Final Fantasy IX
|Final Fantasy IX|
|Platform(s)||PlayStation, iOS, Android, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One|
Final Fantasy IX (ファイナルファンタジーIX Fainaru Fantajī Nain) is a 2000 role-playing video game developed and published by Square for the PlayStation video game console. It is the ninth game in the main Final Fantasy series and the last to debut on the original PlayStation. The plot centers on the consequences of a war between nations in a medieval fantasy world called Gaia. Players follow bandit Zidane Tribal, who kidnaps Alexandrian princess Garnet Til Alexandros XVII as part of a gambit by the neighboring nation of Lindblum. He joins Garnet and a growing cast of characters on a quest to take down her mother, Queen Brahne of Alexandria, who started the war. The plot shifts when the player learns that Brahne is a pawn of a more menacing threat, Kuja, who shares a mysterious history with Zidane spanning two worlds.
The game was developed alongside Final Fantasy VIII. Envisioned by developers as a retrospective for the series, it departed from the futuristic settings of Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII by returning to the medieval style of the first six installments. Consequently, it was influenced heavily by the original Final Fantasy, and features allusions to the rest of the games. Despite this approach, the game did introduce new features to the series, such as "Active Time Event" cutscenes, "Mognet", and skill systems.
Final Fantasy IX was released to critical acclaim. It is often cited by critics and fans as one of the best Final Fantasy games, and holds the highest Metacritic score of the series. Final Fantasy IX was commercially successful, selling more than 5 million copies worldwide by March 2003 and 5.5 million copies by February 2016. It was re-released in 2010 as a PSOne Classic on the PlayStation Store; this version was compatible with PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable, and PlayStation Vita support arrived in 2012. In the late 2010s, ports featuring minor gameplay and graphical enhancements were released for iOS, Android, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One.
In Final Fantasy IX, the player navigates a character throughout the game world, exploring areas and interacting with non-player characters. Most of the game occurs on "field screens" consisting of pre-rendered backgrounds representing towns and dungeons. To aid exploration on the field screen, Final Fantasy IX introduces the "field icon", an exclamation mark appearing over their lead character's head, signalling an item or sign is nearby. Players speak with moogles to record their progress, restore life energy with a tent and purchase items—a deviation from previous installments, which used a save point to perform these functions. Moogles can also be contacted from the world map; with an item called a Moogle flute. Moogles may request the playable character deliver letters to other Moogles via Mognet, playable characters might also receive letters from non-playable characters.
Players journey between field screen locations on the world map, a three dimensional, downsized representation of Final Fantasy IX's world presented from a top-down perspective. Players can freely navigate around the world map screen unless restricted by terrain like bodies of water or mountain ranges. To overcome geographical limitations, players can ride chocobos, sail on a boat or pilot airships. Like previous Final Fantasy installments, travel across the world map screen and hostile field screen locations is interrupted by random enemy encounters.
Final Fantasy IX offers a new approach to town exploration with the introduction of Active Time Events (ATE). These allow the player to view events unfolding at different locations, providing character development, special items and prompts for key story-altering decisions. ATE are occasionally used to simultaneously control two teams when the party is divided to solve puzzles and navigate mazes.
Whenever the playable character encounters an enemy, the map changes to the "battle screen". On the battle screen, the enemy appears on the opposite side of the characters; each battle uses the familiar Active Time Battle system that was first featured in Final Fantasy IV. The character's command list is presented in a window opposite the ATB gauge list; while all characters can physically attack the enemy or use an item from the player's inventory, they also possess unique abilities. For example, the thief Zidane can steal items from the enemy, Eiko and Garnet can summon "eidolons" to aid the party and Vivi can use black magic to damage the opposition.
These character-specific commands change when the player goes into "Trance mode", which is activated for a short duration when an uncontrollable gauge fills as character sustains damage in a style similar to the Limit Breaks used in Final Fantasy VII. When the gauge is full, the character's strength is amplified, and the player can select special attack commands. Zidane's "Skill" command list, for example, changes to "Dyne", allowing him to execute powerful attacks; Vivi's "Black Magic" command evolves into "Double Black", allowing him to cast two magic spells simultaneously. Through the Configuration screen, the player can change the Battle Style from Normal to Custom, which allows two players to control any combination of characters during battle. However, two controllers must be plugged into the PlayStation.
