Thanks to Jaghat for the inspiration!
They’re similar. Not in terms of gameplay necessarily. Final Fantasy IX is painfully slow, while Final Fantasy XIII is frantically fast. The fanbase swings between high and science fantasy. No one seems to hate both, and not many seem to love both. Most people either love one or hate the other. With Final Fantasy IX, the majority either loves it, force love for it due to hivemind groupthink, or ignore it. Final Fantasy XIII, the majority either hates it, force hate for it due to hivemind groupthink, or ignore it. The minority are generally the outlier.
But because they have such a similar contrast despite their style, and come to similar conclusions. Each focuses on story other interesting gameplay. The stories aren’t terrible, but take primacy over the gameplay with has been lackluster at best.
Both will choose your team for you until almost towards the end. And in any case, you’ll level your characters in nearly the same way. In Final Fantasy XIII, you’re down a corridor. But in Final Fantasy IX, even with the illusion of freedom, your character progression is roughly on rails. For example, Freya was at roughly the same level in every area as my subsequent playthroughs. This is very much like in Final Fantasy IV, which makes the gameplay feel bland. But Final Fantasy IV was the thing back then.
Neither game really feels like Final Fantasy games. Sure, Final Fantasy IX is the “love letter” of the series, but saying so doesn’t mean it feels this way. It has a great story. The design aesthetics was out of step from the traditional Amano/Nomura powerhouse combination. And as for Final Fantasy XIII…not sure what they were trying to do. Maybe Square Enix was trying to explore their risk-taking roots by moving away from its roots. It’s as if they were trying to subvert iconic themes in favor of an anime style. Sometimes FInal Fantasy IX and XIII give off a vibe of cheap knockoffs.
Don’t get me wrong, the stories in both are great. But the characters in both don’t quite deliver all the themes the story seems to express. In Final Fantasy IX, the characters were too subtle, whereas in Final Fantasy XIII they were over the top melodramatic. But since they either undershoot or oversell the story, the characters seem bland and shallow in comparison. Final Fantasy VIII had bland characters, but what we weren’t expecting much from them. Even worst, Zidane and Lightning are painfully one-dimensional leads, of who the latter only slightly has more depth. The secondary characters, Sazh and Vivi, two black mages, could have made better protagonists. Instead, most of the other characters are either forgettable or memorable for being so poor.
Both games were very low selling on their respective consoles. At least Final Fantasy IX had Playstation 2 as an excuse. Final Fantasy XIII was PlayStation 3’s Final Fantasy generation, and they’ve had three chances to get it right.