Template:Infobox CVG Final Fantasy IX is the ninth installment in the Final Fantasy series, released by Square in 2000. It was directed by Hiroyuki Itō and co-produced by Hironobu Sakaguchi and Shinji Hashimoto. It is the third and last Final Fantasy in the main series to be produced for the PlayStation. Unlike Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII, however, this was not ported to the PC. It was originally going to be a spin-off game, but was eventually decided to be a main game.
After several Final Fantasy installments that featured an increasing sci-fi slant, Final Fantasy IX was intended to return the series, at least temporarily, to its more fantasy-oriented roots. The characters, who had been depicted in an increasingly realistic fashion in previous Final Fantasy games, were deliberately rendered in a more cartoonish fashion to reflect this return to tradition. Among the most notable in the influences of previous Final Fantasy games is the presence of Black Mages, represented foremost by the playable party member Vivi; other Black Mages appeared as a crucial element of the storyline.
Final Fantasy IX was announced and developed in tandem with Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XI. This three-pronged marketing effort was intended to provide gamers with the promise of three upcoming games of varied style and gameplay: an intentionally retro RPG in IX, a smoother evolution in style and design in X, and an online experience in XI. Many people thought that this would be the last game because of all the references to the other Final Fantasy series.
Levels & Abilities
Final Fantasy IX retains experience points and levels, but this time new abilities are learned by equipping an item that can teach an ability and gaining enough ability points to learn it permanently, reminiscent of the Esper system in Final Fantasy VI. However, in this case abilities can still be used even when they haven't been learned permanently. There are two types of abilities in Final Fantasy IX, 'Action' and 'Support'. Action Abilities include techniques like Magic, weapon skills and calling Eidolons. Support Abilities have beneficial passive effects such as resistance against status effects and increased damage to certain enemy types. A limited amount of Support Abilities can be equipped at one time, governed by 'Magic Stones'. Each Support Ability requires a certain number of Magic Stones, and more Stones can be gained by leveling up. Many abilities can be learned by most characters, but some are exclusive to certain characters.
In the field, the player typically controls the main character, Zidane. However, unlike the previous 3D games, the environment is much more interactive. When Zidane passes a point of interest, a ! or ? bubble appears above his head, and the player can press X to interact with this object. As the game progresses, different methods of traveling across the world become available to the player. As with previous incarnations, characters can travel by chocobo, boat and airship. These methods of travel, especially the boat and airships, are important to the story.
Following the tradition started by Final Fantasy IV, the game utilizes the Active Time Battle system in battle. When a character's ATB gauge is filled up, that character can choose a command to execute. Normally, enemies attack whenever their turn is up, but the battle can be set to 'wait' mode, making the enemy unable to attack a character while they are choosing a spell or an item from the menu.
In Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII, the player was restricted to 3-person parties. In Final Fantasy IX, this is changed back to the classic 4-person party. Also,the game allowed for two players to control members chosen by the player in the battle.
Continuing the tradition started in Final Fantasy VI, the game incorporates Limit Breaks, although very differently from earlier Limit Break systems. When a character sustains damage in battle, the Trance gauge is filled up. When it is full, that character automatically goes into Trance mode. Trance changes the appearance of a character, and either gives that character a new skill or set of skills that are only usable while they are in Trance mode. For several characters, their Trance skills depend on the abilities already learned, e.g, if Zidane has learned the ability Flee for his Skills ability set, he gains the ability Free Energy for his Trance ability set, Dyne. Zidane is the only character who is able to use new abilities in their Trance. Most characters' abilities are enhanced, for example, Vivi gains Double Black, which allows him to cast 2 Black Magic spells in quick succession, and while in Trance, Steiner's strength is boosted. Dagger's 'Summon' is changed to an 'Eidolon' which causes the summoned Eidolon to attack at the beginning of Dagger's turn for a while. Eiko, like Vivi, gains the 'Double White", allowing her to cast two White Magic spells. Freya's 'Jump' is also enhanced so she stays in the air and rains spears on all enemies during her turn until her gauge empties. Quina's 'Eat' ability turns to 'Cook', making the requirement for an enemy's health to be at 1/4 or lower instead of 1/8 or lower in order to "eat" the enemy. Amarant's "Flair" ability changes to "Elan" allowing him to cast flair skills on multiple targets.
