Ahhh! Another Final Fantasy. How refreshing. The latest release of the Final Fantasy series barely falls short of magnificent.
The graphics of this game are very impressive. It combines good in-game graphics with wonderful FMV and crazy spell effects. One problem, though, is the lack of FMV. The last two installments of the FF series had a pretty hefty amount of FMV, but I found FFIX to be a bit short in comparison. Not to say that these movies aren't any less amazing than the others, because they are truly wonderful. The characters also move in their own distinct way. Dagger walks with a certain lady-like charm while Steiner's walk is down right goofy.
Now the story. The story centers around a thief turned rescuer of the planet named Zidane. His love interest is the princess Garnet (later know as Dagger). She is somewhat unattainable early in the game because of her steadfast bodyguard (and all around good guy) Steiner, who doesn't accept Zidane because of his thief lifestyle. Zidane's gang (I guess you could say), called Tantalus, forms a plot to kidnap the princess. Imagine Zidane's surprise, though, as he finds out the princess is running away at the same time he attempts to capture her. They encounter many interesting characters along the way, playable and non-playable. I found Vivi, the black mage, to be my favorite character. He looks just like the black mages from earlier installments of the series.
One problem I found with the story is the main character. In the two earlier PlayStation releases of the FF series, the main characters were loners and not very outgoing. Zidane, on the other hand is. He also isn't that great in battle either.
The overall story was decent, but it didn't have the qualities that I enjoyed in FFVII and FFVIII. Also, the main advertising point Square made for the game was "The Crystal Comes Back". Hardly, the crystal was barely even mentioned throughout the entire game.
And now, the real good stuff, the gameplay. It had the solid ATB (active time battle) system the earlier installments had. The learning of abilities also was somewhat old school. Characters learn abilities similar to the way they learn them in FFVI, but instead of Espers, characters learn abilities through their equipment. The only downside to this is that only certain people can learn certain abilities. That means only Vivi can use black magic and only Zidane can steal. I also thought it was a mistake to make the main character the thief character. You can use four characters in the game, but it seemed like three because, other than Zidane's good physical power and stealing skill, he was pretty much useless.
The Chocobo quest was pretty interesting and useful. You get many good weapons and armor from this quest. In FFIX you play what is called Chocobo Hot and Cold. This is where you use the Chocobo dig up treasures and items called Chocographs. Chocographs are used to help Choco find rare treasures on the world map.
Another mini-game was the Tetra Master Card Game. It is almost exactly the same as Triple Triad in FFVIII, but it used a more complicated system. Unlike Triple Triad, Tetra Master is pretty useless (in FFVIII you can change cards into items).
The music in the game was decent, but music in video games really doesn't matter to me because I just slip on some headphones and listen to other music. I did listen to some of the tunes, and to put it simply, not as good as FFVIII (you may disagree with me).
Overall Final Fantasy IX was a good gaming experience. It combined solid gameplay with great graphics. It is a good game despite its few minor flaws. If you are a fan of the FF series I highly recommend picking this one up (pick it up if you like RPGs and aren't a fan of the series). To be brief, better than FF8, but not as good as FF7.