Final Fantasy 9 is the last single-digit Final Fantasy and the last one on the Playstation. It's only natural that Square would go back to their "roots" and revisit the fantasy setting. The game accomplishes that very well and you get the feeling that you are really playing an old-school game. That is, until you see another FMV, which are stunning and numerous. The music is another fine composition from the genius mind of Nobou Uematsu, though in my opinion, not as memorable as past Final Fantasies. Roll this up in one awesome package and you have Final Fantasy 9.
The gameplay is very simple compared to FF8. It follows along with the Materia and Esper rule (equip, gain attacks and abilities). A tried and true formula, it works well considering the classic feeling you get from playing FF9. The battle system is the exact system as all recent Final Fantasies: it's easy to learn, but gets tedious after awhile. The only difference is that in FF9, you fight with four members, like in FF6.
The characters are much better than FF8 and FF7. The character development is almost as good as FF6 and Chrono Trigger. VIVI IS THE BEST CHARACTER EVER! Not only does he look exactly like the old NES black mages, he has probably the best character development I've seen in a long time. I won't spoil it for you, but he learns a lot about himself.
The other characters all fall into the classic FF classes. The main character, Zidane, is a womanizing thief that is quite weak compared to recent main characters (Cloud and Squall). Garnet (or Dagger later on), is a white mage who is set to take over the throne of Alexandria when her mother, the queen, dies. Steiner is a knight and her faithful bodyguard. Amarant is a quiet, strange loner and a bare-hand fighter. Eiko is a summoner from a mysterious village and is friends with all the moogles of the world. Freya is a female dragoon who resembles a man, searching for her love. The final character Quina (sex not determined), is a blue mage who steals abilities.
These characters are a breath of fresh air compared to the lifeless supporting characters of FF8. The biggest problem with the gameplay was the frequent random battles. Many people complained of FF8's frequent battles, well this game is worse. Also, the game is a little shorter than other Final Fantasies and I found the side quests boring and annoying (try to find the ocean chocograph). It still gets a high mark for changing the junction system. 98%
The graphics are probably the best on the Playstation. The towns and castles are especially detailed. I couldn't believe how much detail was put in the small towns littered through the game. The world map was also more detailed than previous games (I also like the fact that you had to press a button before you enter a town, saves time by not accidentally entering). Waterfalls and complex rivers populate the world of Gaia.
The only problem was the character detail. It was very low compared to the other surroundings. I also found that I didn't like the character designs (I hated that Zidane had a tail). 95%
The story is very much a familiar one that has been done so many times, but that fits perfectly with the theme of returning to the roots. The princess (Garnet) is kidnapped by a group of thieves called Tantalus (Zidane belongs to this group). They abduct her during a play that they perform. As they escape, they unwillingly take Steiner (bodyguard) and Vivi (black mage). That starts the adventure of Zidane and his friends. Of course, you meet the predictable supporting villains and suddenly the whole world is going to end. It's not original, but it works.
The main problem I had with the story was its timing. Sometimes you are just wandering around, then the next you're unraveling the whole plot. This method is repeated throughout the entire game. 90%
Next, the sound. The sound has always been my favourite part of RPG's, and FF9 is no exception. I liked how they remixed old Final Fantasy tracks. The music is more detailed than any other Final Fantasy, yet it is less memorable. I can only distinctly remember about four tracks, while in other Final Fantasies, I have 20 tracks memorized. The best tracks are Beatrix's theme, Trance Kuja, Sir Fratley and my favourite, You're Not Alone. I just found that I forget most of the tracks once I stopped playing, unlike FF4-FF8.
The sound effects are minimal, as most of the emphasize is on the music. The sound effects that are present are clean. You can tell what weapon and member is being used. Nothing spectacular, but sufficient enough. 90%
Overall, FF9 warrants a purchase. The game does rekindle some memories from past games and the music is solid. The mini games are very fun and addicting. Although it is very easy, hardcore role-players will still have some fun with the game, and it's simple enough to be a logical choice for any gamer looking for their first RPG. 92%