Review by Archmonk Iga

"Square really outdid themselves, kupo!"

I am a very strange gamer. I'll be honest, the first time I played through Final Fantasy IX, while very impressed, I just didn't find it to be as masterful as most of its predecessors. However, I blame that on my own foolishness to play through without really digging in deep to observe the brilliant masterpiece that this game really is. Square always seem to create their most popular games with the maximum amount of care. Each Final Fantasy is like Square's own child, where they try to raise it so it can become a true masterpiece. Final Fantasy IX is far from being an exception.

STORY:
The first time I played through this, like I said before, I really didn't seem to appreciate the story for what it was. Square present FF IX's story to be more lighthearted and free-spirited than the others… except I feel that it's the complete opposite! Entire civilizations are getting destroyed before our characters' very eyes, for goodness sake!!

The story begins with Tantalus, a group of “actors,” preparing for the play “I Want to Be Your Canary” for the extravagant city of Alexandria. Queen Brahne and her daughter, Princess Garnet, have the best seats in the house. Also viewing the play will be the klutzy captain of the Knights of Pluto, Steiner, and Vivi, who seemingly just comes out of nowhere. I can tell you that what happens during the play is not quite what the audience would expect… it's just too realistic! That is the furthest I'll go, though—I don't want to give any of this amazing story away!

Final Fantasy IX players will come across many interesting characters, and luckily you get to recruit a bunch of them. What really made me happy is that each character who sticks with you actually has a reason to, unlike many other RPGs. Everyone has his or her own personal story and mission. Zidane is the main character, but actually doesn't seem to play a big personal purpose in the main plot for much of the game…but keep playing. Dagger is the tomboy princess whose life is not quite what she wishes it to be. Vivi is an adorable black mage who must take the most BS out of any of the other characters. I felt so bad for him! Steiner is the head knight, whose loyalty to the queen and princess is so strong that even he questions himself at times. Freya, a rat-dragoon, is much cooler than I make her sound—she is searching for her lost love. Her story is very depressing. Quina, a “Qu,” which is a new race in this Final Fantasy, is hilarious, because she only comes along to discover all the edible things of the world. Eiko is a young summoner. At first I was worried she would be the unfortunate “along for the ride” character, but I was quite wrong! Her role in this game is huge, believe it or not. Lastly, Amarant is a weird redhead who is hunting Zidane at first, but later may come to a new revelation.

As you can see, there are a ton of characters in FF IX. I was so happy to see Square fit so many complex characters into this game. It definitely makes up for the often criticized characters from FF VIII. Put them all together with a magnificent story full of surprise, humor, death, betrayal, and symbolism (the play is more than just a play, for example), and you've got an adventure you'll never forget. Oh, and wait til you see Cid!
STORY: 10/10

GRAPHICS:
Look at the city of Lindblum. Look at the market district. Do you really need to read my explanation on why I'm giving the graphics a 10? Everything in Final Fantasy IX looks fantastic. Each character was given loads of animations and details, even regular citizens of towns. Everyone looked remarkable!!

Now for the environments… you will stop playing just to look at the art of where you are. Every place you visit will cause your chin to get wet with drool. I really can't explain it, honestly. No Square game up to this point has looked this good.
GRAPHICS: 10/10

SOUNDS:
The music in Final Fantasy IX is very well-done. Not Uematsu's best in my opinion, but for the most part very good. A lot of the tunes are much more quirky than FF fans would expect. Also, there are many versions of “Melodies of Life” to be heard throughout the game, but the best version is no doubt when you're watching the credits roll. I even think Uematsu recycled a few tunes from previous FF titles for areas such as Mt. Gulug. And of course the chocobo music is back and cuter than ever—actually, my favorite tune was while I was playing “Chocobo Hot and Cold.” Again, Uematsu's work in this game isn't quite as good as his other FF tunes, but still… you'll love it!

The sound effects are also very nice. Like in FF VIII, each monster makes its own monster-ish sound before battle and when it's killed, which is a nice little treat. Other than that, the sounds are pretty good. I don't know… I rarely dislike sound effects in any game.

I kind of wish they would've put voices in this game, but they didn't. Oh well, I like using my imagination anyway.
SOUNDS: 8.5/10

GAMEPLAY:
Ummm… it's a Final Fantasy game. The gameplay in it will be some of the deepest you'll ever come across. Like hello?

