Howdy all, it’s been a while since I blogged on GB and after watching @zombiepie, @mento, @arbitrarywater, and @jeffrud keep up their prolific outputs for so many years, I just had to get back in the game. I’m not sure how frequently I’ll be able to put out a full blog. My life has changed a great deal from the years I was putting out a blog a week. However, the last two days of radical change at GB has jumpstarted my will to write. With that preamble out of the way, I’ll get into the point: there have been so many Final Fantasy IX remake rumors the last few months that I’ve been obsessed with what that game could be. As GB’s resident FFIX super fan I’ll go through a few possible scenarios in order from what would make me the least to the most hype. Unfortunately, the order also worked out to be from most to least plausible actual outcome.
1. It’s the FFVIII Remake treatment: Final Fantasy VIII was remade a scant few years ago for modern consoles. The remake basically entailed new character models for the main cast, HD resolution support, some new wonkiness thanks to old assets interacting with new technology, and some quality of life upgrades. This is basically the bare minimum Square Enix could do to create something they could call an FFIX remake. On the one hand, the mobile and Steam releases of FFIX were basically already this exact treatment. On the other hand, Square is notorious for pumping out barely changed re-releases that they can charge full price for. I truly hope this is not what happens, but this seems like the most likely outcome. If this is what comes to pass, I hope they at least do a better job of up-resing the FFIX cast than they did the FFVIII cast.
2. It’s the FFVIII Remake Treatment, but with the Moguri Mod in mind: As I said before, the Steam release of FFIX already incorporated quality of life features, HD resolutions, and new character models for the main cast. However, the modding community around the game managed to breathe new life into it in a way Square didn’t. If you haven’t seen the Moguri Mod, it is one of the most impressive fan updates to an old game I’ve seen in quite some time. A group of fans ran the existing low-res FFIX backgrounds through a Deep Learning image processing algorithm to add HD detail that was lost due to the PS1 era compression that was performed on the original FFIX backgrounds. Since the original FFIX HD backgrounds are lost to time and poor video game code preservation, these new Moguri Mod backgrounds are basically the best we have available. If Square officially incorporated the Moguri Mod, console players would get to experience the best-looking, currently-available version of FFIX. That’s not exactly a revolution, but it’s still pretty darn good. This seems slightly less plausible than the laziest option simply because it isn’t the laziest option.
3. By golly, they found/recreated the original backgrounds: Hey, it’s not impossible that they could have found something on an old hard drive. Or maybe they could actually put in the elbow-grease to re-create the backgrounds somehow. This would be preferable to the Moguri Mod in one major way: some of the new Moguri backgrounds look a bit wonky thanks to the algorithmic nature of the up-resing. Deep Learning is a very impressive technique, but it isn’t perfect. An algorithm can make some odd choices about what it thinks a blurry object is supposed to be and a few backgrounds show the tell-tale squiggles of an algorithmic up-res. A more human touch might provide a better, more deliberate end result. As a result, I think this is the cutoff point where I would actually buy this version of the remake. Sufficient work would have been done and I would get to see something genuinely new in a game I’ve loved for over a decade.
4. HOLY HELL THEY’RE DOING AN FFVII REMAKE, BUT FFIX: This is the least-likely, but more exciting possible outcome. The bones of FFIX’s story and world are very strong and could support a full remake on the level of FFVII Remake. Alexandria, Lindblum, Dali, Burmecia: each of these towns and cities have interesting, diverse populations and iconic looks. Furthermore, the combat system in FFIX was always hamstrung by its PS1 capping animation quality and its fiddly Trance system. Moving the game to an action-oriented, FFVII Remake style system would likely be a boon for modern players. There could even be a significant differentiation from the FFVII Remake combat and leveling systems given FFIX’s increased focus on equipment and iconic character classes rather than the open-ended Materia system. If this is the actual direction of the FFIX remake, I would absolutely flip. Good luck getting me to think about anything else until the game comes out.
From where I’m sitting, these seem like the four most plausible outcomes for the leaked FFIX remake. If you’re a new console owner and haven’t played FFIX, I’d recommend checking it out regardless of which remake we end up getting. If you’re an FFIX super fan like me who’s played the game before, options 3 and 4 are probably where I would recommend re-buying. If you’re not into turn-based RPGs or high fantasy, I would probably only recommend the game if option 4 comes to pass. Then again, if you’re down for some introspection about your own mortality, FFIX is still the first game I would recommend.