In an unfair combat with Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy IX is a game that is far too often disregarded as a piece of the saga that just isn’t worth your time. I believe in the contrary. Just last week, the game was released on the Steam store, and it’s basically the same game as it was on the PS1 but with improved graphics for characters and combat. I bought it pretty much as soon as it went on the store, knowing that there was some undiscovered potential in this game I had played a little when I was younger.
The entire world of Gaia has a distinctly steampunk feel to it, yet it is infused with a more typical mediaeval-esque fantasy theme. I found it refreshing to see this in a Final Fantasy game, with the saga more commonly demonstrating a cyberpunk environment in recent times.
You take on the role of Zidane, a fairly typical male JRPG protagonist, with a tail. Yep, a tail. No other character in the game has a tail, for some reason, so I guess it was Square Enix’s way of making him unique. The plot is fast-paced, as you meander through many areas on the Mist Continent in no time at all after kidnapping the princess, who, to your surprise wants to be kidnapped. I won’t spoil the ambiguities around the character’s intentions though.
"It goes without saying that the soundtrack to this game is just as awe-inspiring as any other Final Fantasy game"
The combat of the game is turn-based with a twist. A timer bar slowly fills up alongside a character’s HP and MP that means, when it’s full, they can perform an action. It’s an incredibly tense form of combat that, in my opinion, trumps completely turn-based combat, like that of Final Fantasy X. There isn’t time to fully plan out a strategy to defeat an enemy, and you’ll often find yourself healing your characters a little too often during boss fights. It’s utter chaos sometimes, and I love it.
It goes without saying that the soundtrack to this game is just as awe-inspiring as any other Final Fantasy game, and you might even find yourself humming, or even squealing, along to the famed battle theme and it’s following victory fanfare, which can make even the most pathetic fight epic.
The game also has a great way of showing that multiple events are occurring at the same time in the world of Gaia. ‘Active Time Events’ allow you to view short, often comedic, sequences of characters engaging with the world around them, rather than having to be there with the main character to see them and I find it really contributes to character development.
The graphics of the original game are, of course, dated, but I don’t think this is a good enough reason to not try playing it, especially when the game is now available on PC with improved graphics. So, to conclude, if you want swearing animal people, a strange, comic-relief knight character and, quite possibly, the best way to save game in an RPG ever, give this often overlooked relic a go.