The last Final Fantasy
game published for the Playstation 1, it was released around 2000/2001, after the overall failure of Final Fantasy 8
. As a result, Squaresoft
didn't market it as much as it had the previous two games.
The game is a return to earlier games, where each of the 8 characters have one class they stick to for the entire game. The characters weren't as customizable as those in the previous two games and the limit break system was replaced by a "Trance" system which had its own advantages and disadvantages (hitting Trance gives each character different special powers but you couldn't "save" it up between battles like you could with Limit Breaks).
The story itself is reasonably engaging, involving an over-dramatic villain of indeterminate gender (seriously, it's hard to tell whether Kuja is male or female, despite all the characters referring to Kuja as a he), a plausible love story and ultimately a fight for the souls of everyone on the planet.
Final Fantasy IX has many of the staples of the series with a few improvements. For example, the game actually encourages you to steal from creatures (there are about 4 or 5 creatures in the entire game that don't have something to steal, and one of the main character's attacks does damage based on how much you've stolen throughout the game), the Chocobo sidequest is useful for obtaining all sorts of items and it's actually possible to do well in the card game (Tetra Master) without a huge amount of effort. The major sticking point as far as the game system is concerned is the frustration that can be gained when trying to learn new Blue Magic - in this game, you have to beat down enemies to 1/8 of their health before the Blue Mage can eat them and gain their abilities (if the Blue Mage has Tranced, they only need to be down to 1/4 of their health)
Overall, while it's not as popular as Final Fantasy VII
, it's still a good game in its own right, and a reasonably popular one among those that know it.
Final Fantasy 9 has many references to other games hidden within it.