So when I’ve talked about Final Fantasy I often would proclaim 9 the best of the franchise. Well about time I explain myself.
Final Fantasy 9 was the last of the 3 main line PS1 Final Fantasy (the other two being 7 and 8 obviously). It was released at the tail end of that generation of consoles, in fact I only acquired this game originally because we decided to get a PS1 while waiting for the GC to be released and we knew Final Fantasy was good so picked up the one that said Final Fantasy. Sadly due to it being overshadowed in some peoples eyes by the coming Final Fantasy 10 on the PS2 as well as a considerably different art style to the previous 2, choosing to go with a more cartoonish look rather than the more human looking ones of 8 (7 was only human looking in cut scenes and battles) Many people choose to poke their noses up at this game and ignore it…. THEY WERE FOOLS!
Final Fantasy 9 is probably the most Final Fantasy the franchise has ever been. It plays as a love letter to the whole series, sort of a legacy Final Fantasy if you will with elements drawn from not only the main stays of the franchise but elements from the very first Final Fantasy as well. The story revolves around the monkey tailed thief Zidane who is on a mission to kidnap the Princess Garnet only to be surprised when the princess herself asks him to kidnap her. They are followed by the black mage Vivi ( THE BEST CHARACTER IN ALL FINAL FANTASY) and the head of the Queen’s Knights of Pluto Steiner. Later on being joined by the Dragoon Freya, the blue mage Quina, the last survivor from the Tribe of Summoners Eiko and the Monk Amarant.
As the story goes on what first seems like rescuing the princess from her increasingly power hungry mother turns into a tale of mysterious individuals channeling other worldly powers until exploding into one of worlds colliding and ancient plans unfolding and unraveling. Each character’s own journey they must go on and grow as a person. This can range to accepting it’s better to work with others than pridefully believe you were better alone to DEALING WITH YOUR OWN MORTALITY AND DEATH! Yes that’s right the cartoony FF9 has probably the deepest and adult plot in Final Fantasy history only 6 could come close and that had a suicide attempt in it. Oh also there’s Kuja who is probably the best villain in the franchise… well until shadowbringers came along.
The game has you explore on beautifully pre rendered maps (unless you’re on the world map, that’s 3D) of which you can explore, talk to people, maybe find objects, play some mini games like the card game and so on (no really look to loot everything you can, a ! will appear above your head if you can interact or a ? ). Battles are done with the Active Time Battle System or ATB system with a greater emphasis this time on status effects such as poison and haste while completely removing those stupid massive multi hit attacks. This makes battles a fair bit more strategic. Each character has their own unique abilities too, with Eiko and Garnet sharing abilities but only in the broad sense that they both can use summons and white magic, but not the same ones. Fans of classic Final Fantasies will recognize these abilities as each of the characters represents a classic class/job role from earlier Final Fantasy. So no just taking all the cute girls and making them fight like everyone else except the limit breaks.
The game is packed with things to do – secret side quests, NoN secret side quests like the chocobo hot and cold which even has its own story. The afore mentioned card game (no story for that sadly) the Mognet letter deliveries and many MANY more.
I find it ironic as some people back then when it came out felt the game because of its art style was too different while when playing it, especially compared to the other 3d Final Fantasy (except maybe 14) have gone far, far away from what made Final Fantasy… Fantasy. The world here feels like a fantasy world, you have the more medieval fantasy of Alexandria while Lindblum has a very steam punk feel to it and only in the late game do you get places of ancient super advanced technology long past not the standard like you get in 13 and 15.
But how could I not talk about the music. When I first played this again after so many years, my jaw dropped the moment the menu music played. This was the last Final Fantasy game to exclusively use music by Nobuo Uematsu and it is some of their best work. Ranging from a haunting opening music to lively city life and some absolutely kick ass boss music, go on hunt that sound track down if it’s not still available on YouTube.
The game is almost flawless, with the only real flaw being the final boss (despite it fitting into the major theme of life and death) basically comes out of nowhere with no real build up and never really being mentioned before and having zero to do with the plot. Other than that, for those who never got the chance come experience what is now recognized as the best Final Fantasy there is! (one wonders what would have happened if people had realized that earlier instead of going on about 7 and 8 so much, probably a fair fewer sh***y Final Fantasy like 13… no I’m not going to review that.)