Final Fantasy IX Review
The first Final Fantasy to kick off the last decade, Final Fantasy IX is one of the best in the series, however it is also one of the most under appreciated. Originally released in the year 2000, and now rereleased as a PlaystationOne Classic on the PSN, Final Fantasy IX is well worth the $10 price of admission.
Before I actually start the review I’d like to share a small piece of personal history I have with this game. I owned it back when it came out but unlike VII or VIII I never got to spend too much time playing the game as my game had a bug that after the first disc any saved made would be automatically deleted. So by and large nolstagia does not affect me in this game as I only have memories playing the first disc, not the second third or fourth, so this has almost been like playing a brand new game for me.
With that history lesson done let’s get to the game!
FFIX is unique in the series in that it was meant to be more traditional than the two previous entries in the series. Because of this the world (named Gaia) has many homages and allusions to previous games in the series, ranging from the the Nine Pluto Knights, old character references and a return to old fantasy level of technology, leaving behind the cars, and other more modern conviences that were found in FFVII & FFVIII for the more traditional steam airships and boats.
With this move Square Enix was able to tell a more tradtional fantasy story, filled with kindgoms, kings, queens princesses and the heroes/villains that help or hinder these figures.The main character of the game, Zidane, starts off as a honorable thief who’s goal is to capture the princess of Alexandria, Garnet. Princess Garnet surprisngly enough wants to be kidnaped due to her worry of her mother’s strange behavior and what it might mean for the other kingdoms on the Mist Continent.
This is the basic set up of the story and while it changes and evolves throughout the story why should I spoil the fun of discovering what happens from you? The characters in FFIX go back to the original class archetypes of the early Final Fantasies. Zidane is a Thief, the fan favorite Vivi a black Mage, Steiner a Knight and the list goes on. What this return to this archetype does is put all the characters in very specific roles making your party configuration very important for certain sections of the game. Even more important is using all the characters in order to level them up as characters not in your party will not gain the experience of those you are in control of. Early in the game when the character the player control changes, there can be a vast different in levels from your previous party to the other one.
While the story is well told and the characters fun to play with, for me it was the gameplay that got me really hooked on FFIX. In a new gameplay mechanic, skills and passive abilities are given to the player via equipment. In order to keep the skills the player needs to keep that equipment… equipped until enough AP is gained to learn the technique permanently. While a simple system it’s very addicting for perfectionists like me who want all the characters to learn all the skills they can. AP farming is also a good way to farm money and levels as generally speaking, AP is the harder of the three to obtain.
Besides this skill system other new elements are added to the gameplay in the form of Trance and the ATE. Trance is IX’s version of Limit Breaking. Unlike other games where Limit Breaks gave access to powerful new techniques this isn’t always the case. For Vivi Trancing allows him to cast two black magic spells are once, for Zidane it changes his skills into new powerful techniques and for each character Trance gives an unique bonus. ATE, or Active Time Event on the other hand is primarily a story tool, allowing the player to see what other characters are up to if the party splits up within a town or the story. Sometimes ATEs can be viewed in any order the player wants while others there is no choice. It’s not particularly an inspired mechanic but it has its moments.
Graphically IX is the best looking of the three PSOne Final Fantasies however it still looks familiar to the other two and dated by today’s standards. That said it isn’t too hard to look at and doesn’t detract from the game. The game’s music and sound affects are as always well done however Steiner’s metal clacking when walking does irritate after awhile.
Final Fantasy IX is a game that any self respecting RPG fans should own. It’s fun, engaging and will last at least forty hours if not more.