Thanks to kerokaze for the inspiration!
I wrote this post a while back about Final Fantasy VIII. Now I think I’ll come around to the next game in the series.
I know a lot of people think about Final Fantasy VIII sticks out simply because of the game mechanics. But I don’t think anyone can deny that, in the beginning, some fans noticed Final Fantasy IX as different.
Let’s consider the reasons:
Final Fantasy IX came out at the tail end of the PS1, and only had a few commercials promoting it. For whatever reason, Squaresoft and Sakaguchi himself didn’t consider this game to be strong enough to promote like the others. So for a while, it seemed like the forgotten Final Fantasy.
The Logo Design
This remains the only logo NOT designed by Yoshitaka Amano. With its darker outlines and line weight, it shows. It looks like a well done imitation, but still seems out-of-place in the mainline series.
Final Fantasy VI, VII and VIII were pretty fast, and kept getting faster with each progression. Then the combat slows to a crawl (really) in IX and then jumps up with X. I think even Final Fantasy I and II are faster after inputting your commands. Final Fantasy IX was so slow, some people left it behind.
Low Technological World
Final Fantasy IX was jarring in this respect. Final Fantasy I – VIII seemed to be following a progression from the Medieval to Modern era. And then Final Fantasy IX reverted the series to the past. Had Final Fantasy IX came after VI, I think more people would have recognised its place in history. However, it came out during a time when people expected more science fantasy elements.
Some people appreciated the Final Fantasy tropes. Others wished Final Fantasy IX spent more time making a name for itself since every Final Fantasy references itself. New fans brought up on Final Fantasy VII and VIII just didn’t get the nostalgia. Some of them would eventually play the true old school games. But others found it forced and inauthentic, shrugged and left it alone.
The Main Character
Cecil was a warrior looking for redemption for his past misdeeds. Terra and Cloud were amnesiacs military persons with a dark past. Squall was a mercenary, with an undercurrent of emotions speeding through his head. Zidane, a cheerful skirt chasing thief, seemed out-of-place among these main characters. Even afterwards in the series, we see an almost unstable teenager with “daddy issues” in the otherwise chipper Tidus. Zidane was refreshing, but just seems to stick out as too colourful.
The Whimsical Designs
Here’s where I think people need to give Final Fantasy IX a chance. Yet, I don’t blame them if they didn’t. Final Fantasy IX’s designs are creative and seem like something out of a storybook. But when you’re a teen, you’re trying to shake the idea of being a little kid. So a lot of people avoided it. The other game with Final Fantasy IX’s aesthetic is Crystal Chronicles…and we rarely talk about those games.
Weird tonal shifts are nothing new in Final Fantasy. Remember when Cloud crossdresses shortly after blowing up reactors? But the difference is I think the writers of Final Fantasy IX knew better. The game makes corny and cheesy jokes, but then pontificates on existential themes. Some people may say Final Fantasy IX doesn’t take itself seriously, but I don’t think this is accurate. Final Fantasy VIII is a quirky game with silly characters and rarely lets up. Final Fantasy IX has a lot of deep and well done scenes which beg thoughtful introspection. And then it reverts back to low brow characteristics.
A lot of fans didn’t find Final Fantasy IX very memorable. Final Fantasy VII, VIII and IX all had memorable openings. But I think Final Fantasy VII and VIII had more memorable scenes overall. Vivi’s scene is perhaps the best in the game, happens on disc 1 and then…what?
And there you have it. Reasons why Final Fantasy IX, a classic game, still sticks out as at times.