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  • So it’s 2000. Youve just had eight main-series Final Fantasies (or six, if youre in the

  • West) creating a worldwide sensation, youre on the cusp of developing a hyper-realistic

  • CG feature film based on the franchise (because isn’t that just a FANTASTIC idea), and youre

  • settling into a groove with this newfangled optical media. Youve got the space, youve

  • got the knowhow, and youve got the audience to create something incredible. Then you give

  • everyone a miss, go back to your roots, and make something even better. IX was, to many,

  • the last REAL Final Fantasy. To others, it was an abandonment of the futuristic aesthetic

  • that started to show its face in 6, developed in 7, and exploded in 8. Youve still got

  • airships, political intrigue, and chocobos... but it feels much more natural for Zidane

  • to be riding one than, say, Squall.

  • When I saygoing back to the seriesroots,” I have to qualify the hell out of

  • it. After all, this is a series that reinvents itself with every outing, leading to a paradoxical

  • combination ofThey changed it now it sucksandAll JRPGs are alike.” Case in point,

  • the cast of characters. Everyone thought that having immutable classes was a Final Fantasy

  • thing,” when only three games in the series - 4, 6, and then 9 - featured this.

  • Some characters wereFlavored” a certain way, of course. Quistis is kind of a Blue

  • Mage, and Cid Highwind is kind of a Dragoon, but you can stick whatever summons, junctions,

  • or command materia you want on either. If anything, IX represents a return to when class

  • actually mattered: Vivi’s existence AS a Black Mage is significant to the plot, as

  • is Garnet’s existence AS a summoner, and so on down the line.

  • But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Youve got your standard evil empire, headed by a

  • corrupt (and frankly ugly) dictator, whose (inexplicably gorgeous) daughter runs away

  • from home during a Shakespearian-esque performance aboard a theater-airship. One member of this

  • airborne troupe-slash-thievesguild is Zidane, a would-be adventurer and ladies

  • man, whose first instinct upon meeting said princess is to lay on the moves. Kind of unprecedented

  • for Final Fantasy, which had at that point retreated to emotionally-distant protagonists

  • who only grudgingly have anything to do with the rest of the cast. Add a few royal relationships,

  • a ball-busting Knight Templar, the return of an equipment system that allows for wearing

  • more than two items at a time, an AP-based ability-learning system tailored to each character,

  • and plenty of backhanded references to its predecessors, and youve got an engaging,

  • interesting game.

  • And then the soundtrack. Oh, the soundtrack. Forsaking the techno-driven aspects of its

  • two most recent predecessors, IX picked up its oboe and pennywhistle and returned to

  • a more ren-faire flair, in keeping with the traditional motif. You can justify a playthrough

  • of this game simply to hear what I consider to be the best-sounding entry in the series.

  • And no discussion of IX would be complete without mentioning the Active Time Event system,

  • basically an optional pause in the main narrative to provide a glimpse of what’s going on

  • outside your party. One could consider this a diametric counterpart to the Star Ocean

  • seriesPrivate Actions, which give you supplemental information and details on your

  • party, but remaining focused on the main character as a participant in each exchange. ATEs grant

  • the same kind of information, but completely divorced from the character you control, giving

  • an even more naturalistic look at the actions of your compatriots.

  • If it sounds like I’ve taken too hard a turn into the analytical, know that if any

  • Final Fantasy deserves it, it’s IX. This game set out to be a distillation of the entire

  • series, and comes up with a concentrated, focused experience that rewards close attention

  • as well as the occasional sidequest. If I have any gripes with the experience, it’s

  • that the card-game system is a complete afterthought, suffering from both overcomplicated mechanics

  • and a lack of tangible benefits. You can be the greatest card player in the world, but

  • aside from respect and a certificate, that means nothing at all. Give it a pass, and

  • just enjoy the game for what it is, devoid of the dark cynicism that any current trends

  • in the series might have instilled in you. After all, Once you start down the dark path,

  • forever will it dominate your destiny.

So it’s 2000. Youve just had eight main-series Final Fantasies (or six, if youre in the

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CGRundertow FINAL FANTASY IX for PlayStation Video Game Review

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    阿多賓 posted on 2013/04/10
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