I can still say this game great. But it doesn’t always feel apart of the series. I’m not talking about the so-called “kiddie designs”; they’re unique and whimsical. But unlike Final Fantasy XV, Final Fantasy IX still seems like a spinoff. So why? I think it’s because of how Final Fantasy IX went about tackling the themes.
Final Fantasy Versus XIII was a “mature” story about death and insanity. They removed the themes for Final Fantasy XV, but you can still see traces of them.
Final Fantasy IX was a side story to interest the younger kids. When they decided to push another Final Fantasy out for the Playstation 2, it became Final Fantasy IX. I think this is the real reason Squaresoft didn’t promote the game much. Either way, the whimsical designs and character models stayed, but so did the childish character depictions. In order to give it a much more meaningful touch, they overlaid a thoughtful existential story over it.
And the existential storyline is the starting point to where I think everything should have changed. There’s an idea here that underneath the calm and pretty is something disturbing and unsettling. Sometimes, it tries. Other times, Final Fantasy IX has weird tonal shifts. Childish humor, boring exposition, exciting scenes and then thoughtful introspection. All done without changing how the characters meaningfully adapt.
johnnie_walker35 made a great point, when they said:
Final Fantasy has a lot of one note characters, but some in IX don’t have any notes at all. Does Amarant bring anything to the table? At all? Is Steiner anything else other than a boring oafish Knight? Zidane fits that same mold for me, I didn’t really dig him, maybe he was too flippant. Vivi was cool, bittersweet. Freya started off interesting and I really dug her but it felt like she didn’t get enough focus after her introduction. Quina was eyerolling bad. There is inverting Final Fantasy and then there is homages to the past that miss the mark. To me Zidane and IX missed the mark.
First, I would have given the characters more depth. As it stands, Vivi is perfect. The only thing I’d change is giving him more screentime.
Speaking of Zidane, I wish they would have gave his cheerfulness a bit of depth. I wish Zidane intellectually knew the difference between right and wrong, but didn’t feel it for reason we’d later find out. Steiner was a goofy idiot bodyguard until the script wrote that out of him. What if he were an insufferable prick with a loving side, seeing Garnet as his own daughter? Then his protectiveness would have been personal. Maybe show scenes where Queen Brahne built up his esteem as her chosen knight?
I wish Garnet would have slapped Zidane after grabbing her butt (to show her paranoid nature). What if Garnet were a lot more manipulative and conniving behind her naivety? Later, she understands not to be like her mother, to have real confidence and to trust others. What if Freya were given an arc to live her life with meaning without Sir Fratley, but yet agreed to still be with him out of love? I wouldn’t change Eiko either; she fits wanting a life with meaning.
I’d make Amarant a recurring NPC who provided more of Zidane’s character and backstory. But he’s good to have in your party. Give him even more undercurrents of how to live a meaningful life, beyond just spouting out nihilism. And instead of making Quina solely the comically relief, give him/her more poignant scenes. Show s/he knew the meaning of life beyond his/her apparent stupidity. They shouldn’t have to hide Quina’s scenes, as they fill out a lot of the concepts in the story.
Do you get what I’m hinting at here? A lot of the characters are in a story about finding meaning. They have arcs, yet most don’t show any meaningful development in a way which fits the story. Most children’s stories actually do this, which I’m sure is leftover from Final Fantasy IX’s “gaiden” stage. I’d make the characters of Final Fantasy IX more meaningful in relation to the story. The scenes may earn Final Fantasy IX a T rating, but with less depth.
Sure, Zidane is a cheerful protagonist. But how meaningful is his happiness when he has somewhat of a bad backstory told off screen? Why don’t we talk more about how Zidane overcame his nihilism? In children’s programs, the main character is almost never wrong, even when they clearly do bad things. Contrast this against Cecil, Terra, Cloud, Squall, Tidus and even Lightning. Even Laguna was neglectful…
This unrelenting “happiness” might be the reason why I hear people talk about the story with so very fuzzy happy feelings, rather than meaningfully and introspectively (with exceptions). I used to think people were trying to force a narrative of exaggerating Final Fantasy IX’s importance to the series. Instead, I think it’s because some people really don’t remember the story, only how it made them feel. When you’re older, you need something meaningful and believable to latch onto.
Either way, I enjoy Final Fantasy IX. But sometimes, I feel slightly empty after finishing the game. I don’t force myself to repress my disappointment and inauthentically praise the game. I opt to understand why Final Fantasy IX doesn’t quite move me personally. And looking for the meaning for why Final Fantasy IX feels different is satisfying enough to keep in my collection.
This is just what I see about how I could change Final Fantasy IX. But, I’ve set my standards too high, so I think there’s room for more Final Fantasy titles to come.
Oh yeah, and I’d make the game much faster with less random encounters ;P that’s the end of my week long Final Fantasy IX analysis. Thanks for reading, everyone!