|| Final Fantasy IX - Review
The best, or the worst?
By: Jake Alley
| Battle System
| Replay Value
| Time to Complete
When a new Final Fantasy game is released, there are many assumptions one can
make. There will be a character named Cid who gives you an airship. A good deal of importance will
be placed on summoning a specific set of gods or monsters. Certain spells and special abilities
will be available to your characters. Finally, the basic mechanics of the game will be unlike any
RPG before it. However, this last element is nowhere to be found in the latest game in the series.
The first thing one notices upon starting Final Fantasy IX is the overwhelming
sense of nostalgia. The entire game is steeped in hat-tips and references to it's predecessors. While
this stirs up many fond memories from long time fans, so much emphasis is placed on nostalgia that
the game has almost no memorable scenes to truly call it's own. While this isn't a problem for newcomers,
those who have committed the earlier games to memory may find themselves wishing for a little more
originality by the end.
|Return of the fourth character
The mechanics of Final Fantasy IX reflect this sense of recycling. Each of the
eight characters has a fixed class, much like in Final Fantasy IV. They learn spells and abilities
from the equipment they use, much like Final Fantasy VI's esper system. From a company that thrives
on reinventing the wheel, this comes as quite a shock. A much more pleasant shock however comes from
the fact that, unlike most recent Square games, managing the abilities of your characters is done
in a simple and user friendly manner which consumes very little time.
Music in Final Fantasy IX, much like the plot and gameplay, consists largely of
old memories. Those who missed the familiar sound of the battle music while playing the seventh and
eighth games should be overjoyed to see it return. A number of other tracks are taken directly out
of older games. Aside from these old favorites however, the soundtrack is remarkably forgettable,
with only one or two tracks standing out, and even those aren't quite as gripping as one expects
The only aspect of Final Fantasy IX that truly sticks out as original is the artistic
style. After proving their mastery of realism in Final Fantasy VIII, Square has now chosen to use
a highly imaginative, somewhat cartoony visual style, somewhat similar to the films of Jim Henson.
While some complain about the big headed characters and ornate architecture, it comes as a breath
of fresh air, and shows just how much emotion can be conveyed through oversized facial features
and tiny limbs. Unfortunately, while the graphical style is first rate, the presentation is inexplicably
bland. Half a year after Chrono Cross and Koudelka proved that polygons on the Playstation need
not be sharp edged grainy figures, Final Fantasy IX still sticks to the fuzzy blurred look of its
|Far cry from realism
The game's dialog is another example of a good complex marred by a lack of polish.
While Final Fantasy VIII sacrificed almost all character development for the supporting cast to
emphasize the interaction between the two most prominent characters, the latest in the series strives
to give each character a unique personality. Unfortunately, this is done but assigning them each
a one-dimensional trait, and having them act accordingly. This would be forgivable if done in a
subtle fashion, but these traits are so blatantly displayed as to be printed in the instructions
and on the title screen. Furthermore, rather than yielding the desired collection of personable
characters, each character simply spouts a variant of a single line at every plot point. The constant
repetition of "Let's go!" "I'll protect you!" "I want eat now!" "I don't understand you." is hardly a gripping narrative,
especially compared to the astonishingly vibrant dialog found in nearly every other game recently
released. Only one character receives any real development, and some speak less than a dozen lines
over the entire course of the game.
All harshness aside, Final Fantasy IX is not without it's virtues. Battles
are a delight compared to the last two games. First and foremost, four characters are allowed in
battles at once, leading to much more customization than recent entries. Beyond this, battles are
much harder on average, with random monsters capable of actually killing characters, and much better
balancing all around. Final Fantasy IX is absolutely free of any five minute long sequences dealing
tens of thousands of damage. 9999 is the absolute upper limit. The somewhat degenerate Limit Breaks
from the last two games have been removed entirely, replaced with characters going into "Trance"
automatically. Unlike limit breaks, these activate automatically, last for several rounds, and simply
make improvements to the natural abilities of each character as opposed to allowing degenerate super
attacks. Better still, summon animations this time around are quite simplified, and much shorter.
|Summons are shorter
While the familiar plot and battles yield a surprisingly short play time, only
fifteen hours, there are, as one has come to expect from the series, a huge amount of engrossing
mini-games, ranging from playing cards, to gossiping with moogles, to searching for treasure on the back
of a Chocobo. Strangely enough, the average person stands to spend roughly four times as much time
on these mini-games than the game itself.
In the end, how much one will enjoy Final Fantasy IX depends on the person. If you've never played
a 16-bit Final Fantasy, chances are you'll love this game. If you've spent the last few years wishing
for an "old school" Final Fantasy, consider your wish granted. However, if you expect the same freshness
of plot and gameplay one expects from the series, you will be sorely disappointed.