Fighting Final Fantasy IX - Parts 1-13: Final Fantasy IX Is Turning Me Into A Grumpy Old Man

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ZombiePie

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Episode Guide

  1. Episode #2 (Parts 14-26)
  2. Episode #3 (Parts 27-37)
  3. Episode #4 (Parts 38-49)

Part 1: Setting Myself Up For Failure

This image perfectly summarizes my feelings right now.
This image perfectly summarizes my feelings right now.

Whelp...here we go again. Now many of my eagle-eyed viewers will most likely be a wee bit surprised to see that I am jumping into Final Fantasy IX as expeditiously as I am. This astonishment is well founded, and entirely the fault of thatpinguino. Due in large part to a series of unfortunate events on his part, he got married after all, the need to immediately transition to Final Fantasy IX reared its ugly head. Though my desire may have been to parlay this ill-fated folly onto another lifetime; penguin simply would not permit this.

So here we are my dear readers! I am playing ANOTHER Final Fantasy game...and I’m just riveted with bewilderment about my present situation. There is however some background information that I feel is necessary to extrapolate upon before we jump into the game. First and foremost, Final Fantasy IX isn’t just thatpinguino’s favorite Final Fantasy game; it is without a shadow of doubt his favorite game of all-time. In fact, it is as if he has written an article on this very website discussing this matter...on multiple occasions. On that note, it is important to discuss how Final Fantasy IX was the game that he originally intended me to play for the purposes of this blog series. How serious was penguin regarding this matter? At one point he indicated a willingness to ship his PlayStation One from his home in New York to my apartment in California. I know what you may be thinking, but you really have to respect his dedication. It goes without saying that this was not a cheap folly for him to commit to, but he seriously considered it nonetheless. As we say, the first step when dealing with addiction is admitting you have a problem.

If my excitement regarding this new edition of my blog series sounds or appears to be a bit tempered, well to be honest it is. Final Fantasy IX has practically been billed as being a “religious experience” of sorts by my own readers, as well as my comrade in arms. Like previous entries in this blog series I jumped into this game with very little knowledge or understanding as to what actually happens in it. While I did bear witness to thatpinguino’s live-stream of the game two years ago; it goes without saying that I have since forgotten much of what I saw. I mean JESUS, I barely remember what I consumed for dinner last night! So with that in mind let’s annotate my initial understanding of Final Fantasy IX:

  1. The main character is some sort of monkey thing.
  2. There’s a princess that moans and groans a lot.
  3. There’s an annoying knight asshole.
  4. There’s this black magical wizard dude that has no face...that’s kind of weird.
  5. The final in-game boss comes out of nowhere.
  6. Ozma is the superboss, and is a massive dick.
  7. There’s a Shakespearean play.
  8. Dude looks like a lady.

Well will you look at that. I’m working with even less background information than what I worked with when I slopped through Final Fantasy VII or VIII. Hopefully that doesn’t mean that these blogs are any less entertaining than what you are normally accustomed to!

Part 2: Let’s Talk About How The Controls Are Not A Nightmare

Yes, you did indeed read that correctly! I’m finally playing a PC port of a Final Fantasy game that has workable controls! For those wondering, I am still playing this game with the mouse and keyboard controls rather than using a controller. If there’s one thing that I am it’s “stubborn,” so why should I change now? However, to my defense, this time around we FINALLY have a Final Fantasy game that supports WASD controls!

HOLY JESUS! DID THE PEOPLE RESPONSIBLE FOR PORTING THIS GAME ACTUALLY KNOW WHAT A COMPUTER IS?
HOLY JESUS! DID THE PEOPLE RESPONSIBLE FOR PORTING THIS GAME ACTUALLY KNOW WHAT A COMPUTER IS?

Do you know what this means? This means that I will spend significantly less time moaning and bellyaching about the controls, and can instead re-direct my energy towards story based nitpicking! This justifies a goddamned celebration!

If there is one niggling issue, regarding the controls that is, it stems from the fact that the controller face button inputs still translate to the X, C, and V keys respectively. My issue here is that shifting your left hand from W-A-S-D to these keyboard inputs occasionally feels awkward. The good news is that this is at most a slight complaint rather than a game breaking issue. At no point did I feel as if I had to contort my hand into a gnarled mess. I will honestly take small victories like this any and every day.

It is also worth noting that the Steam/PC release of Final Fantasy IX is a spectacularly well done package. The PC version has a myriad of choices in regards to the resolution and display options. You can even change the key-bindings if you decide to play this game using a mouse and keyboard like myself! Speaking of options, the game allows players to seamlessly adjust the difficulty of the game whenever they want, and you can even disable the random encounters if you wish to. All the while you are subjected to minimal load times, and higher resolution character sprites. The only real issue regarding those character sprites stems from the fact that the characters are clearly of a vastly higher resolution than the environments. I found it to be a bit jarring to watch these high fidelity character sprites gesticulate within the blurry two dimensional environments in the game.

Hopefully this shows what I am talking about. Although I am more than willing to admit that that last issue may just be me being a weirdo.
Hopefully this shows what I am talking about. Although I am more than willing to admit that that last issue may just be me being a weirdo.

However, it goes without saying that I had far fewer technical issues playing this game than I did with my previous two Final Fantasy games. Once again, I’ll take these small victories whenever they present themselves.

Part 3: Let’s Talk About How Beautiful This Game Is

PAY THAT MAN HIS MONEY!
PAY THAT MAN HIS MONEY!

I’m going to level with you for a bit before we begin discussing the pathos, ethos, and logos of Final Fantasy IX. I have to be honest with you...I HATE high fantasy. My hatred for high and medieval fantasy settings is downright “genre xenophobia.” I have always been a science-fiction nerd that scoffed at the works of Tolkien and George R. R. Martin just based on the genres of their expertise. I know that this sounds arbitrarily harsh, but we all have our preferences, and it would behoove me to come clean as what my genre preferences may be. However, even with my cold dead heart I have to admit that Final Fantasy IX is a great game to look at. There’s a great deal of visual variety to the locations that I greatly appreciated. Likewise, all of the locations appear to be thematically connected. Final Fantasy IX exudes a more traditional high low tech fantasy setting, and practically every location reinforces that tone and setting. At no point have I been subjected to a location that feels completely out of place, or improperly juxtaposed to. In that regard Final Fantasy IX has succeeded where Final Fantasy VII and VIII failed spectacularly.

The environments in Final Fantasy IX also have numerous small touches that elevate them beyond just being your typical place settings. A major problem that I had with both Final Fantasy VII and VIII was the fact that some of their locations felt vapid and empty. In both of those games while you had the opportunity to explore new worlds and settings; few, if any, came across as worthwhile locations you felt motivated to explore. Final Fantasy IX rectifies this issue by adding in NPCs who feel like worthwhile characters. Most of the named NPCs have their own story, and some are even given the opportunity to shine during brief cutscenes in the game. Greater care was also taken to ensure that the dialogue that you witness is more impactful, and narratively appropriate.

Can we also talk about how well the CGI cutscenes hold up? Because they do.
Can we also talk about how well the CGI cutscenes hold up? Because they do.

The characters also reinforce the feeling that we are within a multicultural world. Within the confines of the game we utilize an ensemble cast the features different classes (and I mean that both literally and figuratively), as well as in-game races. The ensemble cast also adds in the element of different perspectives and life experiences to the story. One of my major complaints about Final Fantasy VIII was the fact that every character, besides Squall and Rinoa, were comic relief characters. I would even argue that Final Fantasy VII’s cast was plagued with the issue of “character redundancy.” I honestly feel as if Final Fantasy IX has addressed entirely, or at least muted, much of this issue.

Part 4: Let’s Talk About Why I Hated The First Three Hours Of This Game

All right then, let me make something very clear before I start: I love all of you very much. No really, I love all of you from the bottom of my heart. The fact that many of you have been following this blog series from the very first episode continues to boggle my mind. You have supported me throughout my efforts, and for that I am forever in your debt. As such, I hope that we can all understand that whatever I feel or say about this game is in no way a slight against anyone who does honestly and sincerely enjoy it. Be that as it may, I really have to get this off my chest:

I don’t think I like this game.

I know that this may come across as jaded, but to me first impressions are a critical part to any art form, and I feel that this is especially the case with video games. As such, and it pains me to say this, I found the first three to four hours of Final Fantasy IX to be a massive slog, and a test of my patience. The first handful of set-pieces exuded stale fantasy tropes that pushed me away from the game’s wonderfully colorful world. So much of what occurs on the first disc honestly felt like box checking. The game exhaustively runs through every practical fantasy trope over the course of three to four hours. Do we have a casanova wannabe as our protagonist? CHECK! Do we have a character that is of a royal bloodline, but wishes to break free from the shackles of their current social caste? CHECK! Is there a “fish out of water” character that is constantly doubting their abilities, but in reality is far more powerful than anyone could predict? CHECK! Is there a comic relief character with a heart of gold? CHECK CHECK CHEEEEEEEEECK!

Oh and have fun tolerating Zidane saying shit like this for twenty hours!
Oh and have fun tolerating Zidane saying shit like this for twenty hours!

Despite the fact that Final Fantasy IX spends most of its time on “world building,” everything feels superficial and saccharine in the first disc. There are dozens of races in the game, but at no point does the game ever take the time to pontificate about its cultural diversity. There’s no sense of culture or social order in any of the cities that you initially explore. This is especially the case when the story introduces the city of Alexandria. Here we are led to believe that the city is being controlled by this fanatical or corrupt queen, but this initial antagonist is tenuous at best. Despite asking the players to buy into the assumption that the queen is evil, the player enters the city only to witness an un-phased population and township in Alexandria. Rather than depicting the queen as a clear dictatorial and/or malevolent force; life seems to be running smoothly for everyone in Alexandria. Plus, the world of Final Fantasy IX is saccharine to a fault for much of the game. Everything that happens throughout the story for the first ten hours is just so cloyingly sweet and positive that I found it to be painful to watch. To call Garnet and Zidane “naïve” would be an understatement. The world of Final Fantasy IX is gleaming with “twee,” and opportunity. As such the story lacks any real grit or texture that you can sink your teeth into. If I could compare Final Fantasy IX to a dessert, I would most likely compare it to banana pudding. It’s okay...but if you eat too much of it then you’ll most likely end up with a headache.

And then there's Steiner...OH WE WILL TALK ABOUT STEINER IN A LITTLE BIT!
And then there's Steiner...OH WE WILL TALK ABOUT STEINER IN A LITTLE BIT!

