“Final Fantasy IX ’s plot centers on a war among nations. Players follow a young thief named Zidane Tribal, who joins with others to defeat Queen Brahne of Alexandria, the one responsible for starting the war. The plot shifts, however, when the characters realize that Brahne is working with an even more threatening person called Kuja.”–Wikipedia
The story in Final Fantasy IX starts out a bit different from many of the past entries; instead of being dark and moody or epic and enchanting, the game starts with something a bit more quirky, and it is great.
Throughout the game you take on the role of Zidane, the blonde monkey tailed guy. Unlike other Final Fantasy games where you very rarely play as other characters, IX has you switching constantly throughout the entirety of the game. While sometimes it can be a little distracting, for the most part it serves to push the game’s story along well and gives a good level of insight into the characters in your party. This also puts the spotlight on the game’s other wonderful characters such as Steiner and Vivi.
The main plot of Final Fantasy IX is surprisingly different than the other games. While most entries in the series come off a bit grandiose and epic, Final Fantasy IX seemed to want to go for pure charm, and for the most part it achieved just that. Throughout the campaign of Final Fantasy IX you are confronted with many creative and wonderful characters, some are friends, others are not. Alongside these wonderful characters you are introduced to a good amount of antagonists in the game as well. Sadly there is a set of villains in particular who will likely fill you with homicidal rage not because they are evil, but because they are horribly obnoxious. These characters are Zorn and Thorn, obnoxious jesters who seem to only hold up the plot and waste screen time; They will annoy you throughout a solid chunk of the game.
But do not fear! There are some very good villains in the game, in particular the main villain Kuja. While Kuja does look like a tragic Drag-Queen accident he is in fact a rather deep and interesting villain. It is hard to go into detail with this character without spoiling the surprises the game has to offer; I’ll just say Kuja isn’t your typical super evil villain. He has far more going on than just pure hatred and malice and should be regarded as one of Final Fantasy’s best villains.
As with basically every Final Fantasy ever, Final Fantasy IX is gorgeous. The graphics are insanely detailed for a PlayStation 1 game, and the animations are smooth and generally good-looking.
The character designs in this game are what tends to be the most jarring and off-putting thing for this particular title in my experience. Unlike the previous entries in the series, Final Fantasy IX went for a more cartoony look for the characters, which of course caused many people to turn away from the title and caused others to gravitate toward it. For me it was a mix: some characters looked good, such as Vivi, Steiner, Zidane, and Garnet, while others such as Queen Brahne and Amarant looked weird. Overall I think the majority of IX’s cast is good looking and has a pretty good degree of charm about them, which is something most games in my opinion lack entirely.
The combat in Final Fantasy IX is of course turn-based, and it has your typical role-playing game actions such as initiating attacks, casting magic, and using items. Unlike its precursors Final Fantasy VII and VIII, IX doesn’t have much of a twist on the combat itself so much as in the way you level your characters.
While you can level up like your typical RPG, most of your character progression comes from leveling and earning abilities from your weapons and equipment. This idea may not sound too bad, but it can be a bit tedious and obnoxious. Thanks to this you will have to equip a weaker gear to learn i abilities you’ll need later . This can be annoying as it puts you at a large disadvantage through the game.
Outside of the leveling the combat is very simple.Honestly it leaves very little room for strategy compared to VII or VIII. While the combat can be enjoyable at times, it can also be undeniably frustrating. A great example of this is that your character goes into their Trance state (a slightly more powerful version of themselves) without you wanting them to. So you don’t get to save it or choose when to activate it; instead you have to hope it happens at a good time, not when a random weak enemy slaps you.
Beyond that, there are the random difficulty spikes; with most Final Fantasy Games I can go through and beat them without many issues. That was not the case for IX. I would go a good distance slaughtering everything around me, but then out of nowhere some random thing will completely destroy me. The thing about it that frustrated me so much was that it didn’t feel like I should have died. The enemies would sometimes just keep taking turns while my characters would just sit there waiting to attack. Often I would just die because the game wouldn’t let them attack. Sometimes this would happen for upwards of 2-5 minutes thanks to lengthy attack animations.
In the end, I was not impressed by Final Fantasy IX’s combat. While it is still serviceable after a while it just seems to become tedious and a bit infuriating as you sit and wait while your characters don’t attack for minutes after you have told them to.
Final Fantasy IXs music is composed by Nobuo Uematsu. Do I really need to say more?
The music is amazing, even among Final Fantasy standards. Final Fantasy IX has wonderful music, from the enchanting Melodies of Life to the amazingly addictive Qu’s Marsh (listen to it below). Every song is purely a joy to listen too and many rank among the best in the franchise.
This being a Final Fantasy game, there is tons to do outside of your typical main story. Such as random side quests and weapon collecting. All of which are done pretty well in this game. Then there are the Final Fantasy IX-exclusive side quests. Those being Mognet and the funky card game that I still do not understand.
The sad part is the card game falls a bit flat, unlike VIIIs. It is just not fun and lacks the addictive nature of the other mini-games. Luckily for us though, Final Fantasy IX has Mognet. The Mognet side quest is awesome. Basically throughout the game you play mailman for a bunch of Mogs. It is hilarious reading all their little letters and seeing their reactions. It might sound a bit bland but it actually adds a nice bit of humor to the game and can add quite a few hours if you get into it.
Final Fantasy IX has some flaws and a few issues. Despite this the game is truly a wonderful experience. Between the wonderful characters, the enchanting music, and the fun and interesting world, the game is very much worth your time and effort.