Final Fantasy IX is a return to the series' roots and the classic Medieval European Fantasy worlds, after the more futuristic approach of Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII. Both graphically and story-wise, it set a new standard for the games that followed it. Particularly, Final Fantasy IX is known for combining a sunny and light-hearted visual atmosphere with a very mature and thoughtful From Bad to Worse story. The game is additionally a celebration of Final Fantasy's origins, and contains many, many references to Square Soft's earliest few installments.
Zidane Tribal is a Loveable Rogue and Gentleman Thief with a dash of Chivalrous Pervert thrown in. Along with the members of Tantalus, a troupe of thieves disguised as traveling entertainers, he plots to kidnap the princess of Alexandria and hold her for a nice hefty ransom. However, when she suddenly turns around and asks to be kidnapped to escape the clutches of her (suddenly) evil mother, what kind of gentleman would say no?
As it turns out, Princess Garnet is holding more than a wish to see the world: she is harbouring powerful Summon Magic within her body, and the Queen will stop at nothing to extract it for the sake of world domination. Aiding the Queen is a mysterious Arms Dealer called Kuja, who is bolstering her armies with powerful artificial mages.
Traveling along with Zidane are a cast of colourful characters: Vivi Ornitier, a young Black Mage who realises (to his horror) that Kuja's artificial mages look just like him; Adelbert Steiner, Garnet's incompetent but fiercely-loyal bodyguard; Eiko Carol, a Bratty Half-Pint summoner with a major crush on Zidane; Freya Crescent, a Dragon Knight searching for her lost love; Quina Quen, a genderless chef thing looking for delicious things to eat; and Amarant Coral, a mercenary/monk with a strong grudge against Zidane.
The story focuses on the characters' efforts at self-discovery. Vivi must learn what he is and why he exists, as well as what this means for his life. Zidane must learn what he is as well, and how this has to do with The Man Behind the Man, Kuja, and his friend Vivi. Garnet must learn the truth about her mother, her own origins, and the nature of the eidolons that are her birthright. Steiner must learn what honor and duty truly mean, when those he is loyal to stand opposed to one another, and his loyalty may be invoked to betray itself.
Freya must learn what's truly important in life, and what it means to lose a loved one, and most of all, how and why to go on fighting. Quina must learn about being a true gourmand, by sampling flavors from all over the world. Eiko must learn that True Companions are more than just grabbing who you want for yourself, and that being on the losing end of a love triangle doesn't mean being alone. Amarant must learn that strength isn't the ability to crush one's foes, and that the most elusive power of all is a thing he may never even understand.
Final Fantasy IX was highly praised for being challenging, but extremely user-friendly. There is no penalty for leveling up, acquired skills can never be lost again, chocobos for encounter-free travel are very easy to come by, and optional scenes are just that: optional. The plot, too, is much less of a Mind Screw than that of previous games, staying comfortably away from too much symbolism but still featuring some wonderfully surreal elements. Criticism of the game tends to focus on its "softer" art style, as well as the Character Focus on Garnet and Vivi to the exclusion of some other characters. The game was the least successful of the three offered on the original PlayStation, selling 6 million copies (Final Fantasy VIII sold over 8 million, and Final Fantasy VII over 10 million; Final Fantasy X would go on to sell 6.6 million), despite retailing for considerably less due to the imminent release of the PS2, though, said imminent release might have been the major factor, if people felt the choice was between the latest game or the latest console.
Despite the game's commercial shortcomings and tendency to be somewhat overlooked by fans, it released to massive critical acclaim. Notably, it is the most critically acclaimed game in the entire franchise, holding the highest Metacritic score out of every single Final Fantasy game.
Additionally, Vivi is one of the most popular characters in Final Fantasy history. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the ultimate woobie can destroy the biggest of monsters despite being nine years old. He had a somewhat one-dimensional cameo in Kingdom Hearts 2 as a result of his popularity.
Notably, series-creator Hironobu Sakaguchi has at one point stated that he considers this game to be the quintessential Final Fantasy, being a composition of all the key elements he has constantly been shooting for. Composer Nobuo Uematsu considers the FFIX soundtrack his best as well.
This was the final Final Fantasy game of the Playstation cycle, and of the 20th century. The game saw an Updated Re-release on Microsoft Windows, iOS, and Android in 2016. A PlayStation 4 port was released in September 2017.
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