Of note in Final Fantasy IX is the existence of character classes, something absent from the last few games in the series. While not explicitly stated, each character in the game has an obvious job based on previous Final Fantasy games and an overview of their abilities in battle. For example, Zidane is a Thief, Amarant is a Monk, Quina is a Blue Mage, and so on.
This is yet another return to tradition from IX's recent predecessors, in which characters were largely blank slates to be heavily customized by the player. Here, the emphasis is on building an effective team of characters whose strengths and weaknesses balance one another to form an effective fighting force.
Active Time Events
Another new aspect of Final Fantasy IX are Active Time Events (ATE). When an ATE window appears in the game, the player can press Select to see what the other characters are doing, allowing for more character development than previously. Although watching an ATE might not always affect the main storyline, sometimes the player will have to watch an ATE automatically. The player might, however, gain items or Gil by watching these. Sometimes, multiple choices for ATEs to watch are given, and if one is picked, the other might not be able to be activated, meaning the player has to wait for a second playthrough to see it, although this is not always in effect.
Within the game, Mognet is a postal system used by the Moogles. As the player progresses through the game, he or she will find Moogles inhabiting most of the known world. When the player talks to a Moogle, they allow the player to save their game, restore life energy via Tents, or purchase items with Mogshop. The Moogle may also request that the player character act as a courier by delivering a letter to another Moogle via Mognet. It is also possible (albeit less frequently) that the player may receive a letter from another character in the game.
Later on in the game, it is revealed that the Moogles are only requesting that the player deliver letters because Mognet Central, where Moogle letters are usually sorted, is having mechanical problems, and as a result, letter deliveries have become sporadic. It is later revealed that the malfunctions are caused by the letter carrier Artemicion, who decorated his coat with the oil used to lubricate Mognet's machines, causing them to break down. There are several letters about Artemicion being sent between Moogles worrying about his constant use of the item, which is called "Super Slick". Nevertheless, many do admire Artemicion's shiny coat. The player may optionally help the Moogles restore Mognet Central's functionality as a side-quest, but only if all the Moogle letters have been delivered.
The world of Final Fantasy IX, named Gaia, is divided into four continents:
- Mist Continent, the first playable area and the most heavily settled,
- Forgotten Continent, a large land in the west where the sun sets,
- Lost Continent, to the northwest, almost entirely covered in ice, and
- Outer Continent, an arid desert wasteland to the North.
- Zidane Tribal: The main protagonist. A Thief, member of the Tantalus group, and an inveterate womanizer.
- Garnet til Alexandros XVII: The female protagonist, a Summoner with more emphasis on summons than white magic and the Princess of Alexandria.
- Vivi Orunitia: A young Black Mage, but very pure of heart.
- Adelbert Steiner: A noble Knight of Alexandria, and the Captain of the Knights of Pluto.
- Freya Crescent: A Burmecian Dragon Knight from Burmecia who searches for her lost love.
- Quina Quen: A Qu Blue Mage who joins the adventure to experience cuisine from around the world.
- Eiko Carol: A young Summoner with more proficiency in white magic than summoning, one of the last of her tribe.
- Amarant Coral: A Monk and wanted bandit, who holds a grudge against Zidane.
In the world known as Gaia, Queen Brahne Raza Alexandros XVI of the kingdom of Alexandria lusts for power, and is trying to increase her domain by conquering the surrounding lands. War is brewing among the neighboring kingdoms on the Mist Continent. Something more than Brahne's lust for power is driving the once-peaceful nation of Alexandria to conquest. Garnet til Alexandros XVII, adopted daughter of Queen Brahne, is unhappy with her position and plagued by nightmares of a sea voyage; a flight from a terrible eye in the heavens. Vivi Orunitia, a Black Mage, childlike and alone, yearns to know his history and why he exists. All are brought together on a seemingly innocent night of entertainment in Alexandria, one that will spin events out of control and lead to the truth of their lives and others.
