The Tokyo Game Show is always full of surprises, but I didn’t expect that Square Enix would drop a PS4 port of classic RPG Final Fantasy IX with absolutely no warning. That said, here we are. Similar to the PC port from 2015, Final Fantasy IX is less of a remaster than a carry forward. Above you’ll be able to see the first 25 minutes of the game, but let’s get into what’s been changed for this surprise installment.
The first and most obvious thing is that the CGI and character models have received a once-over. They weren’t rebuilt from the ground up, but they do look significantly better than one would expect taking a PlayStation 1 game all the way up to the PlayStation 4. Where it doesn’t shine as brightly is in the backgrounds. Characters are a little higher quality, which makes them stand out in stark contrast to the more grainy background. In a similar way, the retouched CGI cutscenes still run at a somewhat stuttery 15fps. It’s not painful, but it’s very noticeable.
As you can see in the footage above, while the team did quite a bit to anti-alias the game, they did nothing with the chunkiness of the combat interface. Retooled, they are still anything but sleek, but they are, at least, very easy to read. It does feel like they could have put it on a bit of a diet and shrunk each box by about half, though. It’s a minor thing, but one I’m surprised to see make it through user testing.
While the Moogle-based saves are still present and accounted for, Kupo, there is now an auto-save function. When you transition between areas, the game will make a quick and seamless save. This is handy when you square off against a boss you aren’t quite ready for, or if you made a tactical error and can’t bear the thought of losing hours of progress because you didn’t pop by a friendly Moogle on the way there. Simply select “Continue” from the main menu and it’ll pick up where it last autosaved, instead of using the “Load” option to hit the last Moogle-based save point. This is handy for newcomers not used to the more punishing days when there was no safety net beyond what you made for yourself.
If you checked out our review for Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, you know that I had high praise for the boosting features that Square Enix has been putting into their RPG remasters. Final Fantasy IX is no exception, receiving seven boost features to help players experience the game for the first time, or to enjoy it again.
Hitting Pause exposes four cheats – Battle Assistance, 9999, High Speed Mode, and Safe Travel. Battle Assistance automatically fills the Active Time Battle (ATB) gauge instantly, maximizes health and magic points, and when unlocked, allows you to fire off trance mode at will. To say that “assistance” is an understatement would, in itself, be an understatement. 9999 mode takes it to the next level, allowing all attacks to deal 9999 damage, and all healing to restore 9999 health. Safe Travel turns off all random battles (which, if you are playing without assistance, can cause you grief as you won’t be properly leveled without encounters – use this wisely). High Speed is similar to the 2x and 4x speed boost in Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, though it is locked into fast forward without the second toggle. Surprisingly, none of these disable trophies, so you are free to use them at will.
Heading into the party configuration menu exposes a few more gems, all of which will stop you from earning trophies, but not achievements. Master Abilities enables your party to learn abilities from equipment instantly. Lv/Mag Stone Max instantly sets all party members to level 99, and bumps magic stones (the gems that let you equip the skills learned from equipment) in your inventory to 99. Gil Max does exactly what you think it does, filling your pockets to overflowing with gil.
Beyond all of the improvements in this package, the game also features share functionality, remote play, a custom theme made by Toshiyuki Itahana (character designer for Final Fantasy IX), and eight PlayStation network avatars to celebrate this amazing RPG.
If you want to relive the magic of this whimsical RPG classic, it’ll set you back $20.99, though it’s currently discounted to $16.79 until September 26th. If you missed it the first time, there’s plenty of tools to help you enjoy it through modern eyes.
Final Fantasy IX
Seventeen years after its original release, Final Fantasy IX continues to bring lovable characters full of whimsy. The new boosts ensure that the game can be played in its normal state, or with boosts that are respectful of the player’s time. While the graphical upgrade is a bit of a mixed bag, it’s amazing just how well this PS1 classic holds up. It’s a welcome surprise for the PlayStation 4, and a nod to Square Enix’s continued efforts to bring the best of the Final Fantasy legacy to new generations of players.