Final Fantasy IX - Reader Retroview  

by JuMeSyn

35-50 hours


Rating definitions 

   Every rule must have an exception to prove it. The exception to my rule (which need not be stated here) is Final Fantasy IX. I came to play this title thanks to a generous co-worker’s loaned PS2 one summer, and had just enough time to delve deeply into it before the machine vanished once again. Certainly the time was worthwhile, and Final Fantasy IX is quite easily recommended to anyone seeking a quality Final Fantasy with more nods to the older style of the series.

   Final Fantasy IX’s story transpires against a backdrop of cliché – and runs with it. Zidane and his thief friends seek to kidnap the princess of Alexandria. The princess, Garnet, seems rather amenable to leaving the castle anyway. Her attempted absence from the castle leads to a great deal of running around early on, until Zidane is removed from his band of thieves (more or less amicably) and other matters must be attended to around the world. While the overarching tale isn’t terribly original, the dialogue is well-written and the characters are well-developed.

Steiner the cop wannabe, mulling a citizen’s arrest. Steiner the cop wannabe, mulling a citizen’s arrest.

   Battles look rather like many earlier Final Fantasy titles thanks to the use of active time battles one more time. To one unfamiliar with active time battle, it is simply a bar that must charge completely before a character can take an action in battle. Enemies have their own bars (unseen), and will gladly beat up the player’s team should the player not take an action. A maximum of four characters at a time populate the player’s team. Each of the eight main characters has at least one special skill (some more useful than others). Battles are random and can be annoyingly common in some areas. Experience and money are awarded upon victory. As for a relatively new wrinkle in the battle system, it comes in the form of the Trance system. After taking a certain amount of total damage in battles, a character will enter Trance mode with access to new attacks and a considerably increased action meter recovery. Trance mode is hard to take advantage of, however, thanks to the difficulty in making enemies hit the same character to properly charge it.

   Menus are well-constructed for the most part in FFIX, with the accoutrements one expects to find in newer RPGs present (the ability to see statistic alterations prior to purchasing equipment, easy item presentations, etcetera). The major irritation of interaction here has to do with skill acquisition (skills frequently include magic, though not all characters can use the classic definition of magic). Skills are acquired by wearing equipment that allows them to be learned, for a certain amount of time until the necessary Ability Points are acquired from battle. Some skills are more useful than others, but the system will sometimes impose the need to wear outdated equipment (for instance, if a character was absent for a long time) in order to learn useful ones. Aside from this quibble nothing is glaringly terrible about navigating the world.

   Aesthetically speaking, Final Fantasy IX is quite the showcase. The PlayStation was known for its 3D powers, and FFIX demonstrates what a late-generation game could achieve on the system. Enemies are a varied lot, the characters have plenty of different actions in battle, outside of battle they look just as good, and summons are impressive. Considering the abilities of the hardware this game looks stunning. Its aural impressiveness is just as great if not more so. Nobuo Uematsu turned in a truly fine effort here, and the frequent use of music from older Final Fantasies comes across as a nostalgic nod instead of laziness.

Tonight: When Christmas Ornaments Attack! Tonight: When Christmas Ornaments Attack!

   FFIX is not one of the hardest games in existence, but it will require attention to be paid frequently. Some random enemies are dangerous and many bosses can be nasty (if also cheap). Depending upon how the player decides to progress it could probably be completed in around 30 hours, perhaps less. But without rushing through it considerably more time, around 40-50 hours, will likely be necessary.

   As to reasons for replay, there are a few optional moments during the game that cease to be viable after the storyline reaches a certain point. There are numerous other collection quests and optional bosses that can be challenged at any time after a certain point. The main quest does not have any real additional content, but the sundry extra tidbits will keep one searching for something new to do very busy. There is also a card game, and participation in it is almost completely voluntary on the player’s part.

   Final Fantasy IX is a fine title and amply demonstrates the quality Square (now Square-Enix) can assemble seemingly at will. As the game seems a touch more concerned with reiterating the greatness of previous Final Fantasies instead of introducing bold new elements, I would not rank it top among the FF titles. That is nothing if not an indication of the general high quality those titles can claim, however.

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