Regent Cid of Lindblum is worried about how these troubling events will impact Princess Garnet, so he dispatches the troupe known as Tantalus to Alexandria. Tantalus, a band of thieves disguising themselves as actors to hide their operations, plan to "kidnap" Garnet. A prominent character in Tantalus is the game's main protagonist, Zidane Tribal. However, the Princess herself yearns to escape from her wicked mother, and is willingly kidnapped. During the operation, Vivi and Adelbert Steiner, Captain of the Royal Knights of Pluto and Garnet's guardian, become involved, much to Steiner's disdain. The plan soon backfires, and Tantalus member Zidane is left in charge of the kidnapping. Their ship, the Prima Vista, is shot down from the sky, and lands in the Evil Forest.
Zidane decides to assist the princess to Lindblum on foot, and is dismissed by the leader of Tantalus, Baku, who dissents with his opinion. Vivi and Steiner join Zidane in rescuing Garnet from Evil Forest's carnivorous botany and eventually escape the woods, leaving Tantalus behind. The foursome venture through the Ice Cavern, where Zidane defeats Black Waltz No. 1, a lackey of Brahne's. Arriving in the village of Dali, Garnet adopts the alias of "Dagger" to blend in with the peasantry. Vivi is kidnapped by the villagers, and the rest of the party is soon shocked when they rescue him and find out that the villagers are manufacturing Black Mages from the Mist, for export to Alexandria. Garnet begins to ponder the possibility of returning to Alexandria and questioning her mother about the Black Mage business, a notion which Steiner approves of. After besting Black Waltz No. 2, they board a Cargo Ship piloted by soulless Black Mages, but soon come under fire from Black Waltz No. 3. Vivi, Zidane, and Steiner confront the golem and leave the journey's destination in Garnet's hands. The princess hesitates, but ultimately decides to go to Lindblum, resulting in an erratic flight through South Gate.
The four meet with Regent Cid at Lindblum, who refuses to mobilize against Alexandria, for fear of leaving his own borders unprotected. While his country holds the Festival of the Hunt, Brahne begins her advancement into the Burmecia region, home of Zidane's friend Freya Crescent. Zidane decides to travel to Burmecia with Freya and Vivi to learn more about the situation, but Cid orders Garnet to remain in Lindblum. In retaliation, she poisons the court with sleeping weed and absconds with Steiner back to South Gate. The remainder of the party ventures to Burmecia, traveling through Gizamaluke's Grotto and recruiting the gluttonous Quina Quen along the way. Upon arriving in Burmecia, they find a desolate city ruined by Brahne. At the apex of the city, they meet the Queen herself, a mysterious man named Kuja, and General Beatrix. The General promptly defeats Zidane's group, and Alexandria next sets its sights on Cleyra.
Meanwhile, Garnet and Steiner rest in Treno, and with the aid of Doctor Tot, take the Gargan Roo pathway to Alexandria. Once there, Garnet meets with her mother, who turns on the princess and orders the extraction of Garnet's Eidolons, magical creatures with great powers, for use in future invasions. One of these summons, Odin, is then used to obliterate Cleyra, but not before Beatrix takes a jewel from the city's harp and Zidane's crew hitches a hide on the Red Rose back to Alexandria. The protagonists join forces with Steiner and free Garnet from Brahne's clutches, with the assistance of the enlightened Beatrix. Zidane, Vivi, and Garnet attempt to use the Gargant system to flee back to Treno, but their ride is spooked by a monster and ends up crashing in Pinnacle Rocks. After passing Ramuh's trial, allowing Garnet to summon Ramuh, the three witness the sacking of Lindblum by another Eidolon of Alexandria, Atomos. Sneaking into the city, Zidane and Garnet meet secretly with a now powerless Regent Cid, who suggests they travel to the Outer Continent to discover the motives behind Brahne's belligerence. Quina actually proves useful when trying to find the entrance to the Outer Continent, Fossil Roo, due to its constant search for frogs.
It is soon speculated that Brahne's sudden shift in attitude is being manipulated by Kuja, who has his own plans for world domination. On the Outer Continent, Zidane and his allies encounter Eiko Carol, a young girl, and last of the Summoner Tribe, at her home of Madain Sari. She leads them to the Iifa Tree, where Kuja was reported to have been seen. The group descends into the very core of the tree, until they finally reach a shimmering and seemingly endless green pool at its base. The monster SoulCage, self-proclaimed creator of the Mist. Upon the entity's defeat, the Mist on the Mist Continent dries up, and the heroes return to Madain Sari. After repelling the thief Lani and recuiting the sarcastic and brooding Amarant Coral, they return to the Iifa Tree per new sightings of Kuja. There, they find Queen Brahne and her navy just off Iifa's coast, and Kuja with his Silver Dragon opposing her. Brahne summons Bahamut in an attempt to rid herself of Kuja and take sole domination of her territory, but in a twist of fate Kuja calls the heavily settled airship known as the Invincible and claims control of Bahamut, who then proceeds to wipe out Brahne and her soldiers with a devastating Mega Flare.
