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. In April 2nd, 2010, it was announced on Twitter that Final Fantasy IX would be added to the Playstation Network, which will be released for PSN on May 20th, 2010 for Japanese players. According to U.S. PSN Blog, Final Fantasy IX will be released for U.S. PSN users. North American and European release dates are to be announced. More can be found here
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.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.