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SnickerdoodleNinja's Final Fantasy IX Game Review

Final Fantasy IX Final Fantasy IX Screenshot Our wonderful band of misfits.

Final Fantasy IX game Review

Story & Playability

Employed in a theatre troupe that has been hired to kidnap the princess of the land, Zidane Tribal is a lively young man who soon finds he’s gotten more than he bargained for when said princess actually wants to be kidnapped and taken away from the castle. Now harboring a runaway princess and all the secrets surrounding her, it will be up to Zidane to deal with a corrupt monarch, a monster-creating mist that sweeps over the land, and a few secrets from his own past he never knew he had, with only the help of a small motley crew of friends and rivals alike-if he can stop flirting with the princess long enough to get anything accomplished, that is.

In premise, FF9 is not mind-blowing. Most of the plot elements are not unheard of, and like many RPGs, it begins with a local struggle that eventually becomes only a small part of a much bigger plan that involves the potential destruction of the world. However, unlike most games, it manages to take those several seemingly-independent story elements and weave them all together effectively into one grand scheme, showing evidence of careful planning while creating a cohesive and thorough fantasy that lives up to the potential it sets up for itself throughout the game.

Of course, as great as the interwoven plot elements are, they’re far from the star of the show. In truth, by far the most interesting aspect of FF9 is its characters. Say what you will about them, they are anything but cliché. Whereas many games stick to supermodel-pretty, archetypal characters, every single character in FF9 is unique and eccentric in design, play, personality, and struggle while being misfits in the truest sense of the word. For instance, our hero Zidane is no six foot dashing prince, but a short (ok, well, they’re all short, but anyways) youth with a monkey tail and a habit of flirting incessantly but a strong desire to save those in need, while Garnet-our princess from before- is naïve yet headstrong and determined to help her people. Oddly enough, Zidane and Garnet might be the closest the game gets to cliché characters, and even they create a distinct impression from early on that only strengthens with time. Even more eccentric however, are their allies, from a rotund knight-in-rusting-armor to a sophisticated rat woman to a large, gender-unidentified creature aiming to be a master gourmand while wearing its pink and white bloomers. That last one happens to be a personal favorite, by the way, and don’t worry if that description of it makes no sense-Quina doesn’t make much sense to anyone, even if you’ve played the game. Odd as these characters are, these are only a few of the several unique characters you’ll meet on your adventures.

On top of being unique, these characters have heart. Throughout its story, FF9 uses its characters to create lots of humor, but never neglects to have them grow or endure hardship. In fact, every single character goes through an inward dilemma at some point or another that develops them as a person, whether it be through loss of loved ones, struggles between honor and morality, or even existential confusion. I’m aware that the third one sounds a bit over the top, but FF9 manages to pull this off quite well without being overly melodramatic or mopey. On the rare occasions that it comes close, it gets its point across and doesn’t linger unnecessarily in the overdramatic. Actually, as unrealistic and eccentric as the characters are at times, the way they cope with and handle problems is strikingly realistic, making them much more relatable while also keeping the melodrama rooted in realism. Even the game’s main antagonist-as flamboyant and narcissistic as he is -becomes increasingly human as you learn more about him.

From start to finish, FF9 stays true to its whimsical feel while delving into much deeper emotions as the characters each search for a place to belong. Furthermore, it also manages to incorporate all of its story elements into one grand scheme in a deceptively simple way, when in fact it is intricate with elements that seem a bit out there tying in subtly. While not all of the elements are necessarily shockingly unique and some are bound to dislike certain characters, the intricate plot and fleshed-out characters make FF9’s story stand out among RPGs even ten years later.

Rating: 8

Graphics

Being a PlayStation game, it should come as no surprise to find that FF9’s graphics are fairly pixilated-so much so that if you play it on a large television, the game might almost seem as though it is being censored.

That said, for a PlayStation game the graphics are far from shabby and the rendered cut-scenes are very cleanly made and stylized. In fact, the whole game is very stylized, adding personality to the characters with their design. As I mentioned earlier, you won’t find any supermodels here-rather, the characters tend to be short-like Hobbits, almost, but with shoes-with interesting proportions. The characters may not always be stunningly attractive, but they definitely have individuality that when combined with the colorful, interactive environments create a whimsical style that will for most far outweigh the outdated graphics.

Rating: 8

Sound

Once again, as a PlayStation game FF9 has no voice acting, but believe me: the rich dialogue will give the characters more than enough personality and life, while the music will add plenty of emotion at times. Unfortunately, however, the tunes tend to be fairly repetitive, with the game’s theme Melodies of Life as a prime example. A lovely song in and of itself, after hearing it in several story events, every time you step on the world map, and even in the ending, you really begin to wish they’d have come up with a few more tracks-though I've been told my thoughts on this point are highly debatable, so recognize that music appreciation will vary player by player.

Similarly, the battle music is energetic and intense, but the boss battle tune in particular could have really stood to have been mixed up a bit given the length of the game. On the few occasions that it did change, the music was fantastic, making you wonder why they didn’t mix it up a bit more often.

Overall, the background music and sound effects effectively add to the mood- even if they aren’t always memorable- though on occasion FF9 pulls out pleasant surprises and pulls out a tune that adds emotion and intensity to the game on a level above the gaming norm.