On the beach, Brahne finally regains her former self and apologizes to Garnet, but dies, leaving the princess devastated. She must now become the Queen of Alexandria. The ceremonies of her coronation are short-lived, as Kuja promptly appears in the city and summons Bahamut to wreak havoc. The other party members fly in from Treno with Regent Cid, and Eiko aids Garnet in summoning Alexander, the holy Eidolon guardian of Alexandria. Alexander vanquishes Bahamut, only for a mysterious elderly man to appear with the Invincible and destroy Alexander and a majority of the city. Garnet is so shocked by the devastation to her city that she is rendered mute, and she, Zidane and their friends take refuge in Lindblum, where Cid constructs the Blue Narciss ship and gives it to the party. They then follow Kuja to his Desert Palace, but are discovered and locked in cells. Kuja forces Zidane and three of his friends to fly to the Forgotten Continent and retrieve the Gulug Stone from Oeilvert. The ruins contain many illusions and artifacts from the ambiguous Terran civilization, including an ancient and Eidolon, Ark, which is defeated in order to obtain the Stone.
Meanwhile, Regent Cid and the remaining four party members manage to free themselves from their prisons and shut down the Palace security system, Valia Pira. Kuja still manages to trick Zidane into giving him the Gulug Stone and absconds with an abducted Eiko to Mount Gulug. The heroes pass through Esto Gaza to track him down, and witness Zorn and Thorn attempt to extract Eiko's Eidolons. Mog, Eiko's pet Moogle, reveals her true Eidolon form through Trance, and with her help, the court jesters are finally destroyed. Deprived of further Eidolons, Kuja formulates a new plan: to assimilate enough souls in order to enter a form of hyper-Trance. He flees, and Zidane's party find Queen Hilda, Cid's wife, and escort her back to Lindblum. She restores Cid to his proper human form, and the Lindblum leader puts the finishing touches on his new airship, the Hilda Garde III. Garnet returns to Alexandria, where she is expected to remain as Queen. When Zidane follows her, she recovers from her silence, once more takes his dagger, and cuts off her ponytail in a promise to continue to fight for her people and her adoptive mother.
Queen Hilda tells the party of Kuja's ambitions and link to the planet Terra and directs them towards Ipsen's Castle on the Forgotten Continent. Inside the inverted structure, they find four elemental mirrors, seals to the portal to Terra. After defeating the worm-like Taharka and rescuing Amarant from his own arrogance, Zidane decides to have two party members secure each elemental shrine. The defeat of all four Guardians opens the Shimmering Island, the icy portal to Terra's alien world.
The Hilda Garde III drops off the heroes on Terra, and a mysterious girl leads the party to the Genome village of Bran Bal. She is Mikoto, and reveals the truth behind Kuja's inferior relationship to Zidane: they were both crafted to become Angels of Death. Garland, the mastermind of this plot, captures Zidane and intends to use him for his true purpose as the harbinger of Gaia's doom. Zidane's friends free him from his prison at Pandemonium and confront Garland, who first orders a Silver Dragon to act as a shield before falling to the party himself. Though the party intends only to interrogate the old sorcerer, Kuja chooses the moment to enter triumphantly on the Invincible. Gleefully, he showcases his new powers Trance, achieved by draining the Invincible of all the souls trapped within. Kuja promptly dispatches the party and announces his new motivation: to rule the world with a fist of Trance-inducing souls. Garland, clairvoyant to the end, warns Kuja that his power is of no consequence; the Genome responds by kicking his old master off the precipice of Pandemonium to his death.
