Review: Final Fantasy IX

Final Fantasy IX

Initial Thoughts

The memories I have of this game are feeling like it was really weird and abstract. I’m not sure what “order” I played it in, but I think I had probably just played Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII just before it. These were two games taking place in a modernized world, as opposed to the traditional medieval feel of most RPGs (and FF titles). This probably explains why I thought it was so strange. I also recall really enjoying the ending to the point of tears, but not too much beyond brief glimpses of moments in the game. That said, I was pretty stoked to give it another go — especially after the unfavorable feelings that Final Fantasy VIII left me.

 

Review

I’m just going to say it right now: I absolutely loved this game. I feel like it hit all the right emotions; I laughed at Zidane and the numerous Final Fantasy franchise allusions throughout the game. I felt saddened and awful when the moments called for it. And I even enjoyed the leveling process. Customizing what each character’s abilities were was fun, including the process of trying to make them all learn everything! Even the mini-games amused me as I played through , and the story was refreshingly easy to follow. On top of all of this, the music was not just great, but memorable. The main theme that plays over the world map is echoed in the game’s vocal theme, “Memories of Life,” by the amazingly gifted Susan Calloway.

A great new element this game added was the Active Time System. You see, as you play, the characters that make up the game world will be doing different things at different times. Sometimes, there will be a popup letting you view what other characters are doing. You can even win rewards from these ATEs as well!

Just like Final Fantasy VIII before it, it also has a card game minigame, this time called Tetra Master. To be honest, I found this confusing to pick up and, apart from one instance in the story where you need to play it to advance, it’s never mentioned again, and so I similarly ignored it. However, it is a favored element of many a player and, though its depth was beyond me, I’m sure others would find it as something to entertain them for hours. Truth be told, Square even once developed a standalone version of Tetra Master as part of their PlayOnline software when they launched Final Fantasy XI.

Moving on, I think that the aforementioned “weirdness” of this game came, as I alluded to, from the fact that my entire previous RPG experience did not encompass the tone and environment of this particular title. Final Fantasy IX was designed as a tribute of sorts to the franchise and it shows. Having played through the previous eight entries all immediately prior to this one really made me understand how this game is the favorite of the series’ creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. If anything, the previous three entries are the aberrations.  

When I try to think of a gripe I have with the game, the only thing I can really think of is that of the Trance system. This is basically like the Limit Break system of Final Fantasy VII, except that it takes place automatically. What this means is that you take a certain amount of damage and immediately go into a trance state, enabling new abilities to be used. This is great for a boss battle where Vivi can use double magic. The problem is if it happens just before a boss battle. The trance happens automatically and goes away at the end of the battle, the Trance meter starting from scratch again. At least in Final Fantasy VII, the game allowed you to “save” the Limit Breaks to be used at your leisure. Just a minor annoyance, but you’ll notice it when it happens at inopportune moments in your journey.

Lastly, I have to mention the guide for this game — it’s utterly worthless. You see, Square was trying to launch PlayOnline, a new online service, and the guide is full of tips and hints, with emphasis on the hints. Quite often, there will be tips that say something like, “Want to know how to defeat this boss easily? Just go to PlayOnline.com and use this keyword!” The issues here is that you have a guide already, where you expect to find the information already. In fact, back in 1999 when this came out, it wasn’t like laptops or handheld devices were even a thing. Secondly, the URL the guide repeatedly refers the player to no longer exists over a decade later. Admittedly, this doesn’t affect the base game itself, but I only feel it worth noting for anyone that might have yet to play this looking to pick it up: skip the guide!

Final Thoughts

I’ve pretty much said it all in my review, but let me spell it out here: Since 1997, Final Fantasy VII has been my favorite of the franchise. That is not so any longer. I loved nearly everything about this game and it has now taken its place atop my list of favorite Final Fantasy titles. Absolutely amazing.