Rating: 7

Fun

To match its massive story, Final Fantasy 9 features a detailed fantasy world with a mammoth amount of game play. Following in the footsteps of its ancestors, FF9 uses the ATB battle system, which is essentially a real time turn-based system in which you wait for your bar to fill up over time so that you can select a command from a character’s menu. However, unlike some its ancestors, FF9 does not allow the player to make all of their characters invincible supermen- instead, each character has very specialized stats and abilities that realistically match their role in the game as a character. After all, a six year old white mage is not about to start dealing 9999 damage with just her wooden stick, while a dragoon is not about to start dropping meteor on her opponents. While some might frown upon this specialization, this actually allows for interesting party dynamics and varied strategies, forcing the player to think carefully about their tactics rather than making everyone identical beef cakes. Besides, it’s refreshing to have a game in which characters are not dull robotic Cybermen.

Another pro for FF9 is its level of difficulty. While it never becomes outrageously difficult, FF9 maintains a level of difficulty that always keeps players on their toes while encouraging intelligent play rather than level grinding. While leveling up helps, you’ll still be smacked down by several bosses unless you know what you’re doing. Going along with this, FF9 often focuses on raw ability and planning rather than gimmicky ways out of making a boss fight difficult. Point in case: the game’s ultimate optional boss. Unlike certain other Final Fantasy games, you’ll never find a magical philosopher’s stone to mysteriously weaken the boss; rather, the game focuses on all out brawls between forces that make the game a more consistent challenge.

As for exploration, FF9 leaves a very open world to explore from early on while still giving you direction to keep you from ever becoming downright lost. Though many games wait until the game is almost over to allow side quests, FF9 allows and even encourages exploration and fun detours throughout the game to find extra items and story elements that enhance the already solid tale.

In addition to having several optional events, FF9 keeps its story from being too linear by having multiple perspectives for much of the first half of the game, with characters often splitting up and joining back together later. This is bound to frustrate players who hate being forced to use certain characters or hate having to live without another one, and usually I would be in the same boat, but FF9 is a rare case in that every single one of its characters is likable and fun to use, even if you personally prefer some to others.

Sadly, for all the things FF9 does right it also makes a few blunders. For one, character Trances-the game’s equivalent of a limit break or overdrive move-show lack of real planning, with a few characters having great stat boosts or abilities while others are significantly less useful, resulting in a serious lack of balance in some cases. Second, the battle system-while fun and challenging enough to keep you on your toes-can become rather monotonous, especially in areas with high encounter rates. Of course, this isn’t entirely FF9’s fault, as most turn-based games run into this problem, but it is still unfortunate. Fortunately neither of these are crippling setbacks, though they can be a bit frustrating at times.

For an RPG, FF9 is rare in that it hits a fine balance between story and game play. You won’t find any hour long cut-scenes here; expect a substantial plot with interaction that never keeps you long from action and exploration. Be warned, however, that FF9 is a long game, especially if you do the several optional events, and you had better have some time to put into it.

As a whole, FF9 is often overlooked in the realm of RPGs, but it manages to have story, style, and game play that should appeal to old-school gamers and modern gamers alike. As long as you’re not afraid to spend some time on it, definitely consider picking up FF9 and following Zidane in his monkey business.

Rating: 8

Final Verdict

7.83 (good)

Reviewed by SnickerdoodleNinja, Nov 22, 2011

Comments

  1. z827 Nov 23, 2011

    FINAL FANTASY!

    *cough*

    Lol , anyways , I'm not too sure what I should make of the review since most Final Fantasy games does bear a strong focus on their characters' background and their bonds ( Well , starting from II or IV anyway ) and that most of them have a vast world to explore in ( Well , if you don't count the more... recent installments of the FF games. Square Enix , your disappoint me. ) but yeah , you did great in explaining some of the distinct features of the FF series whilst explaining some of the elements of FF to those whom may not have experienced the series as of yet.

    Now that I've thought back about it , most FF games seems to have a similar story style so it's not really going to be easy to bring out pointers which may prove useful to the older FF fans but you did bring out those points in question.

    Though your probably underrating the other Optional Bosses of the FF universe.
    Enuo , Shinryuu and Omega of Final Fantasy V can be quite a pain in the arse even if you mastered all the other Jobs and the WEAPONS ( Or whatever they were called ) in Final Fantasy VII can be real hard to beat - unless you can somehow reduce your life to 7777.
    VI have some pretty nasty bosses in it's mix as well.
    ... and don't get me started on Tactics :X

    Well , generally , I'd say that this review would be very informative to non-FF gamers or those new to the series.

  2. angelxxuan Nov 23, 2011

    another doodle review ! I remember playing final fantasy IX awhile back, well vaguely, and I have to admit the review you did was practical. this one is basically if you've played one of the earlier ones you've played the others, they didn't start to radically change until the little characters could talk, the first of the generations were sort of the typical rpg style and then diversity entered the fun. I have to admit great review, I haven't ever done a game review but I have to admit you do a good one and this one is no exception.

  3. CyanideBlizzard Retired Moderator Dec 08, 2011

    Ah, Final Fantasy 9.

    I avoided this game for a few years because Zidane's look really bothered me. I have absolutely no clue why anymore, but it really did.

    So glad that I ended up picking it up a few years later regardless.

    The only true thing I remember about this game is thinking Kujo was a girl for over half the game, and also beating the game incredibly under level. I really need to replay this sometime.

    As for the review itself, I'm glad to see another video game review from you! It's nice to see the Fun section of the review get so much detailed love, and you've got great flow throughout the entire review. What's more, so it's nice to see coverage of an older game that doesn't get much coverage. It's a great reminder that FF9 was a great game, and this is a fantastic review!

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