However, Garland remains stubbornly omniscient, and from beyond the grave, he tells Kuja that his newfound rule is for naught; his mortal death is fast appraoching. Kuja is no longer satisfied with world domination; his euphoria turns into rage, and he hatches a plot to destroy the source of all existence: the Crystal. He begins by utterly obliterating Terra with wave after wave of Ultima spells, but the party and resident Genomes escape by piloting the Invincible back through the Shimmering Island to Gaia. They suddenly notice the resurge of Mist in the air, emanating once more from the Iifa Tree. Above the tree hovers the foreboding entrance to Memoria, where the Gaia's memories and Kuja awaits. The armies of Alexandria and Lindblum take flight to stave off the horde of Silver Dragons blocking Memoria's doorway, and Invincible breaks through, carrying the party inside Memoria. They must defeat a slew of monsters Kuja created in opposition to the Crystal itself, while witnessing the deepest moments of their own lives intertwined with the earliest stirrings of Gaia. Garland's lingering voice guides them through the dimension, leaving them at the entrance to the Crystal World, a realm where is no earth, no space, only memories of every life originating with the Crystal.
Zidane and his friends descend the translucent pillars of crystal and face Kuja in battle, where Kuja seemingly destroys everyone with Ultima. Surviving, the heroes find themselves in the presence of Necron, a powerful entity who also wishes to destroy the Crystal and return the world to what it was before existence. When Necron is defeated and returned to whence it came, Kuja teleports the eight heroes out of Memoria onto the banks of the Iifa Tree. The majority of the party returns to Alexandria on the Hilda Garde, while Zidane stays behind to find Kuja. He locates his brother deep within Iifa, and as Kuja accounts for his sins, Iifa's roots converge on them both. The others believe Zidane dead, and Garnet, now the reigning queen of Alexandria, slides into depression. In the closing moments of the game, the Tantalus Troupe appears once more to perform "I Want To Be Your Canary" for Garnet's birthday. During the play, a shrouded form masquerading as Marcus casts off his cloak to reveal a returning Zidane. The city of Alexandria celebrates, old friends cheer from the stands, and the queen runs through the crowd of people and leaps into Zidane's arms.
Final Fantasy IX is the last Final Fantasy game with music composed exclusively by Nobuo Uematsu. It was also his most prolific score, as the original soundtrack for the game had a whopping 110 tracks, and an additional soundtrack was released with 42 more new tracks. Many people speculate that the reason why Uematsu no longer composed game soundtracks on his own after this game was that he was simply overworked. Regardless, years after its release, Uematsu has stated on multiple occasions with little to no hesitation that both the score and the game itself were his favorite of all his projects to have worked on thus far.
Much of the music in the game revolve around the themes of the J-pop ballad, Melodies of Life, which was composed by Uematsu and performed by Emiko Shiratori. The song itself was sung in Japanese for the Japanese release of the game, and in English for the North American and European releases of the game.
Final Fantasy IX was intended, in many ways, to be a salute to the history of the series, and as such, it is filled with allusions and references to previous games. One of the most apparent is the similarity of the character Vivi to the Black Mage from the original Final Fantasy. Unfortunately, despite the high quality of the translation overall, care was not taken to ensure that all of the various names and references matched up to those used in the previous English-language releases. Because of this, many of the references with which the game abounds are completely missed by the non-Japanese audience. Examples are listed in the main article.
- A Final Fantasy IX remake for PlayStation 2 had been considered by Square in early 2001, only one year after the original release. For some reason, the project was either scrapped or never started development at all. Similar projects for Final Fantasy VII and Vagrant Story where also considered at one point, but met the same fate.
- In May 2009, the video game website IGN interviewed Yoshinori Kitase and Takeshi Arakawa. During their discussion, Arakawa mentioned that he desired to make a sequel to Final Fantasy IX more than any other game. 
- Final Fantasy IX is the only numbered Final Fantasy thus far to not have its title logo designed by Yoshitaka Amano.
- Final Fantasy IX has the most diverse cast of characters in the series, as it has only two normal human beings (Steiner and Amarant) and all the other playable characters are part of different races.
- Final Fantasy IX is Hironobu Sakaguchi's Favorite Final Fantasy title, saying that "it's closest to his ideal view of what Final Fantasy should be".
- Final Fantasy IX has the most number of allusions in Dissidia Final Fantasy. The biggest one is Mognet. It is also said in that game that the peak of life of the Moogles happened in Gaia.
- Official North American site
- Archive of European PlayOnline guide
- Wikipedia's entry on Final Fantasy IX