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A Game Completed! Final Fantasy IX

Ahm, I was off for a while, wasn't I?

97:45:17 of flying chocobos, hidden treasures and of course a huge story. That was Final Fantasy IX and the main character had a tail because he was born that way? Now that everyone has Lady gaga playing in their heads, let's dance onwards.

The story throws you right into the action, you are on your way to kidnap a princess with good ol' gang, and when you do.. well, things just won't go exactly according to the plan. As cities fall and ancient secrets surface, one plot is solved only to reveal another one, until the World's future is on your hands.
In the other words the story is an epic fantasy story, bild with nice care, managing to take surprising turns and keeping it interesting until the end.

In the main team we have eight different characters. Overall the game has very cartoonish looks and so is also with the characters. (The designing artist, Amano, made them very beautiful, poetic even, I would have loved to play a game which would have looked like his drawings..!) Our lead character is a boy called Zidane, a thief, who starts off with stealing the leading lady princess Garnet. Luckily Zidane is a quite witty kid and Garnet is not all weepy, which makes the both of them rather nice to follow. While the charaters stay on safe side in being of one personality type or another, they still work in the story rather alright. For example Vivi is clumsy, childlike being but wonders almost philosophically about his origins, but Quena and Amarant are very irrelevant characters, who could easily be left out without anyone noticing (except that "hey ain't there always eight characters in FFs".)

The World of FF9 has four different continents, with cities, towns and passages nicely all around it. Perhaps there could have been few more just for the fun of investigating, but otherwise... a good amount. As always there are lot of different scenes you find yourself in, from deserts to forests to icy fields. The way you are led to discover the different continents is well planned, not too sudden but not too slow either. (Or, well, you could finish the game in 12h, but who would do that..)
Also some of the places are very beautiful (we are talking Playstation One game here) in design and in-game. The game, while old, looks rather nice, battle movements are well made and the video parts can be said to be even stunning. And there are a lot of the video parts. No wonder they needed four discs for the game...

The battle follows the well known style of Final Fantasies. The battles are triggered when the character walks through areas with enemies and the battle happens in a separate screen. In battle, the actions of each character are chosen separately from action menus (attack, skills, items) and executed as the time bars have loaded themselves ready. While the menus work nicely -short, easy to browse-, the timing seems to have small problems, since while one characters is executing an action, everyone's time-bars are loaded and there is a waiting queue even when there is just four characters on the screen. No wonder that in FFX they gave up with that and just listed the turns on the side of the screen..

The world of Final Fantasy 9 is rather big and has many things to investigate outside the main story. The story itself keeps you busy for a good while, but numerous minigames and sidequests will keep you going for worth of 10- almost infinite hours. If you want to grind yourself to take on some optional bosses (there was surprisingly few if compared to some other FFs), you will get about 100h worth of gaming.
For examples: we have a card game, that can be played throughout the game and with most of the npcs on different cities. (Just like cards in ffviii, blitzball in ffx, coins in ffx-2, you know the drift.) It's well planned, easy to understand and nicely challenging for those who like to play it. There is also chocobo sidequest involving treasure hunting, with it's great rewards that make it well worth trying.  All in all, the minigames in FF9 are all very well planned and give nice extra worth for the gaming experience.
FF9 is the last part in the main line of Final Fantasies with no voice acting. But there is still something the hear. The music. And awesome music in that. The battle music FF9 has is maybe one of the best ones I have encountered so far, starting with an awesome beat and continuing well as well. It might have the artificial sound on it, but that aside, great job on the composing side.

Despite it's cartoonish, childish looks (I confess personally slightly dying inside when that hippo in a dress ran past me the first time), it's a pure-blooded, well-made Final Fantasy with epic story and safely familiar battle-menu-fights.