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Final Fantasy IX
Information about Final Fantasy IXFinal Fantasy IX (ファイナルファンタジーIX, Fainaru Fantajī Nain) is a console role-playing game developed and published by Square (now Square Enix) as the ninth installment in the Final Fantasy series. It was released in 2000 (13 years ago) and is the third and last numbered Final Fantasy game for Sony's PlayStation. The game introduced new features to the series, such as the "Active Time Event", "Mognet", and a revamped equipment and skill system.
Set in the fantasy world of Gaia, Final Fantasy IX's plot centers on a war between several nations, sparked by an ambitious queen named Brahne. Players follow a young thief named Zidane Tribal, who joins with several others to defeat the Queen. The plot shifts, however, when the characters realize that Brahne is a puppet for an arms dealer called Kuja.
Final Fantasy IX was developed alongside Final Fantasy VIII, but took a different path to return to the series' roots with a more traditional fantasy setting. Consequently, Final Fantasy IX was influenced heavily by the original Final Fantasy game, and features allusions to other titles in the series. The music was scored by then regular series composer Nobuo Uematsu. The game has been subject to generally positive reviews, but received mixed opinions for its return to the style of older Final Fantasy games. Final Fantasy IX was commercially successful, selling 5.30 million units worldwide as of Mar. 31, 2003 (10 years ago).
GameplayIn Final Fantasy IX, the player navigates a character throughout the game world, exploring areas and interacting with non-player characters. Most of the game occurs in towns, dungeons, caves, and similar areas, which are referred to as "field screens". To aid exploration on the field screen, Final Fantasy IX introduces the "field icon", an exclamation mark appearing over their lead character's head, signaling that an item or sign is nearby. Players speak with moogles to record their progress, restore life energy with a tent, and purchase items — a deviation from previous installments, which used a save point to perform these functions. Moogles may request that the playable character deliver letters to other Moogles via "Mognet".
Players journey between field screen locations via the world map, a three dimensional, downsized representation of Final Fantasy IX's world presented from a top-down perspective. Players can freely navigate around the world map screen unless restricted by terrain, such as water or mountains. To overcome geographical limitations, players can ride emu-like chocobos, sail on a boat, or pilot airships. Like previous Final Fantasy installments, travel across the world map screen and hostile field screen locations is interrupted by random enemy encounters.
Final Fantasy IX offers a new approach to town exploration with Active Time Events (ATE), which provide character development, special items, and prompts for key story-altering decisions. At specific points, the player may view events that are occurring simultaneously. ATE is occasionally used to simultaneously control two teams when the party is divided to solve puzzles and navigate mazes.
Whenever the playable character encounters an enemy, the map changes to the "battle screen". On the battle screen, the enemy appears on the opposite side of the characters; each battle uses the familiar Active Time Battle system that was first featured in Final Fantasy IV. The character's command list is presented in a window opposite the ATB gauge list; while all characters can physically attack the enemy or use an item from the player's inventory, they also possess unique abilities. For instance, the thief Zidane can steal items from the enemy, Eiko and Garnet can summon "eidolons" to aid the party, and Vivi can use black magic to damage the opposition.
These character-specific commands change when the player goes into "Trance mode", which is activated for a short duration when an uncontrollable gauge fills as character sustains damage in a style similar to the Limit Breaks used in Final Fantasy VII. When the gauge is full, the character's strength is amplified, and the player can select special attack commands. Zidane's "Skill" command list, for example, changes to "Dyne", allowing him to execute powerful attacks; Vivi's "Black Magic" command evolves into "Double Black", allowing him to cast two magic spells simultaneously. Through the Configuration screen, the player can change the Battle Style from Normal to Custom, which allows two players to control two characters during battle. However, two controllers must be plugged into the PlayStation.
A character's performance in battle is determined by numerical values ("statistics") for categories such as speed, strength, and magical power. Character statistics are driven by experience; when players win battles, they are awarded "experience points", which accumulate until characters gain "experience levels". When characters "level up", the statistics for their attributes permanently increase, which may also be amplified by the types of equipment the character is wearing. Winning battles also awards the player money (Gil), Tetra Master playing cards, and ability points (AP).
Abilities and equipment
Final Fantasy IX deviates from the style of customizable characters featured in the last two titles by reviving the character class concept, which designates a character to a certain role in battle. For instance, Vivi is designated as a black mage and is the only character who can use black magic, and Steiner is a knight and is the only character who can use sword skills.
The basic function of equipment in Final Fantasy games is to increase character attributes; arming Zidane with a Mythril Vest, for example, increases his base defense statistic. In Final Fantasy IX, weapons and armor include special character abilities, which the character may use once the item is equipped (permitting that the ability matches their class). Once the character accumulates enough ability points in battle, the ability becomes usable without having to keep the item equipped. In addition to granting abilities the equipment in Final Fantasy IX determines the statistical growth of the characters at the time of level up. Armor not only raises base defense or evasion statistics but raises defense and/or other statistics at level up.
