Review by HollywoodRPG

"The crystal really is back...and boy is it a gem!"

So I have finally decided to write a review for my all-time favorite game. I really cannot say enough positive things about this fine addition to the already stellar Final Fantasy lineup on the PSX. I feel that of the three main Final Fantasy games for the system, this one receives the least amount of attention. FFVII receives all kinds of nods for both the “greatest game ever made” as well as for the “most overrated game of all time.” FFVIII on the other garners a lot of hate over the battle system and overall break from the norm. This brings us to the actual topic of this review: FFIX. It was released quite late in the life of the PSX (the Playstation 2 was already on store shelves) and it really didn't bring anything new to the genre to criticize. I do feel that its perfect blend of old school mechanics and feel with the newer graphics and environment made this game truly last even to today. So without any further ado, I present to you the breakdown of the game which I'm sure is why you are reading this review in the first place.

Graphics
I am going to get this one out of the way first. Graphics is definitely my least favorite category to talk about (as I have mentioned in other reviews on various sites), and I really don't think it should be used as a determining factor in how ‘good' a game is. With that said, FFIX is in fact quite beautiful. This game represents the pinnacle of visuals on the PSX. The truly amazing thing about these visuals is that I feel they have more lasting power than most other FF games, whether they are of the age of sprites or the newer polygon models (I think FFVII looks horrendous now by the way). At the time I would have no other choice to give the graphics a perfect 10. The amazing CG sequences marveled me and left my mouth on the floor. The standard gameplay graphics are even something great to look at. Today I will still give the graphics a perfect score for the sole reason that, even with the miraculous visuals that are out today, they really haven't lost much through age. 10/10

Environment
I feel nowadays that it is appropriate to differentiate this category from the overall graphics of the game. I get immersed in this world so easily. The great nations and cities, the airship traffic, the vast landscapes of the overworld, they all come together almost seamlessly and create a vibrant place that you will never want to leave. The diversity of the towns and cities are great, and each one brings something different to the story and environment. You have your city of night, your city of perpetual rain, your great militaristic empire, your quaint country village, etc. The environment of Final Fantasy IX I believe is what really keeps me coming back for more. 10/10

Story
This is what attracts most of us to the genre of the RPG to begin with. Final Fantasy IX does not disappoint in this category in the least. The story starts off in a fairly standard way: one empire vs. another. Our main character is of course thrust into the conflict as he is assigned the task of kidnapping the princess of Alexandria. A few twists and turns later of course it really isn't about the battle of the empires as someone is pulling the strings, but whom? Why? Don't worry too much all you FF veterans, the story is far more interesting than I can give it credit for in a spoiler free review, but at the same time it is not nearly as confusing or ridiculous as stories have been in the past (FFVIII comes to mind). Yes there is a love story and yes there is an evil creepy bad dude. Both aspects of the story are handled quite well. 9/10

Characters
The characters of Final Fantasy IX seem far more ‘kiddie' (for lack of a better term). They have big heads and make some silly jokes. Once you get past this sugar coated exterior, however, you will find yourself stuck in the gooey sticky mass that truly makes up the personality of each character. Each of the group is experiencing his/her own problem and must overcome the issue in order to continue the quest and solve the overlying conflict. Vivi is one of the most emotional and sad characters I've ever come across while Freya is also quite troubled over a great many things. Steiner must confront the conflict between duty and personal ideal while some of the other characters really just want to know who they really are and must do some soul searching. The characters can be somewhat stereotypical: you of course have your standard frail female white mage and your beefy dimwitted guard, but their interactions still are entertaining and involving to the highest degree. 10/10

Gameplay
Not much new here to the RPG genre. FFIX has a nice throwback to the four-person battle team. Abilities are learned through the acquisition of ability points, which are obtained by killing enemies, while certain equipment is being worn. After it is learned, this ability can be selected to equip and thus utilized throughout battle. You have your standard black and white magic which can be learned in this way for the mages, and attack and support abilities for the non-mages. These abilities don't need to be equipped; they can just always be used after learned. The abilities that must be equipped are the passive abilities that beef your characters up in various ways such as HP+10% or Antibody which protects against poison. Limit breaks are handled in the form of Trance for FFIX. Once the gauge is full due to damage received, the character enters Trance. Attack and magic power is increased during this time, and each action taken drains the gauge a certain amount. Each character also has a special ability during Trance such as Vivi's double cast and Garnet's Eidolon. The battles really don't get old, and the difficulty for most of them really isn't outrageously easy or difficult either. 9/10

Music
I absolutely love the soundtrack for Final Fantasy IX. It has a very old fashioned sound as it features many piano and harpsichord sounds which I feel fit perfectly with the environment. This is in fact a soundtrack that I have in its entirety on my computer. Everything from the great empirical songs featured in the large castles to the quaint little country ditties heard while strolling through a small farming village just further emerge you into the game. Would you really expect anything less from the genius that is Nobuo Uematsu? 10/10

Well there you have it. Again this is my favorite RPG of all time. I love coming back to it even today and experiencing its splendor with all new appreciation for what Squaresoft was able to accomplish. Every aspect of this game meshes effortlessly to create an experience unlike any other. Walking through the gorgeous environments to the amazing soundtrack with your amazingly intriguing companions really is a treat.

Overall: 10/10


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 04/06/09

Game Release: Final Fantasy IX (US, 11/13/00)


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