Final Fantasy IX

Remember the old Final Fantasy games, and their classic battle systems and their expansive worlds with character classes such as the knight, the black mage, and the thief? By the release of Final Fantasy XIII, this seemed to be a tradition that classic SquareSoft (now known as Sqaure-Enix) games were steering away from with the Final Fantasy series. However, one game dared to return to its roots before everybody upgraded to the Playstation 2 and the revolution in the Final Fantasy series. Released in late 2000, the last game in the series released to the original Sony Playstation, Final Fantasy IX offered us what we would expect in a game with such a bold name as “Final Fantasy” by bringing us back what made the original games in the series so popular, and bringing it to the new millennium. To this day, Final Fantasy IX remains as my favorite Final Fantasy game, and quite possibly my favorite RPG of all time. But what makes this game so amazing? Well, lets go over that.

The premise itself already casts the player in a vast fantasy world with a fantastic variety of different races, characters, and settings. You control Zidane Tribal, a member of the Tantalus Theater Troupe, a traveling group of thieves that use their theater performances to distract a crowd while the rest of them get on with their bandit activities. Their latest job: preform ‘I Want to be Your Canary’ for the Alexandrian royalty while kidnapping the Princess of Alexandria, Garnet til Alexandros XVII. In charge of kidnapping itself is Zidane, and is best friend, Blank. Meanwhile, the entire city is preparing for the performance and bustling with excitement. We meet a young boy named Vivi Orunitia as he tries to get into the show. We also meet Princess Garnet, who appears to be unhappy about something, and soon leaves her seat during the performance. Charged with finding her is the captain of the Pluto Knights, Adelbert Steiner. It’s at this point when plans start to fall apart. Having chased Garnet onto Tantalus’ airship, the Prima Vista, Zidane is surprised when she turns around and asks to be kidnapped. The two narrowly escape Steiner, and they have to improvise the ending of the play so that they may make their escape. However, Vivi gets caught by the guards after he sneaking into the show, and is chased onto the stage, and causes Garnet’s cover to be blown. Tantalus then quickly tries to escape the castle, but is shot down by Queen Brahne. They manage to keep the ship in the air until they get out of the city, however they soon crash land in a forest just outside Alexandria, infamously known as the Evil Forest because nobody has ever escaped it alive. Princess Garnet is separated from everybody else, and abducted by carnivore plants within the forest. Compelled by his morals, and sticking true to his promise, Zidane goes against his Baku, his boss, and leaves Tantalus to find the Princess, teaming up with Steiner and Vivi. From this point forward, the characters are swept into a whirlwind of adventure as they find out that something very dark is going on in Alexandria castle, and they’re taken to every corner of the world in hopes of bringing piece back to Gaia.

Each of the characters in this game are very strong, and each grows as the story goes on, leading them to make new realizations about themselves, each other, and the world. All the characters have compelling development, and as well as a significant tie to the plot, showing each of their reasons for doing what they do in order to get what they want. And as I said earlier, Final Fantasy IX brings back the classic character classes we all know and love. Lets go over a few of the main characters:

Zidane Tribal: A thief with a strong heart, swift blade, and a quick tongue, Zidane is driven by his morals and his strive to do what’s right. Zidane has always been trying to find out where he comes from, and where he belongs in the world, but he puts all of his needs aside in order to help others out and always puts his friends before himself. He is also a bit of a ladies man, always flirting with women wherever he goes, but upon meeting Princess Garnet he has turned his attention to playfully teasing and flirting with her. He also acts as an older brother to Vivi, and often motivates Vivi to believe in himself.

Princess Garnet til Alexandros XVII (later known as Dagger): A kindhearted, innocent young white mage/summoner, Garnet always tries to do what will make everybody happy. However, her naivety often leads her to misjudge and make mistakes. She also always finds herself helpless and relying on others to help you through times of need. Upon traveling with Zidane and everybody else, she learns to become more independent and aware of the world, and soon learns about the mysteries of her own origins.

