9 Years of Shadows is an enjoyable, attractive game, especially if you like the popular Metroidvania genre. As a gamer who grew up playing the original Metroid and Castlevania religiously, it’s always a tailor-made experience for me. This game follows well in many categories of the genre, in addition, gamers get much of what they expect and some unexpected factors. One thing for sure is that the action and exploration are classic, with a splash of modern-day mechanics.
There is much to like about 9 Years of Shadows. However, the game lacks in some areas and could have done more in specific areas of gameplay. I had a blast playing this adventure platformer, and I will share my unbiased impression throughout this review.
A Story of Shadows
The story occurs in Talos Palace, an abandoned orphanage engulfed in a curse. This curse of shadows lasts nine years, leaving the citizens a life of darkness and despair. While many have shown the courage to enter the corrupted castle, many have failed until now. Enter Europa. Europa is a young noble warrior, orphaned by the curse, who has come to Talos castle to end the darkness. She was rigorously trained to use her family’s traditional golden halberd and has become a gifted fighter with it.
Shortly after entering the castle, Europa meets Apino, a ghost bear that helps to recover color and sunshine and help defeat the curse. Meanwhile, the castle’s primary purpose is to be the resting place for three relics. These three relics, water, earth, and fire combined, can stop the curse of the shadows. Together, they meet friends and foes on the journey to restore color to the land and find the cure to the darkness. There is much dialogue here; unfortunately, no voices represent you or the NPCs you meet, which was a negative for me.
9 Years of Shadows Gameplay
One of the most critical factors of Metroidvania titles is the gameplay. In 9 Years of Shadows, the winning formula remains intact. Players engage in the usual action-adventure platformer style of gameplay. Defeat enemies while opening a Metroid and Castlevania-style map. Outfitted with a jump button, a quick attack, and a strong attack, Europa uses a basic set of attacks early on. Naturally, mixing multiple attacks creates combos that deal extra damage to enemies. Europa also can acquire a Backward Dash to evade enemy attacks. Later in the game, you can earn a charged attack, which makes exploration key to progress. Shoot with Apino to destroy crystal barriers and baddies. Apino grants a lullaby, giving Europa magical healing energy towards the light magic bar. Some enemies, bosses, and obstacles are only vulnerable to an Apino Light magic attack.
During the quest, players can look forward to the usual platformer formula of unlocking powers that hide behind challenging obstacles and bosses. Meet characters that are there to help you on your journey. The music theater is where you find the twin musicians, Michiru and Kahori. Collect music notes throughout your mission for the composers. Hibino runs the Workshop. He uses musical spells that can enhance the armor you find in the game. Additionally, Europa must find armor fragments scattered in the castle for Hibino. Discover and collect relics and music notes that power up your armor, light bar, and also your vitality. As usual, many of these power-ups and upgrades sit behind unreachable rooms that are not accessible until later. Be prepared to do a regular amount of backtracking.
Defeat bosses in standalone battle styles to obtain powers like “the grace of Zeus,” which gives your armor and attacks electrical damage power and allows you to activate yellow switches. Triggering the switch consoles, which are color-coded, will open new areas of the map, enabling further exploration, new challenges, and enemies. Using the same element armor color that matches an enemy outline color deals substantial damage and bypasses enemy shields. Obtain all of Europa’s capabilities to explore every inch of the castle to find power-ups, like the ability to turn into a mermaid. I also encountered some performance issues here and there, which is a bummer in a non-AAA game. As a veteran of the gaming genre, I desire a bit more variety of action and sub-weapons, however; the gameplay aspect is easily the most significant fun factor.
Visuals and Audio
As soon as I loaded my first playthrough, I felt at home due to the classic art style of 9 Years of Shadows. The visuals easily match pioneer games of the same type, such as Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Dare I say the art style is slightly an improved aesthetic of the different environments and backgrounds? I enjoyed the animations during the loading screens and when Europa finds a new armor for the first time. The graphics are hardly next-generation or lifelike, but for this game genre, it’s beautiful.
When it comes to the audio, while I didn’t expect much, I was pleasantly surprised that the devs went with a proper soundtrack. The music reaches the player and matches the mood of what’s happening. If it’s a cut scene, boss fight, safe space, save station, or during action sequences, the jazzy and melodic soundtrack fits and delivers a connection to the world of 9 Years of Shadows.
The Final Verdict: 9 Years of Shadows
Halberd Studios delivers a challenging journey with classic gameplay and visuals with a pleasing soundtrack of jazzy mood music that also fits the story. Europa and Apino are beautifully crafted characters that are the driving force of a survival story. The action isn’t revolutionary, but the unique gameplay mechanics make for an enjoyable quest, despite some framerate hiccups. The story was engaging, giving layers of narrative. However, I was disappointed with the lack of voice in the game. If you are a fan of Metroidvania games, especially the classics, this game will satisfy your action-adventure platformer hunger; however, it lacks the depth to raise the bar. I hope the developers plan a sequel and build on a great foundation.9 Years of Shadows ultimately fed my hunger for more options in the genre, earning a score of 7.5 out of 10.
We thank the developer and publisher for a code to review their game. 9 Years of Shadows is available on PC via Steam and Epic Game Store, also scheduled to release on Nintendo Switch later this year.
Are you a veteran of side-scrolling Metroidvania games or a newbie? What is the genre of gaming that gives you the most memorable experiences? Also, did you try similar games, such as The Knight Witch or The Darkest Tales? Leave a comment! Don’t forget to follow the team on Twitter at @Lv1Gaming and on our Facebook page. Check out our YouTube channel and Twitch for more content, and don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. You can also follow me on Twitter @Rozay_McFly to engage in unique and unbiased gaming conversations.
9 Years of Shadows19.99
- Classic Metroidvania Gameplay
- Beautiful Art Design
- Challenging Boss Fights
- No audio voices for the characters or enemies. Players are limited to only reading the dialogue.
- No sub-weapons means fewer attack styles than in traditional Metroidvania games.