Final Fantasy IX: a trip down Memory Lane

First of all, it’s my 4 year anniversary with Justin [yes we got married on SUPER pi day, I did marry a math teacher after all]

What I posted on Facebook sums up our marriage pretty well:

From Colorado to Big bend to Yosemite to Yellowstone to Utah to Alaska to Disney World, here’s to many more years of zany adventures with my best friend. From cancer to the death of a pet to the loss of a future child to buying a house to money woes to moving across the country to all sorts of job stress, we’ve been through so much together and it’s just made us stronger. Happy 4 year anniversary to us, and here’s to many many more.

To celebrate, we’re going out for Hibachi tonight [it was my choice this year, last years was Justin’s choice and we wound up at Fogo de Chao] and then going to eat the angelfood cake I made yesterday [Justin’s favorite] for desert.

But this entry isn’t about me [though it being my blog, technically  means everything is about me], it’s a review of my favorite video game of all time: Final Fantasy IX.

Final Fantasy IX came out in 2000. I specifically remember it coming out because I was a freshman in college and it’s basically all I did over winter break. I remember being stuck in the desert place with the candelabra puzzles, and being on AIM with the guy who I was sort of into at the time, and complaining I was never ever going to beat that place. And these were days before you could use online walkthroughs.

 

We had it for PlayStation [the ORIGINAL PlayStation, thank you very much] and our PlayStation was a special snowflake, and it would often freeze during the cut scenes, and we’d have to open the Playstation case to skip the cut scenes. Also, the original PlayStation had CDS and game CDS got scratched s easily, and it wasn’t unusual that I would have to buy a used CD at GameStop or something because my 2nd CD was too scratched to play- and most JRPG games had multiple CDS for each game.

Final Fantasy games, in general have always been a HUGE part of my life. My dad got the original Final Fantasy for NES back in the late 80s.

My brother and I would OBSESSIVELY watch him play it for hours upon hours, we were fascinated by it. I remember I had a hole in my  closet wall at that time in my life because our bathtub was leaking or something was wrong with the pipes and the hole opened up over the family room where the NES was, as well as my closet because my room was right next to the bathroom, and when I was supposed to be asleep, I’d sit in my closet and listen to my dad play the game because I was afraid of missing it. I think my dad’s probably played the original FF over 100 times with I don’t even know how many combinations of teams, he even has an old school gameboy sp [that he stole from me] so he could play the game when the remake came out for gameboy.

My “first” Final Fantasy was FF2 for SNES aka FFIV in Japan, probably the most well-known of the “older” final fantasy games, followed by FFVI, which was known as FF3 in the US, and I remember at the time I was taking biology in 7th grade and named all the characters after different bones in the human body [radius, tibia, etc].

FFIX is my favorite final fantasy game of all-time. It’s a throwback to what the original final fantasy was, for the most part, and there are tons of Easter eggs if you’re a big enough nerd like me throughout the entire game to the first final fantasy.  I know that Final Fantasy VII seems to be the “fan-favorite”, and I mean that’s not a bad game, but it was the biggest offender in the switch to actual “fantasy” to more science fiction based games, and I still played the shit out of it. I was one of the few people, who enjoyed Final Fantasy VIII, though I hated how at the end of the game, so much of the explorable world was cut-off.  I liked Final Fantasy X because it was sort of the old “fantasy” meets the new “science” and I was highly amused by the sphere grid. I never played XI because it was a computer based game and I’ve never been one for games that I have to rely on the keyboard entirely for because of my shitty as hell hand eye coordination and real-time event skills. I played XII for a total of maybe 30 minutes before I decided I hated it because it was too different from the old school final fantasies. My brother tried to get me to play XII, he even bought me the guide to play it with [you know back when you had to actually BUY game guides for games from game stores or book stores] to try to get me to give it a try, but I couldn’t, and haven’t played it to this day. FFXIII grew on me, but I had to play it about three times before I actually started to enjoy the game because it was also so different from the older games.  I didn’t play XIV because it was a MMO and I’m just not into those. I started XVI, and I enjoyed the little bit I played [I think I’m in Chapter 4?] but then real-life took over and I just never bothered to go back to it, and I won’t go into my love of Kingdom Hearts even though it’s vaguely related to FF games.

Anyhow, moving on.

Recently Final Fantasy IX has been released for the switch, though I also owned it for my PS3, the PSP, and Steam, regardless I still bought the Switch version.

Let’s start with gameplay.

