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Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy IX was developed along with Final Fantasy VIII, and both were sequels to the trendy previous game, Final Fantasy VII. While eight shifted towards a modern and realistic style, Final Fantasy IX returned the series to its original. It is a true fantasy RPG, evident in the plot and the setting.
Final Fantasy IX received huge reviews when it first came out, and it is listed as one of the series’ best games. However, it’s not my favorite (as I’ll explain below). The gameplay is excellent, The story is compelling, and the characters are authentic throwbacks to the previous Final Fantasy games.
Let’s begin by getting this out of the beginning… Final Fantasy IX is my favorite game from the entire Final Fantasy series. However, I don’t mean to suggest that it’s terrible, but it does have more problems and flaws than its predecessors. These shortcomings and issues were more challenging to deal with. FF9 is undoubtedly still worthwhile to play, and it’s still a great game in general; however, it doesn’t quite compare to other games. This review will concentrate on the game’s negatives, which reflect the high quality I’ve been accustomed to from the series.
Final Fantasy IX was developed similarly to Final Fantasy VIII, and both games are pretty different. The graphics are similar (due to them being made on the same platform); however, the aesthetic differences become apparent from the moment you start the game. The setting and the plot in FF9 are a return to the classic style of previous titles within the Final Fantasy series.
The game borrows elements from earlier games, like Chocobos, Moogles, and many character names and locations. Including up to four players on the battlefield screen (which might seem unfamiliar to certain players) is a throwback to earlier game series games (Final Fantasy 1 to 6 inclusive).
My main issues regarding Final Fantasy IX are some critical issues that slow down the overall pace of gameplay. First, the battle scenes and the number of battles in the game could be better. Its transition from the map of the world or the dungeon to the battle screen is slower, and the chance of random encounters is much greater. When you get close to the final battle, you dread participating in another battle.
Adding Active Time Events (ATEs) is a new feature in the game. While you play your storyline, a tiny warning window will appear that allows you to view other characters in real-time that aren’t near Zidane as the main protagonist using the select button. Initially, it is a fascinating and innovative way of telling the story in a unique way. When one moves in the story, it takes little time before ATEs become more than a distraction. They often divert attention to the actions of other players whose decisions are unrelated to the development of the storyline or even the argument that they aid in “character development” (hint: it’s not).
The minigames and many side quests are flimsy and uninspired, especially in comparison with Final Fantasy VII (but Final Fantasy VIII also needs improvement). The minigames range from the fun that involves a bicycle chase across the streets of Midgar as well as Chocobo Races in Gold Saucer as well as The “Catching Frogs” side quest, and the “Racing Hippaul” side quest (which are both boring).
One of the more enormous smaller minigames Tetra Master, similar to the Triple Triad game from Final Fantasy VIII, is entirely different regarding its significance to the game’s progression. It is possible to claim it is because Triple Triad had too much of an impact on the game’s flow and allowed players who had mastered it and frequently practiced to improve the characters they played and build them stat-wise at the beginning of the game. Tetra Master is quite the opposite. It offers little as far as rewards other than its “satisfaction” associated with being capable of claiming that you’ve found all the cards. It’s one of the most frustrating side quests of the Final Fantasy series.
The music, however, is compelling. Some songs have been ripped from the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack, but the rest contribute the same story as the previous titles. The plot is fantastic, with well-written and developed characters, at least from a character growth viewpoint. It left some things to be desired in the way of character customization. Every character is designed to be classified into a particular class. Vivi is an example. She isn’t able to be anything other than Black Mage. Also, Final Fantasy IX suffers from the same issue in the same way as Final Fantasy VIII – the main antagonist has a brief history (albeit not relatively as poor).
My last issue is my experience with the Trance (Limit Break) system. Limit Breaks are now one of the mainstays for the games. They’re often used in different ways in every game. However, the Trance system could be better. The gauge for Trance fills up each time a character is hit with injury. However, the character is automatically put into Trance after the gauge has reached its complete (rather than choosing their Limit Break as in the previous games). In the end, characters are most likely to enter a Trance after the close of a fight or the course of a random opponent on the world map. This makes it virtually impossible to use a character’s Trance effect for any strategic advantage.
A few Final Fantasy fans still rank Final Fantasy IX as one of their most favored games within the series, but it’s a bandwagon I cannot join. I still suggest playing it since it’s a different game in the series, but it is clear that I prefer something else. Sadly, the game’s slowness could make me hesitant to play it again.
Overall score 8/10(which could be better, but still not significant; however it could be better than the quality I would expect from the Final Fantasy game!)