Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Final Fantasy IX review

Name: Final Fantasy IX
System/s: PS1
Developers: Squaresoft
Release Date: 11/13/2000

My first Final Fantasy title was Final Fantasy VI for the SNES, and I remember seeing a large portion of it, though never beating it (Not until more recently that is). Years later, I was brought back to the series with Final Fantasy VII, this time the person was watching playing made it all the way through, so I saw the end of it. Later I saw a very small amount of Final Fantasy VIII, which I wasn't drawn to. Finally we come come Final Fantasy IX, which to me was my favorite.

The Final Fantasy games usually consist of a long in depth story, with lots of well written dialog, amazing pre-rendered cutscenes, and lots of turn based battles. While the last few games in the series went with a more techno-punk theme, while this goes with a much more fantasy/steampunk world.

In comparison to the last few Final Fantasy titles before it, this game is a lot more light hearted, which could have been a disaster, however, it's done so well, it makes it hard to imagine a more serious version. The game does have a serious story, and it is done very well, but it also has very silly moments to it, and I think it's safe to say, it will make most people at least smile.

The game follows a kidnapping of a princess, and ends up dealing with crisis on a global level. The game is pretty well paced, only slowing up a few times. One interesting feature of this game is the ATE (Active Time Event) feature, letting you see what other characters are thinking, how they are acting, and what they are planning, which gives it a depth not often found in video games.

Something that puts this game above so many others, is the characters; they are all well defined, and have their own problems, moods, and backstory. Throughout the game the characters change, and by the end of the game the depth the characters have is nothing short of stunning. While books generally are expected to pull of this type of character development, it's rarely seen in other media, and this is one exception.

The graphics on this are top notch, they are not as realistically styled as Final Fantasy VIII, but they still look quite good, even today. The character models are all very styled, and different from one and another, and the backgrounds are all detailed and pretty. The animated cutscenes are fairly good, though occasionally, I think some of the characters look a little strange.

The music is also amazing, setting the mood for the world, with dozens and dozens of songs. Almost every song in this game is pure quality, with memorable tunes, and atmospheric sounds. A lot of the locals in the game are perfectly accented with the music that go along with them.

The gameplay isn't as customizable as Final Fantasy VII, but in being so, it helps make each of the characters unique, with their own fighting styles, making you choose your party to suit your playing style. The battles retain the ATB (Active Time Battle) system that the earlier games used, making it turn based, but active at the same time. While there is nothing particularly new about the battle system, the good graphics, camera angles and characters make it completely forgivable.

Playing through the game is a lot of fun, and it's amazing to notice all the little things about the world and characters, but it's amazing to see that no detail was spared on non important segments, lots of the side quests are well designed and interesting, while they didn't need to be. There is also a huge amount too the game, with hours and hours of stuff to do not relating to the main storyline. If you were looking to get 100% it would probably take you well over 100 hours.

While the story may be simplistic, the characters make it a unique experience, and hold everything together. As I mentioned before, this game really pulls you in with the depth of things, no one is really a bland character, with everyone, including small characters seeming to have their own lives, thoughts and agendas. To me this game defines the genre by pulling the best parts of books, and the best parts of movies together into an interactive experience.

What I liked:

Good Story:
While the story isn't as complex as Final Fantasy VII, or VIII, it's still a great story, and holds it's own.

Outstanding Characters:
This game has by far the best character development I've ever seen in this industry, with Metal Gear Solid in second. Still it's not the closest second.

Very good gameplay:
The gameplay, though not original, is still just as good as the other games, and therefore remains very addictive, and wonderful.

Huge amount of content:
You get your bang for your buck, with a playthrough taking generally around 40-60 hours, along with tons of side quests and content.

Amazing soundtrack:
One of the best video game soundtracks of all time, up in the ranks with Chrono Cross, Shadow of the Colossus, and Metal Gear Solid 3.

Pretty graphics:
The graphics in this game are pretty, lots of pre rendered backgrounds, and good character models. Simply a pleasure to just see all the areas.

Good art style:
The art style is a lot lighter then the previous Final Fantasy titles, and it's nice to see a more fantasy-y Final Fantasy. All the environments and characters truely look like they belong in their own world, the one you are playing.

Nice variety:
While the game is primarily an RPG, they mix up the gameplay, by forcing you to play with certain characters at some points. There are also a load of mini games and side quests, with require you to do different things.

This game has color, again another departure from VII and VIII, with bright locals, and colorful clothing, which is welcome addition.

There are some generally cute parts to this game, be it people's feelings, character designs, or the Moogles (A certain species of animals).

Genuinely funny:
This game consistently has it's funny moments, and it would be hard to not at least smile. There's also a good amount of humor, rater then too much, which is a hard balance to strike.

Good Ending:
While I thought Final Fantasy VII's ending was rather insubstantial, this ending is really good, it makes sense, ties things up, and is well done.

Active Time Events:
This feature alone made the game unique, everything else is the icing on the cake. Not to say this is the only good thing about the game, far from it, it's just a huge leap in the series, and it's a shame it hasn't been used since.

Things I didn't like:

Plot elements towards the end:
Towards the end of the game, there are a few plot points that seem to be just thrown in, even so the story flows fine, it's just a little strange.

Final Battles:
While the game overall is well done, it seems they didn't spend enough time on the final battles, as they aren't anything super special, and can feel a bit too easy compared to some of the other bosses.

Some things not fully fleshed out:
While the story finds a way to flow through everything pretty well, there are a few times I wished some parts would have been used to their full potential, no such luck. Again, this is only a few times, and it wont distract from the story.

Main antagonist is a bit too feminine:
Okay, wow. The main villain in this game can easily be mistaken as a female, he dresses like one, and looks like one. It just is really odd when you look at him, and think "That's a guy?"

Pacing falls a little slow sometimes:
On occasion the game will slow down and feel a bit boring, however this only happens once or twice, and isn't a huge deal.

Overall Scores:

Presentation - 10/10: Really everything flows together so well, I can't find a reason to bring this down.

Graphics - 9/10: While the cutscenes occasionally make the characters look a little odd, the graphics overall are quite amazing, and the art style is wonderful as well.

Sound - 10/10: Great soundtrack, and good sound effects, nothing to complain about here.

Gameplay - 8/10: While there's nothing really wrong with the gameplay, it's not very original, being very similar to almost any other Final Fantasy title.

Lasting appeal - 9/10: Sure it may take longer to bread a Gold Chocobo in Final Fantasy VII, but there's still a lot of extra content here, and overall, it's a game you'll want to come back to.

Overall fun - 10/10: This is one of those games I will remember forever, it's just so good. There are so many good parts about it, and really, it helps me define everything that makes video games special.

Jon God wishes Sony would release this on the PlayStation Store©. Also, Jon God hated Final Fantasy X.

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