In addition to our coverage and writer articles, we at FinalFantasy.net like to feature guest writers as well. This week, forum member Sabrina tells us about her favorite Final Fantasy and what makes it worth purchasing again or for the first time. You can hit the jump to read what she has to say! If you would like to compose a guest article to be featured on FinalFantasy.net, check out our Staff section and drop me an e-mail.
Sabrina was actually introduced to Final Fantasy through the first Kingdom Hearts game and her undying curiosity led her into buying Final Fantasy VII-X within a couple months of saving up. But, while her first played game was Final Fantasy X, her absolute favorite is still Final Fantasy IX and she spends most of her days obsessing over it a bit more than she should.
■ ■ ■
A decade ago, Final Fantasy IX was introduced to the PlayStation system, and just two months ago, it was re-released onto the PlayStation Network for only $9.99. With some spare money still on my account and a deep love for the game, I decided to give it a little revisit.
Final Fantasy IX incorporates the same battle tactics, art style, and general feel of the first couple Final Fantasy games. It strayed from the sci-fi elements of its last three predecessors and returned to the medieval steam-punk approach to things. The game is absolutely full of allusions to the past games in both dialogue and music. However, it’s all very subtle and can still be enjoyed by new players to the Final Fantasy series. While it has all of its references and similarities, it still possesses its own personal charm.
We enter the game in a strange dream scene. The beautiful graphics show two women on a small boat during a harsh storm. After this, we’re given a glimpse into the world and of the female lead that we will become attached to throughout the long game. The scene is vibrant and colorful, but it isn’t long before we’re able to control our main character and lovable thief, Zidane. It’s actually something new to have a thief class character being the hero considering in most of the games, the leader has generally been a fighter class. As soon as the candle in the middle of the room is illuminated we’re introduced to both the lovable Tantalus thief gang, and to the battle system of the game for a tiny bit.
The battle mechanics of the game bring back the old style of having a four party member scheme rather than being limited to two characters that you can change in and out. This allows different strategy through the whole game and never really gets old. It’s again different than the others, being that your main can’t just blast through every enemy that comes by him that easily; you need to work with your allies. For a while, your allies are a white mage (Garnet/Dagger), a black mage (Vivi), and a fighter (Steiner.). Your party mixes up quite a bit through just the first two discs of the game, though.
Generally, the battle system is taking the best things of the old games and mixing it with the new mechanics of VII and VIII. In IX, we are given the Trance mode after a character takes a certain amount of damage after a while. During this mode, various things can happen depending on the character. The black mage can cast two different spells and be stronger, Zidane’s power heightens and he has special thief moves to unleash on the enemy. These are only examples, though. Trance was also brought into the game, Dissidia, in a way to give your character a boost in power.
“He always seems to think positively rather than wallowing in his pain and sorrow…”
Our hero, Zidane, is a tad different than our usual characters for the Final Fantasy games. For one, Zidane is a monkey-tailed thief that was sent to kidnap the princess of Alexandria, which, instead of kidnapping her off the bat, he flirts with her shortly instead before she runs off on her own will. Although he seems like a total jerk, he really does have a heart, making him my favorite hero character of the Final Fantasy series. He deeply cares for all of his friends and everyone else, usually putting their safety before his. We see this in the Evil Forest shortly after getting out of Alexandria and Garnet is still missing. Baku forbids Zidane from going out as his boss but Zidane is stubborn enough to abandon the Tantalus crew to save her. He always seems to think positively rather than wallowing in his pain and sorrow, and tries to spread that positivity to his team members when things are down.
Our black mage character is a bit different than the normal idea people have when they think about a dark magic user in games. For whatever reason, those characters tend to be dark, cynical, sarcastic, etc. An example of this could be Lulu from Final Fantasy X. Final Fantasy’s black mage, Vivi, is nothing like this stereotype. Vivi has the mindset of a nine year old child, new to the real world outside of his grandpa’s place and is adorably curious about everything; in short, he reacts to everything like a normal kid would in the beginning. However, due to his circumstances and obstacles he faces throughout the game, he begins to question his very existence which is somewhat odd to see. But still, it’s very nice to see a pure of heart black mage in a game.
And then, we meet our fighter, Steiner, after controlling Vivi and Zidane for a brief moment. This clumsy bumbling knight struggles to find his correct path in servitude and life, finding his majesty’s attention in his actions, only being thwarted by Beatrix and her success. As the captain of the Knights of Pluto, he was assigned to protect the princess, Garnet, and eventually finds his way into the tale by complete accident. He puts his duties before anything else and sometimes gets himself into trouble this way. In a way, he’s a foil to Zidane’s laid back character who does what he wants and what’s best for everyone rather than what his orders are, although both are very stubborn. It’s very hard for Steiner to do as he’s told, though, with all the obstacles that he faces after Zidane shows up and unfortunately, Garnet isn’t very obedient to the post as a princess. From the beginning, she wanted to escape; Zidane and his gang wanted to kidnap her so it was all convenient for everyone except poor old Steiner.
To distract us of the serious story and battles, there are various mini-games and side-quests scattered around the world of Gaia for us to play. Most of the mini-games can last throughout the entire game and most of them are even replayable. Many of the games take up hours of the game and they really do stack up. There are also side stories and various happenings that are told through the Active Time Event (ATE) system. These can either be little extra scenes or are important to the story as a whole. It’s entertaining to see it all happen but you can choose not to see them if you so wish. It’s enjoyable just to see what’s going on while you’re running around a city, though.
An example of a great mini-game could be the “Hot and Cold” chocobo game. Hot and Cold is a fun way to get rare items using your chocobo’s beak and it makes using the chocobo as travel in the world fun and interesting. It takes many hours to get through all of the stages and finding all the secret treasure. The game takes a bit of luck but also a lot of skill but is still rewarding due to the fact that four Ultima weapons can be found from this and you get to make the perfect chocobo in the end which is amazing. Mognet also gives light to our other mascot species, the moogles, and allows you to look into their life. It isn’t exactly a game, but it’s just a little side quest as you move along the main story and get to be their mailing system. It’s fun to see all the letters go with the plot at all the places you visit and the moogles reward you plenty for helping them out later.
“…one of the best story lines of the series, it has made it one of the best Final Fantasy games…”
We have another card game to distract you in this game similar to Final Fantasy VIII’s Triple Triad. Tetra Master is the name of the game and it’s addicting. The rules (which I won’t get into here) are relatively simple, but the game is actually complex. With one hundred different cards and many different combinations with how they’re set up, you have plenty to do, collection wise. The game takes a lot of strategy and a lot of work to get the great cards, too. Quite a lot of patience and practice is needed for these games as well, since you could lose all of your rare cards in a flash. Be careful, because getting them all back is extremely difficult.
With wonderful characters, an absolutely amazing soundtrack, exciting and interesting battle mechanics all packed together with one of the best story lines of the series, it has made it one of the best Final Fantasy games to date and my personal, absolute favorite game of the series and favorite video game in general. Be sure to check out Final Fantasy IX on your PSN for $9.99 today!