Best Characters and Party Setup
One of the core questions that comes up during any playthrough is around how to best set your party and characters to be as strong as possible. So what is the best party setup and are there any tips and tricks that you should implement during the regular flow of battle?
So which characters should you use in your party? Firstly, lets explore each of the characters looking at both their pros and cons.
The main character is a fairly obvious choice for your party. He does not disappear at any point in the story for a significant length of time (unlike Cloud in Final Fantasy VII) and he receives constant weapons and armor upgrades as it is pretty much expected that you will be using him during a regular playthrough. His ability to steal items and his Flee ability (allowing you to escape battle) makes him an excellent choice. Zidane will most often be your strongest character throughout the game. The are very few downsides to using him that cannot be accommodated for by augmenting those weaknesses with other party members.
The little Black Mage of the group can add some incredible strength to the party early on, especially if you pick up new and more powerful staffs along the journey and allow him to learn more powerful spells. Vivi gets very strong very fast, but his strength tends to dwindle off more and more as you reach the end of the game. Having him allows you to utilize some of Steiner’s stronger abilities, but his own attack power comes with the weakness of having to rely on MP throughout the game. He will struggle to keep up with other party members later on in the game.
The Knight of Pluto from Alexandria packs a powerful punch. He tends to do fairly heavy damage throughout the game and equipping the Blood Sword makes him next to impossible to KO. His downsides are twofold - he is not very versatile and has nothing much in his arsenal other than straight through physical damage (unless Vivi is in the party). He is an easy character to get good damage out of during a regular playthrough though especially if it is your first playthrough of the game as he does not require any advanced tactics to get that consistent and reliable damage.
The Princess of Alexandria can best be described as a mediocre addition to the party. Most players tend to include either Dagger or Eiko in their party in order to ensure that they have some healing and curing capabilities on hand for the more difficult fights. Her summons/Eidolons tend to do more damage than Eiko’s, but she is less powerful in terms of regular white magic abilities (including healing spells and the most powerful White Magic spell, Holy). Dagger is the better summoner to include if you plan on using a lot of summons/Eidolons.
The Dragon Knight is another generally mediocre character. She will never do as much damage as either Zidane or Steiner, but she adds some versatility with a few of her support abilities. She can learn an ability called Dragon’s Crest which increases in power depending on how many dragon-type enemies you have defeated within the game. It is one of the stronger attacks in the game due to the low amount of MP required to cast it (specifically 16 MP per cast). But essentially you will have to go out of your way to power up the attack. Note that Freya does not have to be in the party when you kill a dragon-type enemy for Dragon’s Crest to power up and once you kill 100 dragons this move will do 9,999 damage.
The gender neutral “Qu” from Qu’s Marsh is an oddball character, but for experienced players of the game, Quina is one of the most powerful characters you have at your disposal. You can use Limit Glove to deal a fixed 9,999 damage to enemies but only if Quina is at 1 HP. The best tactic is to use Auto-Life on Quina, kill him/her during a battle, revive him/her which will cause him/her to return with 1 HP allowing for the use of Limit Glove. You can obtain Limit Glove very early on, but using it requires knowing about its power ahead of time and planning your fights around using it (hence why this is a more advanced tactic). Quina also has a number of other abilities such as Angel’s Snack (which cures all status effects), White Wind and Frog Drop (which increases depending on how many frogs you have captured as part of the Catching Frogs side quest). Quina is the most versatile character if you know how to use it properly.
The little girl from Madain Sari is the more powerful of the two White Mages. Her summons/Eidolons are not as powerful, but she is a powerhouse offensively once she obtains Holy and she has all of the White Magic healing and support spells that you will need to get you through some of the tougher fights. The choice between Eiko and Dagger really comes down to whether you plan to utilize summons/Eidolons during a playthrough of the game. You can also use her Phoenix summon to Auto-Revive your party if they are killed and this happens automatically if the party is annihilated (a very useful ability to save you if the worst should happen).
Scarlet Hair is another physical-based party member who joins the team much later in the game. His physical attack strength rivals that of Steiner and is much stronger than that of Freya. He is one of the faster characters in the game and has some healing abilities that supplement the party during a few areas of the story where healers are not available (he has Revive, for example). Amarant is a solid character and makes a good addition to any party but is not overly powerful so you can do without him quite easily. He is a great character for your first playthrough as he is extremely easy to utilize.
Beginner to Intermediate Party: The best party for players on their first playthrough or for those who have played before but have completely forgot the tactics and strategies associated with each of the characters, the best party is usually made up of the following:
- Zidane (no reason to exclude him)
- Steiner/Vivi (or both)
- Dagger/Eiko (depending on if you prefer White Magic or Summons/Eidolons)
- Any character that you prefer based on your strategy
Advanced Party:For those players that know enough about the strategies, the mechanics of the fights, and where to pick up each of the character’s strongest abilities (especially Quina’s), this is the most advanced party setup:
Final Fantasy IX is not an extremely difficult game though (especially with this guide) so you can complete the game with any party members that choose. Feel free to be creative and choose the ones that you want to!