I finished the game for the first time this year and it's a really good game. I like FF7 better but 9 is my second favourite FF-game. I have played several FF-games but actually have only finished those two.
I tried to play FF9 a couple of years ago but I thought the story dragged on in the beginning with little to get attached to. This year when playing it I almost immediately was charmed by the characters and how the game looked. The story is also good with some heart breaking moments. The end sequence also was very moving and well done.
I did have to farm quite a bit and looked up some strategy online for some of the abilities I equiped. I guess my lack of experience with jrpgs and FF-games are the cause of my troubles.
When it comes to story heavy games it's nice if you can actually beat them on your first try without having to start over completely. It seems this is the case with FF9 if you are smart about where you have your saves.