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Posted on Mar 20th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (bombatomba)
Posted under FF9, FFIX, JRPG, Square

November 13, 2000.

When most in the gaming United States was buzzing about the wave caused by the newly released PlayStation 2, I was grudgingly purchasing Final Fantasy IX.  I didn't really plan on getting the game, but through a set of circumstances I was standing at the electronics counter of my local Meijer store, waiting for the employee to get my game from behind the glass so I could leave.

When Final Fantasy IX was originally announced, I was oblivious.  Well, I was slightly interested, but more because I was reading a lot of gaming magazines while working on the assembly line at Ford, and that game (as well as the upcoming Final Fantasy X) was the talk of the town.  We had been having a lot of multi-hour long "gaps" (empty spaces in the assembly line where a truck should be) and since I read at least three different gaming magazines at the time I guess it was just going to happen.  But despite the exposure, I didn't care as much as one might think.  Despite wringing some fun out of Final Fantasy VIII, after twenty hours the hormonal angst of Squall Leonhart had driven me away from any JRPG with a passion.  I don't hate FFVIII, but dealing with Squall's teenage-isms when I was twenty-two and newly married was about as fun as squeezing water from a rock.

But as the months dragged on I couldn't help myself and I got more and more curious, until I was spending the last few seconds of my allotted fifty-six seconds per truck (about 550 trucks on a 10.7 hour work day) reading more about Final Fantasy IX than any other game  Maybe it was all the info being thrown around about it being a "return to the crystals" and the last hoorah of "classic" Final Fantasy before the PS2 era began, but more than likely it was that several people I worked with also liked video games, and when you spend more than ten hours a day working within a few dozen feet of four people, you tend to talk a lot about what you really like, which many times turned out to be Final Fantasy games.

With that attitude, one would expect me to jump right into it, right?  Well, I didn't.  When I "grudgingly" bought the game I didn't buy a strategy guide, which at the time was out of character for me.  When I got it home I played it a bit, but just enough to notice that while the backgrounds were still pre-rendered, they seemed less like a painting you walked on than the previous two titles in the series, which was nice.  Just nice, and unfortunately not enough to break me away my new Dreamcast, along with the true reason I had been at the local Meijer on November 13, 2000: Picking up Skies of Arcadia!  Yep.  After my "bit" playtime I popped FFIX out of my PSX and into the storage crate under the spare bed and that was pretty much it for years.  I played it a few more times, but my memory of these instances are very hazy, so when I recently got a strong urge to play the game again (must be some RPG bug I caught) I decided to start fresh with a cheap digital copy on my Vita.  I still own my original copy, but these days I need to be able to "sleep" a game at a moments notice.  Plus, it was only $5.

So now, forty hours later, here I stand.  I think my first impression was that the graphics held up pretty well (keeping in mind the Vita screen size), and though I worried, the pre-rendered backgrounds were much easier to navigate than in FFVII; I only got lost in two instances.  Also, the game is fairly easy, so much that you may find yourself mainly sticking to story points only, perhaps with a little bit of grinding, but if you are like me and found yourself lost in some of the more annoying puzzles (both "puzzle" and actual puzzle) sections of the game (especially near the end of disc 3) you will find yourself at high enough levels with enough money so you might not need to grind.  I still did anyway, mainly because I found the adamatoise spawn to fuel the delights of the Daguerreo synth shop, then the items at the Treno Auction House, then the synth shop at the Black Mage Village, then etc, etc.  Finally, FFIX seems really geared towards a variety of gamers; from those that love their story only and also to those that love their RPG systems; the game seem like it would be appealing to both.  Oh, and without a doubt, my favorite chocobo theme music of all time.  Period.

I really only have two main gripes about the game.  The first is that FFIX, more than any other FF game previous, really seems geared towards being played with the official strategy guide open (after it was purchased along with the game).  There were just too many things that a person could easily gloss over and miss, so much so that I had massive gaps in my eidolon summon lists, magic lists, and character abilities, and even something as easy as the "Stiltzkin" side quest was annoying (which at the second to last location requires you to walk in and out of the building multiple times to spawn, which I did not know).  My second and final gripe is disc four, which I think changes the game radically and kind of confused me at the time.  I won't spoil the details, but this managed to almost completely ruin what had been an excellent experience peppered with only a scant few hiccups and "man I wish this was over" moments (similar to what happened with me with Xenoblade Chronicles 3D).  *Sigh*  All done.