Abilities are classified into action and support categories. Action abilities consume magic points (MP) and include magic spells and special moves that are used in battle. Support abilities provide functions that remain in effect indefinitely (e.g., the support ability "Antibody" nullifies poisonous attacks), and must be equipped with magic stones to be functional. The maximum number of these stones increases as the characters level up.
Final Fantasy IX takes place primarily on the four continents of a world named Gaia (homonymous with Final Fantasy VII's Gaia, but not the same world). Most of Gaia's population reside on the Mist Continent, named so because the entire continent is blanketed in thick Mist. Lands outside the Mist Continent—the Outer, Lost and Forgotten continents—are uncharted territories not explored until midway through the game. Several locations on the parallel world of Terra and the dream land of Memoria round out the game's areas. The Mist Continent features four factions: Alexandria, Lindblum, Burmecia, and Cleyra. Each country is separated by mountain ranges; the isolated Cleyran civilization, nestled in a giant tree in the desert, is protected by a sandstorm summoned by the village elders.
Gaia is inhabited by humans and various non-human races. Alexandria and Lindblum are both populated by a mix of humans and anthropomorphic animals. The Burmecians are anthropomorphic rats who live in both Burmecia and Cleyra. The Cleyrans, who value dance, split from the Burmecians when the latter started to appreciate "the art of war". The dwarves are short humanoid creatures who appear as inhabitants of the village of Conde Petie on the Outer Continent. There is also a village of black mages that have gained sentient thought which reside in the Outer Continent as well. The Genomes, an artificial race of soulless vessels, inhabit Terra; they will house the once-dormant Terran souls when Terra assimilates Gaia. Summoners are similar to other humans, but with a horn on their forehead. In the story, only two summoners remain (Garnet and Eiko); the others were exterminated when the Terran warship Invincible destroyed their homeland of Madain Sari. Lastly, the Qu are large, seemingly androgynous humanoids, who are recognized as fine gourmands. They inhabit marshlands throughout the world where they catch their main source of nutrition: frogs.
In Final Fantasy IX, the game's developers sought to make the game's environment more "fantasy-oriented" than its PlayStation predecessors. Since the creators wanted to prevent the series from following a redundant setting, Final Fantasy IX distinctly breaks from the futuristic styles of Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII by reintroducing a medieval setting. In the game, steam technology is just beginning to become widely available; the population relies on hydropower or wind power for energy sources, but sometimes harness Mist or steam to power more advanced engines. Continuing with the medieval theme, the game's setting is inspired by Norse and Northern European mythology. According to director Hiroyuki Itō, "[The development team is] attracted to European history and mythology because of its depth and its drama". The main Final Fantasy IX website says the development of the game's world serves as a culmination of the series by blending the "successful elements of the past, such as a return to the fantasy roots," with newer elements.
The eight main playable characters in Final Fantasy IX are Zidane Tribal, a member of a group of bandits called Tantalus masquerading as a theater troupe; Garnet Til Alexandros XVII (alias Dagger), the Princess of Alexandria who has a strange connection to "Eidolons", Vivi Ornitier, a young, timid, and kind black mage trying to find the meaning of his existence; Adelbert Steiner, the Captain of the Knights of Pluto and loyal servant of Alexandria and Princess Garnet; Freya Crescent, a dragoon knight from the city of Burmecia looking for her lost love; Quina Quen, a Qu whose master wants him/her to travel the world so that s/he will learn about cuisine; Eiko Carol, a six-year-old girl living in Madain Sari, the lost village of the eidolon summoners, and along with Garnet, one of the last two remaining summoners; and Amarant Coral, a bounty hunter hired to return Garnet to Alexandria. Other main characters include Regent Cid Fabool, the charismatic leader of Lindblum; Queen Brahne, Garnet's mother and the power-hungry Queen of Alexandria; General Beatrix, the powerful leader of the female knights of Alexandria; and antagonist Kuja, an arms dealer and enemy of Gaia. Other minor characters and groups also appear; such as Blank, Zidane's good friend and band partner but their significance and back-stories are revealed as the game progresses.
During development, the creators made the characters a high priority. The return to the series' roots also affected the characters' designs, which resulted in characters with "comic-like looks". Uematsu commented that the design staff attempted to give the characters realism while still appearing comic-like. To accomplish this, and to satisfy fans who had become used to the realistic designs of Final Fantasy VIII, the designers stressed creating characters with whom the player could easily relate.
