Final Fantasy IX (PC) Review

By Az Elias 17.05.2016 1

Review for Final Fantasy IX on PC

Oft regarded the pinnacle of the series, one of the biggest regrets is that Final Fantasy IX never saw the light of day on PC, not previously following in the footsteps of its PlayStation brethren in Final Fantasy VII and VIII. Even after the latter two saw Steam releases in 2013, there remained doubt that Hiroyuki Ito's second directed title would get the same treatment. Surprising everyone, though, the announcement and subsequent successful launch of a mobile version came with confirmation that the 2000 game would at last be playable on PC. Have the years been kind to this Final Fantasy fan-favourite and has Square Enix given it the upgrade it deserves?

It was to be expected that the actual interface for this Steam version of Final Fantasy IX would borrow from the mobile versions, which are designed to take advantage of touch screen input controls and make it easy enough for users to play on such small devices. It carries on from previous Final Fantasy mobile-to-PC ports that incorporate their large in-your-face UIs into what is really a game designed for televisions. Fortunately, the menus for this edition aren't actually obnoxious, which is a pleasant surprise. Buttons are still touch screen size in battles and the main menu itself has been redesigned from the PlayStation original, but when compared to the mess Square Enix has managed to produce in past rereleases, this is easily one of the most visually appealing - a lot worse could have happened.

The "point-and-tap" movement feature has made its way over, where the mouse turns this into more of a point-and-click function, allowing the controlled character to move to where is clicked on the field. As expected, as well, clicking on NPCs and any points of interest causes interactions, meaning this can be played perfectly fine with a mouse, even if it's a little unusual to get used to. Otherwise, a gamepad setup is the most preferred option, and the DualShock 4 works soundly after fiddling around with InputMapper (try booting the game first, then plugging the controller in if having issues).

Screenshot for Final Fantasy IX on PC

Sadly, although the analogue stick can be used to move Zidane around alongside the D-pad, full analogue support is non-existent here (unlike its original PS release), with characters only able to move in the standard eight points of direction. It can feel a little stiff and awkward, especially when trying to move into precise positions on field maps to pick up items, speak to NPCs or walk through certain doors, but does get used to over time (besides, anyone that's played FFVII will already be well too familiar with stiff digital movement).

It's a shame the new, larger dialogue text, which makes sense for the smaller-screened mobile platforms, cannot be altered to the original format, and there is some slight lag when flicking through and selecting options in menus, although mileage may vary amongst users. Another extremely minor change comes in the form of dialogue alterations to young Ilia, one of the NPCs that is most notably remembered for handing over Vivi's dropped ticket to him right at the beginning of the game. Quite why Ilia's speech has been altered when it seems all other accented and individual ways of speaking are left intact is a mystery, but mods are already underway to fix this.

The big question mark is whether the visual upgrade would take advantage of the new system. Although character models look the best they have ever been, completely upgraded with faces that don't look like they've been squashed under an airship, they clash horribly with the blurry and pixelated backgrounds. It seems redrawing the assets into HD images would have been a huge undertaking, so the original backdrops have been used and blown up, which causes disparity between characters and the world they are living in. It's a great pity, because FFIX is a gorgeous title that never managed to show its age, especially when played on a portable console like the PSP or PS Vita. Here, though, it's tough to appreciate the breath-taking sights, sceneries and astounding levels of detail in each location's pre-rendered backgrounds. It is still a lovely-looking title, but one that doesn't deserve this misfortune.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy IX on PC

As with other Final Fantasy ports of late, extra options have been included in order to increase the playability and accessibility of FFIX. This comes in the form of a modifier to increase the game speed, making running through for returning players an absolute godsend, especially when combining it with the option to turn off random encounters. A common complaint of this title was its slow battles, so the speed booster works wonders to help move things along. No encounter options are starting to become a staple of some RPGs, with Bravely Default kicking off the trend in that series, and allows freedom for when wanting to grind or obtain loot, without frustrating players that just want to progress with little distraction. It also helps considerably for veterans attempting a No Level Challenge, so instead of needing to run from every encounter, now, they can simply be turned off to save time.

After that, the so-called "cheat" options make up the rest of the list. Always do 9999 damage, always have full HP/MP and Trance bars, unlock all abilities, have max Magic Stones for equipping support abilities, and obtain max gil - these are the ones a few people have issues with including right off the bat, and whilst it's somewhat understandable, they are simply optional (just like the game speed and encounter features) and aren't forcibly used. They are ideal for returning players that simply want to blast through and just play for the story, or casuals that could never get into Final Fantasy, but want to experience it without having to learn the ins and outs of its battle system and customisation options. Anyone against them doesn't need to use them, whilst it's others' choice to do so; it's of no consequence to either party what the other does.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy IX on PC

Harking back to the medieval days of Final Fantasy of old, FFIX is the love letter of the series, departing from the industrial and futuristic sci-fi elements of FFVII and VIII, and, ironically, tells a love story that develops naturally and is far more believable than that of FFVIII's. Allusions to past games are aplenty in this fantastical world that comes together beautifully through some of Nobuo Uematsu's finest soundtracks, with a wonderful cast of characters that express themselves in an excellent localisation. There are one or two characters that seem to tag along for the ride without a good reason, and it still feels regrettable that Beatrix (or even Lani) was never made a proper party member, but all characters have a strong role to play in the grand scheme of things.

FFIX never had the most in-depth character customisation, resorting to a simple setup of equipping various weapons and armour, which allowed abilities to be permanently learned after acquiring AP. Deciding which support abilities to activate with a limited number of Magic Stones at players' disposal is about as tactical as it gets outside of battles, and once Counter and MP Attack abilities come into play (especially if giving Steiner his Blood Sword!), it's pretty plain sailing. There are some tough bosses and unique dungeons that provide a tricky challenge or two, though, along with a number of superbosses, as expected at this point in the series.

It's the awesome mini-games that add huge replay value to FFIX, and with chocobo treasure hunting (possibly the best side-quest in the series) and card collecting in Tetra Master (which is far inferior to Triple Triad, but can be fun once the ropes are learned) to name just a couple, a huge deal of time will be spent branching off the main path at every given opportunity. There's always a mad dash to the nearest chocobo hunting grounds every time the World Map is exited onto!

Screenshot for Final Fantasy IX on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Final Fantasy IX can best be described as the most "complete" entry in the series to date; it is as whimsical as it is dark, and as nostalgic as it is its own identity, telling many individual stories that create laughs and pull on the heartstrings. Previous criticisms in the slow battle system and inability to reduce or disable random encounters are now accounted for with optional additions to gameplay, but the port does suffer in other departments - namely blurry backgrounds and slight lag in menus. The sheer love that has been poured into FFIX as a whole is on show for all to see, though, and is still evident to this very day. It is no wonder fans have been calling for Hiroyuki Ito to craft another entry in the series again, but whatever the future holds, there may never be a Final Fantasy title that will ever match up to the greatness of Final Fantasy IX.

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Christos (guest) 28.08.2018#1

Simply put, the best game in the franchise. Third best rpg on the original Playstation after Suikoden I and II.

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