Nadia is playing the beloved RPG Final Fantasy IX for the first time, and he's chronicling her journey as she goes! Why not join her? Don't forget to listen to the accompanying oral report on Axe of the Blood God!
The Final Final Fantasy IX Report
If you listen to Axe of the Blood God, then you've probably heard the big news: I finished Final Fantasy IX just before the door shut on 2017. But if you don't listen to Blood God (It's OK, disembodied voices freak me out, too), you're probably going to want a written account of what I thought about the game overall, right? Right.
My final written report won't dwell on summarizing the plot; a lot happened since the last report. If you need a thorough breakdown, the Final Fantasy wiki has an excellent story summary for Final Fantasy IX.
Missed out on previous reports? Here you go:
So, I'm done with Final Fantasy IX. According to RPG law, I'm obligated to rank this classic game amongst my other favorites in the series. Here's Nadia's Grand Final Fantasy Breakdown, then:
- 1) Final Fantasy VI
- 2) Final Fantasy VII
- 3) Final Fantasy IV
- 4) Final Fantasy IX
- 5) Final Fantasy XII / The Zodiac Age
I imagine some of you stood up in shocked outrage quickly enough to cause your chair to topple backwards and startle your cat. Be sure to comfort them with a hug and a kiss, then let me explain my position.
Yes, I loved Final Fantasy IX. I'm super-glad I finally got around to playing it. No, it's not in my top 3 Final Fantasy countdown. Part of that is nostalgia: I played Final Fantasy IV, VI, and VII during my formative years when themes about identity and finding oneself left indelible marks on my heart. Much as I enjoyed re-experiencing the same themes in Final Fantasy IX, they simply can't make the same impact on me. That's not the game's fault, though. I admit that.
(That said, I still feel like Final Fantasy VI's transition to the World of Ruin and Celes' lonely awakening offers a gut-punch few RPGs are still able to match. Final Fantasy VI won't budge from my personal #1 spot anytime soon.)
But I'm not penalizing Final Fantasy IX for nostalgia alone. It has a few notable issues:
1) The battle system is slo-o-o-o-w — Seriously, mating turtles move with more urgency than the average fight in Final Fantasy IX. Battles load up slowly, and that's one problem, but there's a noticeable delay in every action you take in battle, and that's another problem altogether. I never got used to how off-kilter each encounter feels. It's like everyone's always a step behind my orders. Frankly, if the PlayStation 4 release of Final Fantasy IX didn't include the options to speed up fights and turn off random encounters, I don't think I would've enjoyed the game nearly as much as I ultimately did.
2) I can't see where the hell I'm going sometimes — Final Fantasy IX's low-res pre-rendered backgrounds are gorgeous, and they make me warm and nostalgic for that specific era of Square-Enix's history. I just really wish pressing select marked each area's entrances and exits the way it does in Final Fantasy VII. Why in Alexander's holy name would such a handy feature be taken out of a game that desperately needs it?
3) Some characters are left under-developed — Zidane, Vivi, Garnet all have incredible story arcs. I wasn't always a fan of how Zidane's character is developed—the whole business with Terra and the Genomes didn't grab me—but I can't argue his character arc was satisfactory. Vivi and Garnet are two of the best-written RPG characters I've traveled with, and Vivi's handling of his existential crisis was particularly well-done. He's a trooper, and I fell head over heels for the little guy.
Eiko also receives decent development, and her connection with Garnet comes as a nice surprise. Steiner can be a bit of a pill, but his devotion to Garnet is admirable, as is his unshakable nature (and he's a super-cute boyfriend for Beatrix, who I thought was going to wind up like Final Fantasy VI's General Leo, but didn't. Whew).
Quina is—well, they're Quina. They're great. But Freya's arc is kind of tossed to the wayside by the game's midway point, and that's a sin. I love Dragoons, I love female Dragoons, and I love rodent-type characters. Here comes a character tailor-made to my tastes, aaaaand she's gone.
Then there's Amarant.
"Zidane, you're a happy-go-lucky fool who trusts his friends too much."
"OK, you've convinced me."
Great. Good talk.
I suppose it's not a Final Fantasy game unless you can point at a character or two and ask, "Why are you even here?" I should just be thankful the characters most vital to Final Fantasy IX's storyline—Zidane, Garnet, and Vivi—wound up being so likeable and well-developed.
Despite its problems, Final Fantasy IX is a highly imaginative and personable RPG that revels in the series' roots without leaning on them. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game and its cast. Please do listen to our Final Fantasy IX reports on Axe of the Blood God if you haven't already. Kat and I go into great detail about the game's mechanics, as well as its characters and story. We break down twists and reminisce about the best parts of the game. Really, it'd take me thousands of words to summarize the thoughts and feelings we share in our conversations. Final Fantasy IX is just a special game, period.
I'm still cheesed about Freya getting the dirty end of the stick / spear, though. In fact, I plan to die mad about it.