Final Fantasy has a funny beginning, in my opinion. For example, the reason why the game is called Final Fantasy is because when the first one was released it was expected to be Square’s last game before filing for bankruptcy. Instead, the game
turned out to be a huge hit, and is still considered one of the best NES games of all time. I do have the major Final Fantasy games on my list of games to review. Most of them, however, are from the compilation discs, since I don’t feel like spending a lot of money on the cartridges of the games. The ones I have are Final Fantasy 1 and 2 from the Final Fantasy Origins disc and Final Fantasy 5 and 6 on the Final Fantasy Anthology discs. While I enjoy each game separately by story and characters, there is only one that will always be closer to my heart than any other game in the entire series. The game I am talking about is Final Fantasy 9. Not only is this one of the best games of all time, but also is my personal favorite Final Fantasy, and is one of my top 20 games of all time. This will be like my Brutal Legend review as I am going to go a little deeper into it, and put in my personal opinions about it.
The main story revolves around a young man named Zidane, who is part of a traveling thief/theatre group known as Tantalus. After a super short encounter with the leader of the gang, they start to plan on their next job, which is to kidnap the princess of Alexandria, Princess Garnet. As they arrive, Zidane and his ally Blank, along with the other members of Tantalus, begin their plans with a play that is famous from Alexandria. While this is happening however, a young black mage named Vivi Orunitia is arriving in the city. He had a ticket for the play, which shortly afterward, is found to be fake. As the play goes on, Zidane and Blank decide to sneak into the castle and find the princess herself. Zidane finds her, but then gets chased by the head of the Pluto Knights, Steiner, who confronts Zidane and the group multiple times before Tantalus escapes with the princess, accidentally bringing Vivi and Steiner along with them. They soon crash into a dangerous forest after getting shot by the queen of Alexandria while escaping. After going through the dangerous wildlife in the forest and saving Vivi and Garnet and escaping its dangers, they then set off on a quest to find out what is going on and stop it from whatever is happening. A lot more goes on, and I will somewhat talk more about it later, but I don’t want to spoil it for people who haven’t played it. This is going to be hard though, because there is so much to talk about in this game. It’s hard not to spoil this for anyone who hasn’t played it. Let’s get started though on the game play before I spoil everything.
The game play featured in Final Fantasy 9 is, of course, a console role-playing-game or RPG, where you control a huge cast of characters which include Zidane, a traveling thief, Garnet, the princess/white mage/summoner, Vivi a young timid black mage, Steiner a proud honorable knight, Freya, a dragoon, Eiko a young childish summoner, Quinta, a chef in training/blue mage, and finally Amarent, a hit for hire/monk. Each character is unique, and has their own powers and abilities they bring into battle. The battle system in Final Fantasy 9 is the same that has been seen from Final Fantasy 4 to Final Fantasy 8. It’s called active time battle, where instead of taking your time with the battles at hand, you have to act quickly, since every turn can happen in seconds. Well, not exactly seconds, but there is a bar by your character’s status, where it will load and tell you when you can attack. Unlike the past two Final Fantasy games for the Playstation, you can have up to four people up in the battle roster instead of 3, like in Final Fantasy 7 and 8. An interesting way for characters to learn abilities is by equipping items to each character. After a couple of battles with the item on the character can permanently use that said ability and equip a different item to that said character to learn another ability. You can also give your characters special abilities, like not being able to get poisoned or being able to kill certain monsters faster. You would have to be wise, and always keep changing, since each ability does come in handy. Of course, with any Final Fantasy game, you have an arsenal of guardians to summon to do a major attack, and then disappear. In this game, they are called Eidelons. Fan favorites like Shiva and Ifrit make a return, along with other staples like Bahamut, Odin, and Atomos. There are more, but I will let you find out for yourselves. During different times in the game, everyone in the game are separated into different teams. This means that you have to rely on certain characters for certain areas, but you can only use whom you have in your party. For example, during one part of the game, one of the antagonists lets you go free with three other characters, but only to be going to a place where magic doesn’t work. This means when the other half of the party is released from their prisons, you only have all the mages. It’s interesting, since the game makes you get good with all the characters. The major side game within this game is a card battle system, which is kind of like the one found in Final Fantasy 8, where you use cards that have monsters on them and then see what happens. The game is similar to GO, where if one card won, it could absorb the other cards and turn them into your color or the opponent’s.
