Final Fantasy 9
Final Fantasy IX is the game that all the RPG fans warned you about. It's relatively short. It's fairly easy. There was no graphical leap from FF8, in fact, the characters themselves are extremely bad looking. The plot isn't groundbreaking either. Yet somehow, FF9 manages to not only be a good game, but a masterpiece, and one of the best RPG's available to the gaming world today.
FF9 was not meant to be a step forward. It was originally intended to be a side story, a gaiden that reminded gamers of the good old days, when not everybody could cast cure3 or fire2. When characters' heads were five times too big for their bodies. When the main character didn't brood or live in a self-centered and antisocial world. Before gunblades replaced swords, before mako reactors replaced castles, *SPOILER* before insane maniacs who push their bosses off a cliff to their doom were removed, and before prostitute-ish airheads replaced powerful female generals who tend to betray their superiors, whether it be Gestahl or Brahne. *SPOILER*
When the game is loaded, and new game is selected, the gamer is treated to a beautiful opening cinema. A bit arcane, yet beautiful nonetheless. Once the gamer gains control of Zidane, the graphics return to the fuzzy PSX graphics of FF7 and FF8. In an effort to return the series to its roots, Amano had been hired to work on FF9's art. However, Squaresoft made the mistake of believing that old-school Final Fantasy automatically meant super-deformed characters, and Amano's art was warped into the deformed characters with heads and hands too big for their bodies. When the Alexandria scene begins, the gamer once again sees the hard work that went into creating the city, no longer the towns each having a couple houses, as in previous games, but huge and sprawling cities bustling with activity. The gamer may actually feel as if he is part of a fairy tale, running cheerfully through the vibrant city preparing to see the play. The pitiful-looking characters seem out of place in the work of art that is Alexandria, and later, every other place in the game.
FF9's music seems like a hybrid between old-school and new-school. There are some memorable tunes in the game, most notably the music played during the return to Alexandria, and of course, "Melodies of Life." The battle theme is a return to old-school, and very well done, but the world map music, along with the boss theme, is bland and uninspiring. The final boss's music was also very disappointing. However, Kuja's theme is strangely haunting, and has the potential of sending chills through the gamer's spine.
Final Fantasy IX's plot is a bit weak. It ends up coming down to the much overused "beat the bad guy and save the world." Kuja doesn't exactly make the best villian, and his feminine curves and face along with his poetic speech pattern doesn't help. The plot isn't very deep, and there isn't really all that much to it. Not bad, but it's not wonderful either. Of course, maybe Final Fantasy IX wasn't about saving the world...
FF9 more than makes up for the weak plot in its characters. The characters, while admittedly corny looking, are developed extremely well. Each changes throughout the story, the events around them causing them to mature the hard way. It is their reaction to events and their believability that makes Final Fantasy IX work. The game's ending is also outstanding, emphasizing the characters rather than suddenly attempting to place more emphasis on the save the world side. My only regret is that there is no way to let Quina in Alexandria and put Beatrix in my party instead.
FF9 is a rather short game, able to be beaten in less than 12 hours. However, there are numerous side quests to lengthen the game, some revealing deeper insights into the characters and world around them, and others being a monotonous waste of time. Chocobo hot and cold quickly becomes more boring than even FF7's chocobo breeding, and catching frogs, racing Hippaul, and jumping rope are worse than Golden Saucer. Tetra Master is okay, but doesn't have the advantage of refining items the way that Triple Triad did. Still, when all the miniquests are completed, FF9's length is extended, and there is a little replay value, since there is (somewhat of) an alternate ending, and the mystery of Excaliber II.
Gameplay is another strong point. Picture the ability of learning the spells from the esper system of FF6, combined with the exclusiveness of character abilities of FF4, combined with being able to equip and combine certain abilities like in the job system of FF5. The ability system is easy to learn, easy to master, and provides for different and highly customizable types of gameplay. Although the ability system does allow powerhouses to be created and further simplifies the game, it will keep even the most hardcore gamer coming back for more. Plus the synth shops, reminiscent of FF8, also add variety. However, FF9 can become overly easy, and not even Ozma will create much of a problem for the seasoned gamer. Unless all of your characters are decked out in their best Hawaiian gear. Good way to create a challenge.
FF9 is the last Final Fantasy of the 32-bit era. It is also quite possibly the last of its kind, since FF10 marks a rapid departure into a highly futuristic world with a totally different battle and experience system, and FF11..well..hopefully Final Fantasy isn't about to follow in the footsteps of Ultima. Overall, despite a few shortcomings, Final Fantasy IX is a great game, and worth every minute and every cent put into it.
Replay Value: 8.5
Reviewer's Tilt: 10.0
Dark Mistress' Reviews
Final Fantasy 9 Reviews
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