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     " When Final Fantasy VIII came out I was slightly disappointed to find that Squaresoft apparently didnít care about my letter... "

      Title: Final Fantasy IX by Squaresoft

      Format: RPG for Playstation

      Reviewing Monkey: Simi N.

      The Hype: Battle fierce creatures in your quest to save the world, watch your characters grow throughout your journey, the new abilities system lets you make all your characters your very own.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: The characters are much more cutesy in this game than in Final Fantasyís last installment but they are given lots of detail. Different characters walk and interact with the environment in their own way. Also the actions of the characters in various situations help to build more personality than in previous titles. When you play the game, be sure to pay attention to all of the characters on the screen because even those who arenít involved in the conversation are usually doing something interesting. The characters are textured well in battle but perhaps because they are smaller this time around, they donít look very good from a distance. As the camera gets closer, you can see the amount of detail present in the texturing. The enemies look great even from a distance. Their texturing is absolutely beautiful and there are a variety of enemies to face. There is less emphasis on cut scenes in this game than in Final Fantasy VII, but more than in Final Fantasy VIII. 5 out of 5

      Sound: The spell sound effects are exaggerated as usual but they certainly add to the excitement. Music in this game is very good. It is of the same quality that we have all come to expect from a Squaresoft title. The music sounds a bit more synthesized than usual, but somehow in this game the sound fits really well. This game, while sounding modern, somehow brings to mind Final Fantasy games of the past. I couldnít help but think of Final Fantasy III (VI in Japan) as I progressed through the game. In addition, I was pleasantly surprised when I entered a dungeon in this game and recognized music from the volcano of the original Final Fantasy. 5 out of 5

      Game Play: When Final Fantasy VII came out, I immediately fell in love. In fact, it was the deciding factor that led me to buy a Playstation. Though the game was awesome, it didnít live up to the glory of Final Fantasy VI. I wrote a letter to Squaresoft explaining what I thought could be done to make their next game better. When Final Fantasy VIII came out I was slightly disappointed to find that Squaresoft apparently didnít care about my letter and made changes that, in turn, made the game less cool (in some aspects) than Final Fantasy VII. I am pleasantly surprised to find that Squaresoft fixed all of that for Final Fantasy IX (you're all welcome). The game play during battles is, for the most part, the same as it has been in the past eight Final Fantasy offerings. Of course, that is what fans of the series have come to expect. The real improvement is the in depth ways in which you can equip your characters and the way they learn their abilities. One cool feature is the shortened spells and summons. As much as I love seeing Ifrit burn those mean little bastards into a pile of ash, even I must admit that it gets old after about the thirtieth time. Another change that I like is the lessened emphasis on magic in this game. I found that in FFVIII you had to use a ton of magic in every battle if you were to progress through the game. In this game, magic plays more of a supporting role, so you can be like me and fight your way through every battle using magic only when you really need it. 5 out of 5

      Level and Environment Designs: The backgrounds are of the same high quality that we have come to expect since Final Fantasy VII. And there are plenty of objects to interact with and obstacles to avoid. The architecture in the game is just awesome and lends to some of the cool puzzles that are present throughout. The world graphics are great looking including the various forms of transportation, at first there is a constant mist that hangs over the land that I thought was put in the game to prevent draw-in, but later the mist is removed and there is no draw-in. 5 out of 5

      Multiplayer: There is no multiplayer function in this game.

      Replayability: There are tons of secrets to find, the enemies present a good challenge, and there are a number of mini games that you may miss your first time through the game. Not to mention the characters are created so well you will want to play just to see them gain personal understanding as they go through their quest. Another factor in the replayability is that you can beat the game in a very short time if you know what you are doing. In fact, one characterís best weapon can only be obtained if he gets to the last dungeon within twelve hours. 4.5 out of 5

      Story/Dramatics: This is the one aspect of this game that I consider to be less than great. Although I liked this story more than the one in Final Fantasy VIII, it paled in comparison to that of Final Fantasy VII, but the characters were given much more depth in this game. Instead of playing through to the end to find out what happens when you beat the bad guy, all you really care about is seeing your characters evolve and discover the truth about themselves. 4 out of 5

      Instructions and Learning Curve: This is probably one of the easiest to pick up Final Fantasy games ever. The menu and battle systems are very similar to previous titles but in this game the abilities system is simplified. The manual tells you exactly how everything works even though it is easy to learn what you need to within the game. As such, the manual acts mainly as a faster alternative to going through the in-game tutorials. 4.5 out of 5

      Installation and Real System Requirements: Squaresoft keeps making their games better and better with each installment further pushing the envelope for the Playstation. This game of course only takes up one memory card slot, just like Final Fantasy VII and VIII. And it uses analog control and the Dualshock function. And the load times are very reasonable. 4.5 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       This game is easily the best installment of the Final Fantasy series on the Playstation. The graphics are awesome, the game play is sweet and the music is just what weíve come to expect from a Squaresoft game.

      The Good: Awesome graphics, great sound, cool environments, very in depth abilities system, and characters with tons of character.

      The Bad: The story wasnít as good as those in previous installments, due mostly to the last circumstances surrounding the final battle.

      The Overall Ugly: If you only buy one Role Playing Game for your Playstation, this is the one to get. You wonít be disappointed.

      What it's Worth: This game is worth market plus $5.00.

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