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Posted 9/19/08 , edited 9/20/08

Final Fantasy IX (ファイナルファンタジーIX Fainaru Fantajī IX) is the ninth installment in the Final Fantasy series, released by Square in 2000. It was directed by Hiroyuki Ito and co-produced by Hironobu Sakaguchi and Shinji Hashimoto. It is the third and last Final Fantasy in the main series to be produced for the PlayStation. Unlike Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII, however, this was not ported to the PC. It was originally going to be a spin-off game, but was eventually decided to be a main game.

After several Final Fantasy installments that featured an increasing sci-fi slant, Final Fantasy IX was intended to return the series, at least temporarily, to its more fantasy-oriented roots. The characters, who had been depicted in an increasingly realistic fashion in previous Final Fantasy games, were deliberately rendered in a more cartoonish fashion to reflect this return to tradition. Among the most notable in the influences of previous Final Fantasy games is the presence of Black Mages, represented foremost by the playable party member Vivi; other Black Mages appeared as a crucial element of the storyline.

Final Fantasy IX was announced and developed in tandem with Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XI. This three-pronged marketing effort was intended to provide gamers with the promise of three upcoming games of varied style and gameplay: an intentionally retro RPG in IX, a smoother evolution in style and design in X, and an online experience in XI.

Gameplay ::

Levels & Abilities ::

Final Fantasy IX retains experience points and levels, but this time new abilities are learned by equipping an item that can teach an ability and gaining enough ability points to learn it permanently, reminiscent of the Esper system in Final Fantasy VI. However, in this case abilities can still be used even when they haven't been learned permanently. There are two types of abilities in Final Fantasy IX, 'Action' and 'Support'. Action Abilities include techniques like magic, weapon skills and calling Eidolons. Support Abilities have beneficial effects such as resistance against status ailments and increased damage to certain enemy types. A limited amount of Support Abilities can be equipped at one time, governed by 'Magic Stones'. Each Support Ability requires a certain number of Magic Stones, and more Stones can be gained by leveling up. Many abilities can be learned by most characters, but some are exclusive to certain characters.

Field ::

In the field, the player, most of the time, controls the main character, Zidane. However, unlike the previous 3D games, the environment is much more interactive. When Zidane passes a point of interest, a ! or ? bubble appears above his head, and the player can press X to interact with this object. As the game progresses, different methods of traveling across the world are available to the player. As with previous incarnations, characters can travel by chocobo, boat and airship. These methods of travel, especially the boat and airships, are important to the story.

Battles ::

The game utilizes the Active Time Battle system, like Final Fantasy VII and VIII in battle. When a character's ATB gauge is filled up, that character can choose a command to execute. Normally, enemies attack whenever their turn is up, but the battle can be set to 'wait' mode, making the enemy unable to attack a character while they are choosing a spell or an item from the menu.

In Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII, the player was restricted to 3-person parties. In Final Fantasy IX, this is changed back to the classic 4-person party.

Trance ::

Continuing the tradition started in Final Fantasy VI, the game incorporates Limit Breaks, although very different from earlier Limit Break systems. In Final Fantasy IX, Trance is the equivalent of a Limit Break. When a character sustains damage in battle, the Trance gauge is filled up. When it is full, that character automatically goes into Trance mode. Trance changes the appearance of a character, and either gives that character a new skill or set of skills that are only usable while they are in Trance mode. For several characters, their Trance skills depend on the abilities already learned, e.g, if Zidane has learned the ability Flee for his Skills ability set, he gains the ability Free Energy for his Trance ability set, Dyne. Zidane is the only character who is able to use new abilities in their Trance. Most characters abilities are enhanced, for example, Vivi gains Double Black, which allows him to cast 2 Black Magic spells in quick succession, and while in Trance, Steiner's strength is boosted. Dagger's 'Summon' is changed to 'Eidolons' which causes the summoned Eidolon to attack at the beginning of Dagger's turn for a while. Eiko, like Vivi, gains the 'Double White", allowing her to cast two white magic spells. Freya's 'Jump' is also enhanced so she stays in the air and rains spears on all enemies during her turn until her gauge empties. Quina's 'Eat' ability turns to 'Cook', giving the more likely chance that Quina will eat the enemy. Amarant's "Flair" ability changes to "Elan" allowing him to cast flair skills on multiple targets.

