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Final Fantasy IX - Review

The Fantasy has returned

By: Erik


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 9
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 8
   Plot 10
   Localization 8
   Replay Value 7
   Visuals 10
   Difficulty Medium-Hard
   Time to Complete

30-55 Hours

 
Overall
9
Criteria

Final Fantasy IX
 

  When I was just a kid I can remember getting Final Fantasy for my birthday.  It was quite the ride home as I went through the manual, seeing all the options, interesting weapons and spells.  I couldn't wait to get home and pop the game into my NES.  The same continued for all FF games after that, I was hooked.  But some where along the way the FF series dwindled, its flare turned to a glimmer.  Thankfully I have FFIX, which brings back the days of slaying dragons, saving princesses and casting powerful spells without all the ten minute spells and really poor character development.  FFIX finally brought the series back what it was missing, fantasy.

   Once again Square uses it's standard turn based battle system.  As usual they pump out a new and interesting way of acquiring spells and abilities.  Thank god that they brought back the old ways of FFIV for this game; unlike FFVII and FFVIII there are huge difference in each character.  They equip different items and can use different abilities.  You will never see a thief casting Ultima or a wizard using Armor Break.  The game brings back that classic feel of "everyone has a purpose" making it much more strategy based rather then making all your characters gods through Materia combinations.  And the return to FOUR people on the screen at a time for battles is fantastic.  Once again battles become innovative and fun as it actually matters which characters you use, and in what combination.  And the ability system is very well done.  The way in which one can only equip so many abilities really adds to the strategy of the game, battles are no longer just a walk in the park, now you must think again.

   The game interacts with the player well.  Square introduces ATE, Active Time Events, which means you rarely have to leave your character if you don't want to.  In most games if something is happening with other party members or at the head- quarters of the bad guys you are forced to go watch what's happening.  In FFIX you have a choice, you don't have to watch most of the side plot if you don't want to.  Watching certain side-plots opens up new ones.  For example if two ATEs come up and you pick the first one then you'll have a change to pick another later; but if you were to pick the second one, then you wouldn't get to see that one later, or if you choose not to watch either it will open up a whole new ATE later.  Very cool.


Victory!
Victory!  

   The game's musical scores are nice.  Certainly not something to write home about, but they really fit the game's atmosphere.  But in the end it's the same old up beat techno music for battle and sad string music for touching parts and so on.  I was really disappointed that the original theme music wasn't included at all.

   FFIX is not too original when compared to the other games in the series, it uses that same mix of elements that the others do.  There are new things here and there, but overall if you played any FF after IV you know what to expect.  The ability system is a breathe of fresh air along with some other 'classic' options in the game.  Overall expect this be a routine FF experience with some nice additions.

   The plot is amazing.  Well not so much the plot as it is the characters.  Every character in the game, with the exception of one in this reviewer’s opinion, is just so lovable!  You can't help but feel what they're feeling, and long to see their dreams and goals met.  Each character is so real and thought out that you can't help but cope with them in their times of need and rejoice with them when they succeed.  Each character has a story to tell that comes in nicely to the plot and holds it close.  The main plot of the game is never disrupted by a 'side-quest' or something else to explore the character's past.  Rather the characters' past jumps right at you as you progress through the story.  The plot itself is very nice and makes you want to continue to find out what happens next.  But the characters are the crowning achievement here, after FFVIII, I had though Square had forgotten characters were in a game.

   The game hasn't been to "Americanized" which is good.  After FFIV we really just want to see a game that just comes as it is into your system and plays.  There is a little adult language, but totally appropriate.  This game is just very fantasy oriented and doesn't try to be all flashy like other games today; it works.


The bluntly named Ice Cave
The bluntly named Ice Cave  

   Compared to most FFs, FFIX has more replay value because of the ATEs in the game.  You may go through without taking any, or maybe taking different ones than last time.  And there are so many secrets to uncover.  But like almost all RPGs you can only read the same book so many times.

   The visuals in the game are stunning to say the least.  Once again Square's ability to make FMV will have your jaw on the floor.  It's beautiful.  The real time graphics are trying desperately to squeeze every last bit of power out of the out dated hardware of the PSX.  They did well.  Perhaps one of the best things is the non-life like look of the characters.  Final Fantasy gets to be a FANTASY game again.  The characters also move extremely life like, compared to earlier FFs on the PSX where they move very rigid.  In FFIX all the characters move just like they would if they really existed.  It's really nice to watch.

The game's difficulty is extremely difficult to measure.  At some points in the game you will fly through every battle, but then suddenly a boss or even regular enemy will step up and slap you down like your nothing.  This varying difficulty is more annoying than challenging.  Just expect the unexpected at all times is your best bet, but even then you might want to have saves from back a little bit so you can level up if you have to.


Everyone loves black mages.
Everyone loves black mages.  

The game is huge, it has story and secrets up the wazoo and could be played forever practically, but realistically speaking if one was just to go through the game without worrying to much about secrets it would take between 30-55 hours to beat the game, again really depending on the ATEs and secrets one chooses to go after.

Overall I couldn't be happier with Square.  This is the third best FF in the series for me; I loved every second of it.  Never once did I back away from it saying "I need a break" it was "I need to go to class, I skipped them all yesterday to play, I can't do that today"!  The characters are flawless, the plot is inviting, the visuals are excellent, the battle system is good again, and enough secrets to keep the most hard-core fan interested.  It is the RPG of the year for the PSX, if you have this system, you should have this game.  If your like me and FFVIII made you lose complete faith in Square, come back to the light.  FFIX has everything you need.







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