Final Fantasy IX was among my first played RPGs, and I can consider it to be my first introduction to the more traditional Japanese RPGs, where battles are random and classic turn-based; characters gain strength through leveling; the player finds, buys and sells all kinds of items in shops and there is a huge open world-map filled with towns and dungeons to explore. Not to mention the fantasy!
I played Final Fantasy IX after being introduced to Final Fantasy VIII, so you can imagine the liberty I felt for being able to cast magic spells without the worry of spending such a precious resource, or the freedom of not having to work on a junction system! It was a strange feeling delving into a world filled with fantasy such strange cartoonish characters, though! However, this is a part of the game that eventually grows with the player.
Final Fantasy IX was the third and last Final Fantasy main title released on the Playstation by the legendary RPG maker, Square. Now Square Enix, after merging with its long-time rival in 2003. The game was released in 2000, during the later years of the Playstation, and was very well received for returning to the roots of the franchise, simplifying gameplay and recreating a universe of fantasy, where magic, strange creatures, different races, princesses and evil queens are all part of it.
Ever since FFVI, a favorite among fans, and its steampunk settings, that Square had been branching out from fantasy to science fiction and futuristic environments. Seeing how many followers of the franchising were disappointed on FFVIII for its deviations from traditional role-playing gaming and completely revamped gameplay, Square put this strangely refreshing and charming little gem out there. Curiously enough, FFIX had been developed practically alongside its predecessor.
Returning to the Roots
Final Fantasy IX is a complete return to origins no matter how you look at it. No more misunderstood rebellious teenagers who dress on black leather and ride on bikes, and no more post-apocalyptic dystopias or science-fiction worlds where giant flying structures clash with each other. FFIX is all about a world where fantasy, adventure, character interaction, comedy and drama are the words of order.
In addition to the presentation reminiscent of the early FF games, the gameplay is also a return to origins. Featuring a turn-based battle system and a set of unique characters whose abilities reflect their role in battle, FFIX bet on tradition and simplicity for an addictive gameplay. Leveling is once again a huge part of strengthening your characters in the game, contrary to FFVIII that depended mostly on its Junction System.
The story in FFIX is reminiscent of the story of Helen of Sparta, in which the princess and most beautiful girl in the whole reign, runs away in a ship, leaving her kingdom in turmoil. In this case, there's no Paris, but there is Zidane, the charismatic and straightforward leader of a band of thieves that was going to kidnap Garnet, the runway princess that ends up on their ship on her own free will, but that due to circumstances ends up protecting her from her own mother, a queen with a growing lust for warfare that won't stop at nothing to retrieve her daughter.