Final Fantasy IX begins with Zidane and the Tantalus Theater Group planning to kidnap Princess Garnet during her sixteenth birthday celebration. The group learns that Garnet, who is concerned about Queen Brahne's increasingly erratic behavior, actually wanted to escape to Lindblum to meet with Regent Cid, and had planned to stow away on the theatre ship anyway. The Group's airship, Prima Vista, is attacked by the royal guards, and damaged during the escape; it crashes in the Evil Forest, prompting Zidane to continue the trek to Lindblum without the rest of Tantalus. Zidane and Garnet are accompanied by Vivi and Steiner, who became entangled with Tantalus during their escape from Alexandria. They travel on foot through the Ice Cavern, and arrive on a villaged named Dali. During their journey, Garnet adopts the alias "Dagger" and struggles to mingle with the locals. The group learns of a factory inside the village of Dali, that manufactures soulless black mage warriors for Alexandria's use. Brahne dispatches three powerful ones called Black Waltzes to retrieve Garnet by force, but their mission ends in failure.
In Lindblum, Zidane meets Freya and joins in Lindblum's Festival of the Hunt. Regent Cid has been turned into a bug-like oglop by his wife Hilda, for his womanizing behavior. Wishing to protect Garnet from Brahne's newfound aggression, he had ordered Tantalus to kidnap her. When the group learns that Alexandria has invaded Burmecia, Freya investigates the situation with Zidane and Vivi, while Dagger and Steiner head to Alexandria to ask Brahne to stop the war. Zidane doesn't approve of Dagger's idea however and Dagger has to resort to using 'sleeping weed' on Zidane, thus escaping anyway. Both parties are powerless to stop the Queen however, and Dagger has her eidolons forcibly extracted from her body. Brahne uses Dagger's eidolons to destroy Cleyra, after which she attacks Lindblum, forcing Cid to surrender. Zidane, Freya, and Vivi, after witnessing the assault on Cleyra, rescue Dagger, befriend General Beatrix, and return to Lindblum.
Afterward, Cid tells the party about Brahne's arms dealer, Kuja. The party travels to the Outer Continent, the location of Kuja's headquarters, through an underground tunnel with the help of Quina. There, the party meets a young summoner named Eiko, who assumes herself to be the last survivor of Madain Sari. They also discover a village inhabited by self-aware black mages. Their pursuit of Kuja leads them to the nearby Iifa Tree, an entity that emits Mist, a compound that increases aggressiveness. They also learn that Kuja uses Mist to create the black mages. The party defeats the Iifa Tree's core and stops the Mist from flowing. When the party returns to Madain Sari, they confront Amarant, who was hired by Brahne to apprehend Dagger. Dagger slowly realizes that she is also a Summoner from Madain Sari. Amarant joins the party for his own reasons. At the Iifa Tree, Brahne turns against Kuja and intends to kill him with the eidolon Bahamut. However, Kuja uses his own airship, Invincible, to gain control of Bahamut, killing Brahne and defeating her army.
The party returns to Alexandria, and Garnet is crowned Queen. Afterward, Kuja assaults Alexandria with Bahamut. To combat it, Eiko and Garnet summon the legendary eidolon Alexander, who dwells within the royal castle of Alexandria. Alexander spreads his wings out of the very foundation of the castle and protects it from Bahamut's powerful Mega Flare attacks. Eventually Alexander overpowers Bahamut. Kuja attempts to control Alexander using the Invincible, but is foiled by a mysterious old man named Garland, who destroys Alexander and most of Alexandria. Kuja, still intent on mastering a powerful eidolon to defeat Garland, shifts his attention to Eiko. The party learns of Kuja's Desert Palace and attempts an assault. However, Kuja imprisons the party and escapes with Eiko to extract her eidolons. During the extraction attempt, Eiko's guardian moogle Mog uses Trance to transform into her true form, the eidolon Madeen, disrupting the process. Learning of the powers of Trance, Kuja escapes to further his aim of defeating Garland. The party rescues Eiko and also finds Hilda, who turns Cid back into a human. He is now able to design an airship for the party that does not need Mist for power.
With Hilda's aid, the party pursues Kuja to his home world of Terra by opening a dimensional portal. In the Terran town of Bran Bal, it is revealed that Garland was created by the people of Terra to orchestrate the process of assimilating Terra into Gaia, as Terra was a dying world. Garland created Genomes—intelligent, sentient beings who lack souls—to become future vessels for the souls of the dormant Terrans. The Iifa Tree's existence, the phenomenon of Mist, the eidolons' destruction, and even Kuja and Zidane's true purpose of existence, were part of the process. Angered by Garland's motives, the party confronts him. However, Kuja has now obtained enough souls to achieve Trance. Trance Kuja ends Garland's life, but not before Garland warns him of his limited lifespan, and that Zidane was created to replace him. Enraged by this revelation, Kuja destroys Terra while the party rescues the Genomes and returns to Gaia on the Invincible.
