After having played so many turn-based RPGs over the past year or so, I've noticed quite a few differences with Final Fantasy IX. Most recently on the DS, I played Dragon Quest IV, but I also played Persona 3 and Final Fantasy III relatively recently. I must have a strategic mind because I greatly prefer a turn-based system of battle, versus an active system such as in any Final Fantasy after number 4. I just don't like the idea that if I don't act quickly enough, the enemy will get to go before me or even sneak in an extra attack. This might be why I liked the strategic battles of Final Fantasy X so much: every enemy had a weakness I could exploit, and I always knew the exact turn order of all characters and enemies.
Back to Final Fantasy IX, it continues the FF tradition of employing a real-time battle system. Each character (and enemy) has a timer that fills up at varying speeds. When the gauge is full, that character can take an action. However, in practice, this system still largely replicates a turn-based system. At the most active setting, if you can input your commands without thinking too long, the characters and enemies will pretty much stay in the exact same turn order. So, for example, if the battle order is Character 1, Character 2, Enemy 1, Character 3, Enemy 2, and you don't waste any time picking your actions, that order will remain the same.
Of course, I'm still only partway through disc 2 (of 4). I would expect the real-time battles to get more complicated as the game goes on and you have more skills and abilities to choose from. But maybe not, if the fighter attacks, the thief steals, the mage casts his strongest spell, and the healer waits to heal. In typical usage, FFIX's active battle system is no different than a turn-based system. This may also change later as fast characters get faster, and may start to gain extra turns.
Plus, due to my turn-based preference, I set the battle speed to "Wait," so that the battles effectively pause as I think about which spell to cast. I'm not trying to make the game easier, I just like to have plenty of time to choose the best action.
Otherwise, Final Fantasy IX is going great. The first disc and a half have been largely story-based, with my party moving quickly from location to location, at the mercy of the plot. But I think the game world opens up a bit more on disc 3, and I have more freedom to roam around and go where I will.
I really like how each character has a predefined role or class. I much prefer these types of RPGs to the ones where characters are blank slates and all end up being copies of each other. In FFIX each character is unique: Zidane is the nimble thief, Vivi is the powerful mage, Dagger is the healing white mage, and Steiner is the brute physical attacker. I find unique characters preferable to a game like Final Fantasy VI, where each character can learn every spell in the game, and by the end they mostly are all identical except for a few special abilities.
This is also the first PS1 game I've played on my PS3. I'm not certain, but I think it looks better and loads fast than when played on my PS2. I'm not going to time the load times or anything, but it certainly seems to be pretty speedy. I've also been able to play quite a bit remotely via the PSP, which has been really nice for when my girlfriend would rather watch The Bachelor than me play a classic PS1 RPG.
I'll press onward in my 4th attempt or so to actually finish FFIX, although I will be slowly delving into Half-Life 2: Episode 1 soon. This should provide a nice contrast of games and playing styles.