I've loved Final Fantasy for about as long as I've loved video games. I remember the first time I heard Terra's Theme in Final Fantasy VI, and felt the wonder and excitement of the adventure settling upon me.
However, the heathen that I am, my favorite for a very long time was Final Fantasy VIII. I missed IX, X, and X-2 due to gaming being absent for a period of my life which does not need going into here.
I played XII in tandem with a friend, and it never really "clicked" with me, and thus remains unfinished. However, again, the absolute madlad that I seem to be(As far as popular choices for favorite Final Fantasy seem to be.) I got my own apartment and was able to purchase a Playstation 3. I went right into the most recent release. XIII. And I fell in love. It had been so long since I dove so far into the lore and worldbuilding of a game, not to mention my obsession with mastering the paradigm system.
I could rant on XIII for a while, but I'll leave that for another post.
However, that was the last time that I really fell in love with a Final Fantasy game. Even its sequels didn't seem to grab me.
FFXIV is great for an MMORPG, and I enjoy playing it with my friend, but I've yet to experience the best parts of the story. (Stormbringer and onward) due to time constraints, and my decision to play the entire story alongside my friend. (Finding cohesive, consistent scheduling to game as an adult is for the birds, I tell you.)
I was truly excited for FFXV, but again, it never clicked. I felt it was an inch deep and a mile wide. But once I have a stable gaming setup again, I am sure I will revisit it.
Like many, when FFVIIR came out, I became absolutely enamored with every aspect of it. It is now not only my favorite Final Fantasy, but my favorite game of all time.
So I decided to revisit the games in the Franchise that I missed while I eagerly await the subsequent chapters.
And thus, after that rather longwinded preamble. I give you my
Actual review of Final Fantasy IX.
First off, No, I didn't beat Ozma.
It took me a few tries to get into this game. I'll be honest. The first attempt left me underwhelmed. I remember thinking back in the day that I couldn't understand why the graphics looked so much worse than FFVIII. It looks like it came before, not after. However, I'm sure that was more of a stylistic choice than anything, and I eventually acclimated.
After getting about 5-6 hours in and feeling woefully unequipped, I put it down for a while, and then I started a new playthrough following a walkthrough.
My biggest frustration in this game was the lack of a good tutorial. I was late in disc two when I remember/figured out you can use offensive and healing spells for multiple targets by pressing R. *facepalm*, and I learned by accident that pressing select gives you details on each item and move. Maybe that was explained somewhere and I missed it?
The Trance System.
I wanted to love it, I really did. The idea is great, unlocking an enhanced and altered moveset for a few turns rather than one huge move? Sounds awesome! However, I can count on one hand the number of times I was able to use it when it mattered. (Four of those were during the final battles) Also, waiting on the stack to resolve, and then having a Trance get activated and thereby burning one of your allotted moves on something mundane like a healing spell was frustrating because often times it would be very difficult to anticipate how many moves an opponent would get in the same span of time. In general I never really looked forward to or counted on my Trances, which is disappointing, because I have many exciting memories from the Limit Break systems clutching me through some, particularly tough battles.
The Skill System.
I both really like and dislike this system. On the one hand, grinding became a much more interactive process. Switching out various pieces on characters gave battling random encounters for 2-3 hours a far more productive feeling.
Although, I feel like I simply didn't get the hang of it soon enough, and thus I crunched a lot on disc two to catch up on the skills I missed. Which led to me being significantly overpowered. Thereby negating a lot of the strategy necessary.
Which is something that I don't really know how to reconcile. On the one hand, being overly powerful takes away the need for strategy. But I feel like the game is very unforgiving if you under-leveled.
Combat System in General *Slight spoilers from here on*
I think it's just personal preference, but I found the combat overall just okay. I think many of the really cool or useful abilities could have really benefited from being available earlier in the game. Amarant had my favorite all-around move set, but it only became fully fleshed out late in the game.
For instance. Vivi has basic versions of most of his stuff, and then as the game progresses, you get more and more powerful versions of those moves. But the strategy itself is available from the beginning. Amarant, however, takes until disc 3(I think?) to get Aura. This is an awesome move, and one that I didn't feel was powerful enough to justify trying to use him endgame, but I really would have enjoyed gaining access to the types of moves available for some other characters much earlier, and then had those moves buffed as the game went on.
Spending 30+ minutes trying to steal rare equipment from bosses was something that I will not remember fondly. Also, Quina's mechanic of eating monsters became extremely annoying to implement owing to the fact that I was overpowered and would either kill enemies in one or two hits or had to use Vivi to inch their health down slowly so he could eat them.
Story *Larger Spoilers from here on*
Phew. This story is relentless for awhile. You essential go from getting your ass kicked, to failing to save several ENTIRE civilizations. (At Cleyra, I got every choice wrong and had to watch helplessly as the inhabitants were slaughtered right in front of me. Oof)
It feels like the whole goddamn world gets destroyed in this game. Both worlds, actually. Which was interesting. Most villains do a lot of threatening. Commit one or two atrocities, then are stopped before they actually do the significant portion of their plan. Not here though. Kuja was a goddamn madman, and I enjoyed his verbose sililoqueys. I felt the writing on his character was miles above everything else.
I enjoyed the lighthearted nature of the story, and the quirky Final Fantasy humor. However, the game has some really teeth as far as the thematic content it tackles. While I found Steiner annoying in practice, (I think he could have benefited from being a little less caricatured because I really like his arc of right and wrong.)
Vivi is the GOAT. Loved him. And I enjoyed Zidane's shenanigans. It was really nice not having an edgy/reluctant protagonist.
I really love batshit crazy stories. So I dug the super abstract, ethereal void conclusion of everything.
I wish they had explained who created Garland.
Past that, it was a grand adventure that got its hooks into me, and I couldn't wait to keep playing.
I loved the Chocobo Hot and Cold game. That one snuck up on me. At first, I was like. "Ugh, I can't believe I'm going to have to grind through this crap." Then all of a sudden I had been digging for like four hours straight. I blinked my eyes. It was 3 am, I was dehydrated, my eyes were bloodshot, but goddamn it, I had obtained every last Chocograph in the lagoon. That's for damn sure.
Tetra Master was annoying. I played just enough to get the hang of it but didn't play it outside the required tournament.
Friendly Monsters was a nice touch, and a great way to even out the grinding for AP that pervaded much of my game.
I would say that my feelings fall just short of loving this game. I see what it is, and it does it very well. It's not my favorite version of the JRPG formula, but its strengths are more than enough to make up for its shortcomings.
Where I struggle is whether or not I would recommend playing this game through blind or with a walkthrough. On the one hand, following the walkthrough reduced my feeling of adventure and excitement of learning through experiencing. However, there were SO many things that I didn't pick up on or would have thought to look for without the walkthrough.
But regardless, I'm quite glad I played it.
And if you good people would be so kind as to answer a question. I'm going to play Final Fantasy X: Remaster next. (Switch version as well.) Should I play that game with a guide as well? Or should I just plunge in blindly and figure things out for myself?
Thank you in advance for reading and for any input you can give.
- WSIB Doom Ethernal, Jedi: Fallen Order, Tony Hawks Pro Skater 1+2 Remake, Taiko no Tatsujin, Devil May Cry 5
- Marathoning every mainline Final Fantasy game (1-6 so far)
- WSIB Doom: Ethernal, Jedi: Fallen Order, The Outer Worlds, Spelunky 2, Tony Hawks Pro Skater 1+2 Remake, Taiko No Tatsujin, Devil May Cry 5
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