Square Europe Announces The European Release Of Final Fantasy 9 On The Sony Playstation

Square Europe announces February ship date for the eagerly awaited Final Fantasy 9, the latest chapter in the Final Fantasy role-playing series.

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The Final Fantasy series has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. Previous instalments, Final Fantasy VII and VIII, sold record numbers on the Playstafion format achieving number one chart positions all over the world. Number IX has already taken Japan and the US by storm on NTSC releases in July and November last year, and European anticipation is high for the PAL ship out.

Final Fantasy IX takes players through an inimersive storyline with numerous subplots as they play with eight unique characters that use a variety of weapons and magic in a quest for good over evil. The game centres on a greedy queens desire to dominate the world. Brahne, the Queen of Alexandria, has begun using highly advanced magical weapons to terrorise neighbouring kingdoms. Players follow a group made up of bandits, knights and magicians lead by a skilled thief, Zidane, who all must team up to try to stop the Queen. Soon after embarking on their quest, they discover that the Queen's threats merely cover a far more sinister plot. For the sake of mankind, Zidane and company must put an end to the Queen's reign before she and the evil forces that accompany her can carry out the deadly plan.

The story begins with Zidane, a member of the bandit group Tantalus, travelling to the town of Alexandria to perform the play "1 VVant to Be Your Canary" in front of Queen Brahne, and her daughter Princess Garnet. The group s real aim, however, is to kidnap the princess. Zidane's scheme is disrupted by Steiner, the loyal knight of Alexandria. During the process, their group is joined by the tiny black mage, Vivi. Zidane and company manage to escape the city with Princess Garnet, with Steiner following to protect her, but the Queen soon discovers them, and their airship is destroyed. The trouble does not end there: the party is constantly pursued by the Queen's men, some possessing incredible magical powers. Disturbed by what they have seen, Zidane, Garnet, Vivi and Steiner decide to team up to solve the mystery behind the Queen's evil troops. They discover eventually that the Queen is being assisted by the mysterious figure, Kuja, whose real purpose is unknown...

Final Fantasy IX features eight playable characters, with up to four taking part in each battle. The characters have unique profiles affecting skills, abilities and weapon types. The intuitive menu system allows for rapid customisation of character attributes, allowing the player to select the appropriate strategy for the myriad monsters which will be encountered on this epic adventure, set in a world of fantastic medieval cities and uncharted territories.

Starting with a near-bare inventory, the player must seek out special items to learn new skills and abilities that are indispensable for success against the multitude of fearsome bosses. Certain characters have the ability to summon Eidolons, powerful spirits capable of unleashing untold damage. Many of these, including Shiva and Bahamut, are Final Fantasy stalwarts and the summon sequences contain some of the best graphics seen on the PlayStation.

Final Fantasy IX marks something of a sea change with respect to previous episodes developed for the PlayStation, and a return to the roots of the franchise in terms of the world it creates. This latest instalment therefore takes into account all the best elements of each and every one of its predecessors on all plafforms-graphic style, game system, rich and detailed story, top full motion videos as well as the technological advances, which are the hallmark of any Square, game.

To assist players in their journey, Square Europe has teamed with Piggyback Interactive to create a detailed strategy guide which offers hints, tips, maps and a full walkthrough to help players complete the game. In addition to this, Square Europe's web site will reveal extra secrets not contained in the printed guide. Using the keywords found in the guide, registered web site users will be able to log on to square-europe.com/ff9 and view the extra information which will allow the player to get the most from this epic title. As well as the secrets, the site will offer the complete walkthrough with a user-friendly navigation system. This is a first for Square Europe, and a sign of things to come, with PlayOnline on the horizon.

Yuji Shibata, the Managing Director of Square Europe, said, "Final Fantasy IX is a perfect example of the Squaresoft agenda; deep, immersive gaming with high production values, and great deal to offer garners of every level".