|Release Date: 11/14/00
Publisher: Square EA
Final Fantasy IX is the last of the Final Fantasies released on the Playstation and definitely the best one that has graced the console yet. Final Fantasy is a throwback to the traditional Final Fantasies. While many gamers will be wondering why Squaresoft decided to go back to the heavily fantasy-oriented story of dragons, castles and knights, I welcome the change and I like it just as much if not better than the futuristic oriented FFVII and VIII. The story of Final Fantasy IX starts out like most RPG's, but quickly escalates to a far greater conflict involving the whole world. The story will surprise you with a bunch of twist and turns and is definitely one of the most carefully carved stories in a RPG we have seen this year. I said the same about Chrono Cross, but it seems like Squaresoft just likes outdoing itself again and again.
The characters in FFIX have to the some of the best characters created. Zidane, the main character is definitely my favorite character because of his cleverness and funny personality. Vivi is also a very good character that develops quite nicely throughout the game and you really feel his emotions. The other character that I liked a lot was Steiner, he is definitely very funny and he brings a different kind of humor to the game. Garnet, Amarant, Eiko, Freya all develop nicely and all bring their unique style to the game. However, Quina is a different story. While he is definitely a creative character, I found him extremely annoying just like Selphie was in FFVIII. The storyline is nicely done although it does take awhile to really pick up and while the tone of the game is somewhat serious, it is also very lighthearted. The story brings you through emotional highs and lows and is one of the best ever created by Square.
The graphics are also very nicely done. Note that I did play this game on a PS2, so my opinion is based on the PS2 graphics. The PS2 graphics are definitely better than the PSX graphics, since I have played the game on both consoles. The movies are once again top-notch and there are a whole bunch of them in FFIX, so sit back and enjoy them. Square also incorporated the vibration feature in nicely. While it is not utilized a lot, the times it is, the rumble really adds an ambience and mood to the game that really enhances the experience. The summons are once again done nicely and now we are not forced to watch the summons again and again such as in VIII. After you cast the summons the first time, you only see the full summon randomly after that. All the spells are also done nicely and the graphics have a very polished look to them. Since this is the last Final Fantasy that will be using pre-rendered backgrounds, Square made them spectacular with each background being magnificent and most importantly varied in design.
The sound of FFIX is average but not as good as other Square games released this year such as Chrono Cross. The songs fit the areas where they are used in the game, however when you listen to them by themselves, they are not all that great. This is different from other Squaresoft games because in other titles the songs sounded good in and out of the game, which cannot be said for the majority of the songs in FFIX.
Last but not least, the most important aspect of a RPG is gameplay. The gameplay in FFIX is great. It will be easily recognized by fans of VI or for that matter any Final Fantasy. For some reason I didn't find the random encounters in FFIX annoying. The battles were actually fun. The battle system is easy to learn and fun to use. FFIX uses the ability system. Basically you learn abilities from your weapons. You can always use the abilities on each weapon as long as you have it equipped, but to use the ability without having the weapon equipped, you must learn the ability by gaining a certain amount of AP. Each character has a class and certain classes can learn different abilities from the same item. For example, a Mage Staff might teach Zidane flee-gil while it would teach Vivi blizzard. One new thing that Square has incorporated into the battle system is trance, which is basically a limit break. Each character has their own set of "trances" that can be learned as they level up. All in all, the battle system is very good and even if it lacks innovation, it is still easy and fun to use.
While some may not appreciate the series return to its traditional roots, I enjoy it a lot and see it as a breath of fresh air. Final Fantasy IX is one of the best RPGs ever released and is definitely worth buying.