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Dark times have befallen the world of Gaia, with four distinct governing nations caught in a deadly power struggle. While some are driven by short-sighted greed, others strive for justice. Lindblum, led by the honorable and trustworthy Regent Cid, takes a stand against the horrific massacres perpetrated by Alexandria's troops.

To gather information and interrogate, Cid enlists bandits to kidnap Princess Garnet of the Alexandria Empire. Surprisingly, Garnet and her bodyguard willingly join his cause, aware of the queen's outrageous recklessness. This triggers a fierce counterattack by Alexandria, plunging the world into a conflict far worse than political disputes.

Amidst the chaos, a young thief and his companions must overcome numerous awe-inspiring challenges to restore peace and order. Square promotes Final Fantasy IX as the return of the gems, a nod to its roots, and the resurgence of the super-deformed aesthetic missing since the SNES days of the series. I prefer to call it Square's triumphant fusion of the beloved "old school" Final Fantasy elements with the best aspects of recent offerings.

Accompanying the "cuter" super-deformed style is a more lighthearted storyline than previous PlayStation Final Fantasy games. If the other titles were "Interactive Movies," then FF IX is an "Interactive Action/Comedy." Engaging subplots, sidekicks, and romance continually upstage one another in this thrilling and entertaining adventure. As with all classic FF titles, I was instantly captivated by the story, and it never lost its grip.

The contemporary side of Final Fantasy is evident through the abundant CG intermissions and a collection of mini-games, including an all-new card battle game found throughout the FF world.

Attractive sub-bosses and a combat system that combines the best of previous iterations, rather than reinventing the wheel, provide players with familiar nuances that unmistakably declare, "This is Final Fantasy!"

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