My final issue in regards to Final Fantasy IX’s narrative stems from how slow its first disc is. Because, and let’s be honest here Final Fantasy IX fans, HOLY SHIT IS THE FIRST DISC SLOW! This game features what I can only describe to be the WORST SENSE OF ECONOMY OF ACTION THAT I HAVE EVER SEEN! The number of real notable confrontations that you have in the first ten hours can honestly be counted on a single hand. Worse yet, most of those confrontations occur back to back during the last moments of the first disc. Now in terms of writing I understand and appreciate the desire to preserve action set-pieces until they feel appropriate. However, in Final Fantasy IX I really do feel as if my patience is not being respected throughout the course of the first disc. A truly excellent story sets associated goals within the geometry of the game. The “economy” here occurs when I receive the rewards from the previous missions, or series of events, and I then understand that achieving the goals within any given game is worth my time. The goals that Final Fantasy IX sets up are obscure, and the narrative rewards for completing those goals is tenuous at best. This issue is compounded by the fact that the story lacks any sense of having a clear villain until the final hour of the first disc, and that’s some fucking BULLSHIT to say the least!

Part 5: Let’s Talk About Why I Hate “Playing” This Game

Goodness is Final Fantasy IX a hard game to transition to after playing Final Fantasy VII. There’s nothing mechanically broken in Final Fantasy IX to grouse about, except maybe the Trance System. OH WE WILL GET TO THAT IN THE NEXT EPISODE! That aside, my major problem with the game, mechanically speaking that is, is its rigidity regarding its character classes, as well as its overall speed. Oddly enough, Final Fantasy VII and VIII were great games to start with because they didn’t have rigid character classes. This then permitted me with a level of mechanical freedom that I am more familiar with. For all the problems that I had with Final Fantasy VII, I honestly did enjoy how it rarely, if at all, punished me for tinkering around with its Materia System.

Final Fantasy IX is a much more pragmatic Final Fantasy game, and this is negatively impacting my overall enjoyment of the game. First off, each of the characters have these faux character classes which I am still struggling to wrap my mind around. Zidane is clearly the “thief,” and as such starts out with certain abilities that Garnet and Steiner do not have at their disposal, and vice versa. This is interesting on paper, but what I am less enthused about is how long it takes me to figure out which ability stones work best with which character. Add insult to injury, it is also up to the player to discover on their own what each of their character’s strengths and weaknesses are via trial and error.

Also, all of the battles in this game are fucking SLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!
Also, all of the battles in this game are fucking SLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!

I’m honestly struggling when it comes to grasping Final Fantasy IX’s mechanics, so I do honestly apologize for any errors or misconceptions that I equivocate about the game. Nevertheless, this game does a terrible job at explaining how to effectively use any of the abilities you acquire throughout your journey. Now as I understand it abilities come in the form of magic stones and equipment that you can attach to your characters. Each character has a limited number of slots to learn new attacks and magic. Once they have “mastered” any given ability they permanently remember that attack regardless of whether or not you have that item equipped or not. Not every character can learn every ability, and if a magic stone’s attribute is greyed then that character cannot learn or use that ability.

This is a less than orthodox approach to take regarding abilities and magic. On one hand Final Fantasy IX adopts Final Fantasy VIII’s attitude of having equipment be the floodgate to new and more powerful spells. On the other hand, Final Fantasy IX adds in the complexity of character classes into the mix. The end result involves myself placing a variety of magic stones across all of my party members and hoping for the best. My lack of experience with a more traditional Final Fantasy game is seriously rearing its ugly head. So much so that I’m relying on the “Optimize” option whenever managing my characters.

Let me guess...this is all going to become incredibly cluttered and NOT user friendly!
Let me guess...this is all going to become incredibly cluttered and NOT user friendly!

Do you want to know what would have made this game vastly easier for a doofus like myself? Why not make every equipable item have a specific color or naming convention? This convention would indicate which character class would benefit the most from equipping that specific item. Remember when the different Materia in Final Fantasy VII were all a different color between four types? That’s exactly what I am asking for, and I fail to see how that is an unreasonable request. The weapons kind of employ this technique, as each character uses a different rendition of their starting weapon, but why not do the same with every other bit of equipment? As a result of all of this I feel as if I have lost countless hours fiddling away at the interface, which isn’t all that great to begin with.

Part 6: Oh And The In-Game Tutorial Is TERRIBLE!

AW FUCKING FUCK THIS!
AW FUCKING FUCK THIS!

Well will you look at that! It looks like we are now zero for three regarding good in-game tutorials on this blog series! I mean seriously...can one of you please tell me if there are ANY good in-game tutorials in the Final Fantasy franchise? Please tell me that there are good examples...I don’t think my heart can handle this bullshit anymore. Did I really need to have these two fucking Moogles ramble about in-game mechanics, thus interrupting the flow of the game? Was that really the best way to teach me new mechanics in an already bewildering game? Hey assholes! How about you provide me with information regarding the advantages and disadvantages of the various character classes? Or how about providing tips and tricks on how to make the most out of those character classes? No? WELL WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU GOOD FOR?!

YOU ARE FULL SHIT MOGSTER!
YOU ARE FULL SHIT MOGSTER!

Oh cool, this bullshit Moogle can explain what the Trance System is all about! I wonder what this asshole has to say about Trance:

Thanks Mogster, you are the real MVP of Final Fantasy IX.
Thanks Mogster, you are the real MVP of Final Fantasy IX.

Hey dickhead! How about you explain what each of my party member’s Trance is capable of doing! That way I would know how to use them in combat better. This is the kind of shit that I’m talking about! Rather than provide useful information that could actually improve my performance in battles this fucking Moogle just rambles about random trivia bits! Worse yet, all of this information is extrapolated via direct instruction, and it is up to the player to finally put these concepts into practice. The problem here is that these tutorials do not start until AFTER you have been subjected to your third or fourth combat scenario. HOW IS THAT FUCKING FAIR! WHO THOUGHT THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA?

Are you asshole Moogles still listening to me? Well if you are, then is there any way to make Zidane a better thief, because right now he sucks at his job! Despite being a “thief” it takes like two or three tries to steal anything from random enemies, and twenty plus tries to steal anything from bosses. The whole point of him being a thief is so that I can steal cool shit from bosses that allow me to break the game, but it takes FOREVER for that to happen! What the fuck can I do to increase this percent of a percent so I can stop pulling my hair out in frustration? PLEASE HELP ME! I’M SLOWLY GOING CRAZY BECAUSE OF THIS PROBLEM!

Do you want to know something that I just find baffling? For a game that values world building and role-playing, Final Fantasy IX sure does have a bunch of bullshit that ends up breaking the natural flow of the narrative. First you have these bullshit tutorial sequences, and latter you are subjected to the Active Time Events. OH DON’T WORRY, WE WILL GET TO THAT ON THE NEXT EPISODE! I just find it curious that a role-playing game of all things would be this obsessed with cramming in tons of irrelevant expository information, even if it risks breaking the player’s immersion. Isn’t that the opposite of what a role-playing game should do?

Part 7: Creating A World...Of Boring

I'd love to see Robert Downey Jr. kidnap the queen of England.
I'd love to see Robert Downey Jr. kidnap the queen of England.

Let’s get down to brass tax and discuss the story at hand. We are introduced to what I can only assume is our protagonist, Zidane, who is seen spelunking through a dark and lumbering airship. After Zidane catches up with a smattering of his compatriots they are immediately thrust into a battle against some random bozo wearing a dragon mask. Unfortunately for us, Zidane doesn’t headbutt this asshole the minute he insults his mother. Regardless, you blow through this jackass only to find out that he is the head honcho of a Shakespearean acting troupe that has somehow been tasked with kidnapping a princess...WAIT WHAT? Is that really our initial story premise? Well okay then...I guess I can roll with the punches. I did play Final Fantasy VIII after all!

Let’s go back to my issue of this game having a dubious introduction of sorts. Our initial story premise involves a troupe of actors, who just happen to be professional thieves, tasked with kidnapping the princess of a kingdom. But hey at least the princess wants to be kidnapped. This isn’t exactly what I would call a rip roaring start to a fifty hour commitment on my part! At least Final Fantasy VII started out with the exciting and riveting reactor sequence. Also, as nonsensical as Final Fantasy VIII’s initial premise may have been, what with dozens of school children marching into battle to die for the sake of a school exam, it made sense within the context of the game. Here we have no clear sense as to why we are performing this task, or who the main antagonist is. You are essentially left to your own devices to fill in these critical blanks as you play hours upon hours of this game without fully understanding why anything is happening.

Also will someone please tell me if this was the original translation for this line of dialogue? Either way someone needs to get punched in the face.
Also will someone please tell me if this was the original translation for this line of dialogue? Either way someone needs to get punched in the face.

The game provides this premise almost just for the sake of having its first action set-piece. The consequences here are two-fold. Firstly, none of the characters are honestly provided with any opportunities to introduce or develop their character arcs, and thus behave like walking tropes. Instead of introducing the ethos, pathos, and logos of the characters you have to stomach through hours of Zidane playing grab-ass, Steiner acting like a complete dolt, and Garnet attempting to act like a commoner. A vast majority of these character moments are just cringe inducing. Secondly, your time at Alexandria feels incredibly rushed, and as such you are not able to immerse yourself into the environment as much as you do in Final Fantasy VII or even VIII. Midgar and the Garden were each able to coherently introduce the introductory story premises for their respective games. So what did Alexandria bring to the table? I guess it was there to provide you with an annoying acting minigame, as well as your first real boss battles. Beyond that...it’s the complete definition of “meh.” It’s a spectacular level to look at, but the intractability here is seriously lacking.

It’s all worth noting for the sake of me developing the notorious distinction of being an asshole nitpicker how “convenient” the first three hours of the story felt. Boy howdy, it sure was convenient that the ONE nice black mage in the entire world ran into Zidane. Oh jeez, isn’t it “great” how the princess that we are tasked to kidnap consents to this? Golly gee wilikers, I’m incredibly happy that Steiner is able to put aside his blind allegiance to Alexandria for the sake of tagging along with Zidane. It’s shit like this that’s really pulling me out of the otherwise beautiful worlds that the game endeavors to showcase to you. The scaffold in which the story functions upon is so nakedly transparent, and structurally unsound, that I’m honestly having a hard time continuing on with this adventure.