Character Classes ::

Of note in Final Fantasy IX is the existence of character classes, something absent from the last few games in the series. While not explicitly stated, each character in the game has an obvious job based on previous Final Fantasy games and an overview of their abilities in battle. For example, Zidane is a thief, Amarant is a monk, Quina is a Blue Mage, and so on.

This is yet another return to tradition from IX's recent predecessors, in which characters were largely blank slates to be heavily customized by the player. Here, the emphasis is on building an effective team of characters whose strengths and weaknesses balance one another to form an effective fighting force.

Active Time Events ::

Another new aspect of Final Fantasy IX are Active Time Events (ATE). When an ATE window appears in the game, the player can press Select to see what the other characters are doing, allowing for more character development than previously. Although watching an ATE might not always affect the main storyline, sometimes the player will have to watch an ATE automatically. The player might, however, gain items or Gil by watching these. Sometimes, multiple choices for ATEs to watch are given, and if one is picked, the other might not be able to be activated, meaning the player has to wait for a second playthrough to see it, although this is not always in effect.

Mognet ::

Within the game, Mognet is a postal system used by the Moogles. As the player progresses through the game, he or she will find Moogles inhabiting most of the known world. When the player talks to a Moogle, they allow the player to save their game, restore life energy, or purchase items. The Moogle may also request that the player character act as a courier by delivering a letter to another Moogle via Mognet. It is also possible (albeit less frequently) that the player may receive a letter from another character in the game.

Later on in the game, it is revealed that the Moogles are only requesting that the player deliver letters because Mognet Central, where Moogle letters are usually sorted, is having mechanical problems, and as a result, letter deliveries have become sporadic. It is later revealed that the malfunctions are caused by the letter carrier Artemicion, who decorated his coat with the oil used to lubricate Mognet's machines, causing them to break down. There are several letters about Artemicion being sent between Moogles worrying about his constant use of the item, which is called "Super Slick". Although many do admire Artemicion's shiny coat. The player may optionally help the Moogles restore Mognet Central's functionality as a side-quest, but only if all the Moogle letters have been delivered.

Setting ::

The world of Final Fantasy IX, named Gaia, is divided into four continents:

* Mist Continent, which takes up most of the map,
* Forgotten Continent, a large land in the west where the sun sets,
* Lost Continent, to the northwest, almost entirely covered in ice, and
* Outer Continent, an arid desert wasteland to the North.

Characters ::

* Zidane Tribal: The main protagonist. A Thief, and member of the Tantalus group, and an inveterate womanizer.
* Princess Garnet til Alexandros XVII: The female protagonist, a Summoner with more emphasis on summons than white magic and the Princess of Alexandria.
* Vivi Orunitia: A young Black Mage, but very pure of heart.
* Adelbert Steiner: A noble Knight of Alexandria, and the Captain of the Knights of Pluto.
* Freya Crescent: A Burmecian Dragon Knight from Burmecia.
* Quina Quen: A Blue Mage who joins the adventure to experience cuisine from around the world.
* Eiko Carol: A young Summoner with more proficiency in white magic than summoning, one of the last of her tribe.
* Amarant Coral: A Monk and wanted bandit, who holds a grudge against Zidane.

Story ::

In the world known as Gaia, Queen Brahne Alexandros of the kingdom of Alexandria lusts for power, and is trying to increase her domain by conquering the surrounding lands. War is brewing among the neighboring kingdoms on the Mist Continent. Something more than Brahne's lust for power is driving the once-peaceful nation of Alexandria to conquest. Princess Garnet til Alexandros XVII, adopted daughter of Queen Brahne, is unhappy with her position and plagued by nightmares of a sea voyage; a flight from a terrible eye in the heavens. Vivi Orunitia, a Black Mage, childlike and alone, yearns to know his history and why he exists. All are brought together on a seemingly innocent night of entertainment in Alexandria, one that will spin events out of control and lead to the truth of their lives and others.

