The Never Ending Realm
Final Fantasy IX Review by Samuel Rivera
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Going by expectations FFIX was supposed to be the finest chapter on the series. I must say Square has done with FFIX what they failed to do with FFVIII. They gave us a great RPG that may not surpass FFVII on my eyes, but does enough to stand tall alongside of it. Which means: Yes, go out and buy FFIX now its in a class of its own.

The game restored my hope for the series, and Square properly closes out the Final Fantasy series in the PS1 with a bang.

Starting with graphics, this game is the best-looking RPG you will find on the PS1. From the pre-rendered backgrounds that are simply Jaw dropping, (to be honest they are like FFVIII's but with improvements on everything from the ripples on water to moving objects in the backgrounds.) to the Polygonal Characters that rival those on Chrono Cross. This is even more impressive because on the battle scenes you now have four main characters at once on the screen, the summons themselves have been improved.

The world map is huge and at least in my eyes it looks all around smoother and more convincing than those in past FFs. But when its all said and done its the amazing CG cinemas that steal the show here, I will never forget the ending cinema on disc two. The CGs here rival anything you have ever seen from Pixar and Disney. Finally I must give credit to the designers for the amazing job they have done, in designing the Cities and villages. From the spectacular Alexandria to the small village of Dali everything in this game has a magical feel to it, that only Zelda Ocarina of Time had; you will actually want to live in a world like this, and in fact you will feel like you belong in the world too. The artwork in this game might be the best in the series.

Sound wise lets just say, there has always been an argument as to which game in the series has the best soundtrack. So when a new FF comes out great music is something we take for granted and with FFIX the situation is no different. FFIX's music has no equal or rival except for other FFs music and maybe Mitsudas music for the Chrono Series and Xenogears. So if you loved any of the other games music like I have, you will want to order FFIX OST because the music here is top notch. I loved the overworked theme, and the song with vocals at the end 'Melodies of Life' is great but I feel that 'Eyes on me' from FFVIII was a little better.

The sound effects during the battles and during the game are well done too. But the SFX on the CGs are great stuff that youre likely to hear on high budget movies.

Story wise: FFIX like FFVII is a literary achievement that will keep you entertained until the end. The story takes place on a fantasy medieval setting, even though we still have flying ships and other technologically advanced devices. Finally, you will see gorgeous castles and the black mages make a return too. As you can see by the box cover the characters look a little "cartoony" but this only enhances the fantasy feel and the plot in the game. Since each character looks different there are ethnical issues that add up to the already deep plot that consists of love, betrayal, deception, hatred, hope, corruption etc.

The translation is the best I have seen, better than any other RPG's translation that came before it with the possible exception of Alundra. This adds unique personality to all the characters. All in all the FFIX crew is the best in any of the series. Steiner constant warnings and protective deeds to help the Princess add humor, while the games other main characters keep the plot serious, FFIX has a perfect balance between everything. This is the FF that has drawn out the most laughs out me, and it manages to do this without for even one second, hurting the seriousness of the plot. The story gives the impression that it is light hearted but its really as serious as anything that Square has done before.

Each character has their own dilemma, which they must solve during their journey. Some of the characters past are really interesting. With a good story must come a strong villain and fortunately FFIX has that. The villain here is the second best in the series, only Sephiroth from FFVII beats it. The villain here is dramatic and his interaction with Zidane is most interesting. Truly I couldnt have asked for a better story, all the right ingredients are here. Twists and shockers are at every corner, unlike FFVII which had an imbalance (though small) in which the first disc was the strongest and then the second had its moments and so forth. FFIX has that balance I was talking about earlier every disc is equally strong. Though I will admit right now FFVII's story still the best, but this one comes very, very close. Which is great considering how disappointing FFVIII was and that FFVII has the best storyline in any RPG or any game for that matter. I heard somewhere that FFIX was like a big review of all the FFs that came before, and I will admit that yes there are similarities to the other games in the plot if you look hard enough for them. But the story really is different from any of the other titles so it never becomes predictable.

Moving on to gameplay again FFIX rights the wrongs done by FFVIII, by giving us a very simple yet very effective way to build our characters statistics. Each character is different Vivi is a black mage therefore using black magic is his specialty, Zidane and Steiner are stronger when using Physical attacks, Princess Garnet is a summoner. However they learn such skills by equipping items, for example by characters level up like they used to do in FFVII with EXP, but they gain abilities with AP, which they gain by defeating enemies and bosses. Is real simple just equip a weapon, then battle until you gain the skill then equip new weapons to gain new skills. (Note: you gain abilities by equipping boots and rings and other accessories in addition to weapons.)

The difficulty level in this game is on par with FFVII's. You should be able to finish the game with in 60 hours, unless you decided to tackle on the many sidequests. There is also a card game though is not as important as it was in FFVIII. There is a chocobo game along with Mognet in which you carry correspondence to moogles, all over Gaia (the world). This FF is full side quests and I dare say I have not found another traditional RPG as addictive as this since FFVII.

One word defines FFIX: Polished. While some say the game is a combination of the previous FFs, I believe it's quite different, FFIX is the culmination of Square in the PS1. The graphical flaws of FFVII, the gameplay problems of FFVIII, do not show up in the ninth installment. Even though I still like FFVII more because of its story, there is no denying FFIX crushes FFVIII, to become the best FF and quite possibly the best traditional RPG on the PS generation after FFVII. This 4 CD beast is a classic. It is still an easy to find title in the many Gamestops and EBs of the world, at 19.99 you have a steal, if you don't own this master piece already; what are you waiting for? Buy it now!

Gameplay:10.0-Up there with FFVII. All traditional RPGs should play like this.

Graphics: 10.0-This is one of those games that you say it looks as good as it could have looked ont the PS1. Square graphic artists out did themselves in this one; the visuals have that Ocarina of Time "magic feel".

Music: 9.8- Its one of the main Final Fantasies. The music is guaranteed to be great.

Story: 10.0-The best story in a FF only second to FFVII, this game has it all, the tragic, the funny and the bizarre.

Addictiveness: 9.8-The game has an incredible amount of side quests and optional bosses this is one of those games that where made to played for months after being finished. And the story is so good you would probably want to play it all over again after finishing it.

Overall: 10.0-I will not penalize this game for not being better than FFVII it deserves a 10, and a spot in the all time greats. Square has yet to match this titles brilliance, as FFX is not as good and Final Fantasy XI is MMORPG that shouldn't had really been called FFXI instead of FF Online. So I am still waiting for a Final Fantasy as good as this one for the PS2 generation.


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