A character's performance in battle is determined by numerical values ("statistics") for categories like speed, strength and magical power. Character statistics are driven by experience; when players win battles, they are awarded "experience points", which accumulate until characters gain "experience levels". When characters "level up", the statistics for their attributes permanently increase, which may also be amplified by the types of equipment the character is wearing. Winning battles also awards the player money (Gil), Tetra Master playing cards, items and ability points (AP).
Abilities and equipment
Final Fantasy IX deviates from the style of customisable characters featured in the last two games by reviving the character class concept, which designates a character to a certain role in battle. For example, Vivi is designated as a black mage and is the only character who can use black magic, and Steiner is a knight and is the only character who can use sword skills.
The basic function of equipment in Final Fantasy games is to increase character attributes; arming Zidane with a Mythril Vest, for example, increases his base defense statistic. In Final Fantasy IX, weapons and armor include special character abilities, which the character may use when the item is equipped (permitting the ability matches their class). Once the character accumulates enough ability points in battle, the ability becomes usable without having to keep the item equipped. In addition to granting abilities the equipment in Final Fantasy IX determines the statistical growth of the characters at the time of level up. Armor not only raises base defense or evasion statistics but raises defense and/or other statistics at level up.
Abilities are classified into action and support categories. Action abilities consume magic points (MP) and include magic spells and special moves that are used in battle. Support abilities provide functions that remain in effect indefinitely and must be equipped with magic stones to be functional. The maximum number of these stones increases as the characters level up.
Tetra Master is a card-based minigame that can be initiated with various non-playable characters in the field. Players assemble a deck of five cards, which can be obtained via chests, given as a reward, or earned from fighting monsters. Each card has various arrows which point to the four sides and four corners of the card, and various stats that vary between cards, with rarer cards being more powerful. Players take it in turns to strategically place cards on a 4x4 playing grid based on the available directions. Battles can occur when players place a card next to another card, depending on where the player places it. If the defending card has no arrows whilst the attacking card has an arrow pointing towards it, that card is placed under the player's control. When two arrows meet with each other, the cards do battle based on their point values, with the losing card coming under the winning player's control, sometimes triggering combos that put multiple cards in the winner's control. After all cards are played, the winner is the player who has the most cards under their control, with a draw occurring if they have the same number of cards. The winning player may choose a card from their opponent's deck out of the ones they put under their control. If the winning player scores a perfect win however, in which all ten cards are put under their control, they will win all five cards from the opponent's deck.
Setting and characters
Final Fantasy IX takes place primarily on a world named Gaia. Most of Gaia's population reside on the Mist Continent, named after the thick Mist that blankets the lowlands. Large mountain ranges act as natural borders that separate its four nations: Alexandria, Lindblum, Burmecia, and Cleyra. Alexandria is a warmongering monarchy that controls the eastern half of the continent. One of its cities is Treno, a cultural nexus under perpetual starlight that is home to many aristocrats and paupers alike. The technologically advanced Lindblum, a hub of airship travel, is nestled on a plateau to the southwest. Both countries are populated by a mix of humans, humanoids, and anthropomorphic animals. Burmecia, a kingdom showered by endless rain, is in the northwest; Cleyra, a neighboring region that seceded from Burmecia due to the latter's appreciation for war, hails from a giant tree in the desert and is protected by a powerful sandstorm. Both are inhabited by anthropomorphic rats with a fondness for dance and spear fighting.
Players eventually explore the Outer, Lost, and Forgotten Continents as well. Civilizations on the Outer Continent include Conde Petie, home of the dwarves; Black Mage Village, a hidden settlement of sentient magician drones; and Madain Sari, once home to a near-extinct race of horned humanoid summoners who conjure magical entities called eidolons. Also on the Outer Continent is the Iifa Tree, which disperses the Mist to other continents through its roots. This Mist stimulates the fighting instinct in humanoids and contributes to Gaia's bloody history. The Lost and Forgotten continents are littered mostly with ancient ruins. Scattered throughout the marshes of Gaia are the Qu: large, frog-eating, and seemingly androgynous humanoids who are considered great gourmands. Late in the game, players briefly travel to the parallel world of Terra and the dream realm of Memoria.
