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Final Fantasy IX Remastered Review (PS4)

Prepare to enter a world of steampunk, magic and wonder. Final Fantasy IX is the ultimate love letter to the RPG genre. Created by Squaresoft (now Square Enix) in 2000, the game boasted beautiful graphics, captivating story and a massive world to explore. Now that the game has been remastered for current gen, does it still hold up today?

Final Fantasy IX Remastered Review (PS4)

INTRODUCTION

Final Fantasy IX is a turn based J-RPG created by Squaresoft (now Square Enix) in 2000 for the PS1 and was ported to PSN in 2010. It was remastered in November 2016 for IOS, Android and soon after, PC.
The PC version was then ported to PS4 in September of 2017.

What I'm trying to say with this is that there is NO reason to NOT try this game…

Built from the ground up to be an homage to the very roots of the RPG genre, while also retaining the (then) new features of its recent predecessors, the game ends up feeling like the ultimate “classic” Final Fantasy game.
It boasts beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds, a moving soundtrack, stunning Elizabethan steampunk environments and a captivating story.

Final Fantasy IX is available on Steam and PSN for 20.99€ or IOS and Android for 22.99€

STORY

Final Fantasy IX takes place in a world called Gaia which consists of four continents. Most of Gaia's population reside on the Mist Continent which, in case you haven't guessed, is named so because of a thick mist covering the entire continent. it is this mist that is the main power source of the inhabitants but also, the main source of the monsters which roam the lands outside of the towns and cities. The other three continents are uncharted lands full of mystery.

Have I set the tone yet? Good!

The main plot (with as little spoilers as possible) is as follows:
Zidane and the Tantalus Theater Troupe attempt to kidnap Princess Garnet on her sixteenth birthday celebration in the city of Alexandria. The plan is for Tantalus to perform a play beloved by the entire kingdom, ''I want To Be Your Cannery'' as a distraction while Zidane sneaks into the castle to kidnap the princess.

Upon reaching her, they discover that Garnet, who is concerned about Queen Brahne's bizarre and aggressive dictator like behavior, had planned on escaping the city and is willing to be kidnapped, especially as their employer,  Regent Cid of Lindblum, is who she had planned to run to in order to seek help for her mother. During the escape from the city, the troupe is joined by a young black mage called Vivi, who just wanted to see one of his favorite plays, and Steiner, proud lead of the ''knights of Pluto'' who decides to travel with Garnet for  her protection against Zidane (whom he thinks is a bad influence and a scoundrel) while attempting to make her see reason. After the group flees the city and its guards, their damaged airship crashes, and  Zidane, Garnet, Vivi, and Steiner travel on together.

…and so an epic adventure begins.

The overall plot in Final Fantasy IX isn’t complicated or convoluted like many other J-RPGs. It is quite simple, some may even say traditional! with its Aladdin esc love story or its “corrupted leader starts a war” themes. But as I say with any story, it is not the actual plot that makes it compelling (they say every story has already been told) it's the worlds and environments, the lore and the side stories, the characters and their side of the story. This is where the game really shines in my opinion. The characters are all so full of charm and each one is dealing with their own inner demons. Each character has been affected by the main plot in a different way And its THAT device that really gives the story its meat.

Final Fantasy IX Remastered Review (PS4). A love story that doesn't make you cringe!

GAMEPLAY

If you’ve ever played any of the 1st 10 Final Fantasy games, or indeed ANY old school J-RPG, then the Basic game mechanics should feel Right at home for you! But for the uninitiated, let me break it down:

Traveling from each location is done via a world map. There are also secret places scattered about this map that contain either special items, a chance to learn a new ''Special Ability'' (we'll get to that in just a bit) or just a fun side quest, so make sure you explore every corner!
When you're not against a boss you will randomly run into enemies in the world map and other locations. This game has one of the highest enemy occurrence rate of any final fantasy game so prepare to battle… a lot!
Now, I personally love grinding away in RPGs but some say that it is a bit of a downside.
The battle system in FIX is turn based with Active Time Battle (ATB). All this means is that there is a time meter during attacks in battle, some attacks need time to charge, others need some time to recover, etc.

Characters grow by winning battles and “leveling up”. The more a character participates in battle, the more points they get, but the points will be shared with the rest of your party. Pretty standard stuff.
You can equip certain items and weapons specific to each character depending on their “job” or “class” (black mage, thief, knight etc) to Enhance their stats. Pretty standard stuff so far.

You can also gain ''Support abilities'' and equip them using ''Magic Stones'' (which you may receive post battle) to enhance specific traits of each character. These are usually archived by equipping certain Items.

During a battle, the player has an opportunity to go into a “Trance”. Similar to “Limit Breaks”, Trances are archived by experiencing battles. Once the meter has filled up, your character will transform into  a more powerful version of him/her self with abilities and even attacks exclusive to the form that deal massive amounts of damage to your  opponent!

One of the biggest standout features on Final Fantasy IX is the ''Tetra Master Card Game''.You can pick up cards by finding them, winning them in a Tetra match or collecting them post battle. The game itself is quite intricate and serves only for an in-game hobby but is very fun if not a bit convoluted. Despite the tutorials in the game and winning a lot of Tetra games battle I still feel I don't understand all the rules! Nevertheless, it's an addictive game that helps break away from the sometimes intensely emotional story from time to time. There's even an in-game competition! To that I say; GOOD LUCK!

Final Fantasy IX Remastered Review (PS4). Go Vivi, Go!

VISUALS & AUDIO

I often refer to this game as the best looking PS1 game ever and the HD remaster, for the most part, just enhances that feeling for me! the characters and interactive items have never looked better with no alias and crisp, clear details on full show with the resolution upgrade. Honestly you forget this game is 18 years old! Even the FMV cutscenes are once again a treat for the eyes. When it comes to HD remasters, many developers fail to clean up old cutscenes but Square Enix did a fab job here!

The pre-rendered backgrounds also look a lot cleaner and genuinely look like pieces of art with the rich colours, tons of details and beautiful atmosphere. However THIS is where an ounce of disappointment slips in as the backgrounds are not quite as crisp as the characters and items, making them stick out like a sore thumb! This is a minor annoyance and is eclipsed by the detail and wonder of the game. But there is a reason why it IS an annoyance, for me personally.

You see, before its original release back in 2000, screenshots were released of some of the environments which were even more detailed than the original product. The slight downgrade was most likely due to the limitations of the ps1 but it would've been nice to see those original pre-rendered backgrounds in this HD remaster. But I wont loose too much sleep about that.

The music in this game is easily one of the strongest sound tracks from its era. the entire OST has that old school 90's RPG MIDI orchestra sound to it which fills you with nostalgia.
Almost every track fills you with what ever emotion the character is feeling, be it dread, sorrow, joy, or humor.

Final Fantasy IX Remastered Review (PS4). The colours used are beautiful

CONCLUSION

Everything that Final Fantasy learned up to the year 2000 was packed into this one game. Filled with charm, character, emotion, humor, side quests (one of which wasn't discovered until a few years ago!) and a straight forward story that is strong and captivating. The remaster bumps the visuals up to todays standards with no frills.
I  just wish that this game had a port available for the PSVita or even the 3DS but again, that's just a minor nit pick! Besides, you could always use ''Remote Play''!

PROS CONS
+ Detailed Character Designs– Backgrounds Could've Been Clearer
+ Very Detailed Environments– No Release For Portable Consoles
+ Amazingly Composed Sound Track
+ Lots Of Side Quests
9.5
Amazing

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