Part 8: Well At Least Vivi Seems Okay

Rest assured that it is not all doom and gloom when it comes to my adventures in playing Final Fantasy IX. After revealing the main conceit behind the plot the game transitions to our deuteragonist, Vivi. With that I would like to state that I unequivocally love Vivi. He’s a great character, and I found a vast majority of his character moments throughout disc one to be wonderful. In fact, I would hazard to say that I enjoy Vivi far more than any other character that I have encountered in the game thus far.

At Alexandria we witness Vivi down on his luck. He approaches a gentleman at a circus tent only to discover that the theater ticket that he purchased is a fake. With few options beyond just begging, Vivi ends up performing a series of meaningless tasks for a talking rat, eventually revealed to be named Puck, in order to gain entrance to the play. Now I didn’t really understand what Puck the rat was aiming for during this sequence, but it did provide the player with multiple opportunities to pick up on Vivi’s unsureness with both himself, as well as his surroundings. The game effectively frames this around a massive play that everyone in Alexandria wishes to go to and witness.

Maybe this is just how the people of Alexandria greet each other.
Maybe this is just how the people of Alexandria greet each other.

Vivi also provides a multifaceted role for the purposes of the story. Vivi is consistently depicted as being the “fish out of water” character that is most at odds with the progression of the story. Throughout the story players witness Vivi being the most inquisitive, and hesitant member of the party, and to be perfectly honest his skepticism is almost entirely justified. Not only is Vivi the game’s most level headed character, because it sure as fuck isn’t Steiner, but he’s also the game’s best vessel for the audience. Vivi’s bewilderment is much more easy to relate to than Garnet’s naïveté, or Zidane’s libertine swagger.

As such, Vivi ended up becoming the character that I most often used to project myself into the story. The reason for this is simple: if I was a Final Fantasy character I would most likely be Vivi. Like Vivi, I would practically be falling apart at the seams if I was forced to deal with half of the situations that occur in the story. Not only that, but I would be falling flat on my face as Vivi does throughout the first disc.

Case and point!
Case and point!

Part 9: Tetra Master Is Hot Bullshit

While the minigames in Final Fantasy IX have not been as terrible as the minigames found in Final Fantasy VII, there is one that I feel comes close to the awfulness of the snowboarding sequence. That unmitigated shit show would be Tetra Master, and as my subheading may suggest I found Tetra Master to be a smoldering pile of bullshit. It is an unrelenting trash fire that never ceases to amaze me at how poorly thought out its mechanics are. I have been informed by multiple sources that Tetra Master has its own stand-alone application for mobile phones. So if any of you are interested in directly funneling bullshit into your eyes and ears...I would recommend your local dairy farm instead of playing Tetra Master.

Oh God damn this minigame....
Oh God damn this minigame....

The saddest aspect of this affair is that things start off promising enough. From a distant vantage point Tetra Master appears to be similar to Triple Triad. For those of you that are unaware, Triple Triad was the card based minigame found in Final Fantasy VIII. The big difference here is that Triple Triad is fun, whereas Tetra Master is terrible. There are a variety of reasons as to why this is the case. Firstly, the value for the cards is almost entirely pointless as the combat system is decided by a random die roll, ala Risk. This means that a high ranking card of a value of fifteen or more always runs the risk of losing to a card of an inferior value.

It also bears mentioning that a coin flip decides who goes first, and there’s a definite advantage for the player that goes second. This issue is EXACERBATED by the random placement of stones on the game map which can create corners that set up the first player for immediate failure. Then there’s the combo system...MY GOD THE COMBO SYSTEM! The combo system is complete bullshit, and rarely pops off when you want it to. Oh but rest assured that this shit show just get’s worse! At the conclusion of any Tetra Master match the losing player is forced to surrender any of their cards that ended up “flipped” over. If you end up losing a card that you really liked, or even possibly leveled up, then you have to challenge that exact opponent all over again and try to win your card back! BUT FUCK YOU, because now you need to beat your opponent with an inferior deck! So you end up in this hole where you keep losing your good cards, and NOW YOU ARE COMPLETELY FUCKED!

I am the greatest Tetra Master player in the world! I am an e-sports hall of famer!
I am the greatest Tetra Master player in the world! I am an e-sports hall of famer!

The ultimate elephant in the room regarding Tetra Master is what you are rewarded with for your time. By rewards I really mean JACK SHIT! You end up sinking in hours upon hours into the minigame, and your usual reward is just receiving more cards. You have no idea as to who has the better cards, so the player is forced to challenge every possible character in the world. Once again I cannot preface enough how these matches are ultimately pointless to the overall conclusion of the story. One could argue that Triple Triad ended up having too much of an impact on the gameplay of Final Fantasy VIII. However, Tetra Master is too much of the polar opposite of that. So much so that the only real reward or “satisfaction” associated with playing Tetra Master is being able to say that you found all of the cards. So this minigame is trash. Don’t play it if you intend to play Final Fantasy IX.

Part 10: Will The Real Villain Of Final Fantasy IX Please Stand Up?

AHHHHHHHHH! DON'T YOU NEED TO SEE A DOCTOR?
AHHHHHHHHH! DON'T YOU NEED TO SEE A DOCTOR?

Let’s get back to the story at hand, and one of the major issues that I have with Final Fantasy IX. I’m not sure if this is just an issue with every Final Fantasy game ever, but in Final Fantasy IX it takes well over eight hours before the game has any clear sense as to who its initial antagonist is. Certainly there are hints that the queen of Alexandria is a villain of sorts, but we never overtly witness her engaging in villainous activities until the tail end of the first disc. The only real visual hint that there is something amiss in Alexandria is during the introductory cutscene for the play. Here we briefly witnessed a very clearly distraught princess Garnet. To me that moment isn’t enough to entirely buy into the idea that the Queen is a malevolent force. Garnet is what I can only assume to be a teenager, and for all I know she could be angry at her mother for buying her a car but in the wrong color.

There’s another issue in Final Fantasy IX that has been bothering me ever since the beginning of the game. Be aware that this is a nitpick, and NOT a legitimate complaint. Why does the queen look like a monster? Like seriously...why does she practically look like something I could summon in a Shin Megami Tensei game? If I’m getting this correct then she gave birth to Garnet, so if the queen looks like a Hellish version of Violet Beauregarde then why doesn’t Garnet look like that as well? In fact, why does NO ONE in Alexandria look like the queen? Why isn’t the queen just a normal human that behaves erratically? My guess is that the designers made the queen look like a monster for the sake of making the transition that she is evil easier for the player to understand.

I wish this scene was better than it really was.
I wish this scene was better than it really was.

Oh and then there’s the bullshit play sequence where Zidane and Blank fight for the Alexandrian masses. This scene was downright painful. Admittedly, this entire sequence is vastly superior to any of the minigames in Final Fantasy VII, but that’s a low bar to say the least. Indeed, contracting syphilis is better than developing polio, but that sure as fuck doesn’t mean that you want to get syphilis. The conceit behind this sequence is simple to understand, but impossible to master. A myriad of button prompts will grace your screen, and you are expected to input them in quick succession during the performance. This is without a doubt the most pointless quick time event I have seen in a Final Fantasy game since the fighting minigame in Final Fantasy VIII. The problem here is how narrow the window is for inputting the button prompts, as well as how little you get out of the scene. Well...at least in theory. For reasons that I still do not understand I ended up getting a 100 out 100 during this sequence on my first try. thatpinguino informed me that in all his years playing this game he has never accomplished this feat:

I AM A FINAL FANTASY IX CHAMPION!
I AM A FINAL FANTASY IX CHAMPION!

But seriously, what’s the point of this scene? Other than having it for the sake of it I don’t really have an answer to that question. We discover no real new or pertinent information about our current situation, or the overall story for that matter. Nor do we learn more about why exactly we are attempting to kidnap the princess. How and why do these band of thieves know how to act and speak in Shakespearean iambic pentameter? Does this band of thieves act on their spare time when they are not stealing shit? Or were these band of misfits originally actors that had to resort to crime in order to support themselves? How do the characters in the world of Final Fantasy IX know how to speak Early Modern English? Why are they attempting to kidnap the princess under the guise of a massive play? Wouldn’t the castle be on high alert on account of this being a major event, thus necessitating a greater level of security? Why don’t they attempt to kidnap the princess when the queen would least expect it, like as she’s reviewing the city budget? Oh wait, it’s because the plot needs this all to happen right now in order for the story to work. Without the play there’s no real reason to have all of the characters that are important to the story in one place. That’s a cynical way to look at things, but I’m convinced that it is the truth. Well...at least it was fun to look at. Oh and I got a Moonstone!

Part 11: The Cringe Quotient Is At An All Time High And Steiner Fucking Sucks

My grousing here actually has a purpose. Final Fantasy IX has a spectacular world to work with, but ends up pissing it away in order to create a visual spectacle instead of building up its characters. Three hours deep and the character still behave like walking tropes, and lack any sense of having a character arc. Sure one could argue that Garnet wishes to leave Alexandria, but to what end? On this regard I feel that the game hems and haws far more than it should, and you are expected to trust the game without question. You essentially have to place your blind trust in the game that it will eventually reciprocate your desire to know more about it, and this just rubs me the wrong way.

I know that I have mentioned it before, but I might as well beat this dead horse again, but isn’t it really convenient that the princess that we wish to kidnap just happens to want to be kidnapped? Anyway, after your performance on the stage Zidane and Blank are off to kidnap the princess. After Zidane ascends a flight of stairs he encounters a hooded female character who is so painfully Garnet that the proceeding scene was honestly painful to watch. Instead of immediately informing the poorly obscured Garnet of his purpose and mission objective, he instead takes the time to pass unwanted sexual advances on Garnet.

Well isn’t that just hilarious….
Well isn’t that just hilarious….

So instead of creating a cast of characters that I want to root for this game continues to spoil everyone that I am going to end up listening to for fifty hours. OH FUCK MY LIFE! Garnett then runs away causing Zidane to comically spin around in circles, because somehow this game all of the sudden became a Looney Tunes animated short. At any rate, after the queen is informed that Garnet is nowhere to be found she does the unthinkable and assigns Steiner with the responsibility of relocating Garnet. Garnet is her daughter, as well as next in line for the throne, and yet she goes ahead and assigns Steiner with the responsibilities of relocating her. I...fucking...just...don’t...even...know...anymore. This is despite the fact that Beatrice, her most capable and able bodied knight, is right next to her. So does the queen straight up hate her daughter, or does she just give zero fucks about Garnet?

