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Love/hate 11 Final Fantasy IX spoilerish

Super fun entry in the series, cutesy look but dark at times story line, probably more so than VIII, X and XII. VII could be pretty dark at times but this one is surprisingly more adult at times. I took a ton more screenshots this time around compared to the FFVIII review.


Plot

Like VIII in that it has a super tight plot in disc one which is superlinear and then it unravels a bit and the pace falls away after that. The war on the Mist continent is done quite well but after going away to the Outer Continent things slow down a bit in some ways. I did not even realise I had advanced into a new disc as it is all one big game on Steam. I’m used to changing the discs after certain epic scenes.

I loved all the characters in the FF games I have played so this is no exception. Zidane is a great main character, cheery and an apparent ladies man, a refreshing change from the others. The supporting cast all mix together well and have their various goals and get a good bit of screen time, though as usual this wanes toward the end of this long game.

All the characters are based off classic FF job classes, Zidane being a thief, Dagger the leading lady as a Summoner and Steiner (above) a Knight. I love using the four fighty characters, while I generally leave the four mage characters behind.

Unlike VIII which kind of tapers off into silliness toward the end, IX is pretty strong throughout plot-wise. You visit most places two or three times throughout the story and there is always something new going on and the locations change as you move through the story, some places are destroyed and the NPCs move along with the plot and so on.

Soundtrack

Not as good, though some brilliant ones in there. Many of the tracks have the same basis and tend to be the ones I don’t like while I really enjoyed the ‘unique’ tracks like Treno, We Are Thieves!, Cid’s Castle Theme, Pandemonium and Memoria and more. Some were based off earlier games but updated for this. Thankfully I didn't need any Roses and Wine app to fix the music as in VIII, the music here is perfect, if not even better.


I would probably put this after 7,8,12 for sure… not sure about 10 as I haven’t played it in a few years. This was the last of the pure Nobuo Uematsu soundtracks and apparently he was getting worn out and uninspired at this point but after doing all the prior soundtracks I can’t blame him.

Appearance

This one always looked pretty good, despite the ‘deformed’ appearance of everybody it looks great. The Steam version perhaps looks even better than the original, I approve of the remaster, as opposed to 8 which did not look quite as good (lots of pixelated shite).


Gameplay/mechanics

No Junction system here, and a return of arms and armour. Weapons and armour and add-ons each have an ability or sometimes a spell that can be learned off them after you acquire enough AP. Once you have the requisite amount of AP you learn the skill off and can change to a different weapon or armour if you wish and learn something else or just equip what’s strongest. It’s very satisfying to search for them as you progress through the game and each new piece of equipment you buy or find may add a new ability. Here's me after beating the timed boss fight versus book early in the game:


Combat is super simple, each of the eight main characters has two special command abilities - Zidane has Steal and Skill. The former is simple - steal stuff off enemies, with bosses having the best stuff. Many bosses you may stall fighting to death so Zidane can steal from them. Only a few have ridiculously low drop rates, the infamous Hilgigars and his Fairy Flute comes to mind. Zidane’s Skill is stuff like Flee! Which allows you to flee battle easy for a small price as opposed to manually by holding the shoulder buttons. Some commands are classic ones like offensive Black Magic and support spells in White and Blue Magic while others are very interesting and powerful too - Amarant’s Throw is great, fling a weapon at an enemy for ridiculous damage or Freya’s Jump allowing her to temporarily leave the screen and jump back into battle moments later with a Spear attack.


I try to level everyone as equally as possible, and there are plenty of story reasons for doing so, with the party splitting up regularly enough until later in the game. By that point I usually use Zidane, Amarant, Freya and that combat beast, Steiner, continuing my shunning of Summon Magic and trying to find ways around healing. Vivi’s Black Magic can be insanely useful for the first half of the game but fades away to just Attacking the enemy later on. You can use Auto Reflect or whatever and cast spells off that back at the enemy for double damage but you can also attack with four characters in a few seconds and do way more damage.
I never managed to beat Ozma, but I fought him for the first time. That's 0-3 to the super bosses of Steam FFs I have played; I couldn't beat Omega in VIII or Ozma here, while I will replay VII on Steam soon and see how I do against Ruby and Sapphire and so on. Seeing as I can't really be bothered to level up *that* much it may be a wipeout.


Side quests/mini games

I tried something different and played the Chocobo Hot and Cold to the death for the first time ever, and it was pretty good! I powered through it as made use of the Steam speed boost while playing it to squeeze as much of that mini game into a few play sessions. I cannot imagine what it was like to play at the slower speed but I guess the rewards are somewhat worth it.

The card game in this is pretty terrible, having no clear rules and being largely chance based. I made sure to grab any cards I could find and made sure to win the 'mandatory' card tourney halfway through but that was about it. It doesn't hold a candle to Triple Triad BUT Tetra Master looks good at least and unlike Triple Triad there are no insanely powerful items to be made from the cards so avoiding it doesn't matter.




In conclusion: The most 'fun' FF, the bombastic opening scenes are fun and the first disc railroads you nicely around the first continent but things slow down a lot after you leave there. Nice characters pretty tight interactions no one is wasted though as usual some of the quieter characters in your party get relegated to quick time events. Some of these are quite good and some even give you items but unlike Star Ocean 2 (which desperately needed its version of QTEs) they add very little. I kicked Hades around and easily beat Necron this time, as opposed to when I barely survived with one person left on the console.

Bonus:

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