Squaresoft hits it big with the latest installment in their long running Final Fantasy series.
After what many called the disaster Squaresoft had created (Final Fantasy 8), in many's eyes it looked like the Final Fantasy series had finally lost it's edge. How could Squaresoft bring Final Fantasy back into the hands of all RPG Gamers, and not only a small handful (in comparison with previous Final Fantasy titles)? Well, they started off with what was probably the most needed... The return to the medieval ages. The first generation Final Fantasy titles took place in these days of castles, labor, and as you may know, romance. Final Fantasy IX was immediately highly anticipated among many, but the group of gamers I like to call the "Final Fantasy 8 Haters" remained quite skeptical, despite Final Fantasy IX's temperament style atmosphere. Fans of Final Fantasy 8 were eager to see how the new card game, known as Tetra Master, would play. As more details leaked out, the fans were impressed even more when black mages returned, and the evolution of your chocobo's abilities. many more features followed, and this installment in the Final Fantasy series became the most hyped since the greatest of the series, Final Fantasy 6.
The graphics, to say the least, were probably the best I have seen in any RPG on the original Playstation console. Portions of the game did not look as good as I had expected, but the majority of it had visuals more pleasing than Final Fantasy 8. There was a lot of eye candy to see in the backgrounds (obviously). As far as the 3D models looked, they appeared to be somewhat rough on the edges (making them slightly similar to Final Fantasy 7's block heads) but the quality and detail put into even their belts and hands were quite spectacular. I was in awe! What else is there for graphics, you ask? Well, none other then the animation department itself! The spells were very nice looking, much better than the previous two PSX Final Fantasy titles. What impressed me the most was the incredible realism of the summons. I had to look twice and ask myself if this was Final Fantasy X for the PS2! FMVs were another thing that delighted me... They were ages ahead of Final Fantasy 8. In fact, these FMVs captured every detail of realism. Anyway, graphics were absolutely superlative. Best RPG graphics on the Sony Playstation.
The sounds of Final Fantasy IX were a bit on the mediocre side. Nothing spectacular here, except a few battle themes and a few other music tracks. Sound effects were the normal Final Fantasy cursor moving, slash, growl, and death sounds, so nothing was really too new there. What brought back some beloved memories of older Final Fantasy games was the battle theme. It started off exactly the same as the original 6 Final Fantasy games had, and from that point the theme went berserk with nice effects and masterfully composed sections. Overall though, Nubuo Uematsu will most likely go back to the drawing board. Teruaki Sugawara, Eiji Nakamura, and Minoru Akao (the three responsible for the sound effects) should give themselves some good back petting, since the Final Fantasy sound remains, for the most part, the same. Also, they will have to bend their heads in shame for not really creating exciting sounds like the ones in other Squaresoft games such as Chrono Cross (which is the sequel to the masterpiece known as Chrono Trigger). Not much effort by those four men, I'd say... The storyline was, as expected, a very well done one. Since I do not want to spoil the storyline from discs 3 and 4, I cannot speak of the events and how much they surprised me. The dialogue was superb in this installment of the series, and unlike Final Fantasy 7 and 8, I did not see any typos or wrong translations. The American crew did a great job giving us the words that the Japanese masterminds had put in! There was everything to expect in the latest Final Fantasy, including a heavy dose of romance, great humor, dramatic moments, and action packed moments that really got the adrenaline going! I was pleased quite a bit with this excellent story. Kudos to the great one, Hironobu Sakaguchi! You've made a winner!
What's there in terms of innovation? Lets see... Tetra Master is generations better then Triple Triad (which was the card game in Final Fantasy 8) and there were quite a bit of mini-games that could rival Final Fantasy 7's awesome funland known as the Gold Saucer. For one thing, Chocobo Hot & Cold was a fun little game if you got tired of getting new cards. In Chocobo Hot & Cold, you had to ride Boko (your beloved Chocobo) around an enclosed area and dig up treasures. You would know how close you would be to a treasure according to how Boko would react to each point you make him dig at. As usual, there was that optional boss you could defeat to get highly rare treasure from, and in this Final Fantasy it was the great and powerful Fallen Eidolon known as Ozma. His techniques and tactics were something to fear, but he was not impossible to defeat if you knew how to defeat the gigantic beast (I managed to topple him, so I imagine you could as well). And last but certainly not least, are treasures. This game is FULL of treasures. Just by walking around you will get the feeling that finding treasure is a vital role in the game. There are the usual treasure chests, but there are also new things you'll find. They include Stellazzio coins, which can give you something nice if you collect them all, and then there is what could be a game all on it's own... The chocographs. This chocographs are stone slabs with pictures engraved in their surface. You have to look at the picture on each chocograph you find and then take Boko out into the world to locate the location on the world map. This often leads to incredibly powerful weapons, cards for Tetra Master, and many other things. There is no shortage of fun in Final Fantasy IX. Go for it!
Sound & Music: 8/10
Overall: 45/50 = 90%
Final Comment: A worthwhile RPG no gamer should be without.