Oh and Steiner's gimmick is that he's a dumbass.
Oh and Steiner's gimmick is that he's a dumbass.

Steiner is my least favorite character in the entire game, and if it were not for the fact that he is a beast in combat then I would kick him to the curb entirely. What I really “enjoy” about Steiner is how much he “improves” throughout the course of disc one. While he’s only a slightly insufferable asshole during this sequence, he quickly becomes an entirely insufferable prick by the time he fully joins your party. All of Steiner’s lines of dialogue about wanting to blindly protect the princess are some of the cringiest moments in the entire game. It never gets good, and entirely spoils Steiner as a character for me. It doesn't help that Steiner is also a complete dumbass throughout the story, and fails to improve time and time again. From watching Steiner think that Garnet died during the course of the play; to watching him slop around the streets of Lindblum; every line of dialogue that Steiner utters is an assault on my senses and common decency.

What I find especially intolerable about Steiner during this specific sequence is how he loudly bemoans how the queen prefers Beatrice’s knights over his own. I find this grousing insulting because Beatrice’s Alexandrian Soldiers are clearly vastly superior to Steiner’s Knights of Pluto. While the Alexandrian Soldiers are cool and collected the Knights of Pluto are a motley crew of bumbling buffoons. Oh and the sidequest where you attempt to relocate all of the members of the Knights of Pluto is just terrible. I fucking hated that sidequest so goddamned much because there’s this one asshole who runs in the opposite direction of Steiner, and you have to trick him into running into Steiner by forcing him into a corner. Easier said than done, right?

WELL FUCK THAT! This took me fifteen minutes to complete, and I hate myself for doing this.
WELL FUCK THAT! This took me fifteen minutes to complete, and I hate myself for doing this.

Part 12: It’s Time To Tie A Neat Little Bow On The Story Thus Far

After controlling Steiner for a bit we witness Zidane confronting Garnet on the roof of a building. Garnet then decides to jump from the top of this building, and somehow knows that the impact will not kill her. Zidane, being a man who thinks with his dick rather than his brain, decides to jump down from the building as well. Oh but the wacky hijinks was all in good fun because everyone is okay, and Garnet actually WANTED TO BE KIDNAPPED ALL ALONG!

THEN WHY THE FUCK DID I HAVE TO PUT UP WITH THE LAST TEN MINUTES OF YOUR BULLSHIT!
THEN WHY THE FUCK DID I HAVE TO PUT UP WITH THE LAST TEN MINUTES OF YOUR BULLSHIT!

Seriously, if she wanted to be kidnapped then why did Garnet run away from Zidane when she first saw him? Why didn’t she tell Zidane about wanting to get kidnapped at the top of the building? That way we wouldn’t have to jump from a perilous position and hope that we not die. Why is any of this happening? Did Garnet read the script? Did I forget to take my crazy pills? Is this really happening?

But the ridiculousness just keeps on going. After funneling the princess into the bowels of the airship Steiner appears and announces that he’s here to “save the princess.” Why Garnet doesn’t tell Steiner to fuck off, or the truth about her present situation, is beyond me. What we are subjected to next is what I can only describe as a “comedic” boss battle with Steiner. I place extra emphasis on “comedic” considering that the battle ends when one of the characters unleashes a swarm of bugs, called oglops, on Steiner. This “hilariously” causes Steiner to run away in fear.

Is this a reference that I’m not getting, or is this scene just stupid?
Is this a reference that I’m not getting, or is this scene just stupid?

These people are behaving life cartoon characters in a television show meant for six year olds! THEY ARE ALL NIGHTMARE PEOPLE! None of the characters behave like a human-beings, and they are just trying my patience. I’m sitting here twiddling my thumbs, and rolling my eyes in hopes that all of these douche weasels will eventually get better. But they aren’t, and if anything I think they are getting worse. Our first major action set-piece is effectively played for yuks, and this is to the game’s detriment.

Part 13: Our First Boss Rush And Other Dumb Stuff

Boy howdy is the next scene where you watch Steiner, Garnet, and Zidane act out the final scenes of the play DUMB! I do respect how the writers were able to weave the events of the story into this play seamlessly, but the payoff is such a disappointment. The game takes the time to build up this highly intricate and decadent play, and ultimately it results in a series of boss battles with Steiner. What the fuck kind of payoff is that? Do you want to know what I think would have been better? If the plan went without a hitch, Zidane was able to kidnap Garnet, but miraculously Steiner was able to sneak into the ship on a hunch that the actors were up to something. I say this because by having the play not succeed it almost feels as if the play was inserted into the story for the sake of having a CGI cutscene with explosions. What does this play actually do to set up the characters, as well as their character arcs? Don’t bullshit me, the answer is NOTHING! Call me a cynic, but at least you can understand where I am coming from more so than the game’s intent. Nevertheless, Garnet is able to act out the last couple of scenes without being noted by any of the audience...including HER FUCKING MOTHER.

Let’s just say that she’s wearing a magical cowl that disguises her face and move on.
Let’s just say that she’s wearing a magical cowl that disguises her face and move on.

As per her role she ends up biting the dust, and Steiner, being the dumbass that he is, believes that he has murdered her. Meanwhile, the game transitions back to Vivi who is accosted by a security guard and is chased onto the stage of the play. This somehow results in Garnet’s highly convincing disguise being ripped off, and immediately thrusts the player into an inconsequential battle with Steiner.

Oh boy...I sure do hope that this is that last time the game will force me to fight this asshole.
Oh boy...I sure do hope that this is that last time the game will force me to fight this asshole.

Then as we attempt to beat a hasty retreat all Hell breaks loose as the queen orders her army to shoot at the ship that we are on...despite the fact that she wants Garnet alive. Somehow the Soldiers of Alexandria are really good at their aim and can prevent their explosive cannon shots from harming Princess Garnet.

Big emphasis on the word “SOMEHOW.”
Big emphasis on the word “SOMEHOW.”

Oh and we have to fight Steiner AGAIN, but this time he’s accompanied by a giant fireball demon. Why? BECAUSE FUCK YOU, THAT’S WHY!

Goodness gracious great balls of fire
Goodness gracious great balls of fire

Look now, I feel as if I have had this lecture about boss rushes in Final Fantasy games about a dozen times, but it appears that we have to have it again. I am okay with boss rushes in the end of a game against a variety of enemies. Having a boss rush in the beginning of the game is kind of a dick move, and having a boss rush with the same character(s) is just plain lazy design. This isn’t a “hard” boss encounter, but having the player confront Steiner three times in a row is a bit much. After offing Steiner and the ball of fire the airship that we are on lumbers slowly into the distance as the queen rightly commits herself towards apprehending her daughter from a den of thieves.

So really who is the “real” villain in this story?
So really who is the “real” villain in this story?

Our airship has clearly been irreparably damaged. While it is able to lumber out of Alexandria, it is in no shape to make the long trip to Lindblum. While there is much to talk about the ensuing couple of set-pieces I think it is time to call an end to my first episode.

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beforet

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@zombiepie: I love you. I love this game. Tetra Master is a pile of flaming horse shit, the Trance system is the worst "limit break" system in the entire series, and Vivi is love. We can agree there, at least.

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Rebel_Scum

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Those updated character models look so out of place in among the pre-rendered backgrounds. Good luck with this one. I'm not a big fan of it but it is "better" than FFVIII.

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kasaioni

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One thing that surprises me about the Final Fantasy series is how long it took them make a fully polygonal main entry in the series after FFVII. For the longest time I thought X was the first fully polygonal game, but actually it just has backgrounds that don't look horrible. It turns out that XI is the first mainline game released that is fully polygonal (XI first release: May 2002 in Japan on the PS2, X-2 in March 2003), which is strange to me.

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Mistzero

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Tetra master is bad and so is the trance system, that's all I'll agree with you about.

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baka_shinji17

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Isn't this supposed to be the "good" one?

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Rebel_Scum

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Isn't this supposed to be the "good" one?

More a "back to form" one after the "too realistic" style of FFVIII. If it wasn't for Vivi no one would likely care about it. Ah geez I forgot about Quina...just wait til ZombiePie comes across that monstrosity...

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azulot

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The syphilis and polio comparison had me rolling.

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Justin258

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Christ, I wish I had not watched the entirety of the music video for Dude Looks Like A Lady. Why did you have to post that? I thought the purpose of these blogs was for me to revel in your pain, not you in mine?

Isn't this supposed to be the "good" one?

When it comes to Final Fantasy, the one that is "the good one" depends entirely on who you ask. Some people think IX is a despicable pile of garbage. Others think it's the best of the lot. Which is part of what makes the series so interesting, really.

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DrDarkStryfe

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Tetra Master was such a disappointment after following the greatness that was Final Fantasy VIII's Triple Triad.

You also touched on the one thing that makes this such a love/hate title early; this is a game that is very rigid in its playable characters, and what their purpose is in battle. This is Square decided to go back to the old school after tinkering with the formula with FFVI and VII, and blowing up the whole system in VIII. There are elements that you will bump into as you play that can add some spice to this, but is is obvious from the start what role each character plays during the battles.

The one thing that always stood out for me with this game is the individual story arc of all of the characters in the game. You get a bit of a hint of this if you let the title screen play along; each character has a theme attached to them. Vivi is by far the soul of the game, and that is why he is such a memorable character in the pantheon of gaming, but there are some other surprises in the roster that stand out at points.

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jacksukeru

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I couldn't join you for your FF7 adventures, seeing as I hope to play its remake someday without knowing the particulars of the story beforehand. Being more familiar with FF9 I thougth that reading this could be fun, but having read it I found myself wanting to correct too many nitpicks for it to be enjoyable or worth my time.

Alas, I wish you luck with the rest of the game.

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Teddie

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I THOUGHT YOU WERE MAKING THESE SHORTER!

I'm completely opposite to you in regards to the tone. I love how "light" everything starts, whereas I could never get into the gloomy melodrama that these games usually drench themselves in within minutes. All the bouncy music they play at the theatre, the fun character & level designs, the way all the early fights are against completely nonthreatening entities with magical sparkle attacks, it all just works for me. Well, except for the jumprope thing. That's just cruel.

I know a lot of people went from FFVII/FFVIII-era into this and had awful reactions to what this game is, because they were expecting more of that but instead got cartoony stuff with a more straightforward/classic combat system (which, by the way, when you say it's "slow", have you got the battle speed turned all the way up?).

