"If you love the others, more than likely you will love this."
Final Fantasy IX was the last Final Fantasy to be released on the Playstation, after switching from the Super Nintendo in 1997. After great success from Final Fantasy VII and VIII, Final Fantasy IX had very high expectations. Many believe IX to be disappointing, where as others believe it to be better than both its successors. Here is what I think.
Comparing IX to the previous Playstation releases, IX is a very moody game. The gameplay feels very negative, as there is a great structure around the gameplay. This may sound good; however, if you bring it to a duel between you and the computer, the advantages are greatly on the computer. In both previous Final Fantasies, there were many high chances of exceeding a 9999HP damage limit. Considering in the entire summons (bar the final summon in VIII) the maximum damage you can give or take is 9999, you could exceed this amount by combo attacking (specifically in limit breaks by both main characters). This is completely taken away in Final Fantasy IX. The odds are against you, because not only is it hard to actually gain maximum damage, you cannot create ways to exceed it. In the final stages of the game, many of the bosses will damage you multiply with almost maximum damage. This factor means there is a far higher difficulty level involved, which puts some of the lighter players right off, as this structure cannot be broken.
In VIII, there were six main characters. This has been increased to eight, and as always, these are eight strongly created characters, with their own personalities and opinions. As in most FF games, this game has some of the greatest characters from gaming history, from the lady-loving Zidane, to the all-so cute Vivi, to the stupidly dopey Steiner.
A new addition to IX is the approach of having four members fighting at the same time, a feature that has not been used in a Final Fantasy game since 1994's Final Fantasy VI. The fact that four members fighting instead of three makes fighting a lot more complex, giving you many strategies to create and many techniques to experiment.
Like most FF games, you build your characters by level, and learning abilities. In Final Fantasy VII materia was used to learn magic spells and abilities, where as Guardian Forces were used to learn abilities in VIII. In IX, your abilities are learned by your equipment. By equipping a weapon, shield, etc, some characters can use certain abilities with that item. If your character equips items with that certain ability for a certain period of time, the character can use the ability without equipping that item. Each item has different abilities that can learn one character an ability, where as if you equip that item to someone else, they may not be able to learn it at all. So it is basically mixing equipment around to make all your characters learn their abilities. That is not all though. Each character has each own set of “Magic Stones”, which a certain amount is needed to actually use that ability during battle. This means that it does not matter if your character has learnt every ability for him/her to learn, he can only equip few into battle, depending on how many magic stones are needed for it to be used. So a lot is going on in the preparing side of IX.
Mentioning limit breaks above, this has been cancelled from IX, and replaced with a “Trance”. Like Final Fantasy VII's Limit Break, you have Trance gauge that will build up as you get attacked. Trance powers up your character, many in different ways, for example your mages can use double the magic in one go. One character can deliver two to three times more damage than usual. Each character has their own unique skills and trance develops these skills into better ones. However, a huge downfall on this side is the fact that if you do not use your Trance before the end of the battle, it cancels and will make the whole process a complete waste of time, which frustrate us FF fans off big time, trust me.
As mentioned, each character has each own unique skills. Some are mages, others can throw special weapons at their enemies, and others can perform dragoon skills. Another big downfall to IX is the main character; Zidane has a very small unique skill. Zidane is a thief, and like Final Fantasy VI before it, “stealing” items off enemies is not as great as magic usage, summoning, and knight skills. Zidane's stealing ability becomes essential in some boss battles, as the majority of bosses in the game possess great items, which are very helpful to steal. And because these items are good, stealing can become a pain, as the harder to steal items can become VERY hard to steal. You can be there for an hour, literally, trying to steal just one item off a boss, before killing him by mistake. Once again, this does frustrate a lot of people off, and puts them off the game completely.
On the whole, the gameplay is great. The use of four characters over three was a great hype, and it delivered very well. Two big downfalls as mentioned bring the game down, however on the whole, the gameplay is magnificent, and battles can be fun. At most times…
There is no doubt that Final Fantasy IX's story is far from amazing. From six main characters in Final Fantasy VIII, it has been increased to eight. This to some people might mean that there is less concentration on the characters; however it does blend in with the gameplay very well. There at least two main scenes concentrated at one character throughout the game.
