Magic of `Final Fantasy IX' creates best in series
By JOSE CUELLAR
Scene Video Game Reviewer
Known as one of the most popular series in the role-playing game genre, "Final Fantasy" returns with its ninth installment under this title, the last to appear for the PlayStation console.
"Final Fantasy IX" is a great overall game. The full motion videos are incredible, with great detail. The graphics are a step higher than those from previous titles, and the music is just as impressive.
Composer Nobuo Uematsu has written the music for all the "Final Fantasy" installments. Since this is the last "Final Fantasy" for the PlayStation, Uematsu decided to do something that was unheard of for previous titles: "Final Fantasy IX" is the first title to have a character with a voice — Garnet the princess.
Unlike "Final Fantasy" VII and VIII, this ninth installment has a great mix of old and new. The creators wanted to return to the style that made the series popular.
Some of the old elements that creators kept are knights and mages, airships, the job system and having abilities determined by the job. New elements include learning magic and an improved level of involvement in the game.
Now the player can decide whether or not the character is impervious to attacks, and whether or not the player helps in that situation. With the introduction of "active time events," the player can decide what to watch. These active time events provide the option of jumping to scenes that are happening all at the same time.
Also, in "Final Fantasy IX," the Moogles are back. These characters return with different jobs, and some will ask for favors. The Moogles enable players to save their progress, use their tents and regenerate their party.
The characters in "Final Fantasy IX" draw you into the game. Each character has a past that haunts them throughout the game.
Returning to the world of knights and mages, this story begins when a group of thieves is sent to kidnap the princess of a nearby kingdom. The princess, Garnet til Alexandros the 17th, bored of her life of royalty, instead runs away with the kidnappers, led by the thief Zidane.
Before leaving the kingdom, a black mage, Vivi, joins them in their flight and the princess' bodyguard, Steiner of the Knights of Pluto, tags along to protect her. Along the way they meet Freya, a dragon knight, Eiko, a summoner, Quina, a blue mage, and Amarant, a martial arts expert.
Like all stories involved in "Final Fantasy" titles, the first part of the story seems easy. In this case, the princess is to return, to find out about her mother, who is trying to invade the world and to persuade her to stop.
The second part, which makes "Final Fantasy" a great series, begins when the party finds out that a power larger than what they expected is actually behind, or controlling, the queen.
The magic system in this ninth installment is similar to the "Final Fantasy" titles before the game jumped to the PlayStation console. "Final Fantasy" VII and VIII both had a magic system that enabled every character to use every magic.
"Final Fantasy IX," on the other hand, has a system that gives characters certain abilities depending on their role.
A white mage can use magic that protects and heals characters. A black mage can only use magic that harms enemies. A blue mage uses magic that he learns, or in this title, eats, from enemies.
Knights and dragon knights have magic that is used with their weapons. Summoners receive help from beasts and supernatural beings called eidolons who cause a great deal of damage.
Items and weapons acquired throughout "Final Fantasy IX" provide skills and abilities that empower each character in different ways. They raise important stats in the characters that increase their power and defenses against abnormal status.
These acquired weapons and items can also be combined to produce new ones. Synthesizing shops in cities join weapon shops and item shops as important stops of the journey of the game.
"Final Fantasy IX" contains so many tasks and secrets that it would take a long time to mention every single one. Fans of the series should instead seek to find them out for themselves, for this game should be considered the best in the series.
Enjoy this game if you have the energy and the time, because "Final Fantasy IX" was made for the long haul.
And for those who end up playing this game and become trapped in the eighth hour of non-stop playing, about to be defeated by a powerful foe, remember these words from an old "Final Fantasy" commercial: "The fate of the world is in your hands … You are up against enemies of incredible power … If you win, you will be a hero … If you lose, you can always hit the Reset button!"
All Scene Stories for Wednesday, February 7, 2001