Tuesday, November 14, 2000

Final Fantasy IX

Genre: Role Playing Game
Platform: Sony Playstation
Credits: 2000 SquareSoft. Screenshots and images courtesy of Amazon.Com..

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Cover Description:
Queen Brahne of Alexandria has begun using highly-advanced magical weapons to terrorize neighboring kingdoms. Her daughter, Princess Garnet, runs away from the castle and befriends a group of good-hearted bandits led by a skilled thief, Zidane, who intends to end the evil queen's desire to dominate the world. Soon after embarking on their quest, they discover that the queen's threats merely cover a far mor sinister plot. For the sake of mankind, Zidane and his friends must put an end to the Queen's reign before she and the evil forces that accompany her can carry out the deadly plan.

Something Borrowed, Something Blue... >>> by skysenshi

I just got my copy of the U.S. version two days ago because I was so excited I couldn't wait for the game's release on the 14th. I remember having to go through a lot of people, a lot of pain, lose a lot of money, and all that hassle, just so I could get this. Now I'm wondering if I was that desperate for this Y2000 FF5-FF6 remake.

Truly, nothing came more shocking to me than the sight of pixelated SD characters. I mean, I did see in Japanese previews that they would be in cutesy mode. But all I saw were the CG screen shots. I didn't realize that their cutesy regular mode would be more pixelated than FFVII's cutesy modes. Before playing FF9, I replayed FF7, and the comparison was disturbing. I mean, FF7 is a three-year old game! And yet Cloud had smoother polygonal skin, while Zidane looks like a pixelated chimp from an FF6 sequel. I mean, I love FF6, and it's actually my favorite FF in terms of plot, but we are in the 21st century! I think we all must move on graphics-wise. What holds me back from giving FF9 a "2" on graphics is the fact that they have a lot of good FMVs.

Nobuo Uematsu is one of the best. However, I just can't shake the fact that the intro of the battle theme sounds exactly like FF6's battle theme intro. Again, as I stress on the fact that I love FF6, I guess I also need to stress on the importance of originality. Besides that little gripe, I'd say FF9 has one of the best soundtracks in PSX gaming history.

My request is just simple: I want my limit breaks back. At first I thought, "Wow, they returned FF7's limit breaks!" Then when I realized I couldn't control when I want to use the limit break, which was especially frustrating during the 12-minute beast hunt in Disc 1, I struggled on the idea of whether I should sell the discs or just finish it for Final Fantasy's sake. The gameplay as a whole is fine, but I saw all of it back in FF6, and in almost the same look, too. What's more frustrating is the fact that most their special abilities, like Summons or Swd Atks, aren't even useable during the first parts when you need them most. Add that to the fact that Zidane's abilities are pretty useless. Thank heaven there's still Freya's Jump ability!

At least this might be FF9's saving grace yet. The good thing about FF9 is that, unlike FF8's haughty lead character, who's bankability is obviously just based on his looks, FF9's Zidane has been blessed with a pretty hilarious character who can keep you laughing for hours. The plot is also as exciting as FF6's, which is something that I found missing in FF7 and FF8. I meant "exciting" in the sense that, I can feel every character as the story progressed from disc to disc. They're more human than FF7's characters, and definitely more real than FF8. However, I would minus two points for lack of originality. As I said, this game, including the plot, is too much similar to FF6.

I loved FF6, but I never played it again after beating it. Since this game is 70% identical to FF6, I don't think I'll play it again either. The reason for this is that, first, it's too simple -- like Chrono Cross being played for the third time around. Second, it doesn't have the same gameplay quality that the last two Final Fantasies had. Third, I don't want to go back to that "pauper phase" in disc 1, when I couldn't sell any equipment due to the fact that I can't upgrade as long as I'm learning the abilities I want to learn. Fourth, the challenge I'm looking for is not present. I don't have the urge to perfect the game as I did with FF7 and FF8. Fifth, did I mention that the storyline is also nearly identical to that of Legend of Legaia? Terra? Mists? Hello? I know Legend of Legaia was such a tedious game, but this is ridiculous! Sixth, there just isn't enough reason to make me play this game all over again.

Should you buy or should you just rent this game? Well, I suggest you borrow it from someone. That would be free. Or if you feel you're sinister enough, you can probably have relatives from neighboring countries send you a pirated pre-release copy of this game.

One last thing, don't take a 3-day leave off your work just to play this game, like I did. You'll be losing more money that way. Frankly, the reason why I finished this game is because it's a Final Fantasy game. That's the same exact reason I used when I finished FF5.

DIFFICULTY: Easy - Moderate
RATINGS: Gameplay 8; Battle 8; Story 9; Visuals 10; Characters 10; Sounds 10; Replay Value 5

Not the best FF to date >>> by firesenshi
It is clear that Square went traditional with FF IX. It reminded me of FFVI and I don't find the game comparable with FF VIII because FF VIII has futuristic themes and a junctioning gameplay that has a higher learning curve than FFV, FFVI or FFIX. But all FFs are something worth playing anyways!