The main character is Zidane, who is a thief with his fellow “brothers” of Tantalus. Tantalus has been set a job to do, and that job is to kidnap the princess of the big city of Alexandria. However, the story is a lot more complex than that, because for some reason, the princess Garnet actually wants to be kidnapped. The meeting of Zidane and Garnet will change the world of Gaia forever. Want to know more? Play the game. In my opinion FF8 the characters stories build up slowly, and are actually rather stale in the first disk. This is not the case in IX, as the first four characters you get are concentrated on right from the beginning. The four characters you get further on in the game are not as concentrated as deep as the first four, but every characters feelings and emotions are expressed realistically throughout the game.
Generally, the graphics on FFIX are not as impressive as in Final Fantasy VIII. The FMV's featured are just as mind blowing however. I believe that FF8 contains the best graphics on the Playstation console, and to come from FF8 with high hopes for FF9, there is a little disappointment with the graphics Final Fantasy IX's FMV's are just as good as in FF8's, however, smooth graphics of Final Fantasy 8's gameplay possibly feels decreased in IX. The character models do not look completely human anymore, they look like midget people (not that I have a problem against midgets…). As Final Fantasy VIII had very tall figures, IX's modelling system has made the characters a lot smaller, and sometimes these smaller figures are not as much as a standout in the game as IX. Nevertheless the graphics are really good, but not an improvement from its predecessor.
I am sure a lot of people will disagree with me, but I think that Final Fantasy IX's sound is possibly the best in the whole series. It is at least par with Final Fantasy VII, which in many ways considered the best title in the series. Some of the music is simply amazing, and I think a lot of the sound and game music cannot be improved in any way whatsoever. Final Fantasy IX contains a complete perfect score in my eyes.
The controls in this game have improved from Final Fantasy VIII. The main controls are blended with the gameplay perfectly, and sometimes there are certain mini games that require great use of the control pad. If there is any dislike with the controls, they can be adjusted in the “Config” menu anyway. The controls in my opinion cannot be improved, and there is a nice use of the buttons throughout the whole game.
The side quests are once again brilliant in Final Fantasy IX. There is possibly less side quests than that there was in VIII, however each one is enjoyable… almost. There are some huge side quests featured in the game that are rather pathetic. One example of this is a side quest that requires you to get to the end of the game within a time limit. This side quest is EXTREMELY difficult to accomplish, and it can be very frustrating to do, as the further you get in the game, your characters have very low levels, and bosses can do damage that can cleanly sweep your whole party in one move. However the majority of the side quests are great, time worthy and enjoyable, it is just that one or two are pathetically difficult or just plain boring and possibly pointless.
Final Fantasy IX is a very difficult game. It is a lot more difficult than Final Fantasy VIII, and this is actually a good thing. As I said in the Gameplay section, there is not much chance of exceeding 9999HP damage, which in FF7 and FF8 was possible. This makes the game a whole lot more difficult, and more of a challenge for the player.
Replay value??? It is amazing. Like every other, you would probably want to play this game again. Complete it, then give it a year or two, and the rush to play the game again will be back. I think I have said enough.
Overall, this is a brilliant game. There is a lot of amazing things in Final Fantasy IX; however there are few flaws too. The flaws can annoy you and make you want to punch the wall, however in the end you can forgive Square and tell them thank you for making once again a classic piece of gameness. Hey, it is Final Fantasy. If you love the others, more than likely you will love this. For people who have never played a Final Fantasy, this is a decent game to get started with. However possibly the best to properly begin your collection with would be VII, and if you enjoy that, get this. It is well worth the money and will be a game you will play and keep for years. Rent or buy? If you have played another FF title in the series, I would say buy. If you have never played a FF game before, then I would rent to be on the safe side. Final Fantasy is not for everyone, but it is highly respected.
Overall: 77/80 = 96% = 10/10