"It's Zidane! The Super-Saiya- I mean... Ratboy!"

Intro
One of the biggest franchises to date has got to be the Final Fantasy franchise, spanning 9 games and two spin-offs. A game series designed by Squaresoft, regarded by many as one of the greatest RPG companies of all time,along with Enix and Sega. However, somewhere in the series, people felt it was going down hill. After Final Fantasy 6, people began to actually trash some of the newer games. People said the classic feel was starting to diminish. Squaresoft finally caught on to this bit of information when Final Fantasy 8 drew mixed reviews, claiming it just didn't have the true classic and medieval feel that the first few Final Fantasy games had. So, while preserving what they felt were major pluses in their newer Final Fantasy games, Square decided to bring back some of the old feel. Thus, they blended old school RPG elements with new school to bring something that they hoped would succeed above the mixed reviews: Final Fantasy 9.

Story
In this installment to the Final Fantasy legacy, you play as a young thief/thespian named Zidane. Along with his ''brothers,'' Zidane follows a plan set up to kidnap a girl named Princess Garnet. However, it would seem that Garnet has been extremely down in the dumps as of late. She is seldom seen with a smile on her face anymore. So, as a distraction, Zidane and his friends fly a huge airship that is a giant theater over to Alexandria, where Garnet lives with her mother, Queen Brahne, and conduct a play. As it turns out, Garnet willfully goes along with Zidane. Seeing her daughter get ''kidnapped,'' Brahne orders to open fire on the theater ship and it crash lands in the middle of a forest. From there, Zidane and Garnet, along with a cast of others discover an adventure unlike any other.

Battle System
If you've played other Final Fantasy battle systems, you've pretty much played this one. In this one, each character gets a few different commands, all depending on the person. This is one old school aspect that's been revived; The usage of personalized skills. For example: Zidane, being a thief, has a ''steal'' skill but also something called ''skill'' which allows him to use different skills such ranging from causing damage to detecting what kind of items enemies have to steal. Each character has two different commands in common (other than ''change'' and ''defend''): Attack and item, both of which are pretty much self-explanatory. I enjoy this battle system enough. It kept the series simplistic and fun and still does for FF9.

Magic and Abilities: Learning
This sort of seems a bit like the magic system used on Final Fantasy 6 in which you had to equip a character with a Magicite to get certain spells. In this one, each weapon and piece of equipment you equip your people with has a potential of teaching them a different spell or ability. As you win battles, you get AP (ability points). When you equip a piece of equipment, any abilities or spells you can learn are readily usable, but go away once you unequip the stuff. However, once you've gotten enough AP, you can master the abilities and spells and not need to equip something in order to use them. I guess I sort of liked this magic/ability system. It seemed more like a revamped FF6 system.

Magic and Abilities: Usage
Using magic is just as simple in this game as any RPG. You just select it and aim it. Abilities are a bit different. Abilities are basically different characteristics your characters can take on (i.e. the ability ''Antibody'' nullifies poison and venom effects; the ability ''Mug'' causes Zidane to attack whenever he attempts to use ''steal). When you look at your status, you'll notice that you have a certain amount of ability crystals. You can then go into your ''equip'' submenu under abilities and equip abilities at the cost of a certain amount of crystals. Of course, you can always unequip.

Items Just Laying Around
One major thing I like about this game is the fact that you can find items just laying around like other Final Fantasy games with one major difference. Any time there is one you can grab, a ! appears over your head. This makes it convenient so you know where items are exactly without having to guess. I actually wish more RPG's would take that system to heart much like more would take Earthbound's instant-win system to heart.

Graphics
The environmental graphics were some of the best as usual. Very well done detail with nice resolution. The character graphics could've been a bit better as they were pretty well pixilated. They were still better than Final Fantasy 8. The CG graphics were some of the best I've seen. While they weren't as impressive as Final Fantasy 8's dance sequence, they were still very good.

Sounds
The music was great, but not as good as previous games. I felt they really should've spent more time composing as some of the music just sounded, well... too classic, I guess you could say. Sound effects were the same as usual.

Gameplay
Same thing as the other Final Fantasy. I really hated the card game in this one as opposed to Triple Triad from Final Fantasy 8. One of the minigames in this one called ''Chocobo Hot and Cold'' was one of the best minigames I've played in a long time! You can get some of the best items in the game playing that, too.

All in all, Final Fantasy 9, though not the best of the series, is still a great game, even as an RPG. It had a better RPG feel than the previous game, but still wasn't quite as good as Final Fantasy 7 (my favorite of the series).

FINAL JUDGMENT
Graphics: Not bad. Great CG movies. 9/10
Sounds: I'm surprised at Square for really downgrading the music on this one, slightly. They usually have some of the best composed music. 7/10
Controls: Easy to handle as any Final Fantasy would/should be 10/10
Plot/Storyline: I really enjoyed the story, but it just didn't grip me the way other Final Fantasy games did. I'm thankful for one thing, though. At least the main character in this one had confidence, unlike Squall. 8/10
Gameplay: I'd have to say I really enjoyed playing this game, all in all 10/10
All Together: 10/10

Perks
*Good Story, I don't care what anyone says! Sigh, still not as good as others, though.
*Still just as fun as the others.
*Chocobo Hot and Cold
*Enemies have multiple items to steal
*They cut the time down on summoning.

Downers
*Should've had an option whether you want long or short summons.
*Slightly downgaded music (that is, slightly)
*Pixilated characters

Recommendations
RPG fans should definitely give this a try. If you like newer Final Fantasy games, then try this one out. Unlike Final Fantasy 7, I don't see too many non-RPG fans enjoying this one.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 02/18/01, Updated 09/12/01


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