Continuing our coverage of the Steam Next Fest 2023, we have Nine Sols, a violent hand-drawn Metroidvania.
Nine Sols is a Sekiro-inspired 2D platformer deeply rooted in eastern fantasy. It features the ruthless protagonist Yi, who despite his cute and cartoonish design is quite deadly.
Yi’s quest is to slay the 9 Sols, who currently serve as the gods of his realm. The game mixes science fiction and more traditional eastern art and mysticism to tell its intriguing and violent story.
Combat in Nine Sols has a big emphasis on parrying enemy attacks, as Yi can retaliate by dashing through enemies and blowing them up after successful parries. The player does have the choice to simply dodge and attack normally, but the game constantly rewards figuring out attack patterns and retaliating accordingly.
Nine Sols‘ combat is extremely satisfying due to how clean the parrying system is, and it’s enhanced even more by the game’s beautiful hand-drawn animations. It also helps that whenever an enemy dies they explode into chunks of flesh, making the game’s combat feel pretty visceral.
It’s surprising just how much gore and violence there actually is in Nine Sols, as nothing seems to be exempt from dismemberment. There’s a real dichotomy between the more cutesy 2D hand-drawn animations and just how blunt the game is when it comes to portraying death.
Players are treated to the game’s violence right away, as it starts with the main character, Yi, being brutally wounded and falling off a cliff, where we can see he lost a good chunk of his head and his stomach has been slashed wide open.
The protagonist is found half-dead by a young boy who lives in a village near the mountain. We learn that the boy’s parents have been sent to live with the gods at some point, as part of a yearly ceremony that the village conducts.
The young boy is the next person chosen for the ceremony, and the event happens near a monument that looks too advanced and robotic to not be man-made. It’s revealed to us that the ceremony actually involves the decapitation of the event’s participants, and that the monument in reality is a tool for harvesting human bodies.
Yi saves the boy right at the last second and goes inside the monument, which houses a secret underground facility that preserves the bodies of those killed in the ceremony. Most of our time with the demo is spent inside the underground facility, as this early taste of the game only lasts around 45 minutes.
The underground facility houses samurai-inspired enemies, and is filled to the brim with years worth of preserved decapitated bodies, as well as a specific type of flower, which is harvested for the yearly ceremony. We are currently left with more questions than answers, as Nine Sols carefully sets up the mysteries we’ll uncover in the final game.
Yi also speaks to a mysterious figure while moving throughout the facility, who seems to have kept in contact with him ever since he was found by the village. The demo unfortunately ends before we get closure on any of the game’s mysteries, leaving players with only a brief taste of what’s to come.
Nine Sols had a fantastic backing campaign, making 455% of its goal through crowfunding, but has unfortunately been delayed. The demo shows us that things aren’t looking dire at all, as the game is nothing short of spectacular, but backers are starting to get anxious.
Thankfully, RedCandleGames has a great track record, as we can see through their previous games, Detention and Devotion. It’s easy to see that Nine Sols is on great hands and that the game’s delays will be justified by a fantastic final release if this demo is anything to go by.
Nine Sols is set to release in early 2024 for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Microsoft Windows (through Steam).