The Best Final Fantasy Game Was Overlooked When It Released
By Jason Collins | 3 weeks ago
More than two decades have passed since Final Fantasy IX was released on the original PlayStation console, and the game is still considered the best entry in the entire franchise. That’s no small feat, of course, considering the sheer number of installments within the franchise, technological advancements in the gaming industry, and the fact that each installment in the franchise is drastically different from its predecessor. So what exactly does Final Fantasy IX stand out from other versions of the franchise?
Well, let’s start by saying that the fandom isn’t exactly a united front when it comes to their favorite franchise, thanks to the drastic changes Square Enix introduced in later releases. Final Fantasy VII aimed to prevent an environmental disaster; its sequel is a love story; FFXI was an MMO experience, while FFXII dabbled in the Star Wars aesthetic. Without forgetting that FFXIV is yet another MMO experience, which was pulled from sales for being too popular. Corn Final Fantasy IX was the only one who managed to unite the franchise’s fandom under one banner.
Granted, the game isn’t of much interest to a casual gamer, but playing Final Fantasy IX is a must for those who wish to invest time and emotions in the franchise. In truth, it’s probably the most definitive Final Fantasy experience ever, being favored by both diehard fandom and Hironobu Sakaguchi, the series creator. But why? Well, because it managed to take all the things that made its predecessors and contemporaries great and blend them into one interactive narrative.
Right off the bat, we’re introduced to the game in stark contrast to the style of its predecessors, with its airships, fortified kingdoms, armored guards, counter FFVII and FFVIIIin frame filled with cyberpunk neon lights. Unlike most game franchises, which push things further on aesthetics and gameplay complexity, Final Fantasy IX actually celebrated its aesthetic roots by blending the old school art seen in 80s 8-bit games with the graphics capabilities of the PlayStation console. It should also be noted that the game had the most stable graphics and a consistent aesthetic on the PlayStation console, which many of its predecessors and contemporaries lacked.
Final Fantasy IXThe game system was completely different. Unlike many games in the Final Fantasy franchise and other games of the RPG genre, Final Fantasy IX had non-standard game mechanics that worked beautifully. The gear system was one of those mechanics; instead of having their old gear become obsolete as soon as you acquired a new one, players were encouraged to diversify their gear and use different parts for different scenarios. This made the gaming experience much more complex and immersive since players had to pay attention to small details instead of just researching the stats offered by their gear.
The game centered on four characters, introduced during a stage performance at the start of the game. Zidane, a monkey-tailed thief, seeks to kidnap the princess; Vivi, a young dark mage, just wants to enjoy some entertaining theater; Steiner, a royal knight, seeks to foil Zidane’s plot; and last but not least, Princess Garnet, who actually wants to be kidnapped. Of course, this simple plot evolves into one of colossal proportions, a beautifully imagined and polished amalgamation of typical JRPG narratives, which only becomes more complicated as it unfolds and is enhanced by character development. of its protagonists.
Naturally, the four characters coalesce around a common goal, which allowed for four-way group combat. Each character had their own set of skills depending on the many variables within their respective classes. The game world was vast, truly wonderful, and beautifully functional considering its size and PlayStation’s processing capabilities. However, the whole game had some drawbacks. Fandom at the time didn’t appreciate the old-school art style, seeing it as a massive downgrade of the anime-inspired art the series is known for. And this, despite its impeccable graphics performance.
The second point of contention was the fact that the game was released only a year before the release of Final Fantasy X— a next-gen experience released on the world’s best-selling console of all time, the PlayStation 2. Gamers didn’t want to spend their money on the unattractive Final Fantasy IX when they could wait a year and get their hands on the brand new Final Fantasy X and all the many features the new game had to offer. It set aside Final Fantasy IX for a while, and it took time for the gaming community to recognize the true value of the game.
Why is it the best?
For one, it was released on the original PlayStation, the same console that brought the entire series to the mainstream gaming scene. Second, it was Squaresoft’s swansong release, and finally, it managed to unite the whole Final Fantasy fandom, which is no small feat. It was a celebration of the entire Final Fantasy franchise, encapsulating the experience of the entire series in a single game while simultaneously delivering a fresh new narrative and maintaining a sense of originality.