First we'll talk about the basics. You've got your towns, dungeons, and field. The towns have shops, inns, and citizens. Inns are what you expect, but the shops and townspeople were slightly more tweaked than in other RPGs that I've played. In addition to regular shops (weapons/items), there's also the synthesis shop. In this you can combine two types of equipment to make a new one. It's expensive but definitely worth it. The citizens also seemed to have much more depth than other RPGs' citizens. Many of them had their own names, and had their own little stories. For example, instead of someone just saying “welcome to Treno,” you might walk into a snobby noble that says that he has no need to talk to you. It was a lot more fun to talk to people in this game than most other RPGs.

Another gameplay element is, of course, saving your progress. Why would this matter in a review? BECAUSE MOOGLES SAVE YOUR GAME!! It's so much fun saving your game! Am I really saying that?! They also have their own mail system called “Mognet,” and they kind of rely on you to help them out. You are partly responsible for delivering mail to moogles all over the world, and when they're delivered you get to read it! It's a really nice little addition they made, kupo.

The battle system in FF IX is a huge part of this game, like every other Final Fantasy. On the back of the box there's a comment that says this game “mixes the best of the old with the best of the new.” That is very true, especially for the battles. Each character has his or her own class (for example, Vivi is a black mage). They all have their own individual abilities… casting magic, summoning, plus some other interesting ones like flair and dragon. The classes will remind you of the good old days in Final Fantasy IV and VI. But actually battling is a fresh feeling, similar to the way you played in VII and VIII. It's a timed battle, with a meter filling up so that characters can perform. The characters all have “Trance” abilities, which is similar to the Limit Breaks. They were pretty cool, except once your Trance meter fills up all the way, the character AUTOMATICALLY goes into Trance. I didn't really like this, because someone would always Trance right at the end of a battle. It wastes time watching them go into Trance, and most of the time it's completely unnecessary. I just wish we could've had the option to control when they would actually Trance when their meter's full rather than them go automatically. I wanted to make good use of it!

The way characters gain abilities in FF IX is through their equipment. Depending on the character and what's equipped, he or she will gain an ability or skill to aid in battle. Once they acquire enough AP, then they can remove the equipment and the ability/skill will remain with them permanently! Of course, they can't use all the abilities at once. Each ability takes off a certain amount from their maximum amount of points they can have. For example, the “Jelly” ability makes a character resist being turned to stone. It has a 5 next to it, and say a character has a max of 20 points. If you want that character to have that ability, a jewel will appear next to its name, and you will now have 15 points left to spend on any remaining abilities. It's a really clever idea, and I personally find it even more complex than Materia… if that means anything to you. It's simple to learn, but still requires a lot of time to master! Very fun.

Like every Final Fantasy, numero nine has a TON of secrets, sidequests, and minigames. Some of them are very simple, like racing Hippaul. Some of them can take hours and hours to complete… like the chocobo sidequest! Surprised? The sidequest with chocobos in this edition is much more rewarding than any of the other Final Fantay titles, and even more time consuming! Don't worry, this is a good thing. You will become so addicted to your chocobo fun that you'll forget where you're supposed to go next to progress in the actual game! If you take the time to complete your chocobo quest, you will be a very happy gamer in the end.

Though there are a couple small bumps in the road, as a whole, Final Fantasy IX's gameplay is some of the deepest the Playstation has to offer. You need to really play it to appreciate what it's got. That's why I didn't love as much when I first played as I do now. Play the main quest, use all the characters, try to complete the sidequests as best you can, and you will love every second of Final Fantasy IX.
GAMEPLAY: 9.5/10

LASTING APPEAL:
The main quest seems to be a bit shorter than the past two PS Final Fantasy games, despite its hefty four discs. Still, that in itself should last you a good while. Plus if you do the sidequests, expect dozens of more hours tacked on to your playtime. Once you beat it, you'll probably want to put it away for some time before you pick it up again. But you WILL want to pick it up again sooner or later. Hell, try and get the Excalibur II in your next playthrough. This game is epic enough for multiple playthroughs—I guarantee it.
LASTING APPEAL: 10/10

OVERALL:
Final Fantasy IX is a must-play for any RPG fan. Square really did put all they got into their last FF for the Playstation. With a game as complex, entertaining, beautiful (looking AND sounding), and engrossing as this, Final Fantasy IX is yet another success in the brilliant epics that are the Final Fantasy titles.
OVERALL: 10/10

Thanks for reading =)


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/05/06


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