I can't wait for you and everyone else to explain to me what's so awful about the ATEs. I could only ever see them as a cute and harmless thing, even when they weren't particularly interesting.

Oh and, feel free to ignore everything I ever say about FFIX because:
Steiner is my favourite character in the game after Vivi.

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dudeglove

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this fucking game. this fucking first disc, even.

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riostarwind

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#13 riostarwind  Moderator

Hm, I quite liked the intro to FFIX when I replayed it for a blog I did a while ago. But I can certainly see the stereotypical nature of the characters being annoying. Curious to see your thoughts on the game as you continue to play through it.

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Zirilius

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this fucking game. this fucking first disc, even.

First disc is great and then it all goes to shit.

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Turambar

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#15  Edited By Turambar

Steiner is great and so is the intro. I will fist fight you.

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cloudymusic

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FFIX seems to be the one that a lot of people like the most, but it never really clicked with me, even when it came out. Reading your thoughts about it, I think the cartoon-like character tropes and unclear motivation for much of anything in the first disc may definitely be part of the reason.

And yeah, I like Triple Triad quite a bit but Tetra Master is hot garbage in comparison.

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thatpinguino

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#17  Edited By thatpinguino  Staff

By the end of this game, the Grinch's small heart will grow three sizes I say!

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Crommi

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Pretty much sums up how I felt and still feel about the game, having bought it on day 1 and re-played ten years later. A lot of people have fond memories of the game, but I would argue that a lot of that affection is towards Vivi and not rest of the game. He is vital character to the game, you could remove any other character and game wouldn't significantly suffer from it (Garnet could be replaced by a stolen trinket) but without Vivi you would completely lost the "heart and soul" of the game and be left with a very generic JRPG.

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hassun

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#19  Edited By hassun

Didn't expect you to jump into IX so quickly. I'm curious to see how you'll like this one. Judging from your comments at the end of FFVII I think IX might piss you off on an even greater scale.

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redking56

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#20  Edited By redking56

Isn't this supposed to be the "good" one?

No, there's nothing about FFIX that makes it better than VII or VIII, in fact it's a regressive step backwards with all the Kitase directed FF melodrama making the worst of both worlds. It's just that people are more familiar with the previous two whereas IX was released at an awkward time between the PS1 and PS2 so not as many people played it and it didn't get anywhere near the media coverage because people were already talking about FFX which was out in Japan by the time IX was in the west.

Because of this it has a bit of protected status because it is never given the same scrutiny so fans of it can proclaim it "the good one" without anywhere near as much backlash from those who hate the FF series. But anyone with a little care to objective criticism can see the deep flaws in it's design and the the rushed nature of being put together while most of Square were working on FFX and PlayOnline.

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ShadyPingu

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#21  Edited By ShadyPingu

Vivi's a really great character. FFIX is one of the few FFs - one of the few games, also - that I would describe as having "heart," and that's almost single-handedly due to Vivi. There's some other stuff that lands right, but Vivi more or less carries this game.

God, given your meltdowns at the end of VII and VIII, I can't wait to read your reaction to the ending of this one.

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MezZa

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Man now I kind of want to replay this game. And, yeah, Vivi is the best.

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Quarters

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#23  Edited By Quarters

Played FFVII, beat it, enjoyed it. Played FFVIII, beat it, loved it. Played FFIX...for about 10-15 hours, determined I hated all of the characters and the plot they were encased in, and proceeded to stop playing it. Everything about it just seemed incredibly boring. Sure, VII and VIII are flawed, but at least they have some craziness to them to spice it up. IX is just generic fantasy tropes.

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#24 ZombiePie  Staff

@beforet said:

@zombiepie: I love you. I love this game. Tetra Master is a pile of flaming horse shit, the Trance system is the worst "limit break" system in the entire series, and Vivi is love. We can agree there, at least.

Vivi is the only character in the story that I feel is "consistently" good. He's introduced spectacularly, and as his character arc is slowly introduced to the audience you become more drawn into his story. His responses to his environment seem natural, and he depicts a sense of humanity throughout the entire story. That said it boggles my mind that the game commits to Vivi first before any of the other primary cast members. This is of course a story that starts with the kidnapping of a princess. Why does the hapless wizard get more characterization in the first disc than the princess or our lovable rogue?

I mean let's be honest here, Freya even gets better characterization in the first disc than Zidane.

Those updated character models look so out of place in among the pre-rendered backgrounds. Good luck with this one. I'm not a big fan of it but it is "better" than FFVIII.

Some of the character models are better than others, but you are correct to point out how they just look out of place in comparison to the environments. I understand that if they had updated the environments it would have added an enormous amount of development time to the game, and at the point why not just make a new game from scratch?

Regarding Final Fantasy IX versus Final Fantasy VIII...at least Final Fantasy IX has a story that makes sense. In terms of the combat, I honestly think I prefer the junction system to the equipment based system in Final Fantasy IX. Yes it was broken, but at least it was fun to use. The combat in IX is just slow. Random encounters play out far longer than they have any right to.

@kasaioni said:

One thing that surprises me about the Final Fantasy series is how long it took them make a fully polygonal main entry in the series after FFVII. For the longest time I thought X was the first fully polygonal game, but actually it just has backgrounds that don't look horrible. It turns out that XI is the first mainline game released that is fully polygonal (XI first release: May 2002 in Japan on the PS2, X-2 in March 2003), which is strange to me.

Good to know! At some point I really do have to consider playing a 2D 16-bit Final Fantasy game. I have heard nothing but good things about how timeless those games look and feel. Back to Final Fantasy IX, I honestly do feel as if the game looks "timeless." The polygonal sprites have an almost cell-shaded look to them that adds a storybook-like quality that I appreciate. The CGI cutscenes still are gorgeous to look at, and don't lack any of the punch that they had when the game was first released.

However, I do have to admit that the fact that this is more of a traditional fantasy setting my positivity regarding the art direction is a bit more muted than if this was a modern or futuristic setting.

@mistzero said:

Tetra master is bad and so is the trance system, that's all I'll agree with you about.

Good to hear that my opinions regarding the trance system are not "unorthodox." After we recorded the podcast version of this blog series I was basically the only person that felt strongly negative about the trance system. In fact, we even had someone DEFEND Tetra Master on that podcast...craziness.

Feel free to share any other feelings or interpretations that you have about Final Fantasy IX. I'm a full time middle school teacher, so I've basically been called everything, but let's try to avoid that here.

@baka_shinji17 said:

Isn't this supposed to be the "good" one?

More a "back to form" one after the "too realistic" style of FFVIII. If it wasn't for Vivi no one would likely care about it. Ah geez I forgot about Quina...just wait til ZombiePie comes across that monstrosity...

This, more than anything else, is most likely the root to my muted response to Final Fantasy IX. You add in the fact that the game is set in a more traditional fantasy setting, as well as the fact that this =is a "return to form" for the series, and you have a game that I feel is a bit lost to me. I have no understanding or appreciation as to what Final Fantasy IX is seeking to reference or pay homage to. Not only that, but it is delving on tropes that are largely tropes that I am not accustomed to tolerating in the media that I usually consume.

QUINA IS TERRIBLE! QUINA PIRATICALLY RUINS EVERY SCENE THAT QUINA IS IN!

@baka_shinji17 said:

Isn't this supposed to be the "good" one?

When it comes to Final Fantasy, the one that is "the good one" depends entirely on who you ask. Some people think IX is a despicable pile of garbage. Others think it's the best of the lot. Which is part of what makes the series so interesting, really.

I love the fact that fans of the franchise are divided on the game, and are accustomed to sharing different opinions regarding any of the entries to the franchise. That's what makes me sharing my thoughts about this, and the previous games that I have discussed, so much fun. To be a part of an active and scholarly community is a bit of an honor, and hopefully we can all come to have a mutual respect for one another.

Currently, I do not associate myself with either of the extremes regarding Final Fantasy IX. This is a game that has some interesting characters, and I can see it going in compelling directions. I see no malice or cynicism in the development of the game, and to me it was created with the utmost care and attention. I just wish that it's parts came together quicker, and that the characters were able to pull their crap together more naturally. In the end, I will see this game to the end, and until then I will continue to keep an open mind about what I see.

Tetra Master was such a disappointment after following the greatness that was Final Fantasy VIII's Triple Triad.

You also touched on the one thing that makes this such a love/hate title early; this is a game that is very rigid in its playable characters, and what their purpose is in battle. This is Square decided to go back to the old school after tinkering with the formula with FFVI and VII, and blowing up the whole system in VIII. There are elements that you will bump into as you play that can add some spice to this, but is is obvious from the start what role each character plays during the battles.

The one thing that always stood out for me with this game is the individual story arc of all of the characters in the game. You get a bit of a hint of this if you let the title screen play along; each character has a theme attached to them. Vivi is by far the soul of the game, and that is why he is such a memorable character in the pantheon of gaming, but there are some other surprises in the roster that stand out at points.

What if they just created a version of Triple Triad, but it didn't break the game? DING! That's all they really needed to do!

Regarding the mechanics, I am quickly finding myself bored to tears with the combat. It's slow, and as you mentioned the character class system here discourages experimentation. Rather than being able to transform the characters into what you want, you end up being ferreted down a specific path that the game picks for you. This is either something that you love, or hate. I think it goes without saying where I stand regarding the issue. Also, I don't know...but the battles themselves seem far slower than those that I had in VII and VIII. This is especially the case in the few moments when the game has you controlling one character against a boss. The ATP meter fills up ever so slowly, and there seems to be more "dead time" than in the previous Final Fantasy games I have played. Again, that could just be me.

I couldn't join you for your FF7 adventures, seeing as I hope to play its remake someday without knowing the particulars of the story beforehand. Being more familiar with FF9 I thougth that reading this could be fun, but having read it I found myself wanting to correct too many nitpicks for it to be enjoyable or worth my time.

Alas, I wish you luck with the rest of the game.

Are these nitpicks regarding my writing, which I can understand, or nitpicks regarding the game itself?

@teddie said:

I THOUGHT YOU WERE MAKING THESE SHORTER!

I'm completely opposite to you in regards to the tone. I love how "light" everything starts, whereas I could never get into the gloomy melodrama that these games usually drench themselves in within minutes. All the bouncy music they play at the theatre, the fun character & level designs, the way all the early fights are against completely nonthreatening entities with magical sparkle attacks, it all just works for me. Well, except for the jumprope thing. That's just cruel.

