Final Fantasy 9
Final Fantasy. It doesn't matter how old you are, how long you've been playing games, or even if you're into RPGs. If you enjoy video games in any way, shape or form, this is a name you're familiar with, and for good reason. No other series has delivered the same combination of high-quality gameplay, graphics, music and story line so consistently, sequel after sequel after sequel.
Final Fantasy games are often the standard on which other RPGs are judged, and now, less than two years after the epic FF VIII, yet another release is right around the corner. We got our hands on the import version for a peek at what U.S. gamers can expect later this year.
Those with a keen eye have probably already noticed that Final Fantasy IX doesn't look anything like the last few games in the series. Those with even keener eyes have probably noticed that, in fact, part IX looks a lot more like the older Final Fantasy games--and they would be totally right. Final Fantasy IX was created for the old-school gamers, those who remember losing entire nights of sleep while trying to get to the bottom floor in the town of Summoned Monsters in part II or those who chased the faster fish in order to keep Cid alive in FFIII. Everything from the overall motif to the battle system to even the music is geared toward those who first cut their teeth on RPGs back in the 8- and 16-Bit days. Of course none of this means that fans of the more recent PS FF games won't be able to enjoy part IX, but they definitely shouldn't expect more of the same. Aside from the obvious visual updates--the plasticy future vision has been replaced with a more traditional Victorian-influenced medieval design--many classic gameplay elements have returned. Health and Magic Points are back, you once again buy and equip new weapons and armor, only certain characters can cast certain spells, and, thankfully, once again you can have four party members in battles. Oh, and fun has returned to the Final Fantasy universe.
Yes, Final Fantasy VIII was incredibly enjoyable to play, but it lacked something that used to be a staple in the FF universe: a sense of lighthearted adventure. To smile while playing the last game was a rare event, but Final Fantasy IX is designed to actually make you laugh out loud while tromping around. From the way the armor-clad Steiner throws jumping tantrums when he gets upset or how the clumsy black wizard Vivi pulls his hat down over his face when embarrassed, the characters in Final Fantasy IX are packed with...well, character. And even though this game deals with serious issues and has a story line packed with adventure and intrigue, it never takes itself too seriously; Final Fantasy IX is all about having a good time.
With this in mind, it's easy to see that the development team behind Final Fantasy IX is very different than the one that worked on VIII (that team is said to be currently well under way with the first PlayStation 2 FF game). The changes they made didn't stop with just bringing back the old feeling of the series and returning some of the staple features, they also reinvigorated a once-incredibly important part of Final Fantasy: the battles.
Aside from the fact you can now use four characters at once, and that magic requires points for casting, the fights once again are packed with something called strategy. No longer will you be able to cast Guardian Force after Guardian Force with no penalty (they now require Magic Points too), you'l have to use your head and keep track of all the stats. Boss fights can often mean death unless you use your Potions and Phoenix Downs correctly, and even the most routine battles can end with you loading up an old game if you get careless and run out of Magic Points.
Don't worry though, there's a whole new range of features to help you out in this cold, classic, gameplay-inspired world. The most exciting is something called Trance; there's a second bar underneath the real-time status indicator (the Active Time Battle bar, which lets you know how long until you can attack again), and each time you get hit it fills up a bit. When it reaches the brink, your character is bathed in light and sparks, signifying the Trance has begun. Now you can cast much more powerful spells and instigate other cool attacks against your foes for a few turns. While it only lasts a short while, your Trance attacks can turn a hard boss battle into a short bloodbath.
It's true, Final Fantasy IX is much different than VIII, but even if you're a huge fan of the last game's futuristic setting (and being able to summon Guardian Forces time and time again), you shouldn't count this one out yet--it's packed with the kind of classic gameplay and feelings that made this series so popular to begin with. Of course, on the other hand, if you've been playing these games for years, and you get excited just hearing that there's a dragoon that leaps off screen for a whole turn Oust like Kain!), well, then you're in for one hell of a treat.
- MANUFACTURER - Squaresoft
- THEME - RPG
- NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1