is something of a throwback to the older Final Fantasies
, and, well, I loved it. The realistic style of Final Fantasy VIII
just didn?t do it for me, design-wise, and it?s pleasant to go back to big-headed characters and highly whimsical world designs. The first time you see the airship congestion in Windblum, you?ll know what I mean. Final Fantasy IX
is set in a world full of wonder and excitement, with interesting characters and entertaining gameplay.
In the preview, I got to play as quite a few characters. The first disc itself contains roughly seven to eight hours of gameplay, depending on how much time you spend on getting your characters stronger, and you meet no fewer than five people who seem like they?ll be integral to the game.
The ?main character,? as much as the game has one, is Zidane, a thief with a tail who starts out in an attempt to abduct the Princess of Alexandria, Garnet. She ends up joining your party, along with my favorite character, a little black mage named Vivi, who?s extremely unsure about himself and his place in the world. Steiner, the Princess? bodyguard, supplies the required angst towards Zidane, not to mention his fair share of comic relief. And Freya, a mysterious Dragoon from Burmecia, fits the ?dark and mysterious? role rather nicely.
I liked all the characters, though, which is more than I can say for a few of the past Final Fantasies. Square did some really good things with FFIX. The game doesn?t take itself too terribly seriously, which is A Good Thing, so there is some genuinely comic moments as you play. Moogles are back, and chocobos are here to stay. And the irritating Draw method of the last Final Fantasy has been retrograded to the MP system we all know and love.
That?s not to say that Final Fantasy IX doesn?t do a few things differently. Abilities are gained in a method that resembles both Final Fantasy VI and Vandal Hearts 2. Each weapon or piece of armor has embedded abilities. Equipping it lets the character learn certain abilities (thieves can?t learn magic, for example, but they can learn how to block Poison attacks). Once it?s equipped, the character can use the ability from the start. But if it?s de-equipped before the AP cost has been met, the ability is lost. AP are gained from battles, much like they were in Final Fantasy VI, and the system works surprisingly well. It keeps you using old and useless weapons because you want to gain the abilities they contain permanently.
I won?t give away plot details. Suffice it to say that it?s both clich?d and different, with differing amounts of each at different points, which is all a grand Final Fantasy tradition. Major kudos must be given to the Square localization team, who seems to be continuing their streak of superb translations. If the demo is any indication, Final Fantasy IX will go next to Vagrant Story and Chrono Cross as the best Square translations yet.