Despite all of this I don't know how I really feel about FFIX as a complete experience.  My wonder and joy at the first three discs was tarnished by my overall dislike of the final disc (all ten hours of it), which unfortunately will likely also tarnish my nostalgia in the future.  But, the ending with its touching vignettes helped smooth out the bitter that had set in near the end of the game.  That all being said, I truly feel that Final Fantasy IX somehow managed to encapsulate the entire first three generations of Final Fantasy games - 8, 16, and 32-bit - into one heaping spoon of old-style JRPG goodness, and as "I Want to be Your Canary" (a reoccurring play within the game) reached its conclusion in the final moments of the game, I found myself being genuinely moved, and a certain realization set in:  Never again (except perhaps in certain remakes or mobile games) would this feeling be replicated when playing a main FF title.  True there would be moogles, chocobos, Cids, and even airships and crystals, but the old themes and "feels" would disappear forever.  Not to say that the Square RPGs post-FFIX would not be enjoyable, but they just won't be the same.  Maybe this is why I tend to be a bigger fan of older JRPGs, and maybe this is a reason that Japan seems to be stuck on the thematically unchanging Dragon Quest games in a way that the rest of the world isn't.

Would I play it again?  I want to say yes, but I don't know.  I spent so long not playing it that it kind of feels like an old movie that I discovered, enjoyed, then set to the side, perhaps never to watch again (though maybe in a decade or so).  I know that the end of Final Fantasy IX is a true ending, and that I am happy to have experienced it for the first time.  And I hope, to those that missed FFIX or put it off as I did, you would get to as well.

Thanks for reading!



Well, I guess that settles about replaying it again.

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I was really late coming into the Playstation and didn't pick up a console until they released the PS One remodel. First game I had grabbed with it was Final Fantasy IX. I honestly have no clue why I picked up that game as I hadn't played or owned any previous game in the series and outside of Super Mario RPG I wasn't an RPG player. One of the 2 times in my life when graphics blew me away was booting up this game and watching the opening cinematic with baby Garnet on the water followed by the amazing escape from Alexandira on the theater ship. It really made a big impact on me visually. Beyond that it was the first time I really connected with story and characters as opposed to just gameplay. I love the cast in the game and how diverse it was. Vivi and Steiner to this day are among my favorite characters in any medium.

I've actually never heard anyone complain about disc 4 of this game before. It felt like a cool progression of the story to me and I loved how it escalated from a local story to a global story and then even beyond that in disc 4. I've played through the game several times and most recently watched the AGDQ 2019 speed run in it's 9 hour entirety and I just cannot relate to your experience with the latter end of the game dragging for you. It's always been pure gaming bliss for me to run though.

It was also the first game that I ever 100%d and had done every known thing at the time (a couple new items have been discovered since then) and had every party member maxed out at level 99 at one point.

You made a point about not picking up the strategy guide when you got the game. I'm not sure if you're away, but it is quite commonly referred to as the worst strategy guide of all time and for good reason. There is very minimal information throughout the book and they just point you to go to the squaresoft website for more in depth guidance on nearly every page. It's pretty disappointing as a guide.
@Crabmaster2000:  Man, that is a great way to find this game.  It is my favorite on the original PSX (and maybe even the PS2).  I've heard the same about the official strategy guide a while back, but still chose not to pursue it (I like weird things).  Recently I had a chance to leaf through it and wow are you right!  I normally like strategy guides not just for their practicality, but for the art and design as well.  I found it impossible to read it as nearly every page is polluted with those stupid "keyword" things on the side.  Man what a terrible idea, and I am glad I sidestepped that landmine.

Believe it or not the ending of FFIX was changed seven times before settling on what happened. I still think it shows, but I was also getting pretty tired.  I recently picked up FFIX from one of my saves on disc four and played it a bit (nice and fresh).  Looking back I really think my problem was with the whole boss rush at the end.  I was originally prepping for a multi-party finish (similar to FF6), but that did not happen.  Oh well.  Still an awesome game, and one of my top experiences on the PSX (although I played the PSX version on my Vita).

Thanks for commenting, Crabby!
@Crabmaster2000: I made the mistake of buying that strategy guide when FF9 released. It was so worthless, even moreso because I had no reliable way to connect to the internet at that time outside of school.
@SirPsycho:Dude that is so brutal.  If I had been working at a game store I would have been ashamed to have sold that to someone, especially since dialup with still so prevalent at the time.
Nice write-up! I like reading experiences like this, because you're not just giving the game a glowing recommendation. It reads like an honest assessment from someone who just finished the game, and is penning a few thoughts. I have a friend who swears by FFIX, and says it's his favorite in the series, at least up to that point. I haven't played it yet, though I acquired a copy on the cheap a couple years back. As much as I enjoyed FFVII, the time commitment is something I'm a bit scared by. Maybe I can play it on my PSP...

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