FFIX - Impressions - Final Fantasy IX Impressions

Right off the start, for those who wish to not read the entire article, I have one comment to make:

Final Fantasy IX is worth your money. Go and buy it.

It lives up to the high-standard of RPG's that Square has built its reputation on. And in the end, through all the hype that has surrounded the game throughout the past several months, it lives up to expectations pretty well.

You're thrust into the action almost instantly, and a high level of intensity stays with your team throughout most of the game. Savor the moments when you can find time to smell the roses, because they're few and far between.

The plot is nice and complex, but not confusing. It's also very linear: you don't really have much of a chance to get lost. Getting from Point 'A' to Point 'B' without getting lost or delayed in some way seems easier in Final Fantasy IX compared to previous Final Fantasies.

The characters are all special in their own way, adapting a pre-Final Fantasy VII style uniqueness to each of them. Meaning, unlike Final Fantasy VII and VIII, not everyone can equip magic; magicians aren't as physically strong as the others; and what one character can equip, several other characters cannot. This applies to the "Back to Basics" philosophy which was adapted for this game, and it certainly lives up to it.

There's a blue mage, a black mage, a white mage, a thief, a knight...and the list goes on and on. Like I said, each character is special, or unique, in his or her own way.

In addition to the eight members of your party, many other characters join your quest for short periods of time, sharing their abilities with your group to aid you. It's always nice to get some extra help from friends.

The system this time around is easier than the Junction system, that's for sure. In Final Fantasy IX, your weapons and armour come with certain abilities: some characters can only learn some abilities, while others can learn others. A certain amount of AP is required to master the ability: once mastered, you don't need to have the item equipped any more to use it/have it learnt. As well as this, each character has a certain amount of "Magic Stones", and the different abilities require different amounts of Magic Stones to be used. Say for example you choose which abilities you want to be able to use, but the amount is limited. It's a system which will take a bit of time to get used to, but I understood it by the end of Disc 1, and I'm a slow learner. Overall, it's far simpler than the Junction system.

Moving on to music: Nobuo Uematsu strikes again! The music in Final Fantasy IX is simply incredible, possibly the best in the series to date. If you take a look at the OST, there are 110 tracks (compared to 85 in Final Fantasy VII, and 74 in Final Fantasy VIII), and that total is NOT including numerous other songs that play throughout the game (especially in FMV's). With so many songs, you would probably figure some of them might be dull or boring, simply thrown in there to add another song to the OST, right?

Wrong. There are so many incredible tracks on the OST, it's not even funny. The pumped-up Battle and Boss Battle themes; the soothing sound of the World Map music; incredible prelude music; FF9's Theme Song, "Melodies of Life", in both English and Instrumental versions; and the list goes on and on (I could delve into the OST and talk about it all day, but, (1) There'd be spoilers, and (2) This is on limited space). With a 32 track OST set to hit stores soon (for under $20), and ANOTHER CD to be released in Japan featuring the extra game music which didn't get into the original OST, there will be plenty of Final Fantasy IX music to last you a long, long time.

The graphics? Well, that's just self-explanatory. Just like VIII was an improvement over VII, IX is an improvement over VIII. The cut-scenes are very fluid, clear, and visually pleasing: they're just so wonderful to look at! There's simply no other way to put it - they're breathtaking. The characters themselves, the battle scenes, the backgrounds, and the World Map are all magnificently designed.

Remember in Final Fantasy VII when the average town was one screen, with 4 or 5 buildings? And in Final Fantasy VIII where a couple of towns were 4 or 5 screens, but, virtually empty of buildings, NPC's, or anything interesting? Final Fantasy IX's towns are MASSIVE to say the least. And that's not all: besides the fact that most towns have about a dozen screens (not to mention inside of buildings), there are TONS of NPC's wandering around these towns. With numerous stores, NPC's, screens, small mini-plots, and plenty of dialogue...each town is a massive adventure in and of itself.

The card game makes its return to Final Fantasy IX, now known as "Tetra Master", with some different rules and a different setup. Rather than numbers, it works by arrows: if your arrow points to a card, you get the card. If your arrow points to another card's arrow, a small battle occurs between the card's values to determine which one wins. I haven't played much of the game yet, so I'm not sure all the rules and strategies involved, but if you liked Triple Triad in Final Fantasy VIII, you'll enjoy Tetra Master (which seems far more challenging and interesting, in my opinion).

Getting back to a previous point I made about the "Back to Basics" philosophy, you can easily see it in the game. From the towns all having a Renaissance-type feel to them, old school characters, no big, advanced technology....and last, but not least, no guns; you can really feel how the game has reverted to its Fantasy-based roots, compared to the more futuristic settings of Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII.

There are plenty of humorous parts and lines in Final Fantasy IX, some which may leaving you rolling on the floor in laughter, or simply chuckling to yourself. But, on the flip side, there are lots of sad, even depressing, parts: it's a truly emotional game with plenty of ups and downs and highs and lows.

There are only three beefs which I have with the game, though: nothing can be perfect, and Final Fantasy IX is not perfect as well. My three beefs?

(1) The encounter rate seems high in some places. One or two steps, and another battle begins. This can really get tedious at times.

(2) The game seems shorter than expected. I completed the first two discs in 18 1/2 hours, with no rushing involved and lots of time spent levelling up: finishing the game in under 40 hours seems likely. Having the game be longer would've been nice, but, 40 hours is still good.

(3) A WARNING TO ALL CANADIANS: Check the top right corner on the back of your box. Even if everything's in English, there might be a small red triangle in the corner along with the word "Français". Try to avoid this box as much as possible, because the booklet inside it is in French. That's right, French, and only French. It's an English game, but, no English booklet, just a French booklet. If you're stuck with this situation, ask whoever you bought it from if you can get an English booklet from them: if not, then, you're stuck with the French one.

Fantastic story and plot. Great characters. Extraordinary graphics. Wonderful music. Everything fits together to create a one-of-a-kind playing experience, which will get you instantly hooked and have you playing through the game multiple times, no doubt.

So, in conclusion: Final Fantasy IX is worth your money. Go and buy it.

And that, my friends, is true.

Article by Martin for Final Fantasy: Worlds Apart.