editor’s note: ClutchPoints obtained a PC review copy of 9 Years of Shadow to allow us to cover the game. This copy does not affect the decision of 9 Years of Shadows review in any way.