Gameplay is pretty simple. You can use either the directional pad or a joystick to move the characters. You can basically just continually press “A” mindlessly to fight battle. Your characters gain experience to gain levels via battles. You learn different abilities through various equipped weapons, armor, accessories, etc. The abilities can be equipped to give you things like a counter attack, resistance to poison, etc. It’s very user-friendly.  You also use “A” to talk to people, explore things, open treasures, etc.

There is also an optional card game that can be played. The switch version actually gives a card icon over a NPCs head if they are a card player, which I found nice. The card game itself is… special? It’s mostly random. Cards get random points attached to them, sometimes cards level up and get stronger. The card game itself doesn’t really do much for you. It’s more of a completionist thing, if you’re a completionist, you’ll probably want to get every single card in the game, and there are various side quests to obtain all the cards in the game, but other than that, you really just get bragging rights. If you are really into the card game, there are a lot of guides on the interwebs you can look up to teach you. I enjoy the card game, personally, but I don’t obsess over it. However, when my dad played FFIX, he obsessively collected every single card, so to each their own.

There are built-in cheats within the Switch version, and it’s really easy to accidentally turn those cheats on, so be warned about that?

There are a lot of mini-games. The chocobo hot & cold game is one of those, and I’ve never actually played it, so I can’t tell you how annoying or easy it is to play, but it’s necessary to play if you want most of the characters best weapons as well as rare cards for the card game. I have no real reason for never trying it, other than it’s very time-consuming, and I lack patience, most of the time.

Edit March 16th, 2019: I tried to chocobo hot & cold game, and it’s okay? I think it’s sort of irksome at times, thanks to the RNG, especially in the initial chocobo forest, and at times that led me to extreme frustration, but the chocobo lagoon and chocobo air garden seemed to have much better odds. Thanks to the hot & cold game, I was able to get three characters ultimate weapons before I even finished Disc Three [Steiner, Freya, & Dagger], and I also got some rare weapons/armors, tons of gemstones, which make your summon’s attack higher [I don’t really play with summons though], and a bunch of rare cards for the game. It only took me about two days to complete every single chocograph. So in conclusion, this miniquest can drive you absolutely insane with frustration through the RNG, but it does get better, and it does lead to some decent rewards. However, finding the chocograph locations is a bit of a pain, and for that reason, I recommend using this website to better spot them on your map. So now that I have the gold chocobo, I’ll be able to complete the mooglenet side quest and eventually fight/learn ARK, if I so desire, as well as eventually get Zidane’s best weapon on Disc 4. So for that reason, I think it’s worth it to do, but I would wait til the end of Disc 3, when you have the airship, so it drives you less insane than it would other wise. Also, the switch has start-menu built-in cheats, so when you pause the game, you can turn off/on certain cheats, I used the high speed cheat for finding chocographs, you move 3x as fast, and it doesn’t affect the timer, and it made the whole chocograph finding thing a lot less annoying, so I recommend that for your sanity’s sake.

There’s also a built-in challenge, where if you can get the the final dungeon in under 12 hrs, you can get one of the characters’ best weapons, but ONLY if you can get to the final dungeon within the time-limit. As someone who loves to level and spends hours learning abilities and getting up levels, this has never appealed to me at all, but it can be done, and it is easier with built-in-cheats such as no battles.

Graphics are very 90s-esque? The switch version did get an HD update, so now I notice details on characters throughout the game that I never noticed before. So it’s more like… Oh damn, that was supposed to be a mustache? I never knew.  The game itself is pre-rendered backgrounds that represent towns and dungeons. Then there are very 90s cut-scenes that occur throughout the story for big events. The remake very much kept the old-school nostalgic feel of the original game, and I personally love that they didn’t redo the entire game like they are planning to do with FFVII [if they ever finish it, it’s been announced for years], but just know that the game looks very 90s cheesy and that’s completely intentional.

The Soundtrack is amazing. FFIX to this day has one of my favorite soundtracks out of all the games. The soundtrack was composed by Nobuo Uematsu, who composed the music for basically every final fantasy from the original in 1987 to FFXIV. One of the coolest things about this game is a lot of the tracks from older games have made their way into this game as Easter eggs. I am not embarrassed to admit that I have so many tracks from the various FF soundtracks on my iPod [yes iPod, I don’t need an iPhone when I have a droid. I use a waterproof iPod to work-out, it’s a waterproofed iPod shuffle] and listen to them obsessively [They were always especially great for late night car-rides back in the day, when I was literally the ONLY car on the road when I used to drive to and from NJ/PA almost weekly] My favorite from FFIX is Terra:

The Characters are pretty well-fleshed out for the game. Most of them are deep, and there are a lot of interesting life-lessons to think about throughout the game that were probably meaningless to me in the day, but I can understand and relate to now.