Garnet and Zidane embrace at the end of the game.The party discovers that Mist has returned and now envelops all of Gaia. Assisted by the combined forces of Burmecia, Lindblum, and Alexandria, they travel to the Iifa Tree, where they are teleported to a mysterious location called Memoria. The spirit of Garland guides the party to Kuja. When Kuja is defeated, he uses his Trance abilities to destroy the Crystal, the source of life, prompting the appearance of Necron, the "Eternal Darkness" bent on destroying life. There is a brief conversation between Zidane and Necron, after that, you choose your party and fight. Before Necron's death, Kuja uses the last of his trance power to teleport the party to safety. After Necron is defeated, Memoria and the Iifa Tree collapse. Although the party escapes, Zidane remains to save Kuja, and is later assumed to have died with Kuja in the collapse.
Some time later, Alexandria has been rebuilt, and Tantalus arrives in Alexandria to perform a play for Queen Garnet. Though only Ruby, Blank, Baku, and Marcus remain in Tantalus, they are able to perform an alternate version of "I want to be your Canary". Before the scene where Marcus is supposed to plea his wish, an unknown character sneaks on-board the ship, and steals Marcus' role. This character is later revealed as Zidane. "Bring my beloved Dagger to me!" are his last words before Garnet rushes through the audience and leaps into Zidane's arms. The credits roll as Garnet and Zidane embrace. Other scenes reveal that there are some Vivi clones still living; Steiner and Beatrix have returned to their old posts as royal bodyguards and have also become romantically involved; Eiko has been adopted by Regent Cid and Hilda; Freya is attempting to start over with her former love, Sir Fratley; Armarant is reunited with his old partner while, curiously, on his way to the village of Dali; and Quina has now become the head chef of the Alexandria Castle kitchen.
ReceptionAlthough a top-seller at the time, Final Fantasy IX did not sell as well as Final Fantasy VII or Final Fantasy VIII in either Japan or the United States. As of Mar. 31, 2003 (10 years ago), the game had sold 5.30 million copies worldwide. The game was voted the 24th-best game of all time by readers of the Japanese magazine Famitsu and 42nd by the users of the website GameFAQs. Final Fantasy IX also achieved an average review score of 94% on Metacritic, the highest score a Final Fantasy game has received on the site.
Reviews for the game were generally positive, with praise to the graphics and nostalgic elements. Critics pointed out that the strength of the game lies on the gameplay, character development, and visual representation. GameSpot noted that the learning curve is easily grasped, and the ability system is not as complex as in Final Fantasy VII or Final Fantasy VIII. Each player character possesses unique abilities, which hinders the development of an over-powered character. GameSpot describes the battle system as having a tactical nature and the expanded party allowing for more interaction between players and between enemies. Nevertheless, IGN disliked the lengthy combat pace and the repeated battles, describing it as aggravating, and RPGFan feels the Trance system to be ineffective as the meter buildup is slow and unpredictable, with characters Trancing just before the enemy is killed.
The characters and graphics received positive reviews. Although IGN feels the in-depth character traits in Final Fantasy IX could be generally found in other Final Fantasy games, they are nevertheless engaging and sympathetic. GameSpot finds the characters, up to their dialogue and traits, amusing and full of humor. IGN also noted that the Active Time Event system helps to expand the player's understanding of the characters' personalities as they question many ideas and emotions. Their super-deformed appearance, which also covers monsters of every size, contain detailed animation and design. They gave praise to the pre-rendered backgrounds, noting the careful attention given to the artwork, movement and animations as well as character interactivity. The movies are seen as emotive and compelling, and the seamless transition and incorporation to the in-game graphics helped to move the plot well.
On the other hand, critics acknowledged that the overall story is recycled from previous Final Fantasy installments and other role-playing games. However, the repeated elements such as evil kingdoms and enigmatic villains are believed by RPGFan as an attempt to emulate the elements of previous Final Fantasy plot and storyline. The main villain, though considered by GameSpot to be the least threatening in the series, is seen by IGN as a mixture of past villains through behavior and appearance. Mixed reactions were given to the audio aspects of the game. Some reviewers, such as RPGFan feels the sound effect and music "uninspired, dull and annoying"; IGN and GameSpot acknowledges that only a handful of the tracks are memorable, while GamePro praised the audio for evoking "emotions throughout the story, from battles... to comedy". They leveled criticism on composer Nobuo Uematsu who seemed to have only reused and simplified the scores of past series. Nevertheless, reviewers have come to agree that this and many other elements are part of the overall effort to create a nostalgic title for fans of the older Final Fantasy titles.
The strategy guide also gained criticism; it urged buyers to log on to an online site to gain the information, instead of providing it within the actual guide. The book's given links are no longer accessible on the PlayOnline website. Tetra Master was seen by GameSpot as inferior and confusing compared to Final Fantasy VIII's minigame Triple Triad, as the rules for it were only vaguely explained in the game and there were very few rewards earned from playing it despite its expansive nature.
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