The game’s graphics are purely amazing. Yeah, you can see how blocky they are, but who cares? The visuals still have a charm that very few games have. It took the whole 3D characters and 2D backgrounds approach and I think it still worked well with all the little bits of animation in the background and lush color pallet. The characters definitely had a unique design to them with an approach of the likes of Final Fantasy 6 or the earlier titles. The designs were very cartoon-like, and weren’t as realistic as Final Fantasy 8 or 10 were. I like the designs, and I even got the art book for the game on one of my birthdays and I still read it. I also liked how the characters didn’t do a single bit of voice acting. It made the game more enjoyable as it played out like a colored silent film. At first, I thought it was a limitation thing since there was no voice acting, but if you look at other games like Metal Gear Solid, which has great voice acting, it’s my opinion that they weren’t ready to use voice acting yet in the franchise. The soundtrack has to be one of my favorite soundtracks ever from the fantasy genre. Nobuo Uematsu did a great job with the music from the opening sequence before the start screen to just every place on the map It’s just amazing. If you live in a cave for some odd reason, Nobuo Uematsu is a famous composer who is famous for his works in the Final Fantasy games, Chrono Trigger, Lost Odyssey, and a lot of other Squaresoft or Square Enix games. Another thing I like about the game is the theme of identity. A lot of the characters in the game deal with their own personal identity. Steiner is a good example, since he wants to stay loyal to the queen, and disregard everyone else as scum, but he also wants to be by the side of the princess and do whatever she commands. This means Steiner has to choose between serving the queen, who is of course evil, and serve as an ally to the gang and help the princess in the adventure. Garnet however deals with the responsibility of ruling a kingdom, and coming to terms that the queen, who is also her step-mother, is evil, and wants to rule the land, using her powers to summon monsters. Overall though, I think Vivi’s personal challenge is the most heartbreaking, since early in the game, he finds out that he and the rest of his kind are actually human-made war machines. Later though, he starts to accept that he was made, but he also comes to terms with his death. The personal crises don’t just stick with the good guys. Kuja, who is one of the main antagonists, deals with fear of being powerless. This leads to a very heart-touching story of friendship, love, death, and coming to ones terms of responsibility. The overall story is one of my favorites to read about. To be honest, I have found myself crying a lot at these moments in the game, especially when Vivi comes to term with the fact that he will die. It just shows that the story in the game pulls you into its binding ways.
However, this epic story isn’t without its kinks and bad parts, which I really hate to exploit since I love this game so much. The whole learning ability by equipping items is tedious, since for one part of the game, I didn’t know that you had to do that and went through two of the Black Waltzes with Vivi, only learning fire and fira. It’s overly tedious, and it kind of halts the game since you have to keep equipping and unequipping items to keep learning abilities. I also hate how some people just disregard this game as a Final Fantasy game. All the complaints I hear are how stupid it looks and how it isn’t futuristic like the two previous games. It wasn’t meant to be futuristic people! It’s a nod to the last 8 games that preceded it. I will go out on a limb and say that I HATE Final Fantasy 7 because of how overrated it is. I just don’t care for Sephiroth or Cloud, or even Aeris. Yes, it’s sad that Aeris died, but come on! It’s been 13 years since it’s been released. I dare you guys to play it again and see what you think. It’s also interesting to note that the series creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, has said multiple times that Final Fantasy 9 is his personal favorite. I have to agree since this is what Final Fantasy should be. Why is it turning so futuristic? Why does everyone look so J-pop? What happened to the black mages and the summoners? Don’t get me wrong though. I am interested in playing Final Fantasy 13 that is already out, but for now, Final Fantasy 9 is my personal favorite, and will always have a close place of my gaming heart.
Overall, if I haven’t said it enough, Final Fantasy 9 is my personal choice as the best Final Fantasy game, and is a very great game to have in your collection. It can be about 40 bucks, but if you can find it for cheaper price, then I say pick it up. It’s truly an adventure, and a wonderful game to play. Let’s hope Final Fantasy 13 will be good, and not horrible like Final Fantasy 12.
This game gets a 9.9 out of 10