 

 

They each have their own specific job from the various job classes in other Final Fantasy titles . Zidane, the lead character is a thief. Vivi is a black mage. Garnet is a summoner. Steiner is a Paladin. Eiko is a white mage. Quina is a blue mage. Armarant is sort of a jack-of-all-trades, I’d say his job class is the closest to ninja. Freya is a dragoon knight. This is one of the few games, where I would say all the characters are equally as powerful as other characters, and there’s no specific team that’s better than all the other teams, it’s more of your playing preference. For example, I prefer a team of mostly fighters and a white mage, I’ve never really been into magical teams. So I like Zidane [you are forced to use him as the main character], Steiner, Amarant, and Eiko as my preferred team, but when my dad played, his team was Zidane, Quina, Steiner, & Vivi, so it really depends on your personal preference and the way you like to play.

I like how you can rename characters. My dad always used to joke how he could always tell who I was currently crushing on, by what I named the lead male character [in this case it was Zidane]. This is the last game that you can rename characters, but I get that since the later games become a lot more complex and you couldn’t really render full-on cut scenes with voice-acting with a name other than the name that was originally given to a character within the game.

The main bad-ass Kuja is a more interesting and complex character than I had thought when I was younger. I don’t really want to say much because I don’t want to spoil the story, but I find now that I’m older, I can relate to him more. Don’t let his looks distract you from him.

I would say now that I’m older, Kuja has become one of my favorite bad-guys because of how complex he is. I know the whole Final Fantasy world gets a hard-on for Sephiroth from FFVII, but really all he is some super soldier with mommy and daddy issues, who wants to remake and take over the world… there’s really not else there.  And yes, I realize this is a very unpopular opinion.

The Story is amazing and probably one of the deepest stories I have ever played through in a video-game. I didn’t fully grasp how deep the story was when I was younger. I don’t really want to go into depth about the story [and I mean if you’re that curious, you can just google it] because I don’t want to spoil it. I will say that everything you think is the story, really isn’t the story? The story has many twists and turns and the plot isn’t what you initially think it is. And I will say out of ALL the final fantasy games I’ve played, the final dungeon “Memoria” is probably my all-time favorite out of every game because of what it is.

Now of course THE BAD because no video-game is perfect.

Stealing is awful. Zidane’s special attack “thievery” is powered by how many times he successfully steals, and many main bad guys have rare weapons/armor/accessories to steal. Stealing is awful. The rates of successful stealing, especially in main bad guys suck, it’s all an RNG, and there have been times when I’ve literally been in a battle for over an hour because I’m just trying to steal something. I won’t even go into details about how many items or how much MP is wasted keeping my team alive just so I can steal a stupid flute from a giant.

Sometimes a battle takes 30 seconds to a minute to start. I think it’s just some bug from the port they use on the switch to play the game, but it can be really annoying. Also, while we’re talking about battles, I find the rate at which a battle shows up to be atrociously slow. I wish there was a way to up the encounter rate like you can with Bravely Default, for example, but there isn’t, and I’m lucky if I can find two battles within a room of a dungeon, and that’s really annoying when you want to learn abilities or gain levels.

Also, on the topic of leveling, there are times in the game, where basically your entire party is split and you’re supposed to only use certain characters for a certain amount of times due to story-reasons [and I mean for story-reasons, it does make sense, but still….], but that leads to huge differences in levels between your characters, like I’m talking my main party is in the 30s, by the time you get the other characters back, and the characters that got left behind are at like level 18, and it’s a complete time killer to get the weaker characters on par with the characters you were using, and due to the story, it’s not like you really had a choice when you got to use who and when… you don’t get complete access to your party until halfway through act three/disc three, and that’s sort of annoying, in my opinion, especially as somebody who loves to level, and who uses some of the missing characters in their final party.

There are a lot of missable items/side-quests that have to be done at certain times throughout the game, and unless you’re in the know about them, you won’t know about them, so I find it necessary to play with a guide by my side, this one is especially useful, I’ve learned about things I didn’t know existed in all my other playthroughs of this game.

But other than those aforementioned things, I really enjoy this game, and if you’ve ever wondered about Final Fantasy games, this is probably one of the best ones to check out. There’s a switch version, a steam version, the original ps version, a ps4 version, so you can probably find a version that works for you. I highly recommend this game, and have probably replayed it the most out of every single final fantasy game I’ve played.

 

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