Game Reviews

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Final Fantasy IX was an adventurous and emotional installment in the popular and long running role playing game series titles Final Fantasy. The original PlayStation release of Final Fantasy IX was released to North America in 2000 by Squaresoft before the merger that resulted in the company’s renaming to Square Enix. The gaming industry has changed so drastically over the past sixteen years that the original Final Fantasy IX had become outdated when it comes to the quality of graphics along with a few other aspects of the game. There had been a lot of talk from fans of the game about wanting a Steam release since so many of the other Final Fantasy titles had already been released to Steam. After much waiting Square Enix finally announced that Final Fantasy IX would be remastered to iOS, Android, and Windows via Steam. The iOS and Android versions of the remaster were released early February 2016 and the Steam version was released April 2016. The Steam version includes Steam trading cards of the main characters and dozens of unlockable Steam achievements which are great for those of us who have played the original game dozens of times.

The story begins in Alexandria where the theatre troupe known as Tantalus will be starring in a stage performance for princess Garnet’s sixteenth birthday. It is no secret that Tantalus is also an infamous band of thieves from the kingdom of Lindblum and they are plotting to kidnap princess Garnet during the performance of the play titled “I Want to be Your Canary”.  Zidane who is the lead character of the game is one of the members of the group Tantalus and is also the one tasked with kidnapping the princess while everyone else is distracted. As Zidane makes his attempt to kidnap the princess she decides to go along with it in order to escape the castle for her own reasons. Steiner the leader of the Knights of Pluto catches on to their schemes and begins a search for Princess Garnet. Eventually they all end up on stage and the character Vivi is chased onto the stage after being caught for sneaking in to see the performance and as things start to become chaotic Tantalus attempts to escape in their airship. The queen sends a blazing monster after the airship and damages it but they still manage to exit Alexandria and their real journey begins in the Evil Forest. Many dangers await them and as a result Zidane chooses to leave Tantalus to save the princess and protect her on her journey to Lindblum. The journey continues with Zidane, Steiner, Garnet, and Vivi who are key characters in the game. As they continue onward to Lindblum more dangers await them and they begin to learn more about themselves and each other. Things will become more interesting and the plot will take a new direction once they reach Lindblum.

Many of the systems in the Steam version of Final Fantasy IX are basically the same as they were in the original but there are a few additions. One of these major additions to the game is the ability to literally speed run through the game with the high speed mode. The high speed mode makes the character you are controlling go faster than they would running in the game and allows you continue through the game considerably faster. Another mode in the game is the no encounter mode which once activated will remove battles and you can travel around the map without encountering enemies. The no encounter mode is perfect for those who become impatient with the random encounters while they are trying to simply get from one place to another. My favorite of the additions to the game is “Master All Abilities” which makes the characters instantly master the compatible abilities from each item they equip. Master All Abilities also automatically teaches Quina all of the blue magic skills from enemies you have faced. In order for it to work on Quina s/he must be in your party while Master all abilities is in use and s/he must be used in battles. Master All Abilities along with a few other game boosters can be accessed in the configuration menu but once activated they cannot be deactivated so be certain that you want to use them before setting them. Some of the boosters set a maximum to things such as character levels, magic stones, and the total amount of gil you can carry at one time. These boosters are the remaster’s strongest point and can make the game a unique experience for those of us who played the original often.

Another of the game’s strong points is the touched up graphics which stay true to the original but make the details clearer to see. In the original it was often hard to see details on the characters and backgrounds but in the remaster you can see everything much clearer than ever before. Everything from the once pixelated characters and setting to the cut scenes has been beautifully remastered and now appears smooth. There are a small number of areas in the game in which the characters don’t seem to blend well with the backgrounds but it does not affect the overall quality of the game. The biggest improvements are seen in the cut scenes since the graphics as well as the animations are much smoother. The opening sequence no longer glitches and freezes like it did in the original. The opening sequence would often freeze or glitch at the part where it is showing Garnet on the boat as a young girl which made the opening sequence practically unwatchable but now it is.Some other graphic changes include changes to the look and style of many of the game menus. The battle menu has been smoothed out and simplified so that all of the character actions appear at once in a nicer looking round edged menu during battles. Many of the There are many other touched up aspects to the remaster which greatly improve the quality of an already great game.

While there are many improvement there are a few issues in the game which need to be cleared up by Square Enix. The first issue I took notice of in the game is a very minor which does not need to be taken care of since it can changed by the player. The first minor issue is actually the strange preset for the controls but thankfully that just takes going to the configuration menu and changing the keys around to your liking. The first big issue I had come across was actually while I was attempting to play a card game for the first time. After selecting my five cards before the start of the battle it went to the prompt menu in which you decide whether to start the game or go back to card selection but for some reason the no was missing and yes was is the spot for no. Even more weird was that you could click on the prompt text where yes was supposed to be and it would take you into the card battle. It’s a noticeable issue but not really a game breaking one since the card games aren’t necessary but are simply a fun mini game. More game breaking bugs have been reported by other players but I have not encountering them and they are most likely due to compatibility issues for those who have encountered those issues. Be sure to check the minimum requirements needed to run the Final Fantasy IX remaster on your PC to avoid potential issues such as crashing.

The remaster presents us with far more strong points than weak points and the many boosters improve the overall gameplay in many different ways. Final Fantasy IX fans now have many options to customize the gameplay to their liking including the option to stop encounters from happening in the game. Aside from the many new features the game also includes old features and the many mini games and secrets that made the original so fun. The overall quality of the remaster makes an already great game even better than before and gives it a fresh new look. I highly recommend this game to long-time fans of the series as well as those who are new to the role playing genre.

 

Pros: Improved Graphics, Great Soundtrack, Extensive Gameplay

Cons: Card Game Bug, Minor Control Difficulty

 

SCORE - 9.0/10 

This review is based on a purchased digital copy of Final Fantasy IX on Steam.

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