Format reviewed: PlayStation
Submitted by: Kai Lunkeit
Final Fantasy IX saw the light of day in Japan in the year 2000, being the last FF game on the PSone. It left the steampunk route the preceding two games headed for and instead returned to the roots of the series with a more "classic" fantasy design.
The main hero, Zidane, is a member of a young rogue theatre group and plays part in an attempt to kidnap princess Garnet who later joins your group, just like some other lovable and really weird characters like the somewhat clouded black mage Vivi or the food loving Quina whose name is a Japanese word play meaning "to eat". As in almost all of the Final Fantasy games, the story centers around a world being in demise, this time feeling a little too clichéd but the makers later stated that this was intentional. Another focus lay on the backstory of the main characters who were all searching for their true identity.
As before, the game lets you freely explore beautifully designed places and this time features no less than 150 different types of monsters that wait to be defeated during the random encounters.
A great new feature was the Active Time Event system which enabled you to look what happens simultaneously in another place by the push of a button. A heavily debated issue was the ambitious but ill-fated PlayOnline feature which was meant as an online link to Final Fantasy X but instead was used as an addendum to the official solution book. Many gamers felt being ripped off because not everything was included in the official strategy guide.
Final Fantasy IX was full of nods to the other FF games, especially to part one: the crystals and even some characters showed up again and your party was made up of four charachters instead of just three. The limit breaks from FFVII also returned, this time called "trance" and there was a challenging new mini game called "Tetra Master" which was not unlike the "Triple Triad" card game in FFVIII. An auction house even enabled you to purchase items that appeared in previous games.
So, FFIX is a thrilling adventure filled with memorable characters and stunning moments, great side quests and is a great hommage to all the brilliant FF games that preceded it.