Final Fantasy IX is now available on iOS and Android. And even though it's been nearly 16 years since Zidane's adventure first hit the PlayStation, there's something simply surreal about being able to play the game on your phone.
There's a catch, of course. Final Fantasy IX mobile isn't going to run on your Zack Morris brick-phone. You need some decent hardware. Something powerful, if not cutting-edge.
The App Store page for Final Fantasy IX outlines what you ought to have under the hood before installing the game. For starters, it takes up four gigs of space, so good luck if you have a 16 gig phone. You also shouldn't attempt to run the app with anything less than an iPhone 5S, a fourth generation iPad, or a sixth generation iPod Touch.
Those are just iOS requirements. Things get even trickier on Android, as Final Fantasy IX's performance presumably differs from device to device thanks to Android's fragmentation.
Final Fantasy IX's hefty system requirements highlight an interesting conundrum affecting mobile gaming. One of the reasons the medium took off is because of its convenience. With smartphones, you can play games on the same device you use to answer your email, text your friends, jot down notes, plan your day, and, er, make phone calls. Smartphones are the Swiss army knives of communication and entertainment.
But mobile gaming is quickly becoming complicated. Whereas the platform was once synonymous with simple distractions like Angry Birds, Doodle Jump, Bejeweled, and other games your trusty iPhone 3G could run without a problem, newer titles (particularly adaptations of console and / or PC games) require increasing amounts of space and processing power. A growing number of mobile games won't even run on my iPhone 5 anymore.
This puts mobile gaming's future in an interesting light. If its popularity ballooned because of convenience, what's going to happen when that convenience vanishes? The average smartphone or tablet user doesn't run out for a hardware upgrade as soon as it hits the store. There are tons of people still happily walking around with their iPhone 4, and whatever technical wizardry mobile game developers are weaving these days, they can't partake.
Sure, it can be argued that maybe those people could care less about said tech wizardry -- but if they don't even have the option, they can't manage the same reach that allowed masses to warm up to mobile gaming in the first place.
We might see Nintendo's NX hit store shelves this fall, leading people to point out how if that's the case, the Wii U's lifespan of four years is pitifully short. But in the mobile games market, four-year-old tech is almost ancient. The iPhone 5 was actually released around the same time as the Wii U, and Square-Enix has already recommended against trying to play Final Fantasy IX mobile on it. The market's moving quickly, arguably too quickly.
Wherever mobile gaming takes us over the next couple of years, one thing is certain: Unlike smartphone tech, Final Fantasy IX's charm is well-preserved. Take a little time to play it, regardless of whether you do so on mobile, Steam (coming soon!) , or via a PlayStation Store download.