FFIX Restrospective: Best Final Fantasy Game Ever

FFIX was awarded an HD remastered version to the PS1 release. Now, players can follow the stories of Vivi, Freya and Zidane on their PS3s… with updated graphics. Two days ago, a friend of mine acquired the full gamut of Square Enix games, and I HAD to drive over to his house, right then and there. Thursday night I cranked out enough battles to get my crew to level 5, before I forgot I was living in 2014, instead of roaming the streets of the medieval steampunk alternate world where Gaia reigns supreme.

My brother Chris and I used to play it when we were kids, and now, I am devoting the next few days to exploring every single nook and cranny in this game that I may have overlooked when I was on the cusp of mere tweendom, and I’m sharing the beginnings of this experience with you.

There may be too many reasons why I think Final Fantasy IX is the best title to ever come out of the franchise, but I’ll try my best to sum it up.

The Characters

ffixLet’s dive into the characters. My two favorites in this title have to be Vivi and Freya. These are the two with the most compelling back stories. (Vivi was my brother’s favorite and I took a quick liking to Freya).

As the game progresses, players use each of our main characters to finish their individual components of the overall story. Their individualized movements, alone, separate these characters from the other, more linear, ways in which players control the paths of their heroes in other Final Fantasy games.

For example, it’s interesting to see Vivi occasionally trip and fall on loose bricks, while he’s making his way to the next quest objective, and Freya is just as sprightly and athletic as any dragoon has a right to be.

Vivi is a black mage and Freya is a dragoon, by the way.

Ah, this brings me back to Final Fantasy Tactics, where the player learns just how many more spaces this class can jump and move around the battlefield. And then there’s Legend of Mana, of course, where I first “heard” the word “Dragoon” (Artwork is similar to the aforementioned Squaresoft title as well).

The Towns

As for the setting, FFIX has some of the most glorious environments of any titles in the series, in my opinion. Winding down a spiral staircase, the main character zooms this way and that, across a scene where hand-drawn backdrops give in to sharp pixels in the foreground, highlighting the difference between interactive treasures chests and other elements of the game that are under the player’s control.


The Stories

Now, If you’re not the type to talk to every single NPC/AI wandering around, then I suggest you skip this next part, because this is one of the most immersive parts of the game.

Just as end-game players might read the 20 pages of text offered in books in Bethesda’s Skyrim, the same set of curious minds might lean toward activating chat bubbles hovering above the heads of the locals inhabiting various towns in FFIX. Who knows? You might actually initiate a new quest or learn about a shortcut to your current quest by listening to, or reading rather, what townsfolk have to say.

I mentioned earlier that Vivi and Freya had great back stories, and I’ll convince you they most definitely do.

*SPOILERS* Vivi is the introverted clone of a magical puppet who shies away from adventure (and from using magic, heaven forbid!), but is dragged along by a motley band of vagabonds (Zidane, Princess Garnet voluntarily joins up, and Blank is here among others). The thing is, he doesn’t know he isn’t some variation of human (Zidane has a tail and Freya is half-rabbit, I’m guessing)… which is just oh-so-tragic (I cried as a child, playing through this little bit). Later in the game, Vivi finds out where he was “born”, and then begins a frightful journey of coming to terms with who he is and what he should do with his life.

And there’s Freya, who leads a solitary existence, forever mourning her lost soul-mate. She is probably the most determined, witty and adaptable character in the game, and I always feel a little pang somewhere inside me when I see her pop up in the storyline. 

The Mini Games


At last, we have the dreaded, or awesome, mini games. Wandering around different continents of the world, our main character (whoever is in most prominent use at the time) has the option of finding some sort of silly, side-quest-type venture, where players can easily kill an hour or two, trying to nail the rhythm in these mini games. I still can’t get passed 20 jumps on the jump rope in the first town* (at this point in the game I would usually give the controller to my brother to get the extra reward)but I’ve caught a lot of frogs for Quina in my lifetime and have thus acquired my fair share of trading cards in the process (which is, in itself, another mini game). *Not for the weak of heart! These games are best completed with perfect patience and perfect trust.

After years of living without FFIX, I’m now getting back into the swing of it, and I’m wondering how many video games ripped off mini games from Square Enix. I’m thinking of Indigo Prophecy in particular.

During the first “act” of IX, the player controls Zidane’s faux sword-fighting dance with Blank, via alternating swift jabs to the D-pad, X, O, triangle and square buttons. Some say this is an annoying part of FFIX and both Quantic Dream’s first and second titles (Second being Heavy Rain), where players may feel subtracted away from the story and forced to push random buttons to achieve a semi-difficult feat in succeeding to the next part of the game. “Why can’t we just fight monsters all the time?” you ask. Well, that’s not really the point of getting everything out a game that you possibly can, IMHO.

Another game that uses every possible trick of the trade might be Tear Away, which was recently released for PS Vita. That game uses both the front and back touch screens of the handheld, has great music (not as whimsical and earth-shattering as Final Fantasy, but weird enough to be deemed downright catchy) and has ultimately addicting replayability.

Maybe if they port this over to the PS Vita, we can see some touch screen adaptations? A girl can dream…

Overall Feel of FFIX

Just for clarification, I have to say this is the most satisfying of any game in the Final Fantasy series. Game devs reward you for checking all the dark corners of every town shop, riverbank and bell tower. Players interact with the game much like they would fiddle around in exploration of unfamiliar places in real life.

The in-game music is a midi variation of the real-life orchestration of a band of live musicians, which you can hear during full cut scenes.

In other words, if you got sucked into the hype of Final Fantasy VII, you’re playing the remastered version of X-2, or you’ve removed yourself from the army of the living dead that currently inhabits the corporate world, or you consider the FFXI MMO an hours-long vacay away from the standard day-to-day trivialities of your first-world problems… I advise you to take a break from studying for finals (or listening to the our 2004 metal album anniversary listing) and devote a day or two to escaping into the four continents Gaia.

You’ll thank me later.


Final Fantasy IX

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