Captain Adelbert Steiner: A knight always loyal to his queen, Steiner is willing to give his life away for his kingdom without giving it a second thought. He views Zidane as a no-good, rotten scoundrel for kidnapping the Princess and prides himself that he’ll be the hero to save the Princess and return her to the castle. However, as the story goes on, Steiner begins to question his loyalty and soon begins to think more for himself. He finds out first-hand the secrets of Alexandrian castle, and his whole world is shaken. Steiner has a great respect for Vivi, and even soon begins to respect Zidane after spending some time with him and the rest of the crew.

Vivi Orunitia: A young, slightly gullible black mage, Vivi has no idea where he comes from, and where his life will take him next. Vivi soon begins to question his existence after seeing other black mages just like himself being manufactured on a conveyor belt, and wonders whether or not he is human or just doll. He also fears death and has no idea if he’ll just stop moving one day, or if he’s destined to live a long full life like regular humans. After traveling with Zidane and everybody else, Vivi becomes a stronger individual with the ability to believe in himself and stand up for what he believes in.

So, with just this brief introduction to a few of the main characters, we can already identify that each of them has their own personal crisis they must overcome as they go on their journey if they ever hope to save Gaia from the brink of destruction. Each character has a touching story, and there should always be at least one that you’ll be able to identify with as you play.

For a game released on the original Playstation, Final Fantasy IX has some incredible graphics and CG cut scenes. Each and every environment you encounter is detailed and full of secrets just waiting to be found, so be sure to inspect everything so that you know you don’t miss anything. The music is also fantastic and appropriate for each of the settings, and who can complain about the classic Final Fantasy victory tune?

This game also offers a unique way for the characters to learn abilities. Each item you can equip to a character has its own ability that they character can utilize while equipped with that item. “What were they thinking? Won’t you just lose the ability once you equip something else?” Well, they have that covered too. After each battle, we get our expected gil and experience, however we also get extra points called Ability Points. If you equipped with an item with an ability, the Ability Points you gain go to that ability, and if you get the max Ability Points required, that ability becomes yours permanently, meaning you’ll still have it even if you don’t have that item equipped anymore. Pretty neat, huh?

There’s also a fun minigame involving a Chocobo. In the game, you come across a forest called Chocobo’s Forest, where you meet and Moogle and a Chocobo named Choco. You get to play a game in that forest where you dig around for treasure with Choco. There are special items you find, called Chocographs, that have a picture of a location somewhere in the world field. If you go there with Choco and dig in the right spot, you’ll find a bunch of rare items, and eventually gain access to special maps and secret bosses.

Other things unique to Final Fantasy IX include the Mognet System and the Active Time Events. With the Mognet System, you deliver mail from Moogle to Moogle (Moogles allow you to save your progress, by the way), and you’ll get to read the mail once you’ve delivered it. These letters give clues about the main plot, as well as a subplot that is part of another minigame. The Active Time Events (ATEs) are special scenes that come up which show you an event going on somewhere away from the character you’re controlling and let you know what’s going on in the world at the same time that you’re traveling.

This game also makes a bunch of references and allusions to older Final Fantasy games, that only the most avid FF players may be able to spot, but there are a few obvious ones that require little knowledge of past games. So be sure to look out for those as you play!

Anyways, if you stick all of this together and put it into a video game, you get the grand Final Fantasy IX, the game that dared to bring back what made the original Final Fantasy games great. It is thanks to this fantastical setting, as opposed to the Sci-Fi and urban settings of the last two, that make this such a great game, as well as the combination of everything else. You’ll love the characters, you’ll love the settings, and you’ll love the mini-games. Overall, this game deserves an unheard of 10/10 for being absolutely perfect. I strongly recommend this game to fans of RPGs, especially those who love the older ones. You can’t call yourself a Final Fantasy buff if you haven’t played this game yet. This game was the very first Final Fantasy game I ever played, and it opened me up to the rest of the series, as well as many other RPGs. And despite having played many great games of the same genre, Final Fantasy IX certainly holds the spot as my favorite RPG of all time. Until my next update, this has been another review by Sachi!