Not really improved over the prequels, but still a great game
The graphics in the final fantasy serie have always (at least on the psx) been wonderful. the 9th episode is no exception : The gorgeous painted backgrounds, the animation of the characters, the modeling of characters and monsters in battle, and the amazing (!!!) pre-rendered cut-scenes are all spectacular
The sound effects are good too, and the music is just one of the best one produced for a video game
The gameplay is as good as in other final fantasy games. Almost the same as in other episodes, which means it's great fun for those RPG fans.
Also, the optional side quests and secrets are better balanced. It is actually possible to discover the vast majority of them without a strategy guide (it ain't easy, but at least, it's not as impossible as chocobo raising in FF VII).
The story is involving and most of the characters you play are really likeable
It's got great longevity : expect between 30 and 60 hours of gameplay before you complete it, depending on how much you care for side-quests and world exploration.
The replay value is not great but at least, there is one, cos you may want to replay the game with a strategy guide to discover all the secrets you missed in the first run.
The Graphics, while gorgeous, didn't really improve technically since FFVIII. Granted, maybe FFVIII already pushed the psx to its limits, but at least you could still be amazed by FFVIII if you had played FFIX. Only a very minor complain though
The story is very complex at times, especially in the end : chances are you'll beat the game without knowing exactly what good you have accomplished and how your actions did save the world. And where the hell does the final boss come from ?
The story is also nothing new. It's very similar to other FFs : characters have identity crisis, fall in love with each other, etc. Maybe Square should start thinking about new kinds of plot twists.
The game play is also very similar to previous FFs. I know, I know, there are changes, like the fact that your abilities lie in your equipment, but in the end, those changes are very minor.
The Bottom Line
This is truly a great RPG, with many major good things and many minor flaws (mainly the fact that it's just too plain similar to previous episodes).
Anyway, It'll probably delight fans of the serie, and many other people as well.