The main playable characters are: Zidane Tribal, a member of a group of bandits called Tantalus who are masquerading as a theater troupe; Garnet Til Alexandros XVII (alias Dagger), the Princess of Alexandria who is actually from Madain Sari; Vivi Ornitier, a young, timid, and kind black mage with an existential crisis; Adelbert Steiner, a brash Alexandrian knight captain and loyal servant of Princess Garnet; Freya Crescent, a Burmecian dragoon searching for her lost love; Quina Quen, a Qu whose master wants him/her to travel the world so that s/he will learn about cuisine; Eiko Carol, a young girl living in Madain Sari, and, along with Garnet, one of the last two summoners; and Amarant Coral, a bounty hunter hired to return Garnet to Alexandria. Other important characters include Cid Fabool, the charismatic Regent of Lindblum; Brahne, Garnet's mother and the power-hungry Queen of Alexandria; General Beatrix, the powerful leader of the female knights of Alexandria; Garland, an elderly Terran male tasked with saving his world; and antagonist Kuja, an arms dealer and pawn of Garland with his own existential crisis.
In Alexandria, Zidane and Tantalus kidnap Princess Garnet by order of Cid. Garnet does not resist, for she was already planning to flee and warn Cid of Queen Brahne's increasingly erratic behavior.[q 1] Vivi and Steiner join the party during the escape. En route to Lindblum, the group discovers that Brahne is using a village to manufacture soulless black mage soldiers that look similar to Vivi. In Lindblum, Cid confirms that he hired the group to protect Garnet from Brahne's newfound aggression. After learning that Alexandria has invaded Burmecia with the black mages, Zidane and Vivi team up with Freya to investigate, while Garnet and Steiner secretly return to Alexandria to reason with Brahne.[q 2]
Zidane's team finds that Alexandria conquered Burmecia with help from Kuja, and the refugees have fled to Cleyra. Brahne imprisons Garnet and extracts her eidolons;[q 3] she uses one to destroy Cleyra while Zidane's group is defending the city. The party escapes on Brahne's airship, rendezvous with Steiner, and rescues Garnet. Meanwhile, Brahne cripples Lindblum with another eidolon.[q 4] Cid explains that Kuja is supplying Brahne with the black mages and knowledge to use eidolons. The party befriends Quina and tracks Kuja to the Outer Continent, a land mostly devoid of Mist and thus inaccessible by airship.[q 5][q 6] There they meet Eiko, who leads them to the Iifa Tree. Inside, they learn that Kuja uses Mist to create the black mages, and that Vivi was a prototype.[q 7] The party defeats the source of the Mist within the Tree, and the substance clears from the Mist Continent. While waiting for Kuja's reprisal, Amarant loses a duel to Zidane and joins the party, and Garnet learns of her summoner heritage. Kuja arrives at the Tree, but Brahne also appears and attempts to kill Kuja with an eidolon so she can rule unopposed; he takes control of it and destroys her and her army.[q 8][q 9]
After Garnet's coronation, Kuja attacks Alexandria castle.[q 10] Garnet and Eiko summon an extremely powerful eidolon in defense; Kuja attempts to steal the eidolon as a means to kill his master, Garland, but the latter arrives and destroys it.[q 11][q 12] Seeking to stop the quarreling villains, the party chases Kuja on an airship from Cid that runs on steam rather than the now-cleared Mist. They eventually unlock a portal to Terra, where the goals of the antagonists are revealed. The Terrans created Garland to merge the dying world with Gaia; Garland, in turn, created self-aware, soulless vessels called Genomes.[q 13] For millennia, Garland has been using the Iifa Tree to replace deceased Gaian souls with the hibernating Terran souls, turning the former into Mist in the process; this will allow the Terrans to be reborn into the Genomes after the planetary merge.[q 14][q 15] Kuja and Zidane are Genomes created to accelerate this process by bringing war and chaos to Gaia.[q 16] Kuja had betrayed Garland to avoid becoming occupied by a Terran soul. Kuja defeats Garland, who reveals before dying that the former has a limited lifespan anyhow: Zidane was designed to be his replacement.[q 17] Enraged, Kuja destroys Terra and escapes to the Iifa Tree.
