Nine Sols Review – Stylish, Brutal, and Outstanding

    It's the best game about cat aliens you will ever play.

    Every once in a while, I have the opportunity to experience a game that completely takes me by surprise. Nine Sols is one of those games. I didn’t have any particular expectations before I began my playthrough. Admittedly, however, the obvious inspiration taken from Hollow Knight and Sekiro was an appealing factor for me. 

    However, Nine Sols managed to hook me in far more than I ever could expect. Despite a somewhat slow introduction, the game rarely ever features a dull moment. Without hyperbole, it is possibly one of the best games of 2024, and here’s why you absolutely should not miss out on this fantastic experience. 

    Cute Characters, Bleak World

    Yi is defeated in the Nine Sols introduction sequence

    Nine Sols manages to make a strong first impression with its presentation. When starting my initial playthrough, I was greeted with a gorgeously animated cutscene that depicts the defeat and resurrection of the game’s protagonist, Yi. He may look like a harmless little cat person, but Yi has quite a stoic demeanor and holds a very old grudge. 

    At this point, the game presents a beautiful, fantastical world, but something is wrong. Soon, events take a turn for the morbid as the player witnesses brains being violently harvested from humans as part of a supposed ritual. This begins Yi’s quest, as he uses the ritual as an opportunity to enter the bowels of the game’s sci-fi setting, New Kunlun. 

    While the opening is more than a little disturbing, it perfectly establishes the tone for the rest of the adventure. The clash of science fiction and Taoism works to create an incredibly distinctive aesthetic for a game. What’s more, Red Candle Games‘ previous experience with horror titles is very apparent at times, with some sections of the game containing an undeniably creepy atmosphere. 

    Nine Sols Is a Narrative-Driven Metroidvania

    Shuanshuan finds Yi in Nine Sols

    This is a Metroidvania that wears its story on its sleeve. That being said, you shouldn’t expect everything to be cohesive from the beginning. Yi has a far better understanding of the game’s world than the player does. He has as much of a role in the game’s lore as any other character you will meet. 

    While this does create a sense of dissonance between the player and the protagonist, it also makes for a non-linear narrative that’s something of a puzzle for the player to solve. At the start, you may not know exactly what motivates Yi, but you will have a rough idea. It’s enough for the player to work with and incentivizes them to keep playing to discover more lore. 

    Some players may find Nine Sols’ heavy use of dialogue to be detrimental to the overall gameplay experience, but it does have its benefits. These scenes breathe life into the game’s characters, and their interactions made me grow to like them more. This includes some of the game’s bosses, which I will discuss more in-depth soon. 

    The Excellent Action of Nine Sols

    Combat in Nine Sols

    Primarily, Nine Sols is a 2D action game with some exploration and platforming. Players will spend much of their time studying enemy attack animations and mastering Yi’s abilities. On occasion, the game can be challenging enough to feel as though one is smashing their head against a brick wall. If this does not sound appealing, then Nine Sols is not the game for you. 

    There is little in the way of alternative playstyles. If you want to win, you will need to learn how to deflect attacks. Of course, the player has options in the form of skills and some abilities, but the RPG elements are minimal here. Fortunately, Yi’s playstyle contains enough depth and difficulty that the game never becomes boring to play. 

    Enemy variety may seem somewhat limited at first, but the game finds ways to spice things up as you progress. I can think of a few enemies that gave me a very hard time when I first encountered them. However, conquering the attacks of a difficult opponent brings a sense of satisfaction like no other. 

    Exploring New Kunlun

    Yi solves a simple puzzle

    While the game does focus on providing combat thrills, there are plenty of rewards for going off the beaten path. Much of the progression in Nine Sols comes from finding hidden items littered throughout New Kunlun. If you want a bigger health bar, you need to explore. 

    Additionally, there are plenty of lore bits to find for those who want a more cohesive understanding of the game’s world. There is a surprising amount to learn and you could potentially spend an entire day piecing all the history together in your head. Unfortunately, it can be somewhat frustrating to find this stuff at first since it takes a while to unlock the game’s fast travel mechanic.

    Nine Sols also contains several platforming segments that can put the player’s skills to the test as well. These may not present as much of a challenge as the game’s boss fights, but they can be surprisingly tough. 

    In fact, there’s an entire section leading up to a boss that focuses primarily on linear platforming, and it’s one of the best areas in the game. It starts off easy, but the tension gradually increases as the platforming requires more precise inputs from the player.  

    Fantastic Boss Encounters

    Yi faces Jiequan

    Nearly every single aspect of Nine Sols manages to impress, but the game’s boss encounters may just be the true star of the show. I won’t lie, I would probably be embarrassed to admit how many attempts some of these fights took me. Despite this, my struggle never seemed hopeless.

    Every major boss in the game has been carefully designed to teach the player a lesson on the game’s mechanics. No death feels out of your control. Whether you need to drop a bad habit or form a better one, it’s almost always clear what to change in order to succeed. The final boss is truly a test of all the player has learned. 

    What also helps make some of these bosses so memorable is their connection to Yi. Nine Sols sets some time to build up to these fights, which often leads to a satisfying payoff. These major opponents get to talk with Yi before their inevitable showdown, giving each fight more noticeable narrative weight. This is why the developers at Red Candle Games absolutely nailed this aspect of the game.

    A Nearly Perfect Experience

    Yi sits down to relax for a while

    I can’t think of many negative things to say about Nine Sols. Most of what comes to mind are nitpicks, such as an oddly noticeable amount of loading screens for a 2D game. However, I will say that the game is fairly barebones when it comes to features. There are only two difficulties to choose from and two different endings to acquire. Once you are done, there is not much else to see. 

    That being said, when my biggest issue with a game is that I want more of it, that’s a sign of a high-quality product. I plan to replay the game at some point just for the fun of it, even if there won’t be anything new to see. 

    Nine Sols is a fantastic experience no action fan should miss out on. It has a great sense of atmosphere, gorgeous artwork, a solid soundtrack, an intriguing story with interesting characters, and some stellar gameplay. It’s a title I would gladly pay full price for if I had to, but the fact that isn’t the case makes it a must-play. 

    Nine Sols is currently available on PC and Mac via Steam. For more reviews, be sure to keep an eye on Final Weapon!

    Disclaimer: Red Candle Games provided Final Weapon with a copy of Nine Sols for review purposes. 


    It's entirely possible that Nine Sols might just end up being my favorite title of 2024. It's simply that good. While it may not be an incredibly innovative experience, it is an incredibly refined one. If you are an action fan, you owe it to yourself to check this one out. Nine Sols may not be perfect, but it's very close to it.
    Itch has a strong passion for PC gaming and retro consoles (especially the Dreamcast). From Melty Blood: Actress Again to Forza Horizon, he will play just about anything that catches his eye. Ever since playing Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit as a young child, he has been in love with the medium of video games and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

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    It's entirely possible that Nine Sols might just end up being my favorite title of 2024. It's simply that good. While it may not be an incredibly innovative experience, it is an incredibly refined one. If you are an action fan, you owe it to yourself to check this one out. Nine Sols may not be perfect, but it's very close to it. Nine Sols Review - Stylish, Brutal, and Outstanding