In the year 2000 I was a 10 year old boy who, much like many other 10 year old boys, enjoyed his video games. I was limited, and I use this word very lightly, to a gameboy and N64. So I had
So over the years I tried my hand at other JRPGs. Other Final Fantasies, Dragon Quest and tons of others. After about 10 years I've finally come to a conclusion, I don't really like JRPGs. The stories are orften convoluted and often get way to up their own ass. The characters can easily be broken down to a predictable set of archetypes, get real grating real fast and often get way to up their own ass. The battle systems are often repetitive, easy to abuse, overly complicated and often gets way too up its own ass. There are some notable exceptions such as the Persona 3 and 4, which have just enough wackiness and tricks to keep me interested, but for the most part the genre just isn't for me.
So what does this say about me and Final Fantasy IX? I mean that game is probably the most standard of standard JRPGs in terms of gameplay and basic story. Is it just those rose colored glasses of nostalgia caused by hours of junk food fueled fun in a basement from my childhood making me remember it fondly? Well out of curiosity I recently purchased the game off the PSN to see how I felt about it now. About 40 hours later I've realized that 10 years ago I didn't fall in love with JRPGs, I just fell in love with a damn fine crafted game.
Now I could go on an on about what I love about this game, but I know your time is valuable so I'll try not to spew too much out here. Final Fantasy IX manages to maintain a light hearted atmosphere while dealing with some real serious shit. Concepts such as loyalty, life, death, war and plain old existence are all dealt with in an incredibly tactful way, which is what I really love about this damn game. Unlike most JRPGs who hit you over the head with their whiny protagonist and just try way too hard to be dark FFIX manages to keep things on the subtle end, for a JRPG that is. The bright, colorful and almost childlike world adds to this even more making the true story of the game about a bunch of naive kids learning that the world isn't quite as simple as they thought in a powerful, thought provoking way. The best part about all this is that the game isn't above cracking jokes in the middle of intense scenes and I always enjoy it when a game reminds you that it's not taking itself 100% seriously. There's plenty of meat on the bone that is FFIX's story and while it does get a little convoluted it doesn't really reach that point in an oppressive way as other JRPGs have.
The characters are hit and miss, but those that hit, hit real hard. Zidane, Vivi, Dagger, and Steiner really have some incredible arcs and watching them learn about themselves and grow t hroughout the story is just fantastic. Especially Vivi, I'm not going to go into details because I don't want to spoil the 3 of you out there who haven't played most of this game, but man does that kid have an awesome story arc. The other characters play more supporting roles, they have their cool moments and good designs, but a lot more could have been done with them. With that said, the development that those four I mentioned earlier get was more than enough for me. Since I don't want to spoil much I won't really go into the villains, but they, for the most part, were handled quite well. The only other JRPG villain that I would put on the level of FFIX's big bad would probably be Kefka. I didn't absolutely love FFVI, but that was a cool clown.
The major complaint I have about my current day play through of FFIX would be the battle system. It's slow as hell. I often found myself just mashing the X button or running from random encounters as the amount of time it took to dispatch a low level enemy during the endgame was just frustrating. Aside from its speed, the system itself is fairly solid by JRPG and FF standards. While I didn't love it, I did enjoy the simplicity of it. Yes it made the boss battles easy, but in a game where the story is really what's trying to shine having a simple and fairly easy battle system is a-ok with me.
So for those of you out there who enjoy a good video game story with some fun I urge you to give FFIX another go. It's fun, yet complex, light, yet deep and overall just a damn fun ride. Even if you aren't a big fan of the JRPG scene, like me, you should still be able to appreciate what Gaia and it's lovely inhabitants have to offer. I can safely say that after 10 years, no game has been able to match this one in terms of story. Well maybe the Phoenix Wright series, but that's a whole different kettle of fish.