Final Fantasy IX Reviews

Neo Ethereal
303,762 (167,650)
Neo Ethereal
TA Score for this game: 1,387
Posted on 01 March 19 at 22:06, Edited on 01 March 19 at 22:12
This review has 13 positive votes and 0 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
The Crystal comes back... again.

Until the announcement about a slew of Final Fantasy games being ported to Xbox One was made, I never expected that I'd be playing a game like Final Fantasy IX on my platform of choice, and with achievements at that. So, after absorbing the pleasant surprise, and diving into this game for the first time as an adult, does this game still hold up under scrutiny, or have my fond recollections of this title been ensconced in nostalgia all these years?

I'm happy to report that, aside from a few minor hiccups, Final Fantasy IX survived the port quite well, and even though it lacks many modern features we now take for granted in RPGs (such as voice acted dialogue), it is still an emotional, unexpectedly deep, and satisfying ride that provides a lot of gaming value for the price.

On the face of it, and in the first hours of gameplay, I wouldn't blame anyone for saying FFIX is nothing but a giant cliche of the fantasy genre, and even its own series, what with the staples we're all too familiar with: knights, princesses, castles, ne'er do well rogues, mages, and evil, haunted forests (the first hostile area you play in is indeed called Evil Forest). The story, though I feel is better written (and better translated to English) than previous Final Fantasies, is pretty happy to waltz about in classic tropes for a while. But if you're patient, and observant, you'll not only pick up on the clever nods to previous games, but more importantly, the layers the world of Gaia and its story has waiting to be discovered. In time, the tropes take on new meaning, and have a reason for being, and before you know it, your experience with FFIX will stop seeming like a retread of the older SNES prequels, and will become quite unlike any of the other titles before or since.

So hopefully without spoiling anything really, I've sung praises for the story, however there is more to the complete package. Gameplay is high on the list for analysis, seeing as you will be spending a lot of your time with FFIX exploring and in combat. This game brings back the four person parties of yore, but keeps pretty much the same ATB system you may already know from the other PSX-era Final Fantasies. Characters are locked into classes this time and aren't very customizable, so when picking your party it's more about choosing who is right for what roles you want to fill in battle, instead of going with whichever blank slate you prefer (I am referencing here the characters in FFVII and FFVIII, who were largely only differentiated in battle by minor stat differences and their Limit Breaks). Combat is slower than the prequels, and unfortunately the port did nothing to address the delay in transition between the exploration zone and combat screens. You can of course turn on the hi-speed modifier, one of the boosters touted as a feature in the rerelease, to speed up combat, though be prepared because it will do so to an almost absurd degree.

When not in battle, I feel that the game handles fine. It does take some getting used to having an extra button to toggle run/walk (as while you can use an analog stick, the game doesn't support something such as: slight stick movement=walk or full stick movement=run). If there are multiple interactive objects or persons in one spot sometimes it's tricky to select the right one, but generally I found that I still had few issues with navigating or exploring.

Whether or not the graphics have aged well is subject to a lot of, well, subjectivity. I really appreciated the hi-res textures for characters, and I was able to see a lot of new details that I totally missed in the old PSX version on a standard definition TV. I think the spells and summons still look amazing, especially considering the tech they were rendered with. The prerendered cutscenes are still beautiful, only marred by small little pixeled glitches when the game loads a new scene. However, the prerendered in-game environments do feel a bit stretched out, as it's obvious they weren't painted to accommodate our modern screens, and while I got used to this quickly and still think the environments are gorgeous, this might bother some (especially since they can look washed out compared to the now higher resolution characters and interactive objects).

The music is still for me out of this world, with some great throwbacks but also some fantastic original work by Nobuo Uematsu. I still prefer the battle and boss music in FFVII and FFVIII but don't get me wrong, this suite stands strong on its own. The sound effects on the other hand, are pretty standard fare. I never noticed any that were bad or out of place, though I was consistently impressed more by the water, rain, and footstep effects more than anything.

The boosters and cheats included with the game, as I said, are touted as features, and indeed, I can see how hi-speed mode and safe travel can help you customize your experience without necessarily breaking the game as it was originally intended to be played. The others, well, I don't care for them, but if they increase your enjoyment of the game, it's not my place to judge. Just keep in mind that while FFIX is in some ways a more difficult game than VII or VIII, it's in my opinion ultimately an approachable one to many audiences, and if you are willing to be patient and take a risk, there are many rewards to be had in mastering it "as-is." Just don't forget to save often, there are no autosaves!

Finally, there are the achievements... well, unfortunately, these were merely copied over from the same trophies present on the PS4 version. Some of them are neat, or even taught me about aspects of the game I didn't know about at all (such as cleansing the beaches as part of the Beach Bum achievement), however, there is a lot of senseless grinding ahead and no small amount of frustration if you plan to 100% this. I chagrin a bit at 10% of the gamerscore being tied up in jumping rope despite how small a part of the overall package that mini-game is, but alas, I am not involved behind the scenes at Square Enix and have no idea what prompted such choices. This is a game I and I'm sure others play for the story and overall experience, so achievements are merely a bonus, but keep in mind that even with the new boosters, you are not going to be able to get many achievements in this without a huge investment of time and persistence.

With a fair price point, and enough retouching in my opinion to warrant a revisit, I heartily recommend Final Fantasy IX to both curious newcomers and long-time fans of classic turn-based JRPGs.
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