Final Fantasy IX Review
by Lassarina Aoibhell
When I first heard the general concept behind Final Fantasy IX, I was thrilled. A return to the old-style Final Fantasy games? YES! Since FF6 is (IMO) the best game ever made, I couldn't wait for the game to come out. The more I heard about this game, the more I liked it. Thankfully, the Drawing magic of FF8 was gone....as were the super-customizable characters of Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII. The tactical system sounded really fun, and of course, with Uematsu to do the music, this was shaping up to be one incredible RPG. So, did the game meet my expectations?
It more than met them. It blew them out of the water. This game totally blew me away, and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. Here's why.
Plot is one of the key features of any RPG, at least as far as I am concerned. The plot in FF9 absolutely does justice to the Final Fantasy tradition. Little twists (none of which I will reveal) kept me fascinated the whole way through. The romantic aspect was interesting because Garnet didn't just fall into Zidane's arms and cry "Oh rescue me/protect me" (compare to Rinoa and Squall from FF8--'nuff said. In fact, there is no comparison.) I actually pulled a few all-nighters playing this game because I couldn't wait to see where it was headed next. I've done that with only one other game: Final Fantasy VI. So overall, plot gets a perfect 10.
Without characters, of course, the plot isn't going to go very well. Although the characters in Final Fantasy IX aren't as numerous as those in, say, Final Fantasy VI, they are incredibly well detailed. Most of them are likable--Vivi is adorably clumsy. I had to admire Garnet's strength and determination, especially with everything she was faced with. Steiner--well, I wasn't very fond of him, but hey, you win some and you lose some. The characterization was excellent. Each character really stood out, with definite traits. While you could predict, with reasonable accuracy, how they would react to certain situations, sometimes they would do something totally unexpected, which was one of the joys of the game. Again, a perfect 10 on characterization.
The music in this game was quite good. It encompasses themes from previous Final Fantasy games, a little altered (or not) to suit the game. I absolutely adore "Melodies of Life," which is the "love theme," and fortunately I got to hear several versions of it as the game progressed, which was awesome. However, there are only a few songs that stand out as incredibly moving--the rest rather fade into the background. Overall, I think the music gets about a 9.5. (I liked it enough to spend a total of $75 on soundtracks--enough said.)
The graphics in this game are utterly incredible. The FMV's were amazing, and the field graphics are great. While it's apparent that Square put a lot of time and trouble into the graphics, it's also apparent that the game is more than graphics (thankfully.) The score? Naturally--a 10.
Gameplay is absolutely a factor in how much I like a game. I can ramble on about incredible characters, fascinating plot twists, and graphics--but when it comes down to it, if I'm getting frustrated by the tactical system, I'm not going to want to play the game again. No such worries with Final Fantasy IX. The Abilities system is somewhat reminiscent of Final Fantasy VI, and also somewhat like Final Fantasy IV. The aspects of FF6 that carried over are the idea of learning skills by equipping something. The addition from FF4 is that each character can have a set type of skill, and not much more (although some skills can be learned by any member of your party.) I was happy to spend hours leveling up and learning new skills. Plus, this system gets rid of the monotonous homogeneity of the FF7 and FF8 characters. The only individuality they had was in their Limit Breaks--not fun. The Limit Breaks have returned in Final Fantasy IX, as well, using the same principle as in Final Fantasy VII--hit me enough and I'll "Trance" and beat the crap out of you. While some trances (Eiko's Double White, Vivi's Double Black, and Steiner's Trance) weren't very useful, Garnet/Dagger's Eidolon and Zidane's Dyne were incredible. I thoroughly enjoyed the gameplay.
A quick word about some other things. The sidequests in Final Fantasy IX were not as numerous as, say, Final Fantasy VI (since the whole second half of the game was a sidequest ^_^) but they were definitely challenging. The Chocobo Hot & Cold mini-game/sidequest is addictive....I played it over and over and over again! Fortunately, this game also offered a little more challenge than Final Fantasy VII or VIII did. I can't recall dying more than once in either of those games. I didn't die often in FF9, either, but I certainly scraped through some battles more by luck than any particular gaming skill on my part! Also, fortunately the mega-overkill attacks and the horrifically long summon animations are cut down *sigh of relief.* No attack in Final Fantasy IX (that I know of) does more than 9999, which is nice after the extreme overkill of summons like Knights of the Round and Eden. Also, the summon animations are much shorter, which means you don't sit around for three minutes (yes, I timed it, I have no life) waiting for Knights of the Round or Eden to just get done and get out of the way.
I never thought I'd say this, but Final Fantasy IX very nearly replaced Final Fantasy VI as my favorite game of all time (perhaps because they seem to be highly similar.) Even before the end of the first disc, I was sitting there going, "Oh, man, I can't wait to play this game again!" I laughed, and even cried a little, at various points in the game. Not since Final Fantasy VI have I gotten so totally sucked into a game. This game will be within easy reach of my Playstation for a long, long time. I feel that Final Fantasy IX truly combines the best of the old with the best of the new, and I can only hope that future Final Fantasy games will measure up.
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