Regent Cid of Lindblum is worried about how these troubling events will impact Princess Garnet, so he dispatches the troupe known as Tantalus to Alexandria. Tantalus, a band of thieves disguising themselves as actors to hide their operations, plan to "kidnap" Garnet. A prominent character in Tantalus is the game's main protagonist, Zidane Tribal. However, the Princess herself yearns to escape from her wicked mother, and is willingly kidnapped. During the operation, Vivi and Adelbert Steiner, Captain of the Royal Knights of Pluto and Garnet's guardian, become involved, much to Steiner's disdain. The plan soon backfires, and Tantalus member Zidane is left in charge of the kidnapping. They are shot down from the sky, and land in the Evil Forest. When Zidane, Garnet, Steiner, and Vivi reach Lindblum, Brahne begins her advancement into the Burmecia region, home of Zidane's friend Freya Crescent. Soon after, Alexandria sweeps through Cleyra and the previously mentioned Lindblum, stealing powerful Eidolons, magical creatures with great powers, for use in future invasions. Zidane and his friends, accompanied by the genderless Qu Quina Quen, attempt to stop the attacks, while Garnet unsuccessfully tries to negotiate with her mother. Quina actually proves useful when trying to find the entrance to the Outer Continent due its constant search for frogs.

It is soon discovered that Brahne's sudden shift in attitude is being manipulated by a man named Kuja, who has his own plans for world domination. Meanwhile, Zidane and his allies encounter Eiko Carol, a young girl, and last of the Summoner Tribe, and Amarant Coral, a sarcastic man, who has a history with Zidane, during their adventures. When they finally reach Alexandria, Brahne is defeated, and finally regains her former self, but dies, leaving Garnet devastated. She must now become the Queen of Alexandria. However, she delays this fate and goes together with Zidane and his allies. They are now chasing Kuja and observing his actions, a journey which culminates in going to the parallel world of Terra. At Terra, all will learn the truth behind Kuja's inferior relationship to Zidane. When the truth is revealed by Garland, Kuja is no longer satisfied with world domination; his depression turns into rage, and he hatches a plot to destroy the source of all existence: the Crystal. Upon reaching the Crystal World, Zidane and his friends face Kuja in battle, where Kuja seemingly destroys everyone with Ultima. Surviving, the heroes find themselves in the presence of Necron, a powerful entity who also wishes to destroy the Crystal and return the world to what it was before existence. Upon defeating Necron, Zidane stays behind to find Kuja. The others believe Zidane dead, and Garnet, now the reigning queen of Alexandria, slides into depression. In the closing moments of the game, Zidane appears before Garnet during a performance of a play in Alexandria. The queen runs through the crowd of people, and leaps into his arms.

Music ::

Final Fantasy IX is the last Final Fantasy game with music composed exclusively by Nobuo Uematsu. It was also his most prolific score, as the original soundtrack for the game had a whopping 110 tracks, and an additional soundtrack was released with 42 more new tracks. Many people speculate that the reason why Uematsu no longer composed game soundtracks on his own after this game was that he was simply overworked.

Much of the music in the game revolve around the themes of the J-pop ballad, Melodies of Life, which was composed by Uematsu and performed by Emiko Shiratori. The song itself was sung in Japanese for the Japanese release of the game, and in English for the North American and European releases of the game.

Allusions ::

Final Fantasy IX was intended, in many ways, to be a salute to the history of the series, and as such, it is filled with allusions and references to previous games. One of the most apparent is the similarity of the character Vivi to the Black Mage from the original Final Fantasy. Unfortunately, despite the high quality of the translation overall, care was not taken to ensure that all of the various names and references matched up to those used in the previous English-language releases. Because of this, many of the references with which the game abounds are completely missed by the non-Japanese audience. Some examples are included below.