At the Iifa tree, the party enters Memoria and reaches the origin of the universe: the Crystal World. They defeat Kuja, preventing him from destroying the original crystal of life and thus the universe.[q 18] After destroying Necron, a force of death,[q 19] the Tree is destroyed; the party flees, while Zidane stays behind to rescue Kuja.[q 20] One year later, the fates of all of the characters are shown, and Zidane reappears in Alexandria to see Queen Garnet.[q 21]
Development of Final Fantasy IX began before Square had finished development on Final Fantasy VIII. The game was developed in Hawaii as a compromise to developers living in the United States. As the series' last game on the PlayStation, Sakaguchi envisioned a "reflection" on the older games of the series. Leading up to its release, Sakaguchi called Final Fantasy IX his favorite Final Fantasy game as "it's closest to [his] ideal view of what Final Fantasy should be". This shift was also a response to demands from fans and other developers. Additionally, the team wanted to create an understandable story with deep character development; this led to the creation of Active Time Events. The scenario for the game was written by Sakaguchi. He began early planning on it around July 1998. Director Hiroyuki Ito had the idea to make the protagonist Zidane flirtatious towards women.
In the game's conceptual stage, the developers made it clear that the title would not necessarily be Final Fantasy IX, as its break from the realism of Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII may have alienated audiences. This led fans to speculate that it would be released as a "gaiden" (side story) to the main series. By late 1999, however, Square had confirmed that the game would indeed be published as Final Fantasy IX, and by early 2000, the game was nearly finished. The developers made several adjustments to the game, such as changing the ending seven times. Director Ito had designed the battle system used in the game.
The game's developers sought to make the game's environment more "fantasy-oriented" than its PlayStation predecessors. Since the creators wanted to prevent the series from following a redundant setting, Final Fantasy IX distinctly breaks from the futuristic styles of Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII by reintroducing a medieval setting. In the game, steam technology is just beginning to become widely available; the population relies on hydropower or wind power for energy sources, but sometimes harness Mist or steam to power more advanced engines. Continuing with the medieval theme, the game's setting is inspired by Norse and Northern European mythology. According to Ito, "[The development team is] attracted to European history and mythology because of its depth and its drama". The main Final Fantasy IX website says the development of the game's world serves as a culmination of the series by blending the "successful elements of the past, such as a return to the fantasy roots," with newer elements. The creators made the characters a high priority. The return to the series' roots also affected the characters' designs, which resulted in characters with "comic-like looks". Composer Nobuo Uematsu commented that the design staff attempted to give the characters realism while still appearing comic-like. To accomplish this, and to satisfy fans who had become used to the realistic designs of Final Fantasy VIII, the designers stressed creating characters with whom the player could easily relate.
The music of Final Fantasy IX was written by series regular Nobuo Uematsu. In early discussions with game director Hiroyuki Ito he was asked to compose themes for the eight main characters along with "an exciting battle track, a gloomy, danger-evoking piece, and around ten other tracks." Uematsu spent an estimated year composing and producing "around 160" pieces for Final Fantasy IX, with 140 ultimately appearing in the game.
During writing sessions he was given a travel break in Europe for inspiration where he spent time admiring ancient architecture in places like Germany. Uematsu has cited medieval music as a major influence on the score of Final Fantasy IX. He aimed for a "simple" & "warm" atmosphere and incorporated uncommon instruments like the kazoo and dulcimer. Unlike the stark realism of it's predecessors, VII and VIII, the high fantasy undertones of Final Fantasy IX allowed for a wider spectrum of musical styles and moods. Uematsu composed primarily with a piano and used two contrasting methods: "I create music that fits the events in the game, but sometimes, the [developers] will adjust a game event to fit the music I've already written."
Uematsu incorporated several motifs from older Final Fantasy games into the score, such as the original battle music intro, a reworked Volcano Theme from Final Fantasy and the Pandemonium theme from Final Fantasy II. Tantalus' band is also heard playing "Rufus' Welcoming Ceremony" from Final Fantasy VII near the beginning of the game.
Uematsu has stated on several occasions that Final Fantasy IX is his favorite score. "Melodies of Life" is the theme song of Final Fantasy IX, and shares it's main melody with pieces frequently used in the game itself, such as the overworld theme, and a lullaby that is sung by Dagger. It was performed by Emiko Shiratori in both the Japanese and English versions and arranged by Shirō Hamaguchi.
