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Final Fantasy IX - Review

Dissent

By: Red Raven


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 5
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 5
   Originality 4
   Plot 2
   Localization 5
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 6
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

30 - 50 hours

 
Overall
AVERAGE!
Criteria

Title Screen
 

   What happens when you mix in every single element responsible for the success of the many installments into the Final Fantasy series, but forget to add innovation? Final Fantasy 9. Hailed by quite too many as "best FF ever" and "the perfect end to the series," Squaresoft proudly proves once again that nostalgia alone can sell just about anything. Almost.

   Sure, I'll admit there has to be some kind of element of fun involved too. But the simple fact remains that FF9 doesn't add a single advancement into the continuous evolution of the series as a whole; especially considering the giant leaps forward exhibited by the last two epics. Graphics and the translation are no better than FF8. The battle system is also the exact same as it was the past 5 games, with the exception of renaming the summon creatures and Limit Breaks, the return of character-specific abilities, and the fact that you once again have 4 characters in battle. If you liked the battles of previous FFs, then you'll be right at home with these.


The intellectually stimulating dialogue in this game is overwhelming...
The intellectually stimulating dialogue in this game is overwhelming...  

   The only two reasons this game got any originality points from me is the fact that it featured the "new" item-and-ability system and the Active Time Events. In FF9 you can equip abilities, and these abilities are available to you if you are wearing certain equipment and if you happen to be a certain character. While an item could have many different abilities, only certain characters can learn them even if the others could equip that same item. I mention "new" item-and-ability system because of the large percentage of abilities from other FF games that are used (charka, auto-potion, ect). A push of the select button and the instruction booklet has all the information on the subject you could need, so RPG novices don't need to sweat it.

   The second original feature deserves its own paragraph: the Active Time Events. While exploring towns and the like, Zidane and the other heroes might choose to break up into individual members to explore. While controlling Zidane, a beep might occur and a menu pops up indicating that an Active Time Event is taking place. You then choose which event you want, and then you watch. They are almost always just little snippets of "character interaction" (more on that later), but the idea in of itself is a good, original one. It gives the player the feeling that the characters are more active and alive, and serves as a nice new story-telling device.

   The music, while original, is not as good. Sure, it passes all the normal requirements for video game music (set tone, set atmosphere), but it doesn't pass the bar set by previous games' soundtracks. Hypocritical statement from someone who is bemoaning lack of originality?

Yes, I <i>am</i> just another pointless sub-boss!
"Yes, I am just another pointless sub-boss!"  
Sure…if I was talking about any other composer than Uemetsu, the genius that came up with such impressive songs as Aerith's Theme, A One-Winged Angel, Liberi Fatali, and the entirety of FF6's soundtrack. Instead, we have 140 adequate melodies that have no real personality of their own. I'd be strained to name one other song title other than "Melodies of Life"; the rest never stand out enough to warrant a more thorough search.

   Speaking of low quality, let's talk about FF9 lack of a strong central story and the shallow characters that experience it. While scripting the story, the writers must have happened upon a unique opportunity to reuse old plot devices and other clichés of the genre, all for the sake of nostalgia. Evidence of their discovery is everywhere in the game, and there are many scenes that are literary the same as when first shown on the SNES. Cut and paste. The parts that were original were adequate at best, childish at worst. As for the characters, direct your attention to the front of the instruction booklet. Everything about them, their motivations, weaknesses, strengths, their goals, everything, can be summed up in a single sentence. Even Biggs and Wedge have historically received more complex behavior and motivations. This fact lessens the effectiveness of the Active Time Events, as they cannot show true character development, since the characters themselves are already fully explained.

   What does all of this leave us with? A charming, and easy, 40-hour game that basically splits the RPGaming community between those that like nostalgia, and those that like progress. If you think FF6 was the best game ever and everything released on the Playstation was watered-down mainstream crap, this game is right up your ally.

Otherwise known as FF9's plot.
Otherwise known as FF9's plot.  
You will recognize names of towns, spells, characters, and you'll recognize famous scenes re-enacted with a new happy cast of light warriors. If, however, you look upon the PSX era as the true Renaissance of gaming, you might want to look elsewhere for a better waste of time. The plot will be trite, the characters shallow, and the "nostalgia" will feel like childish escapism into times long past.

   Final Fantasy 9. Better than most? Probably. Better than the best? Not even close.





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