Final Fantasy keeps increasing the Roman numeral next to the franchise every few years, but IX remains a game that took quite the turn after the steam-punk VII entry and VIII’s military academy setting. IX returned to a world with kings, queens and castles, which also happens to have a continent shrouded in evil Mist.
Final Fantasy began as Square’s answer to Enix’s Dragon Quest. The first game released in 1990 on the NES, though II not seeing a release in the West until 2003 on the Playstation and III’s release later on the DS in 2006 in a remake using 3D models. The series then reached the SNES when Final Fantasy IV was introduced to the West as Final Fantasy II in 1991. The fifth entry in the series, however, was not released in the West until 1999 on the PlayStation, although VI (known as III in the West) was released on the SNES in 1994. The series then began to make the change from sprite-based gameplay to 3D models with pre-rendered background with Final Fantasy VII releasing in 1997 and VIII in 1999 on the PlayStation. Of course, this bring the series to the game in discussion, Final Fantasy IX, which marks the last entry for the original PlayStation in 2000.
Final Fantasy IX returned to the series roots, most noticeably visually with the inclusion of the traditional look for the White and Black Mages. The game turned from its more reality-based machinery story to the fantasy-based medieval world. The game begins with a group of thieves planning their plot to kidnap the princess and hold her ransom. The princess wants to leave the castle to their surprise when she tells the troupe of the queen’s erratic behavior, which, by seeing the beginning, something is noticeably strange about the queen. The characters grow and find more about themselves and the world as the story unfolds across continents by airship and Chocobos.
Characters associated with certain classes such as Thief, Knight and Blue Mage could be identified with earlier games in the franchise. Characters could increase the skills used in battle by the equipment worn. Some equipment might teach the Thief class one attack, but a Mage might learn another spell instead. Learning the new moves was simplified. This could be the main reason the game is easier than its PlayStation-era games. Characters could use these moves, passive abilities, and magic to deal damage. The battle system uses the familiar Active Time Battle system first introduced in IV meaning pausing the game is a necessity before leaving the system idle. Since all the commands are still menu-based, becoming familiar with it and keeping everything tidy helps to end the battles without much searching.
The character models use less-realistic models compared to VIII, but makes sense in the fantasy world. This eases the intense atmosphere presented in earlier games, which is also helped with the light-hearted dialogue present in most of the game. When all the characters are depicted with such diversity in shape and size, recognizing them while the story is told is very helpful as well.
The music is memorable and the traditional themes are presented in the more familiar arrangement, notably the victory fanfare compared to VII and VIII. Theatrhythm was released earlier in 2012 to mark the 25th anniversary of the series. The game came with four of the songs on the cart while others were released as DLC later.
The series continued back to more realism in Final Fantasy X in 2001 and X-2 in 2003 for the PlayStation 2. XI was the series first MMORPG, which released on multiple platforms, then XII released in 2006, also for the PlayStation 2. Final Fantasy XIII marked the series beginning on the PlayStation 3 in 2010 with XIII-2 following in 2012.
- Final Fantasy retrospective: A look back at 25 years of the RPG series (digitalspy.co.uk)
- The Moore Log: Final Fantasy III (sutobeya.wordpress.com)
- Final Fantasy: What Went Wrong (Part One of Two) (daliennation.wordpress.com)
- Final Fantasy VII Retrospective (epicagames.com)
- Final Fantasy anniversary interview: Toryiama speaks (vg247.com)