* Garland shares a name with a character from the original game. In fact, he is said to have "tried to conquer the world once, but failed," hinting that the two are the same character.
* The tune that plays in the Crystal World at the end of the game is quite similar to the Crystal Theme that's in most Final Fantasy games.
* Gulug Volcano was meant to be Gurgu Volcano, as seen in the original Final Fantasy. The name is written in Japanese as グルグ, or "Gurugu". Princess Cornelia, a character in the "I Want to be Your Canary" play, is also named after a location in the original title.
* The Pumice item in Final Fantasy IX, which is used to summon Ark, the massive, transforming airship, is known as "Fuyuuishi" (ふゆう石, or "floating stone"). In the original NES version of Final Fantasy, this item was translated as "FLOATER," and was used to lift the ancient airship from the desert.
* The four elemental fiends which appear in Memoria are named Maliris, Tiamat, Kraken, and Lich, recalling their counterparts in the Final Fantasy. (In the anglicized version of Final Fantasy, the fiend of fire was called "Kary," although the name "Marilith" was restored in the Final Fantasy Origins version.)
* The giant boss creature, Hilgigars, was actually meant to be Hill Gigas. Gigas is a common name in the series for oversized humanoids, most frequently seen in Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy VI, and seen again in Final Fantasy XII.
* After the world of Terra has been destroyed, at the beginning of disc four and onwards, the player can return to Black Mage Village and examine the gramophone at the Black Mage Village inn. If the player possesses the Doga's Artifact and Une's Mirror, the background music will change to a melody taken from the Final Fantasy III soundtrack; Dorga and Une's Theme. This melody continues on until the player leaves the Black Mage Village.
* The dwarves of Conde Petie use the same greeting as the dwarves of Final Fantasy IV (ラリホ, or "rariho"). However, the original saying "Lali-ho" was changed to "Rally-ho" in Final Fantasy IX. It can be explained, since "l" in Japanese is "r" in English. These mistranslations are common throughout the series.
* The Eidolon, Madeen, is mis-Romanized as well. It was meant to invoke the name of Final Fantasy VI's Maduin (which, in the original Japanese versions of both games, was written as マディーン, or "madiin"). Incidentally, the slightly-nonsensical name of its attack, "Terra Homing," was also intended to be "Terraforming."
* Rufus' Welcoming Ceremony - During an Active Time Event in the Evil Forest, the player can see the band aboard the Tantalus' theater ship, the Prima Vista, playing the "Rufus' Welcoming Ceremony" song from Final Fantasy VII.
* At the end of the game, when Tantalus once again perform the play I Want to be Your Canary, a line with the words "No cloud, no squall shall hinder us", is mentioned, referring to the protagonists of the previous two games in the main series.
* The game's title as seen on the title screen, with the metal globe containing a crystal, is reminiscent of the title for the Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals OVA.
* If the player examines a large, familiar looking sword in the Lindblum Weapons Shop, Zidane will say "I once knew a spiky headed guy who had a sword like this...," a reference to either Cloud Strife or Zack Fair, characters from Final Fantasy VII who carried a large sword named the 'Buster Sword'.
* At the beginning of the game, during her escape, Princess Garnet's robes bear a strong likeness to the original White Mage.
* In Lindblum, the characters may encounter an old man named Locke, possibly a reference to Locke Cole.
* After Alexandria has been destroyed, a flower girl can be seen talking to one of the Knights of Pluto (named Pluto Knight VII) and when you address her, she replies "he's cute, but not exactly Mr. Personality". The knight remarks that he's lucky to have found such a beautiful girl here. (a reference to Aerith and Cloud of Final Fantasy VII).
* The "Eternal Harvest" theme played at during cut scene in Cleyra bears a resemblance in melody to the song "Harvest" from Final Fantasy V, the difference being the actual pitch of the melody.
* Much of the melody heard in Kuja's Theme is heard in the Final Fantasy V song "Slumber of Ancient Earth".
* The way Kuja throws Garland out of Pandemonium's Platform is reminiscent of the way Kefka throws Emperor Gesthal out of the Floating Continent.
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