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9 Years of Shadows Review

9 Years of Shadows Review

9 Years of Shadows game started out as a Kickstarter project with over 2900 backers raising MX $1,988,905 — about £86,990.21 — substantially over their original target of MX $380,000 (£16,620.34 or $16,245 US at the time of this writing.) 9 Years of Shadows is a vibrant 2D action-platformer that looks great so it’s not a surprise that it was so successful! Plus throwing in an adorable ghost teddy bear that assists Europa on her journey is sure to be popular with players.

9YearsofShadows curse

Developer Halberd Studio has created 9 Years of Shadows, a metroidvania with a heartfelt story that tells of a once vibrant world having all its colour sucked away by a powerful curse. The planet's life essence was gone, leaving a desolate and monochrome land behind. An abandoned castle hides a terrible secret that may provide an answer to how this horrible curse started in the first place. You will play Europa, a warrior who lost her parents to a simple curse when the cataclysmic events first started. She has spent the last nine years training with a halberd — an obvious choice for the studio of the same name — that has been in her family for generations. No one knows how the curse happened, but it has been nine years, and it continues to spread. Europa has devoted her life to ending this nightmare with no success until now. She has learned that the curse may have started in Talos Castle; anyone who has entered has never been seen again.

9YearsofShadows story

When the game starts, we get to view a beautiful, anime video cinematic that shows Europa transforming into her armour in classic Sailor Moon style. She isn’t wearing this outfit when you begin the game, but as you progress, you will acquire various suits, each with its own magical power. Europa can use her halberd to smash lights and vases that you find in each area of the monochrome castle. They will give you little golden pieces that can be used as currency and traded to characters you encounter on your journey. 

9YearsofShadows transform

There are some splashes of colour that you can find in this dark world, you battle against a blue monster that looks like a demon. I was surprised to see this, as I assumed most of my time would be spent in a greyscale world. Europa is quickly wounded and thinks all her training was for nought when suddenly a little ghost teddy bear shows up and heals your wounds. Apino is lonely and wants company, so he will accompany Europa on her quest and help heal her when needed. Besides having healing abilities, Apino has also restored the colour to this castle, so your time here is vibrant and full of colour. He provides you with a shield that when depleted, all you have to do is hug him and he will restore a portion of it! This can be used as many times as required, but it only works when the meter is totally empty or hitting the right trigger button will “shoot” Apino across the screen. You can toss the teddy at dark crystal blockades to break them, as he is considered a source of light and can destroy them. He can also be thrown at enemies to damage them, which is quite useful when you don’t want to get in too close to attack. Even “throw” uses up some of the meter, so once it is empty, you can recharge it again. It was nice to be able to heal on the fly whenever you needed to, but as you are hugging your teddy, you are susceptible to getting hit by the foes you are trying to fight. The problem is, if you don’t have any shield left when you get hit, you will die and will have to go back to the last checkpoint you found. So be prepared to do a lot of backtracking!  

9YearsofShadows bluedemon

On your journey through the castle, you will find other people that have been trapped inside, like musicians Wynton, Michiru, and Kahoni. The soundtrack in the game changes to orchestral music whenever you speak to a member of the symphony, which was really cool to hear. When you talk to the sisters, they say that they have been waiting for you and are there to help heal physical damage along with the wounds affecting the heart and soul. They have been sent by the gods to try to heal the world with their music, but they are lacking their source for divine magic, and need you to find the musical notes that are placed around the castle. When you bring the notes back to them, you can exchange them for an increase of light or to increase your vitality. 

9YearsofShadows levelup

Europa meets other characters like ghosts while she is trying to complete the quests that are asked of her. One lady ghost knows Apino and says that she has never seen him so close to anyone before as he finds it hard to trust people. She states that you don’t know if you can do this, but Apino believes in you and he knows that you can do it. The ghost tells you that to get stronger,you must gather the power from the three vestiges of colour. The castle houses three relics that together they can get rid of the curse of shadows. You must gather the relics of Water, Earth, and Fire then you will face the truth. These relics will give you customised armour and new power. The game allows you to switch between abilities with the click of a button, so you don’t have to go into a menu and change it, which was incredibly handy and worked great with the easy-to-use controls that already existed. 

9YearsofShadows relic

As much as I loved exploring the various areas of the castle, I did not love having my game totally crash multiple times. It first happened when I had the game paused for a couple of minutes to go refill my coffee; when I came back, the music was cutting in and out, and then the game totally turned itself off. Then other times, if I paused to write something down or when I was interrupted, the game froze up and required a hard restart of the computer or Steam Deck. I figured this would just happen when the game was paused, so I was surprised when I walked into an underwater room, everything started moving in slow motion, the music got messed up and the game quit… Again. This is especially frustrating since 9 Years of Shadows isn’t one of those games that saves every time you walk into a room, letting you resume exactly where you left off. I was always taken back to the last checkpoint that I had managed to find, so I was always having to redo chunks of exploring and battles that I had already done. I am hoping this issue is resolved soon, as it’s not fun worrying that the game would quit on you at any moment!

9YearsofShadows map

With a beautiful aesthetic, great music, and a heartfelt story, 9 Years of Shadows is a game that any fan of Metroidvanias is sure to love. But with issues with the game freezing and crashing, I will warn players that if you play the game before a fix is found, be sure to go visit the piano rooms where you save your progress as much as possible. You don’t want to lose items or records of enemies that you have defeated in case the game quits on you. Even with these issues, I keep going back to play because I need to see how this story ends and what happens to Europa and Apino!

9YearsofShadows colour

6.50/10 6½

9 Years of Shadows (Reviewed on Windows)

Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.

9 Years of Shadows is a great game that fans of Metroidvanias will definitely love; it’s just the problems with the game crashing and freezing that make me have to score the game lower than it really deserves.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Alana Dunitz

Alana Dunitz

Staff Writer

Lover of all games, old and new!

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