The Final Fantasy series seems like it is always in the spotlight in some way or another, with Final Fantasy XV finally released about a year ago after much waiting and then the remastered Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age coming just a few months ago. We also previously saw the classic Final Fantasy VII ported to PS4 with its PC version and rather than going with Final Fantasy VIII next as you would have thought, Square Enix instead decided to skip ahead and release Final Fantasy IX on PS4.
Final Fantasy IX originally released for the PlayStation back in 2000 and garnered universal praise, yet it didn’t sell as well as its two most recent predecessors. This has led the game to be one of the more underrated, yet fan favorites in the franchise and now it has returned again.
Moving on from the true fantasy aspects of the earlier entries in the series, Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII, leaned on the more futuristic and darker settings. Final Fantasy IX instead goes back to the roots of the earlier entries in the series with a true fantasy like story. However, do not mistake this for meaning that the game is more geared for kids, as the plot itself is one of the most intricate and enjoyable in the series.
The star of Final Fantasy IX is Zidane, member of a thief troupe that is tasked with kidnapping Princess Garnet of the nation of Alexandria. Garnet willingly lets the group kidnap her so that she can escape and find a way to take care of Queen Brahne, who has started to go mad since the passing of her husband, and Garnet’s father. Naturally, there is an evil force behind things that unfolds the further you get into the game, which really is one of the best overall plots we’ve seen in a Final Fantasy game.
Besides Zidane and Garnet, who assumes the name Dagger to stay hidden, we have a wonderful cast of characters that make their way into the party, including the iconic Vivi, who is probably my favorite character. Almost every Final Fantasy game has to have their strong and silent type, which Steiner fills, at least early on in the game. There are also a few other characters that join that party a little later in the game like Freya and Eiko, all of which have very intriguing backstories.
The combat system in Final Fantasy IX is pretty similar to what was introduced in Final Fantasy IV and had been used in different variations in the subsequent entries, known as the Active Time Battle system. In this system, you have a cooldown gauge between attacks or other selected moves that you must wait on before you can make another selection. The default setting has it to where enemies will attack as soon as they can, but you can also change it to where they hold off if you’re selecting an attack, spell, or item in the menus.
Final Fantasy IX also has its own variation of the limit break system, though with a bit of a twist. The Trance mode boosts your character for a short duration of time, where attacks are even more powerful than usual. In addition, each has enhanced or variations of skills specific to them that you can use during this period as well, adding a lot to the battles themselves.
Making a return to the older games, Final Fantasy IX also has four person parties for you to use, giving you plenty of opportunities to utilize the very enjoyable roster of party members. This is a change from both Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII that limited you to three party members at a time, so it is great to see this change made between entries. There are many moments where the party cannot be changed early on, but you get to change it around plenty later on in the game.
Final Fantasy IX was already great as is, but this port to PS4 also includes some new additions that were present on the more recent PC version to make your experience a lot easier if you so choose. Those looking for the true Final Fantasy IX experience will not want to use most of these, but there is one that may be worth checking out, the ability to speed up the game.
This is a feature we’ve seen in other recent Final Fantasy remasters, most recently in Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age. However, that game had varying levels of speed up that allowed you to speed up things, but still prevent the game from looking too jittery. Final Fantasy IX for PS4 though only has one speed up option with High Speed Mode that can be hit and miss in how it helps. During battles, it is very effective, but walking around the overworld can often feel a little too fast. This can be turned on and off very easily by just pausing the game and pressing R1, though it won’t let you turn it off during cutscenes for some reason.
The remainders of the in-game boosts are much bigger game changers that can make the entire game a breeze if you choose to use them. Similar to how you activate High Speed Mode option, you can also activate three others from the pause menu by pressing the other trigger and bumper buttons. Helping to make the game feel less grindy is the Safe Travel boost by pressing R2, which takes random encounters out of the equation entirely.
By pressing L1, you can activate Battle Assistance, which instantly fills the ATB gauge for all characters to prevent waiting between attacks, while also keeping your HP and MP full and allowing you to transform into Trance at any time. This is basically the game’s equivalent of an invicibility option. Also in battle, you can activate 9999 by pressing L2, which makes all of your attacks deal 9,999 every time and also have your HP and MP restoring items giving you 9,999 of each. Between these two, you literally can’t lose the game.
While the latter two especially make the game essentially broken, you can still earn achievements and turn them off at anytime. However, there are three more cheats that you can access from the config menu that deactivate the ability to earn achievements the second they are turned on and they can never be turned off on that particular save file. These include turning on Master Abilities, which allows your party to instantly learn and master equipment abilities for any equipment you own, Lv/Mag Stone Max, which ups your level and max stone carrying capacity to 99, and finally Gil Max, which does just what you’d assume it would.
These boosts are rather cool for someone that just wants to experience the story, but doesn’t want to deal with the issues of leveling up and strategizing to beat bosses. However, that is really a big part of Final Fantasy games and utilizing really any of them outside of the High Speed Mode is kind of a cheap way to play the game. It is still nice to have those features from the PC version included for those that enjoy such game modes, rather than just porting the straight original version from PlayStation though.
The visuals found in the Final Fantasy IX port on PS4 are also a major improvement on the PS1 release and the subsequent PSOne classic on PS3. It’s obviously not going to be anywhere near what you’d expect from the series these days, but the character models and backgrounds are much more cleaned up and refined than they once were. If you already own the game on PC though, you really won’t notice much of a difference at all in that department.
We can’t go through a review for Final Fantasy IX without discussing the phenomenal score by Nobuo Uematsu, which sounds just as good as ever here. Making the purchase decision even easier is the fact that buying the game on PS4 also provides you with a special Final Fantasy IX theme on PS4 that even has a loop of “The Place I’ll Return To Someday,” the game’s main menu music, on the PS4 dashboard, which I could listen to on repeat all day long.
As soon as it was announced that Final Fantasy IX was being re-released on PS4, there was little doubt that it was going to be another gem for the PS4 library and it did not disappoint. The boosts found on the PC mode really aren’t that helpful outside of High Speed Mode for someone trying to legitimately play through the game, but having the much better looking visually PC version on a home console is plenty reason to pick up Final Fantasy IX right now for PS4.
Final Fantasy IX has sadly always been the most overlooked of the PS1 era Final Fantasy games, but now you have the opportunity to give it a try with its definitive version on PS4. For anyone looking to go back and play the game or give it a try for the first time, Final Fantasy IX on PS4 is definitely the way to go.
9.0 Trances Out Of 10.
Release Date: September 19, 2017 (US)
Available Platforms: PS4
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Disclosure: Final Fantasy IX Was Provided By The Publisher For Coverage Purposes