I know a lot of people went from FFVII/FFVIII-era into this and had awful reactions to what this game is, because they were expecting more of that but instead got cartoony stuff with a more straightforward/classic combat system (which, by the way, when you say it's "slow", have you got the battle speed turned all the way up?).

I can't wait for you and everyone else to explain to me what's so awful about the ATEs. I could only ever see them as a cute and harmless thing, even when they weren't particularly interesting.

Oh and, feel free to ignore everything I ever say about FFIX because:

Steiner is my favourite character in the game after Vivi.

HEY MAN! This is the first time that I have written a Final Fantasy blog that was UNDER fifteen pages! Fun story about this entry: because my previous entries were so long, I had no idea what a normal length blog is. I ended up asking @sparky_buzzsaw, @mento, and @thatpinguino "what is the normal length of a blog is," and they all told me that fourteen pages is still long.

So yeah...I'm still learning.

I don't hate how the game is entirely bubbly, but I just wish that there was a clear or cohesive raison d'être that justifies the cast coming together. That, and I think the story would have benefited from a little more grit. Actually spelling out the hardships that defined Zidane could have provided some context to his swagger. Or how about properly framing the queen as the villain for the first disc? A lot of the events of the first disc occur for the sake of it, because the story needs it to.

I will talk about the ATEs on the next episode.

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@zombiepie: Quina is golden you son of a-- no, that's okay, everyone reacts to Quina differently. I can respect that. For what it's worth, when my girlfriend played the game (her first Final Fantasy game), she renamed them to Quinoa, and I think that might have improved the experience.

Re equipment: for what it's worth, FF9 is a fairly easy game, and you don't have to worry about min maxing. You've probably figured this out by now, but you can't go wrong with just asking "do I learn a thing from this item? Yes: Equip it. No: Equip it to someone else". Do not let anyone talk to you about how equipment effects your level ups. They are hateful people, and best to be avoided.

Re Vivi: I can make the argument that Vivi is the real main character of FF9, and it's not just based on him being better than all the other characters. But that's a conversation for at the end of this blog series.

Re Nostalgia: I at least had never played an FF game before this. FF9 was actually my first real experience with Final Fantasy 9 as a child (my uncle had FF7 that I played a bit, but never beat the first boss. Babby beforet did not understand the nuances of Barret's warning in that fight). I'm just bringing it up so that you know that not everyone who likes this game was in on the fanservice (though holy crap there is a lot of callbacks to previous games).

Re Thieving: this is dependent on your Spirit stat I think, and there are skills that improve the chances. They are late game skills. My goto advice for a new player is to try stealing for 3-5 turns in a boss and then drop it. The items are good, but the game isn't that hard to justify the headache.

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beforet

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#27  Edited By beforet

@erickmojojojo: Um, for your sake I'm going to ask you to clarify so that no one makes an assumption: are you saying you have a low IQ and love to rant, or are you saying that ZombiePie has a low IQ and loves to rant? It's a little unclear what you're going for there, though I'm guessing you don't mean to just straight up call a moderator on this site an idiot.

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erickmojojojo

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#28  Edited By erickmojojojo

@beforet: oh am not saying that the writer is an idiot. Clearly he is smarter than that but am just saying it's not the game's fault but the writer massively did not comprehend the game story.

And the 30 minutes of my typing is just vanish i dont know why. i dont even use any swear swords. I just stated my opinion. So i will type it again:

-Steiner is annoying by design, for story purposes. And the 3rd time we battled him the bomb behind him is there explained in the scene, not "because f*cks you that's why" as writer writes.

-i get why many people hate the card game since it has some random outcomes unlike FFVIII card game. I myself like it, since i usually played it at the end of city exploring and save the game beforehand so that i could easily reset the game if i lost, so i won't lost any cards.

- Queen Brahne and Garnet will be weirder if they resemble of each other. Am not sure how much the writer played the game so i wont put any spoiler.

- and Queen Brahne did not care even the slightest about Garnet (nowadays, since she did care before) thats why sending Steiner to reocate her is enough since Beatrix is her personal bodyguard.

- there has been many criticism that previous two FF had similar character traits battle-wise so they back to old forced class and made every character useful in certain battle scenarios. Of course to veteran RPG players what's their strengths and weaknesses is obvious.

- No wonder you like Vivi. He is one of the most liked character throughout FF series in a polling. Me personally likes Quina, even though writer hates her, who script's is sometimes the most memorable throughout the game and also a versatile character battle-wise. Capable of supporting, quite tanky, and dish both magical (via twister) and physical damage (via frog drop) well.

- magic stone maybe slows down and complicate things. But that's just how RPG tends to be. Magic stone is the source of passive abilities of this game (even could aids the odds of succesful steal, as it is also the one the writers loath)

- euipment image is distinctive enough so color coded equipment is unecessary. Image divides them from robe, light, and heavy armor. While color helps distinguish in their own category.

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@erickmojojojo: Friend, if your post disappears, you are better off pinging a mod and asking why rather than reposting. You can imagine why reposting a comment that was deleted might not be a great idea.

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soimadeanaccount

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#30  Edited By soimadeanaccount

Wow there are easy difficulty settings? and turning random battles off? IS THIS GAME FOR BABIES!? Actually...now I really want to check the PC version out and replay it.

As people mentioned before FF9 is a return to the series before 7, class based character progression and 4 characters party. It is pretty much trying to serve both masters at this point of history. The players who liked 6 and before or the ones that liked 7 and beyond. The Trance system is odd, but a some characters' are better than others.

As for tropes being thrown at you non-stop in the beginning...quite frankly I feel like FF9 is the one that can get away with it the most. I think most FFs have or try to carry a light theater play feel to them. FF4 has a deus ex machina sequence, FF6 has the opera, FF7 lightly name dropped Loveless, FF12 has a spoken exit stage right line along with the villain essentially fill his role because he has to. While FF9 front and center shows you a traveling theater troupe with sort of a play within a play opening. It is almost a parody. At some point you either accept the tropes because of the effectiveness they provide, the stereotype, the convenient story telling, Chekhov's gun included :p or rejects it and therefore concludes that nearly every piece of fiction written since the ancient times regardless of the name of its writer, fame, and legacy are all subject to the same criticism, therefore they are all just as terrible. (Take that English class!) Every game story, every movie, every novel, every play. Everything. Is. Shit.

The bomb enemy is sort of a classic FF enemy, so it is kind of a fan service. I feel like I can summarize Freya in two sentences max...but I remember her being great in battle. I sort of remember Steiner's effectiveness in battle falling of a cliff somewhere, eventually he became some kind of item healer for me because of his sheer tankiness, if I am going to get one shot he is likely the last person still standing!

Picking equipment is kind of tricky. You could eventually end up with so many gear that scrolling through them takes forever, and keeping track of who have what skill and who needs to learn what skill is also kind of cumbersome. Optimize I think only consider the stat, and I think it prioritize spirit and defense or maybe a raw highest number overall. As you noticed, equipping certain gear allow different characters to access and learn skills, and with enough AP they will have access to the skill without needing the piece of gear, but you still have to toggle on and off and juggle between what support abilities they can have active limited by the number of magic stones you have. And unless they changed it in the PC version, as a fuck you move, you actually DON'T want to level early on because magic stones are given base on characters leveling and are not retroactive for members jointing later. (Turn random battles off?)

Not sure if you figure out the classes and their focus but here is a simplify list:

Zidane: Thief, stealing is obvious, but he mostly serve as a physical damage dealer a good part of the game so focus on strength and whatever defense you need.

Steiner: Knight, physical bruiser, strength and defense.

Garnet: White mage/summoner, you are probably not going to touch summon for a while, so treat her as a healer and go magic and mp mostly. Could do minor support physical attacks later.

Vivi: Black mage, your offensive magic, so go magic, mp, and defense.

Freya: Dragoon, mostly physical so strength and defense.

Quina: Blue mage, think enemy skill from FF7 but you have to "Eat" the enemy instead. Technically more of a magic focus character...but fuck man I don't know.

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@zombiepie: Sorry, frustration got the better of me. I shouldn't have brought up the idea of criticizing your points since I didn't, and still don't, really have the motivation to challenge them. My comment just ends up reading as passive agressive, which I didn't want but is pretty true, I guess.

Having replayed the beginning of this game a few times over the years. I recall thinking that the first sequence didn't do a particularly good job giving the characters much character at all so I figured I could take it being criticized. The game itself doesn't really lend itself to being defended very well either though. I'll give just one example.

"Zidane not immediately recognizing Garnet", could be defended with a: she's wearing different clothing and a hood that obscures her face, which I'd argue is not as poor a disguise as you say, and b: Zidane has never met the Princess and doesn't know what she looks like. a crude doll being his only reference. This is where the game becomes confusing as he tells Blank who she is once whe runs away from him, making what was, in my opinion, a pretty easy argument to make that much harder. On a sidenote she probably runs away from him cause she was already in the midst of her own plan to leave the castle (which is weirdly not ever brought up, what WAS her original plan for getting out and where was she intending to go anyway?) and he is currently dressed like a castle guard.

I've tried playing just about every modern FF game, and FF9 was the first one I liked enough to put forth the effort to finish. In a way I suppose it makes it my favorite one. Being somewhat of a cynic when it comes to storytelling I still dream of a remake that takes all the good parts it puts forth and wraps it in better writing and characterization.

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@zombiepie this game is nowhere near as good as @thatpinguino would have you believe, but I'm guessing you already figured that out. Also, you're going to have to begrudgingly admit that you like Final Fantasy a little bit because I find it implausible that anyone would hate themselves so much as to subject themselves to this if they weren't getting something good out of it.

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Haven't had time to read the whole manifesto yet, but to comment on few things I saw while skimming:

1. Tetra Master can be fun, but it's certainly no triple triad.

2. I genuinely think all the characters (sans maybe 1 late game addition) are charming and engaging, with Vivi being the obvious highlight. Hopefully the later parts of the game helps you warm up to the rest of the cast.

3. I think your desire for more grit in the early parts of the game as some means of improvement is completely subjective and a tiny bit silly. Starting with an upbeat tone can help you connect to characters more naturally, and the game has dozens of hours to insert grit or conflict or what have you.

4. There should be options to speed up the battles? Especially in the PC version. The game is indeed a bit slower than your prior experiences.

5. The customization for battles is mostly in character choice and abilities, you can have very different gameplans for fights depending on party make-up. Certainly less free form than 7 or 8, but it makes the characters have more of an identity I find.

