nine sols main character yi standing in a pool of blood
Image via RedCandleGames

Nine Sols Review: A Tale of Sci-Fi Taoism and Sekiro Parries

Nine Sols is a masterfully crafted 2D Sekiro-like Metroidvania that explores a lore-rich Taoism fantasy setting through science fiction elements.

Nine Sols is Red Candle Games’ Metroidvania masterpiece that mixes a hand-drawn sci-fi world inspired by Eastern philosophy and mythology with fast-paced parry-based combat. There are many aspects to this game that make it both unique and a revitalization of something we’ve already seen.

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Let’s analyze how Nine Sols holds up in the modern 2D Metroidvania world.

Fluid Parry-based Combat and Soulslike Platforming Exploration

Nine Sols is all about channeling elements of the Soulslike genre into a 2D Metroidvania world. We’ve seen this before with games like Death’s Gambit, Hollow Knight, and Blasphemous, but Nine Sols takes a slightly different approach. It introduces the ideas from Sekiro with rhythm parrying. This creates an interesting dynamic in combat as you’re constantly switching between attacking, dashing, and parrying in a symphony of skill-based inputs.

nine sols sekiro like combat system
Screenshot by GameSkinny

Therefore, fighting in Nine Sols becomes a skill-based rhythm game with a learning curve. This especially goes in boss fights where you’re learning the pattern of enemy attacks and getting your muscle memory used to sequential parry button presses and counterattacks. While you eventually get the hang of everything, sometimes the game can become frustrating since there are no cooldowns to take damage. You’ll sometimes get hit by one damage source and then chain into another, making it hard to parry everything. That said, once you grasp the core mechanics, the bosses become the main attractions as you go after the Nine Sols, which all have unique designs, are mechanically distinct, and are a lot of fun to fight.

nine sols first major boss
Screenshot by GameSkinny

As for counterattacks, they’re done through Talismans, which you deploy to do Internal damage. This is a sort of gray health system that regenerates over time, but you can channel Talismans in place for a second and detonate them to deal regular Direct Damage. While this is quite powerful, you’re also stuck in place while you channel, so you’re always making high-risk, high-reward decisions.

Furthermore, there’s tons of variety with Jade upgrades and the skill tree, which grants new abilities as well as different weapons, like the Azure Bow, to diversify the combat system. Combining different Jade upgrades, buying different skills, and deploying the new weapons you find keeps combat fresh as you master your parry skills. There’s even airborne parrying, so combat is quite dynamic, and you’re constantly moving around.

As for exploration, it’s all done through platforming and gaining information about the map. The levels are diverse, and the enemy variety is decent. The element I liked the most was the mix of Metroidvania areas that you need to come back to later after you’ve unlocked a new movement ability and Soulslike shortcuts. Everything is interconnected in Nine Sols, and you’re constantly returning to old areas to discover something new. Platforming and movement simply feel great. Just buy the sprint skill ASAP to make exploration less tedious.

Eastern Fantasy Narrative and Worldbuilding

While combat feels satisfying and fluid, the element that pulled me in and immersed me the most is the Eastern fantasy worldbuilding take on the story mixed with science fiction. You’re essentially exploring Taoism in a futuristic setting and how it all interconnects with mankind and the ancient alien race present in the game world.

nine sols visuals
Screenshot by GameSkinny

The backstory of Yi and his revenge-fueled relationship with the Nine Sols, the background of the world they live in, the conspiracies, and the intrigue all feel so neatly packed with fantastical elements and unique character designs. From friendly NPCs to hostile ones, discovering new characters and interacting with them, whether through dialogue or combat, always feels fresh.

Nine Sols evoked the feeling of playing the original Demon Souls and reading item descriptions and lore station pieces to connect everything together. Lastly, the two elements that helped with immersion the most were music and the unique art style.

Beautiful Visual Artstyle, Music, and Ambiance

From the basic movement and combat animations to the hand-drawn set pieces and cutscenes, everything looks whimsical and stunning in Nine Sols. The eerie and macabre scenes work really well with the tranquil ones, creating this unique combination of spiritual and darker visual themes. As a cat person, I might be biased, but the feline characters in this game are adorable and definitely won me over early.

nine sols taoism sci fi ambiance
Screenshot by GameSkinny

Furthermore, Nine Sols uses a mix of hand-drawn graphics and 3D animated ones in certain scenarios, which actually looks great — unlike most anime 3D animations — especially those that deal with the Root entity, which is this mystical and ancient network that you meet in the opening cutscene.

All of this comes together with the eerie and beautifully composed original soundtrack. As you move from area to area and fight enemies you’re always hearing these incredible sound effects and scores that reminded me of industrial music. That said, the audio design is also heavily inspired by Eastern folk music, from the occasional throat singing to the use of archaic national instruments, etc. The industrialized and digitalized folk OST of Nine Sols reminds me a lot of what the Hades OST did with Greek folk music and instruments. Just moving around and listening to everything immerses you in the lore-rich world of the game.

Nine Sols Review — The Bottom Line


  • A fluid and satisfying combat system with plenty of variety and different tools for different encounters.
  • While difficult at times, the unique boss fights and boss mechanics feel incredibly satisfying when mastered.
  • A masterfully crafted story with tons of interesting lore and worldbuilding.
  • Beautiful visual design both in terms of the world, levels, and hostile and non-hostile characters you meet.
  • An incredible Eastern-inspired soundtrack that’s perfectly complimented with immersive ambient sound effects.


  • Backtracking through areas without proper map information and movement skills can become tedious.
  • The mid and late-game could use a bit more enemy variety.
  • The no-cooldown on damage instances mixed with a lot of fast attacks can sometimes create a frustrating encounter where you can’t parry everything.

Red Candle Games has masterfully crafted a stunning and diabolical title all in one. When playing Nine Sols, half the time, you’ll be marveling at the visuals, music, and combat variety, while half the time, you’ll be furiously learning enemy patterns. While the Sekiro-inspired combat system takes some getting used to, the game is indeed fair. You’ll eventually master the core fighting ideas just as the game opens up for you to enjoy narratively and mechanically.

I’d highly recommend you stick with the slow opening of the game since Nine Sols becomes incredibly satisfying in all aspects that make us love video games. People like using the phrase “this might not be for everyone,” but I would say Nine Sols is much more accessible than Sekiro due to its 2D nature and Metroidvania elements. Plus, it’s not every day that we get to explore a fantasy Taoism setting rich in unique science fiction ideas and cute cats.

Review key provided by Red Candle Games. Gameplay conducted on PC.

Nine Sols Review: A Tale of Sci-Fi Taoism and Sekiro Parries
Nine Sols is a masterfully crafted 2D Sekiro-like Metroidvania that explores a lore-rich Taoism fantasy setting through science fiction elements.

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Gordan Perisic
From playing RPGs and dungeon mastering for his D&D group to reading novels and scribbling about his fantasy setting, Gordan is a full-time nerd and devoted writer for GameSkinny. He loves to overshare and discuss literature, music, animation, and trees with fellow geeks. Also, he may or may not cook too much food for his friends. Cholesterol is one hell of a drug.