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Dark times have spread over the world of Gaia. Four separate governing nations, some blinded by their short-sighted greed, some persevering in the name of justice, are battling on and off in a deadly game for power.One kingdom, that of Lindblum, headed by the honorable and trustworthy Regent Cid, finally decides to take a stand against the unspeakable massacres by the troops of Alexandria.

Enlisting the aid of mere bandits to kidnap Princess Garnet of the Alexandria Empire, for information and interrogation, Garnet and her bodyguard actually join Cid’s cause, knowing full well the outlandish recklessness of the governing Queen, who counterattacks with an onslaught of warriors. Thus begins a crossfire that would engulf the world in something far worse than political standoffs.

Out of the band of thieves, one boy along with his entourage must battle his way through several awe-inspiring challenges to restore order and peace. Square has billed Final Fantasy IX as a the return of the gems, a return to its roots, and the return of the super deformed look that has been lost since the SNES days of the Final Fantasy series. I would just like to refer to it as Square’s triumphant return to all the things we missed about the “old school” FF series with a intermingling of everything I love about the recent FF offerings.

Entering hand in hand with the “cuter” super deformed look is a story line that is a little more lighthearted than the previous Playstation Final Fantasy efforts. If the other Final Fantasy titles were “Interactive Movies” then FF IX is an “Interactive Action/Comedy.” Sidekicks, romance, and thrilling sub-plots are constantly upstaging one another in this exhilarating and entertaining adventure. In the classic style of all of the FF titles, I was immediately hooked by the story and it simply never let go.

The modern side of FF shines though with the inclusion of a remarkable amount of CG intermissions and a whole set of mini-games, including an all-new card battle game that is played throughout the FF world.

Appealing sub-bosses and a combat system that is a more of a combination of the best of the past, instead of a complete re-invention provide players with all of the familiar nuances that scream “This is Final Fantasy!”

Gameplay 4 / 5
Soundtrack 4.5 / 5
Replay Value 4 / 5
Storyline 3.5 / 5
4 / 5 Great!