I'll try to get through the whole blog soon, keep on keeping on ZP.

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#34  Edited By cloudymusic

Oh yeah, another thing that I don't like about this game: stealing items in Final Fantasy games is never fun. The success rate is low, and it's just an RNG grind of doing the same command over and over until it works, often prolonging battles far longer than they have any right to last. And in this one, since the primary protagonist is a thief with the Steal ability, you're incentivized to use it all the time because tons of good equipment is locked behind it. Like, I think every single boss is worth using Steal on. Steal is something that should have been removed from this era of Final Fantasy games, not doubled down on.

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#35  Edited By erickmojojojo

Aaaaand he deleted my comment again. whats about my post that he find it offensive?

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@zombiepie: The ATB meter being tied so closely to the Speed state is a real downer for the first disc. The gear drops that lead to the skill unlocks will start to show up that makes that meter much more manageable. I am fresh off a FFIX playthrough within the last six months, so a lot of those early game pains are still quite vivid.

@cloudymusic: Have to learn that Mug ability. It is a hell of a grind to unlock it (200 AP I think) but the ability to just have regular attacks do the stealing for you is worth it.

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#37 ZombiePie  Staff

Wow...usually these blogs have a slower burn than this. That said, I'm still going to continue my promise of responding to every first time comment.

Hm, I quite liked the intro to FFIX when I replayed it for a blog I did a while ago. But I can certainly see the stereotypical nature of the characters being annoying. Curious to see your thoughts on the game as you continue to play through it.

My issue stems from the fact that the emotional tone of the introduction, and first disc for that matter, feels so one note. It all comes across as an upbeat swashbuckling adventure without stakes, and that is the case for a vast majority of the first disc. The posturing of the characters also doesn't help this issue. I certainly felt that way when the party entered Lindblum for the first time, and the game decided to wast my time with the monster hunt event.

@zirilius said:
@dudeglove said:

this fucking game. this fucking first disc, even.

First disc is great and then it all goes to shit.

As someone who has just completed the second disc, I respectfully disagree.

Now that the game has a clear antagonist I'm looking forward to the game committing itself towards something...I don't know what that "something" is, but it's better than whatever the heck the game attempted to do for its first twenty hours.

@turambar said:

Steiner is great and so is the intro. I will fist fight you.

Steiner is getting better, but my issue is that for twenty hours of the game he's essentially the same joke repeated over and over again. Although I have to be honest, I'm actually employing a schedule similar to the Shenmue Endurance Run. My actual progress with the game is far ahead of what these blogs are at, but the good news is that they will be once a week rather than every blue moon. So with that said, I would like to formally recant my declaration that Steiner is "THE WORST."

I say this because I have just met Eiko Carol...and SHE IS DEFINITELY THE WORST!

@cloudymusic said:

FFIX seems to be the one that a lot of people like the most, but it never really clicked with me, even when it came out. Reading your thoughts about it, I think the cartoon-like character tropes and unclear motivation for much of anything in the first disc may definitely be part of the reason.

And yeah, I like Triple Triad quite a bit but Tetra Master is hot garbage in comparison.

HOLY CRAP! Someone published my exact feelings about this game in less than two pages! This is a miracle!

Anyways, I certainly feel as if the game has a missing part to it that is preventing me from really being able to jump into the story and enjoying it without question. If the game had more brevity I think that would certainly help, but that would only address some of my concerns.

By the end of this game, the Grinch's small heart will grow three sizes I say!

Don't you forget my promise from our Disc One Podcast.

@crommi said:

Pretty much sums up how I felt and still feel about the game, having bought it on day 1 and re-played ten years later. A lot of people have fond memories of the game, but I would argue that a lot of that affection is towards Vivi and not rest of the game. He is vital character to the game, you could remove any other character and game wouldn't significantly suffer from it (Garnet could be replaced by a stolen trinket) but without Vivi you would completely lost the "heart and soul" of the game and be left with a very generic JRPG.

That is certainly similar to my feelings. The fact that the story introduces Vivi's drama and defining character trait first just baffles my mind. The fact that I had to wait a solid twenty hours before I understood what Garnet's character drama was is just as crazy. I think it would have done the story and game wonders if it better prioritized its characterization. The game doesn't need to dole out all of the goods, but a few hints here and there, as well as presenting an initial mystery (ala Final Fantasy VII), would have added in more context as to why everything is happening.

@hassun said:

Didn't expect you to jump into IX so quickly. I'm curious to see how you'll like this one. Judging from your comments at the end of FFVII I think IX might piss you off on an even greater scale.

OH BOY! Did this turn out to be more true than I would have ever liked. It is worth noting that I don't hate this game. At no point has Final Fantasy IX offended my sense quite like VII and VIII did.

No, there's nothing about FFIX that makes it better than VII or VIII, in fact it's a regressive step backwards with all the Kitase directed FF melodrama making the worst of both worlds. It's just that people are more familiar with the previous two whereas IX was released at an awkward time between the PS1 and PS2 so not as many people played it and it didn't get anywhere near the media coverage because people were already talking about FFX which was out in Japan by the time IX was in the west.

Because of this it has a bit of protected status because it is never given the same scrutiny so fans of it can proclaim it "the good one" without anywhere near as much backlash from those who hate the FF series. But anyone with a little care to objective criticism can see the deep flaws in it's design and the the rushed nature of being put together while most of Square were working on FFX and PlayOnline.

The flaws are certainly there, yes, but I appreciate how much love and care was injected into Final Fantasy IX. The excitability of the characters is slightly infectious, and the worlds in Final Fantasy IX are far more fully realized than anything in Final Fantasy VII or VIII. The fact that the game is actually an homage to the past is a bit lost to me. Had I played a 16-bit era Final Fantasy game then maybe I would have a greater appreciation for its more rigid and tradition mechanics, but as it stands it a bitter pill to swallow coming from Final Fantasy VII and VIII. There are other times where I suspect that the game is outright refrencing previous games, and I have no idea how to respond to that.

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Sometimes I feel like the only person who prefers Tetra Master to Triple Triad. Granted the fact that the game never clues you in that cards have hidden values and how they're calculated is garbage.

I do think the first few hours feel overly scripted and constraining, but gets better relatively after that from what I recall. Also, Quina is the shit, and Eiko and Steiner actually grow to be surprisingly likable characters.

Biggest knock I have against the game is how much it tries to reference the older games. If it had more originality in the story department it might have been my favorite FF.

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Oh and here's the Bullshit(tm) I remember, because I was one of those assholes that bought the guides by whatever publisher did those guides for games like this that listed everything.

1. Tetra master is hot garbage and pointless. I cannot remember a single good thing about it, and my suspicion is that they put it in because 8 had a card game, so they had to have one but made it one bigger. I vaguely recall having what i thought was a solid play, only for RNGesus to appear and the AI to flip all my cards over against me.

2. Chocobo treasure hunt stuff is not hot garbage, and of all the "mini game side quest things" of the post FF6 games I've played, it's frankly the best, mostly because it's easy and you don't get attacked while you're doing it.

2a. Oh no wait, chocobo stuff is garbage because IIRC you have to get chocobos from a highly specific place first? Cool.

3. The game goes through at least three primary antagonists, the motivations of which aren't clear at all.

4. There is a weird ass cinematic at the end of disc 2 that looks COMPLETELY out of place.

5. Ozma requires a HIGHLY SPECIFIC SETUP to survive/kill. Ozma, unlike all the other "ultimate" bosses I've seen in the other games, looks like trash.

6. the red haired rasta dude is cool?

7. there is some bullshit involving coins with zodiac symbols, and delivering letters for mogs because of course there is.

8. what exactly is fat queen's problem

Play FF10 if you don't hate yourself after this.

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3. The game goes through at least three primary antagonists, the motivations of which aren't clear at all.

No, they definitely made their motivations clear. Brahne's is kind of a joke, and I had to look it up to even remember what was up with her, but the other two were fine from what I remember.

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2a. Oh no wait, chocobo stuff is garbage because IIRC you have to get chocobos from a highly specific place first? Cool.

Well, not quite. ZombiePie, the following is details about the Chocobo minigame that I'm sure you've encountered, I'm going to spoiler it in case you don't want to explore it more before looking things up.

You get the chocobo from Chocobo Forest, which is fairly early on. From there, you can summon Choco at any set of Chocobo tracks on the world map. They are pretty easy to see, and appear in most locations, but I don't know how they appear in the PC version. Resolution might kill them. When you have Choco, you can dig up treasure maps and then look for treasure on the world map, which is where you can find upgrades to Choco.

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Really glad to see you do another of these ZP, and this is an interesting one for me as it's the first FF you are playing that I didn't actually like as a kid.

You are almost at the point I gave up in my only attempt to play this game, so will be curious to see how you do!

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Whenever i play FF9, i eventually end up at the ropeskipping minigame and spend 1-2 hours on it

Then i get frustrated and stop playing FF9.

Also, Tetra Master is terrible. I checked the actual rules behind it, and it's just not a game. If you have an attack damage of 150, it means you can deal between 0 and 150 points of damage. So if you're going up against a guy with 100 defense, you still have a huge chance that you won't deal more than 100 damage. On top of that, it's very easy to lose your cards. Fun game guys!

It always boggles my mind when people talk fondly about this card game. Triple Triad is at least somewhat customizable and easier to understand. You might not like the random rule, or the plus combo stuff, but you probably enjoy some variant of that game.

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#44 ZombiePie  Staff

Vivi's a really great character. FFIX is one of the few FFs - one of the few games, also - that I would describe as having "heart," and that's almost single-handedly due to Vivi. There's some other stuff that lands right, but Vivi more or less carries this game.

God, given your meltdowns at the end of VII and VIII, I can't wait to read your reaction to the ending of this one.

Final Fantasy IX's heart is probably my favorite aspect of the game. At every turn or moment it attempts to draw towards the character by having them depict some form of humanity. My issue stems from the fact that everyone else falls flat, at least where I am at right now, in comparison to Vivi.

At this point, endings to Final Fantasy games are like pretzels: they're all the same.

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@quarters said:

Played FFVII, beat it, enjoyed it. Played FFVIII, beat it, loved it. Played FFIX...for about 10-15 hours, determined I hated all of the characters and the plot they were encased in, and proceeded to stop playing it. Everything about it just seemed incredibly boring. Sure, VII and VIII are flawed, but at least they have some craziness to them to spice it up. IX is just generic fantasy tropes.

