It recalls stories of swashbuckling adventure on the high seas – or sky, in this case – and the unconventional love between a princess and a dashing rogue. A fairy tale with postmodern social conventions, the princess within this lighthearted fiction is as gutsy as she is strong, though this leading lady still retains the elegance and class associated with her social standing.
And, no, this game did not rip-off “Star Wars” – that would be Final Fantasy XII, which didn’t bother me, since I love “Star Wars.”
Ultimately, this Final Fantasy is a light, fun story and should be taken as such.
The tale begins with a slight tail-endowed figure searching for a light in a darkened room and soon a plan to kidnap the princess is revealed. It turns out that this human-monkey hybrid is a member of a group called “Tantalus,” a gang of thieves who masquerade as actors, though they would be quick to suggest that even this is a testament to their talent.
They’ve been hired to kidnap Princess Garnet Til Alexandros XVII during their performance of her Royal Highness’ favorite play, “I Want to Be Your Canary” – this world’s version of “Romeo and Juliet.” Fortunately, the princess is ecstatic about her forced evacuation, as she suspects that some foul play is afoot at the royal palace.
The story does ultimately become deeper, but the appeal in Final Fantasy’s ninth episode is its sheer sense of fun.
Unlike the Final Fantasy protagonists of the previous few years, Zidane Tribal isn’t brooding, or quiet – or an otherwise depressed mess. He’s a thief, a womanizer – and worst of all: an actor. Zidane is a throwback to fantasy heroes of yesteryear in the form of the charming and ultimately noble thief. He may not carry the sheer depth of psychological complexity that is Cloud Strife or Squall Leonhart’s relatable, introspective angst, but he is – as the rest of the game – completely and utterly charming.
Other playable characters include Adelbert Steiner (Garnet’s comically stoic bodyguard), Vivi Orunitia (an adorably innocent black mage), Freya Crescent (a dragoon with a tragic history), Amarant Coral (a fiery monk with a chip on his shoulder, though many of his attacks resemble the ninja class), Quina Quen (aQu blue mage of unknown gender, whose mode of operation consists of eating its enemies) and Carol Eiko, a young and particularly annoying summoner, with white magic abilities.
Square almost always includes a decidedly Ewok-like sprite full of pluck, whose ability to irritate her gamer audience vastly overshadows her surprisingly impressive prowess in the game. In this case, it’s definitely Eiko.
Princess Garnet is the primary white mage, though she does come with a large amount of inaccessible eidolons, Final Fantasy IX’s title for summons, at the beginning of the game. The de facto female lead, Garnet’s story focuses largely on her title and true origin, hints at which are revealed periodically.
Abilities are earned through clothing and weapons, as opposed to any external source like materia or drawing. Once a character wears a designated article of clothing for an appropriate time in battle, he or she will then learn any attributes it possesses.
This system is at once convenient and debilitating, since a gamer would often have to wear an inferior armor or weapon at an advanced stage in the game to learn a valuable spell or function. However, it does enable one to save gil, which makes each ability accessible without engaging in exasperating gil-farming.
Like most Final Fantasies, it features a random battle system between mandatory fights. When a character has suffered an appropriate amount of damage, he or she will go into “Trance” mode and deliver a special attack. Up to four characters are allowed on the battle field.
As with previous and following titles in this franchise, characters are subject to negative and positive status effects, afflicted through either friend or foe.
It does contain a unique feature called “Active Time Event,” however, which allows to player to see the simultaneous actions of characters in different locations. This addition is especially welcome since it enables greater character development and realism. A particularly cute ATE contains an early example of Garnet learning to speak like a normal girl, but failing almost miserably.
IX’s obligatory card came is called “Tetra Master,” based on a combination of a card-monster’s attack and defense numbers, though it ultimately succeeds in being both frustrating and boring.
The soundtrack for Final Fantasy IX was composed by Nobuo Uematsu, of previous Final Fantasy fame, though this was his last work for the franchise. It maintains the nostalgic air captured by the rest of the game, focusing heavily on medieval music. The game’s theme song, “Melodies of Life,” is featured in English and Japanese, performed by Emiko Shiratori.
As its music, costumes and classic character jobs, Final Fantasy IX ‘s appeal lies in its highly endearing, nostalgic nature.