Platform: Playstation, PS3, PSP
The last RPG I played, I consumed it during a one-month period in 2011 when I was unemployed. I rejoined the workforce completely satisfied. Getting away from the futuristic, steampunk atmospheres from the previous two games, Square returned to its roots with classic characters and a classic battle system that is the most user-friendly since Final Fantasy IV.
Final Fantasy IX has a fairly standard plot for modern RPGs where some relatively young antiheroes get in the middle of a war between factions and must choose a side to support, all the while the true evil presence remains hidden. Thankfully, it is told beautifully with some of the best dialogue a Final Fantasy game has seen. One character, the black mage from Final Fantasy I, is one of the most surprisingly effective characters in RPG history, evoking a ton of pathos while driving significant and believable plot points. Some of the playing characters leave me a little cold, but overall this is one of Square’s better efforts of storytelling.
The storytelling is more than the just the characters. While walking through towns you are often given “Active Time Events” which allows you to interact with things going on outside the main character’s perspective. It’s an engaging way of doing cut scenes and also involving the player in crucial plot points. Sometimes you can even change the story during these events or split the party in two to accomplish a task. In fact, I can’t think of an RPG where the towns are so crucial in the entertainment of the game. Several optional addicting mini-games can also be played. I spent way too much time playing Tetra Master.
The battles are classic Final Fantasy, with characters that have their own special skills. Blissfully, your character’s abilities remain distinct, thus making your party interesting through the endgame and strategy is needed as you can’t just create a bunch of super characters unless you go the old route and spend endless hours leveling up. The soundtrack ranks up there with the best, and the graphics are stunning, especially during the movie cut scenes. The polygons from FFVII have been mostly smoothed out, maximizing the capabilities of the original Playstation.
I only have two minor concerns about the game. As mentioned previously, some of the characters do nothing for me. The villains especially seem like caricatures, and I wish more time had been spent fleshing out their motivations. My other concern is that the final fourth of the game loses some steam, and I unexpectedly saw my motivation for finishing the game decrease.
Final Fantasy IX is considered by many the best game of this enormous series, even fourteen years later. It’s easy to see why. If you’re a fan of the original or the Super Nintendo games, then there’s no doubt you’d love this one as well. While I rank this game fifth on this countdown, it easily could be as high as second depending on my mood.