I WANT THIS GAME TO GET DUMB! Like Final Fantasy VIII levels of stupid! I know that that's never going to happen, but the first disc needs so much more energy than what is actually there. So much of it feels like "generic fantasy game in a world of fantasy!" It really doesn't help that the game's characters don't get interesting until disc two.

As for tropes being thrown at you non-stop in the beginning...quite frankly I feel like FF9 is the one that can get away with it the most. I think most FFs have or try to carry a light theater play feel to them. FF4 has a deus ex machina sequence, FF6 has the opera, FF7 lightly name dropped Loveless, FF12 has a spoken exit stage right line along with the villain essentially fill his role because he has to. While FF9 front and center shows you a traveling theater troupe with sort of a play within a play opening. It is almost a parody. At some point you either accept the tropes because of the effectiveness they provide, the stereotype, the convenient story telling, Chekhov's gun included :p or rejects it and therefore concludes that nearly every piece of fiction written since the ancient times regardless of the name of its writer, fame, and legacy are all subject to the same criticism, therefore they are all just as terrible. (Take that English class!) Every game story, every movie, every novel, every play. Everything. Is. Shit.

Picking equipment is kind of tricky. You could eventually end up with so many gear that scrolling through them takes forever, and keeping track of who have what skill and who needs to learn what skill is also kind of cumbersome. Optimize I think only consider the stat, and I think it prioritize spirit and defense or maybe a raw highest number overall. As you noticed, equipping certain gear allow different characters to access and learn skills, and with enough AP they will have access to the skill without needing the piece of gear, but you still have to toggle on and off and juggle between what support abilities they can have active limited by the number of magic stones you have. And unless they changed it in the PC version, as a fuck you move, you actually DON'T want to level early on because magic stones are given base on characters leveling and are not retroactive for members jointing later.

Wow...your discussion of the tropes of Final Fantasy games really has me excited to play more. At this point I hope that my preference for storytelling has become nakedly transparent. I enjoy a clear and cohesive narrative that follows a scaffold that front-loads information to the audience before it reveals its answers. While I can accept that the Final Fantasy franchise will never accomplish this; I am going to continue to provide my perspective regarding my storytelling preferences. I mean...where's the fun in me just giving up?

I am already having issues with the equipment system. I have a bunch of crap, and my inventory is a cluttered mess. At this point I just select the "OPTIMIZE" button and hope for the best, because I sure as Hell am not going to be able to parse any of this out.

Also, can I stop using Quina? Getting all of Quina's attacks is a giant pain in the ass, and I don't think I actually want to go through the time and effort of making Quina good in combat?

Also, you're going to have to begrudgingly admit that you like Final Fantasy a little bit because I find it implausible that anyone would hate themselves so much as to subject themselves to this if they weren't getting something good out of it.

This blog series is going to be the end of me. I'm not joking, but I honestly think it is going to kill me. So no....NEVER!

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@jesna said:

Haven't had time to read the whole manifesto yet, but to comment on few things I saw while skimming:

1. Tetra Master can be fun, but it's certainly no triple triad.

2. I genuinely think all the characters (sans maybe 1 late game addition) are charming and engaging, with Vivi being the obvious highlight. Hopefully the later parts of the game helps you warm up to the rest of the cast.

3. I think your desire for more grit in the early parts of the game as some means of improvement is completely subjective and a tiny bit silly. Starting with an upbeat tone can help you connect to characters more naturally, and the game has dozens of hours to insert grit or conflict or what have you.

4. There should be options to speed up the battles? Especially in the PC version. The game is indeed a bit slower than your prior experiences.

5. The customization for battles is mostly in character choice and abilities, you can have very different gameplans for fights depending on party make-up. Certainly less free form than 7 or 8, but it makes the characters have more of an identity I find.

I'll try to get through the whole blog soon, keep on keeping on ZP.

Alright let's annotate my response as well:

  1. Tetra Master could have been better if the card combat system was not tied to a die roll, and there weren't stones that blocked off parts of the map. So basically it should have just been Tetra Master.
  2. I will confirm that SOME of the characters get better by Disc Two. That said...one of the characters that the game introduces in Disc Two IS A FREAKING BUMMER!
  3. I mention grit only as an example or alternative. Without a secondary theme or element much of the first disc feels one-note. It quickly became apparent that Disc One was the exposition of the story, and much of that expositional information occurred during info dumps which I found to be boring, but to each their own.
  4. These options still do not change the fact that the ATP meter is tied to the Speed trait, and that trait takes forever to get to a respectable level.
  5. My perspective is that the game should be more transparent as to what those intended identities are, and which articles of equipment best reinforce the characters.

Oh yeah, another thing that I don't like about this game: stealing items in Final Fantasy games is never fun. The success rate is low, and it's just an RNG grind of doing the same command over and over until it works, often prolonging battles far longer than they have any right to last. And in this one, since the primary protagonist is a thief with the Steal ability, you're incentivized to use it all the time because tons of good equipment is locked behind it. Like, I think every single boss is worth using Steal on. Steal is something that should have been removed from this era of Final Fantasy games, not doubled down on.

DUDE WORD! It would be one thing if stealing wasn't that big of an issue, but practically every boss has some sort of game breaking item that makes your party a beast for at least two hours! If you are going to do that, AND have the protagonist be a thief, then it makes zero sense that the steal rate is as low as it is! Some boss battle ended up taking FOREVER just due to me trying to steal every item. This compounded my issues with the game's combat system already feeling sluggish in the first place.

@zombiepie: The ATB meter being tied so closely to the Speed state is a real downer for the first disc. The gear drops that lead to the skill unlocks will start to show up that makes that meter much more manageable. I am fresh off a FFIX playthrough within the last six months, so a lot of those early game pains are still quite vivid.

@cloudymusic: Have to learn that Mug ability. It is a hell of a grind to unlock it (200 AP I think) but the ability to just have regular attacks do the stealing for you is worth it.

It comforts me to hear you say this because for the longest time I thought that I was just crazy for not enjoying the gameplay. Every time the game has a boss battle where you only control one character I am reminded of how long it takes for the meters to fill up, as well as how much "dead time" exists in every combat scenario. I have it on good authority that this will improve, but I still do not enjoy playing Final Fantasy IX.

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Zeik

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#45  Edited By Zeik

@zombiepie: I've played through FF9 at least a half dozen times and I don't think I've ever really used Quina and I've definitely never bothered to get every single skill. He/she does have a few strong skills, but don't feel like it's necessary to build him/her if you don't want to bother. It's just going to feel like a drag if you're already struggling with other parts of the game. At the most I'd grab a couple of the good, but easy to acquire skills.

Anyway, as an unabashed fan of FF9 (and the only Final Fantasy I have any true affection for) there's a part of me that wants to go full defense force on some of the stuff mentioned here, but I think I'll just sit back and see how things play out as you get farther.

There is a common thread going on in these comments that I'm finding pretty obnoxious though: Detractors claiming the only two reasons anyone likes this game is because you're a fan of old-school Final Fantasy and Vivi. Now I won't deny that Vivi is the best part of the game, but if there was nothing else to like about it I would never be so fond of it as a whole. And my introduction to FInal Fantasy was VII and I don't think I had gone back to any earlier games before playing IX (if I did they didn't leave much of an impression), so there was no old-school nostalgia in play that affected my feelings toward this one compared to VII.

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@zombiepie: yeah, the speed stat thing becomes less noticeable as the game progresses.

In regards to the fifth point, the abilities you unlock with the gear are important, but I totally agree they can be hard to parse at first. Still a good idea to learn as many as you can manage.

The archetypal nature of the characters should make their roles easier to understand at least. Steiner, Zidane, and Freya hit hard and have special physical attacks, Vivi blasts stuff, Garnet has big summons and ok support, eiko has ok summons and monstrous support. Quina is an odd duck because s/he can be very powerful and flexible depending on what s/he eats. All characters serve a purpose and can usually synergize with each other in interesting ways.

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#47  Edited By McHampton

I liked FFIX for a long time. I used to play it probably once a year throughout my teens because what else is time good for? The last time I played it though I noticed the ATB system was broken, and it ruined it for me.

The ATB gauge never pauses during attack animations as in the previous games, and anything that isn't a physical attack takes long enough that everyone gets their turn again before the rest of your party and the enemies are even done using theirs.

This means you will never get two turns in a row unless you only use one of your party members and they only do actions with fast animations and you have a high speed stat and/or haste magic. Since no normal player would play the game in such a way, the speed stat and haste magic are useless and I hate Final Fantasy IX.

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#48  Edited By Zirilius

I haven't touched this game in years so I could totally be wrong. As I haven't actually played it in well over 15 years I just remember being super excited after disc 1 and then super disappointed after disc 3. Pretty much everything about that game is a blur except for Alexendar and the first part where dude gets turned into stone. I can tell you vivid details of just about every other Final Fantasy game I've played except this one.

@zirilius said:
@dudeglove said:

this fucking game. this fucking first disc, even.

First disc is great and then it all goes to shit.

As someone who has just completed the second disc, I respectfully disagree.

Now that the game has a clear antagonist I'm looking forward to the game committing itself towards something...I don't know what that "something" is, but it's better than whatever the heck the game attempted to do for its first twenty hours.

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Steiner is a high strung pompous ass and I love him. I will say that he is a character that I enjoyed immensely more on my second playthrough. I can assure you that he does grow and change as a character and that may make stomaching him a bit easier. You are also right about Vivi being the best character in the game. Vivi is arguably the best character in the entire series. In fact it is Zidane's interactions with Vivi that made me like Zidane a lot more as a character. Zidane is a bit of a weak protagonist, though. He isn't as insufferable as Squall, but he definitely is not as interesting as Cloud. Zidane is simply just sort of there. At least, for the most part of the game. The real meat of his character story comes towards the later half of the game and to be honest it is a bit of a slog to play through. Zidane's past is nowhere near as compelling or intriguing as Cloud. But hey, there is no orphanage level bullshit.

I can't wait to see what you think of Quina. What a garbage fire of a character.

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I have been reading the blog since FF VII and have been thoroughly entertained. Even when there are things that I disagree with I find it hilarious. I think of zombiepie as a charactercher of a video game reviewer not unlike Stephen Colbert playing a right wing talk show host on the Colbert Report. No real person can be so anguished by original PlayStation games! The true zombiepie does come out when he finds something about these games that he truly enjoys (like ViVi) and you get a glimpse of the game lover in us all.

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