FF: A Celebration
The main character this time around is Zidane, a good natured bandit with a monkey's tail. At the beginning of the story Zidane is on an airship as part of a theater crew/pirate gang whose leader is a bearded pig-man with purple skin. Zidane and company are headed for Alexandria, a fortified city perched on the edge of a thousand-foot waterfall.
In Alexandria, you meet an amnesiac black mage, Vivi, and a beautiful young princess, Garnett, whose mother looks like the leader of those evil blue things in the movie Yellow Submarine. Zidane’s crew plans to kidnap Princess Garnett but the plan goes awry when the princess, for her own reasons, tries to stow away on their ship.
Throughout the game, you learn that Garnett was adopted and hidden ( à la Luke Skywalker) because she has the ability to summon Eidolons (known as “Espers,” “Summons,” and “GF’s” in VI-VIII, respectively). It turns out that Garnett is one of two people in the world who can perform such summons. The other is Eiko, a little orphan girl with a horn growing out the center of her forehead.
Typical of FF games from IV onward there is a complicated love story, this time between Zidane and Garnett. Eiko also feelings for Zidane, but the game’s writers gracefully avoided any pedophilic overtones by making her interest seem like what it should be, a child's crush.
Your characters carry or wear items that grant them different abilities, similar to the ability system in Final Fantasy VI. Except now the characters can “remember” a much larger variety of abilities, which can be equipped according to the amount of ability points each character has. The amount of points increases as the characters level up.
Also similar to VI, you get four characters in your battle party again rather than three, marking the first and last time this has happened in a Playstation-era Final Fantasy. Battles are noticeably slower affairs this time around, giving you the opportunity to input commands several turns before your characters actually perform them. Early on this is no problem. But as the enemies become stronger and less predictable toward the end of the game, you’ll want to wait until right before your character’s turn to choose the best move.
And nowhere is careful strategy more important than in the battle with Ozma, Final Fantasy IX’s only optional “superboss.” Even if you find all of the best equipment, learn all of the characters’ abilities, and level your party up to 99, you will still need a healthy dose of luck to bring Ozma down.I won’t spoil the ending, except to say that if you’ve followed the series from the beginning, you will enjoy some striking homages to earlier games. And honestly, the same could be said for the whole game. Final Fantasy IX is a loving remembrance of the whole series to that point, and a fitting swansong for the Playstation 1.