Final Fantasy IX's release was delayed to avoid a concurrent release with then rival Enix's Dragon Quest VII. On October 7, 2000, a demo day for the North American version of Final Fantasy IX was held at the Metreon in San Francisco, California. The first American release of the game was also at the Metreon; limited edition merchandise was included with the game, and fans cosplayed as Final Fantasy characters in celebration of the release. In Canada, a production error left copies of Final Fantasy IX without an English version of the instruction manual, prompting Square to ship copies of the English manual to Canadian stores several days later.
The game was heavily promoted both before and after its release. Starting on March 6, 2000, Final Fantasy IX characters were used in a line of computer-generated Coca-Cola commercials. Figurines of several characters were also used as prizes in Coca-Cola's marketing campaign. That same year, IGN awarded Final Fantasy dolls and figurines for prizes in several of their contests.
Final Fantasy IX was also the benchmark of Square's interactive PlayOnline service. PlayOnline was originally developed to interact with Final Fantasy X, but when those plans fell through it became a strategy site for Final Fantasy IX. The site was designed to complement BradyGames' and Piggyback Interactive's official strategy guides for the game, where players who bought the print guide had access to "keywords" that could be searched for on PlayOnline's site for extra tips and information. This caused fury among buyers of the guide, as they felt cheated for the expensive print guide. The blunder made GameSpy's "Top 5 Dumbest Moments in Gaming" list, and Square dropped the idea for Final Fantasy X, which was under development at the time.
On December 18, 2012, the game was re-released as part of the Final Fantasy 25th Anniversary Ultimate Box Japanese package. On February 10, 2016, a remaster was released for iOS and Android. The remaster features HD movies and character models, an auto-save feature, 7 game boosters and achievements. A port for Microsoft Windows was released on April 14, 2016. In September 2017, the Windows port was released on PlayStation 4. On September 13, 2018, it was announced that the port would also be coming to Nintendo Switch and Xbox One in 2019.
Final Fantasy IX sold over 2.65 million copies in Japan by the end of 2000, making it the second-highest selling game of the year there. Although it was a top-seller in Japan and America, Final Fantasy IX did not sell as well as Final Fantasy VII or Final Fantasy VIII in either Japan or the United States. In 2001, the game received a "Gold" certification from the Verband der Unterhaltungssoftware Deutschland (VUD), for sales of at least 100,000 units across Germany, Austria and Switzerland. As of March 31, 2003, Final Fantasy IX had sold 5.30 million copies worldwide. The game was voted the 24th-best game of all time by readers of the Japanese magazine Famitsu.
Final Fantasy IX was released to critical acclaim both in Japan and the US. On the review aggregator Metacritic it has achieved a score of 94%, the highest score for a Final Fantasy game on the site. On GameRankings it has received a score of 93%, the second highest of any Final Fantasy game, behind Final Fantasy VI for the Super NES.
Across the reviews, praise was given to the graphics and nostalgic elements. Critics pointed out the strength of the game within its gameplay, character development, and visual representation. GameSpot noted that the learning curve is easily grasped, and that the ability system is not as complex as in Final Fantasy VII or Final Fantasy VIII. Each player character possesses unique abilities, which hinders the development of an over-powered character. GameSpot describes the battle system as having a tactical nature and notes that the expanded party allows for more interaction between players and between enemies. Nevertheless, IGN disliked the lengthy combat pace and the repeated battles, describing it as "aggravating", and RPGFan felt the Trance system to be ineffective as the meter buildup is slow and unpredictable, with characters Trancing just before the enemy is killed.
The characters and graphics received positive reviews. Although IGN felt that the in-depth character traits in Final Fantasy IX could be generally found in other Final Fantasy games, it still found the characters to be engaging and sympathetic. GameSpot found the characters, up to their dialogue and traits, amusing and full of humor. IGN also noted that the Active Time Event system helps to expand the player's understanding of the characters' personalities as they question many ideas and emotions. Their semi-deformed appearance, which also covers monsters of every size, contain detailed animation and design. They gave praise to the pre-rendered backgrounds, noting the careful attention given to the artwork, movement in animations and character interactivity. The movies are seen as emotive and compelling, and the seamless transition and incorporation to the in-game graphics helped to move the plot well.
