Final Fantasy IX was one of my all-time favorite RPG’s growing up. Not only did it have an artistically beautiful world with what I would call my favorite Uematsu soundtrack to date, the overarching love story rivals that of Tidus and Yuna from FF X. However, this game often falls into the shadow of Final Fantasy VII and VIII, and instead of progressing forward with the more human like worlds Squaresoft went throwback mode and pulled a more fantasy based RPG.
For anyone who has played all of them, Final Fantasy IX is a textbook throwback to the first five games in the series (only two were released in America). So, without further introduction let’s dive straight into the story-line.
Final Fantasy IX tells the story of Zidane, a high energy, and whimsical hero that the other characters seem drawn to. There are often times when watching One Piece that Luffy’s character and mannerisms are almost identical in some ways to Zidane’s. He is a theater actor, has a tail, knows nothing of his origin, and ends up falling in love with a princess that he helps ‘kidnap’. I use that term loosely because she requests the kidnapping in person.
He falls in love with Princess Garnet who is on the run from her oppressive and dictatorial queen mother. Like traditional heroin’s from royalty, she carries the world on her shoulders and that leads to an extensive growth opportunity between the two main characters. The supporting roles are all likable characters who seem to fall in place when the time is right. These include Steiner, a headstrong knight in service of the Princess, Eio, a young summoner who is the last remaining member of her tribe, Quina, a blue mage and wondering chef, and Vivi, a young black mage who spends most of the game trying to find the meaning of life.
Through battling across various worlds and attempting to stop the main villain from ending all life on the planet, the game really dives into an existential crisis that all of the characters share in their own way. The ending is one of the best love stories of any Final Fantasy game and the way they played out the Canary Theater scene was extremely well done.
This game is all about balance thanks to its easy to use customization system and individual characters. This forces players to understand each character inside and out. Whereas other games can be carried by a single character (Strife, Auron, Vincent) this one really requires nitty-gritty analysis of the player’s strength and weaknesses. The battle system relies on managing the abilities of the weapons and pairing them with the combat style of the characters to create a balanced system that allows the player to survive long enough to win combat. there isn’t a lot of steamrolling done by a single character here.
Additionally, the side-game Triple Triad is highly addictive. Be warned.
The 32-bit generation was peaked at the end of the PlayStation years and this game is no exception. With Final Fantasy X making the move to realistic voice overs and animated talking, Final Fantasy IX is the last of the text based era. The summons system gives you the option to skip heavily animated cut scenes, and some of the boss battles take a little bit to load but other than that the graphics are solid for the time. They’re cartoony enough to be enjoyable while still being a serious game.
If you didn’t get my statement above, this is my all-time favorite soundtrack for any final fantasy game. It had an extensive OST that included 4 disks and almost 5 hours of music. Every town and village that were visited had a unique theme that paired so well I would call it flawless. It was original, beautiful, but still had minor areas that gave the player a hint of nostalgia to the older games. If you do not have this soundtrack I highly recommend picking it up, it’s probably one of Uematsu’s top series of works.
Final Fantasy IX has a special place in my top 5 RPG’s of all time solely because of the artistry, old school combat system and music. I’ve played it over a dozen times in the last 15 years and I’ve never thought I would get tired of it.