You could say that one of the things that the Final Fantasy series has lost over the years is its charm. There's a lot of angst bubbling around in the numerical entries nowadays, and a lot of swooning.
But Final Fantasy 9 cranks the charm up to epic proportions. It's the sweetest of the series since its shift to polygons, and this iOS port is no different. You'll laugh again, you'll cry again, and you'll wonder whether an FF game will ever be this sweet again.
That's not to say there aren't problems here. While the sprites have been polished up with new polygons, the backgrounds are still lo-res, and it makes the whole thing look a little dingy.
It doesn't spoil the experience too much (though it does jar often), and the game underneath still stands as the crowning achievement of Square's PSOne-era Final Fantasy titles.
So, has anything changed?
A bit, here and there. Rather than squashing a joypad on the screen like it did with Final Fantasy 7, here Square has actually bothered to port the game to touchscreen.
You're controlling your characters with a floating stick, and context sensitive buttons flash up when you can interact with people or objects. When you're chatting you can swipe outside the text box to choose your response, then tap a button to select.
It all works pretty well, and it's a damn sight better than the confusing mess of buttons you're confronted with when you first load up FF7.
The battles in particular are handled well. Because they're in full 3D, rather than having pre-rendered backdrops like the rest of the game, they look amazing. There are different options for controlling your party, and if flows brilliantly.
The same can't be said for the exploration part of the game. The murky backgrounds sometimes mean you'll stumble across doors rather than walking through them.
I understand the sacrifice - FFIX is already a massive download, and with upgraded backgroounds it'd be even bigger - but when you're paying a premium price, a premium experience all the way through would be nice.But is it worth shelling out for?
It is. I'll be honest, there's a part of me that thinks this game is the pinnacle of the Final Fantasy series. It gets everything right.
The cast of characters is fresh and interesting, the action is spectacular, and the plot intrigues in all the right ways.
This might not be the perfect version of it, but just the fact you can play one of the finest JRPGs ever created on your phone or tablet is something to be impressed by.
And apart from those few niggles, it works brilliantly. It's funny, it's epic in all the right ways, and the touchscreen controls click most of the time.
It might be expensive, it might be a little clunky here and there, but this is still a wonderful game that deserves to be played by as many people as possible. And this mobile port allows for just that.
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