The Final finale.
So you think you’re special? An individual, maybe? Ever look in a phone book
to see how many people have the same name as you do? (5+ for me) Kinda makes
you feel less than unique, huh?
What if you walked into a factory one day and discovered that the workers
were turning out an entire assembly line of your clones? Could this be a dream?
Perhaps the result of illegal substances and watching too many Eminem videos?
In any case, the whole experience would definitely be very traumatic for you.
Questions of what makes you who you are and the reality of existence would drive
you nuts. Furthermore, you’ve got to wonder if all these clones would try to
steal your girlfriend.
And all this and more happens to a little poor little sap named Vivi in the
latest installment of the Final Fantasy series.
Final Fantasy 9 exhibits all the character types you’ve come to expect
in the average RPG. There’s your typical cute girl and your typical arrogant
guy. But with Vivi, you get a vulnerable short dude that trips a lot and spends
most of his time in an existential stupor.
That same search for individuality can be seen within the game itself. What
distinguishes this Final Fantasy from all the others is that the elements
in both story and gameplay have been imported from the older Final Fantasies
as well as other RPG’s, to create the officially "final" Final
Fantasy for the Playstation.
Vivi is but one of a whole slew of characters who find their lives crossing
one another. Zidane, the womanizing thief, and his crew are out to kidnap the
princess. Incidentally, the princess in question, Princess Garnet, wants to
be kidnapped and her mother, Queen Brahme, is starting a war against all other
nations. Somehow, it must be stopped. Naturally.
The game throws it all back to the roots of Final Fantasy. In other
words, no more Materia or Junction systems – it’s good old-fashioned, classic
FF madness. Item usage and armor upgrades are now once again an important part
of the game, as opposed to the intricate magic systems that have dominated the
previous PSX games.
Even with all of the classic Final Fantasy elements included in the
game, Squaresoft decided to throw some new ideas into the mix, such as ‘ability
imbued’ armor. All armors and weapons contain different abilities. While equipped,
you can use these abilities, but once you undress you lose them. Unless, of
course, you have gained enough experience to earn that ability. When an item
is equipped, you earn ability points that go towards permanent ability usage.
Gain enough points and you’ll keep those abilities without having to hang on
to the magical item. You big leech.
There are also "Active Time Events," which are more or less controlled
storytelling devices. At certain moments in the game, you are given the option
of checking out what’s happening to one of your compadres that isn’t in your
party. This works more or less like a cutscene. Choosing whether or not to view
the Active Time Event can affect how your characters act and proceed.
Graphics are once again polygons on pre-rendered backgrounds. The whole visual
style has a European look, with medieval castles and great wooden airships.
The characters were designed by the artist of the first 6 Final Fantasies
– the world renowned Yoshitaka Amano.
Amano’s art is distinctive, and most characters tend to have long eyelashes.
In the actual character models, they carried that quality over. The end result
is that all the guys look like they are wearing eyeliner. Too sexy for this
We shall see whether or not Final Fantasy 9 can truly break out of
the norm and individualize itself from the rest when it ships in mid-November
for the Playstation.