The current list of favorites in the Final Fantasy franchise is as follows:

1) Final Fantasy IX
2) Final Fantasy VII
3) Final Fantasy VI
4) Final Fantasy V
5) Final Fantasy IV
6) Final Fantasy II
7) Final Fantasy III
8) Final Fantasy
9) Final Fantasy VIII


Initial Thoughts

The memories I have of this game are feeling like it was really weird and abstract. I’m not sure what “order” I played it in, but I think I had probably just played Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII just before it. These were two games taking place in a modernized world, as opposed to the traditional medieval feel of most RPGs (and FF titles). This probably explains why I thought it was so strange. I also recall really enjoying the ending to the point of tears, but not too much beyond brief glimpses of moments in the game. That said, I was pretty stoked to give it another go — especially after the unfavorable feelings that Final Fantasy VIII left me.

 

Review

I’m just going to say it right now: I absolutely loved this game. I feel like it hit all the right emotions; I laughed at Zidane and the numerous Final Fantasy franchise allusions throughout the game. I felt saddened and awful when the moments called for it. And I even enjoyed the leveling process. Customizing what each character’s abilities were was fun, including the process of trying to make them all learn everything! Even the mini-games amused me as I played through , and the story was refreshingly easy to follow. On top of all of this, the music was not just great, but memorable. The main theme that plays over the world map is echoed in the game’s vocal theme, “Memories of Life,” by the amazingly gifted Susan Calloway.

A great new element this game added was the Active Time System. You see, as you play, the characters that make up the game world will be doing different things at different times. Sometimes, there will be a popup letting you view what other characters are doing. You can even win rewards from these ATEs as well!

Just like Final Fantasy VIII before it, it also has a card game minigame, this time called Tetra Master. To be honest, I found this confusing to pick up and, apart from one instance in the story where you need to play it to advance, it’s never mentioned again, and so I similarly ignored it. However, it is a favored element of many a player and, though its depth was beyond me, I’m sure others would find it as something to entertain them for hours. Truth be told, Square even once developed a standalone version of Tetra Master as part of their PlayOnline software when they launched Final Fantasy XI.

Moving on, I think that the aforementioned “weirdness” of this game came, as I alluded to, from the fact that my entire previous RPG experience did not encompass the tone and environment of this particular title. Final Fantasy IX was designed as a tribute of sorts to the franchise and it shows. Having played through the previous eight entries all immediately prior to this one really made me understand how this game is the favorite of the series’ creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. If anything, the previous three entries are the aberrations.  

When I try to think of a gripe I have with the game, the only thing I can really think of is that of the Trance system. This is basically like the Limit Break system of Final Fantasy VII, except that it takes place automatically. What this means is that you take a certain amount of damage and immediately go into a trance state, enabling new abilities to be used. This is great for a boss battle where Vivi can use double magic. The problem is if it happens just before a boss battle. The trance happens automatically and goes away at the end of the battle, the Trance meter starting from scratch again. At least in Final Fantasy VII, the game allowed you to “save” the Limit Breaks to be used at your leisure. Just a minor annoyance, but you’ll notice it when it happens at inopportune moments in your journey.

Lastly, I have to mention the guide for this game — it’s utterly worthless. You see, Square was trying to launch PlayOnline, a new online service, and the guide is full of tips and hints, with emphasis on the hints. Quite often, there will be tips that say something like, “Want to know how to defeat this boss easily? Just go to PlayOnline.com and use this keyword!” The issues here is that you have a guide already, where you expect to find the information already. In fact, back in 1999 when this came out, it wasn’t like laptops or handheld devices were even a thing. Secondly, the URL the guide repeatedly refers the player to no longer exists over a decade later. Admittedly, this doesn’t affect the base game itself, but I only feel it worth noting for anyone that might have yet to play this looking to pick it up: skip the guide!

Final Thoughts

I’ve pretty much said it all in my review, but let me spell it out here: Since 1997, Final Fantasy VII has been my favorite of the franchise. That is not so any longer. I loved nearly everything about this game and it has now taken its place atop my list of favorite Final Fantasy titles. Absolutely amazing.

The current list of favorites in the Final Fantasy franchise is as follows:

1) Final Fantasy IX
2) Final Fantasy VII
3) Final Fantasy VI
4) Final Fantasy V
5) Final Fantasy IV
6) Final Fantasy II
7) Final Fantasy III
8) Final Fantasy
9) Final Fantasy VIII


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About the author

Jason L. Hubsch

Jason L. Hubsch

I love music, video games, comic books, pro wrestling, politics, and God -- and not necessarily in that order! If you like any of these, chances are we'll get along.

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