Wednesday 8 October 2014

Final Fantasy IX Review (Playstation)

After the good, but disappointing for many Final Fantasy VIII the next instalment of the series had a lot of work to do. Many fans felt the ecstasy produced by the monumental seventh instalment had been taken away. Unsure what was about to spring from the minds of Square Soft many approached Final Fantasy IX with both caution and a romanticist hope that all would be set right in the world of gaming once more.

Taking a more traditional fantasy setting than the previous two games, FFIX is firmly based in the realms of the medieval. Huge castles, magic swords, enchanted towers and the odd dragon are very much the order of the day. A big change from the Neo-punk and technologically advanced societies presented in FFVII and FFVIII. 

The setting proves an inspired touch showing an awful lot can be done without guns and mechanical creations, somehow it just seems to make the whole escapade more of a magical fairy tale adventure than ever before. The plot, (deep breath everyone), revolves around a monkey-tailed thief named Zidane. Starting with a band of thieves including the said hero trying to kidnap the princess of Alexandria. 

Simple enough you may think, however the reason for the kidnap is that the queen of Alexandria has become evil and planes to take over the entire world using huge magically summoned beasts named Eidolons. In order to do this the Eidolons must be drawn out of the Princess, killing her in the process. After many twists and turns we find that the queen is being controlled by another evil character named Kuja, the Princess is in fact not the real Princess at all but in fact from a lost village of summoners and then everything really gets complicated. 

The story effectively puts across the idea buried deep within the Final Fantasy subconscious; those being the notions of love, friendship, hope and individuality. The idea that no matter how small and insignificant someone may be able to make a historic difference. A very clich├ęd tale, but one rarely told so beautifully and enigmatically. 

Graphically, the game is absolutely stunning from start to finish. If the PSOne ever produced anything more jaw dropping than this game, then we have yet to witness it. The locations you find yourself exploring are created excellently and act to add whole new levels of atmosphere to the story. Characters and monsters are equally stunning, huge beast towering over our diminutive heroes making the player believe they truly are in for a fight. The real showstopper though is the CGI; it is simply breath taking what the cut scenes look like and really makes you understand why the game comes on four discs. The CGI puts almost every other game of the era to shame.

Luckily the gameplay system has been brilliantly overhauled since the last episode as well. Skills are now learned from wearing different items and using different weapons. As characters fight and progress the skills become permanent additions to their arsenals allowing new equipment to be used to gain yet more power and skills. A very good system that allows a lot of flexibility, allowing players to give characters whichever skills they prefer, meaning you can play the game how you want to. 

Furthermore, the summoning of Eidolons, previously Guardian forces has been changed back to the way of Final Fantasy VII meaning battles are more tactical and fun no longer relying on the same old moves to get you through. Now everything is governed by how many magic points a character has, a much more sensible way of doing things, showing Square Soft clearly realise when they have got something wrong. 

Everything in the game is just about perfect with controls, story, characters and setting all of the very highest order. In typical Final Fantasy style the game will take the best part of a lifetime to get through, and the rest of that lifetime to find all of the thousands of secrets hidden away.

So a perfect ten out of ten? Well no, but it does come very close. We realise how tiresome it is to keep referring back to FFVII but it is still the best example of the genre to found on the planet, with a story that never lets up and the odd mini game to break up the more traditional action. While the story is good in FFIX we found ourselves getting bored during sections of the third disc, Admittedly not very often but enough to sour the experience a little. Furthermore, as with FFVIII there are very few mini games and certainly nothing in the league of the bike chase from FFVII. This ever so slight lack just makes the game fall short. 

Final Fantasy IX is a masterpiece of an adventure game. For anyone not to fall in love with it would truly amaze us. Everything is set just right and you are drawn into the story right from the very offset. It really is hard to pick fault with it, and even harder to think what could have been done to make it better. However you cannot get away from the fact it is still not as amazing as FFVII, although I doubt anything ever will be. As it is FFIX is leagues ahead of FFVIII and beats FFX for sheer magic as well, but still has to settle for being a very close runner up to what was and is a landmark in the Role-play genre.

Overall 9/10

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