Maybe others believe that FFVIII is more hype--but you must admit, FFVIII greets you with amazing FMV that is greatly improved over FFVII. The story is concentrated on a love theme and once you play, the junctioning is one thing you can master. So after seeing FFVIII, you would find FFIX pretty much where 8 left off... and I guess that's all there is.

Gameplay (3/10)
I just came back from the sophistication of gameplay Square did on FFVIII and Vagrant Story (though this is more adventure RPG). Magic is easily managed with MP and you don't have to think how to distribute it unlike in FFVII or FFVIII since it is pretty clear who the magic users are. There's no need to determine which character will specialize on what because it seems all preset for you.

Limit breaks from FFVII come back as "Trance" but unlike limit breaks you can't use them for the next battle. Trance becomes pretty much random to me and I find that when my ATB is full, it isn't a boss fight. Either I'm unlucky or that Trance always has wrong timing. Hey, all I have to do is get hit by the boss all the time, right?

The gameplay is easier than the FFs I've played. I think the FFVIII is the most sophisticated battle system ever, and after that FFVII. You really don't have to worry too much that you've junctioned wrong magic or wrong materia together--but then that's part of the challenge because the possibilities of better characters become endless!

In FFIX, you mostly equip for abilities and you compromise big on defense and stats. There are many drawbacks once you equip or unequip a weapon--you could not only lose or gain defense and attack stats, but you could compromise learning abilities as well. I consider this one big flaw because as you play through any RPG because there are only few weapons you can equip. If you compromise on having a better weapon but a weaker armor because of the abilities, you still get a weaker character. What? Add an accessory? It only raises your stats a little. And there's just one accessory more--that's not much to prepare for battle. You realize that one weapon doesn't raise just one stat, but affects many? Therefore, compromise wearing a weaker one just to learn abilities is a big drawback. But surely, there are other ways to get around this and beat the boss great, isn't it? Yes, of course. You'll find that out later, later, later.

In FFVIII's junctioning or FFVII's materia pairing (as well as FFVI's espers which is almost the same), there are endless ways of how the battle system affect your magic and stats without compromising big-time. Take FFVII's Final Attack Materia where you can pair any other materia with it and end up with different results.

Once you learn the ability, the worry is over. FFIX's gameplay to me, seems to be good for beginner gamers because it's easier to learn. I don't think it challenges me as much as other FFs.

Story (5/10)
As the makers of FFVIII revealed, they made the FFVIII more focused on character than story so the audience can relate more to the game as they played the characters. The result is astonishing character development that related well with the story. FFVI and FFVII's climaxes make you stop and think that the story has great effect in developing the character. FFIX's medieval high-tech setting and fantastical scenery seems to be the major determining point in the game and not much on the plot or the characters. It seems the point of FFIX is basically on its nostalgic trip to older FFs and not much on newer plots or twists.

Unlike other FFs, where FFVI greets you with enigmatic characters like Terra and Edgar, and FFVII made Cloud memorable, FFIX's characters lack certain charisma. The very character design of Edea in FFVIII is enough to make you hold on to your controller as you fight her. The main character Zidane has more potential than the indifferent Squall or the clueless Cloud, but I can't seem to find him more appealing than the other two.

However, Square's creators did reveal that they wished to make more involved characters in FFVIII and go on a nostalgic trip on FFIX where they return to the "fantasy" aspect. The fact that they achieved this is already a triumph for them. What people like or dislike may just be a matter of taste.

I think the orchestral fanfare and themes are very expertly done and suits the overall theme of the game, but it's just not as memorable. The CGs appear smoother than ever with finer detail even with the strands of hair. The FMVs are improved from FFVIII but normal game graphics seem to be more rough or dithered. The "chibi" (small) mode of characters was something I find a little uneasy to get use to, but they were rendered great as well!

The atmosphere around the game is quite 'happy-pappy' compared to the seriousness of FFVII and FFVIII. Square again achieved their objective in this one because they simply portrayed what they wanted in the backgrounds and scenery. However, the character sketches of Yoshitaka Amano didn't quite portray the rendered characters's personality in CG.

Replayability (1/10)
Because you learn mostly abilities in the gameplay, there aren't much possibilities I can draw. The game doesn't seem to be as challenging as former FFs. It is all simply laid out--which can be a good thing, of course, because there are many gamers who have different playing types. However, I think it lacks the sophistication of former FFs, especially FFVIII.

People may say that FFVIII is so hyped out and that it's all show. However, the GF junctioning and weapon making altogether make it totally challenging with lots of possibilities. Of course, that is good hype.

To buy or rent?
Everything FF and Square in my opinion is worth it. But this is not the best FF to date.

DIFFICULTY: Easy - Moderate
RATINGS: Gameplay 3; Battle 3; Story 5; Visuals 7; Characters 5; Sounds 7; Replay Value 1

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