Critics acknowledged that the overall storyline was mainly built upon elements found in previous Final Fantasy installments, such as evil empires and enigmatic villains. The main villain, although considered by GameSpot to be the least threatening in the series, was seen by IGN as an impeccable combination of "Kefka's cackling villainy" and "plenty of the bishonenosity that made Sephiroth such a hit with the ladies". Mixed reactions were given to the audio aspects of the game. Some reviewers, such as RPGFan felt that the music was "uninspired and dull" whereas GamePro praised the audio for evoking "emotions throughout the story, from battles to heartbreak to comedy". Some criticism was leveled on composer Nobuo Uematsu who reused some tracks from past iterations of the series. Still, reviewers have come to agree that this and many other elements are part of the overall effort to create a nostalgic game for fans of the older Final Fantasy games.
The strategy guide also received criticism; it urged buyers to log onto an online site to gain the information, instead of providing it within the actual guide. The book's given links are no longer accessible on the PlayOnline website. Tetra Master was seen by GameSpot as inferior and confusing compared to Final Fantasy VIII's minigame Triple Triad, as the rules for it were only vaguely explained in the game and there were very few rewards earned from playing it despite its expansive nature.
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- Garnet: I am actually... Princess Garnet til Alexandros, heir to the throne of Alexandria. I have a favour I wish to ask of you... I wish to be kidnapped...right away.
- Dagger: I have to help Mother... I don't want to see anything happen to her... / Steiner: Very well. Princess, I will follow you wherever you choose.
- Queen Brahne: Zorn, Thorn! Prepare to extract the eidolons from Garnet.
- Minister Artania: Yes, Princess. The castle was spared. Regent Cid is alive.
- Regent Cid: I believe Kuja is the only one supplying <gwok> Brahne with weapons.
- Minister Artania: That he came from the north suggests he's from the Outer Continent.
- Zidane: What kind of weapons did Kuja make? / Soulcage: Kuja called them black mages, dark spawn of the Mist.
- Queen Brahne: Kuja! So you finally decided to show your girly face here! You're all that stands between me and total domination!
- Kuja: Excellent, Bahamut! Power, mobility... You truly are the best! You even hurt me...a little. And you, Brahne... Your tragic role in this drama now comes to an end!
- Kuja: What an auspicious day for Alexandria. Dagger's accession to the throne has brought hope and peace to this kingdom. The people are overjoyed; they believe a wonderful future is ahead of them. ...But the celebration isn't over yet. It's time to really light things up! Your former master is here, Bahamut. Play a requiem for her and all of Alexandria!
- Garland: You have gone too far, Kuja. I granted you the freedom to do as you wish in Gaia for one purpose alone. Now that you have lost sight of your mission, I will no longer tolerate your actions.
- Kuja: I need an eidolon more powerful than Alexander! An eidolon with the power to bury Garland! His powers are so incredible; I cannot even come close. I must destroy him before Terra's plan is activated, or my soul will no longer be my own!
- Garland: I constructed the Genomes to be vessels for the souls of the people of Terra when they awaken.
- Garland: the Iifa Tree blocks the flow of Gaia's souls, while it lets those of Terra flow freely.
- Garland: The role of the Iifa Tree is that of Soul Divider. The Mist you see comprises the stagnant souls of Gaia...
- Zidane: So...Kuja is just an angel of death who sends souls to the Tree of Iifa. / Garland: Yes, my angel of death. But only until you came of age.
- Garland: There's a limit to your life... You'll be dead soon... Even as I die, you'll have died without ever leaving your mark on the world...
- Kuja: It's the original crystal... This is where it all began... The birthplace of all things... Once I destroy it, everything will be gone. Gaia, Terra, the universe, everything...
- Necron: I exist for one purpose... To return everything back to the zero world, where there is no life and no crystal to give life.
- Zidane: ...Kuja's still alive. I can't just leave him.
- Robed performer: I beseech thee, wondrous moonlight, grant me my only wish! [removes robe, revealing himself as - ] Zidane: Bring my beloved Dagger to me!
- Quotations related to Final Fantasy IX at Wikiquote
- Media related to Final Fantasy IX at Wikimedia Commons
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