Home > Chronological Challenge > Chronological Game Challenge Review – Final Fantasy IX

Chronological Game Challenge Review – Final Fantasy IX

Okay, so I missed yesterday, but the daily updates on this challenge continue to roll in. Today we’ll be examining a classic JRPG that is either overhyped or underappreciated depending on who you talk to. Take a look at where I stand!

Final Fantasy IX
Publisher: Square | Developer: Squaresoft | Year: 2000
Original System: PlayStation
Played on: PS2/3 (original PS1 disc)

Goal: Complete all sidequests and then defeat Kuja

Actual Outcome: Decided to forgo sidequests, then ended up moving on during disc 3

The year was 2000, and the world was already in a frenzy over the Final Fantasy series. Final Fantasy VII had captured everyone’s attention, and Final Fantasy VIII began to confuse people with its time travel shenanigans. And Square, knowing they were onto something, decided to briefly take the series back to its roots with the charming, beautiful and entertaining Final Fantasy IX.

And honestly, FFIX wins me over on a single point – its protagonist. Look, we all love Cloud and Squall, but they weren’t half miserable. Cloud was a stoic, stuck-in-his-ways soldier man, while Squall was a grumpy teenager with abandonment issues. Not exactly the kind of people I want to spend 50 hours of my life with as a general rule. Which is why Zidane (unrelated to the popular footballer of the time) was such a breath of fresh air. He was a jokey, enthusiastic monkey boy with a weakness for the ladies. Definitely a lot more up my street.

In fact, FFIX is a lot more up my street in a number of ways beyond Zidane himself. By returning to the series’ roots, this game removed a lot of the doom and gloom of previous titles without removing the stakes. The world of FFIX is a vibrant, fun little world which still has the threat of impending doom hanging over it. It’s a world that’s not afraid to be fantastical, where every new location you visit is a place of wonder because you don’t know what to expect.

And the characters are equally as charming. We’ve discussed Zidane, but Vivi is a fan favourite who you just want to hug every step of the way, Freya is a badass rat lady, Garnet is a sassy princess who is determined to not be the damsel, and Steiner is a bumbling royal guard who tries his best but is a little too stuffy for his own good. Indeed, my only complaint about the cast of this game’s party is that Beatrix, the highly-skilled combat veteran who defies her queen, never becomes a permanent party member.

The party is also a lot more clearly defined in FFIX than it was in VII or VIII. While VIII’s cast were so interchangeable there was literally a menu option to transfer their skills across each other, FFIX provides a party with clear roles. Zidane is speedy and tricksy but not as physically strong as Steiner, while Vivi is the only character who can lob offensive spells. It works incredibly well, with a gradual growth system that allows you to build up each character in their speciality, while also avoiding the fiddly nature of its predecessor’s Junction System. If there is a complaint to be made about this crew, it lies with the decision to include two White Mages, including sections on disc 2 where they both need to be in the party together. Eiko never really seems to act as anything more than a rubbish version of Garnet, and that’s a shame.

That said, while the world and the characters are more vibrant than the previous two Final Fantasy titles, the plot has less memorable moments than those two predecessors. While moments like Cloud’s breakdown in the Lifestream or the attempted assassination of Sorceress Edea stick in the mind for years, FFIX has fewer moment-to-moment plot points that stick with you in the same way. Vivi’s discovery of his true purpose feels like it arrives too early, while the battles in Burmecia and Cleyra feel a little too rushed to truly have an impact. This isn’t to say the story is bad, far from it; it just ends up a little less memorable than its predecessors.

That said, revisiting FFIX reminded me that the game is easily one of my favourites in the entire franchise. It balances a vibrant world with high stakes without feeling too frivolous or too moody, and features a likeable cast and enjoyable mechanics. Final Fantasy should consider revisiting its roots more often, I reckon.

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