Oprainfall Origins: FINAL FANTASY IX

Monday, September 23rd, 2019

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It was several years before I played FINAL FANTASY IX. As a kid, I grew up with video games. When I was really little, around five as far as I remember, my brothers got a Super Nintendo and that would be the first game system I got experience with. We would play Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country, Batman Forever and Super Mario Kart to name a few. A few years later we got a Nintendo 64 to share. On that system, throughout the years we enjoyed Perfect Dark, Mario Party 2, Ocarina of Time, Super Smash Bros, Donkey Kong 64 and many more. We ended up with a lot more N64 games than we did games for the SNES, that’s for sure. Most of my childhood was filled with various titles on those two Nintendo systems and eventually GameCube. It wouldn’t be until I was in middle school that I saw a JRPG. The closest I got to experiencing anything in the realm of JRPGs, I would say, was HYBRID HEAVEN, a sort of RPG-ish game on the N64 from KONAMI. No, I don’t consider Ocarina of Time an RPG. At least to me personally, most Legend of Zelda series entries are more so adventure games. Anyways, one day I ended up with the chance to play FINAL FANTASY IX, my very first true JRPG.

FINAL FANTASY IX | Bahamut

Cinematic story events like this one are when I’d be afraid of the game freezing back in the day.

Now we didn’t have a quality copy of FINAL FANTASY IX. One of my brothers had bought a cheap PS1 off some friend, once all the PlayStation fans were moving onto PS2. Then off another friend he borrowed an extremely glitch filled copy of FINAL FANTASY IX. I’d play FFIX off and on throughout the next few years. I remember always thinking at the known freezing spots or any cinematic scene, “Don’t freeze, don’t freeze, come on keep going,” because that was always when it would freeze. It froze when Black Waltz 3 would be shown in the distance getting ready to come after your airship on the way to Lindblum, when you went to enter Memoria and all the flying dragons came out, and when your party of characters stopped to look at the Alexandria Castle recreation at the beginning of Memoria. There was always some important story scene, mainly the cinematic ones, which you couldn’t get past. Eventually we had two glitched copies of FINAL FANTASY IX and when one would freeze, you’d take out the disc and switch to the second copy. Each copy had its own spots it got stuck at and they didn’t seem to share any. This was when I finally got to play through the game completely. I was around 14 or 15 when I first beat FINAL FANTASY IX. I don’t believe I played any other JRPGs during this time, not until after I finished FFIX. That same brother who got the PS1 may have temporarily borrowed a PS2 and I saw a little bit of FINAL FANTASY X, but I wouldn’t play it myself until quite a few years later.

FINAL FANTASY IX | Battle Gameplay

I most definitely had to retry this battle in particular the last time I played.

FINAL FANTASY IX opened my up my world to a large and wonderful genre of video games. Before this, I hadn’t played anything with nearly as grand of cinematics. I hadn’t played a game with characters whose stories were explored as deeply either. The first thing I think that really got me into FFIX was that it was easy to play. Sure, I was probably confused half the time and didn’t know exactly what I was doing, but it didn’t require real-time skill. It wasn’t anything like a platformer or a shooter. I realized there was a genre perfect for someone like me, who loved gaming but definitely lacked the skill for it. Battles gave you time to think and all you had to was pick the correct option out of a menu of choices. If you couldn’t beat a boss and really got stuck, there was no actual practice required to get better. You merely had to go back, fight more regular enemies to level up and plan your skill uses more carefully when you attempted the boss again, perhaps change up some characters’ equipment as well. And once you managed to get yourself unstuck, you were treated to more story and possibly some new awesome cinematic scene.

The next brilliant thing about FINAL FANTASY IX was the soundtrack. I’m sure there were some decent soundtracks among the games I had played before, though I don’t think I experienced anything quite as extravagant as the soundtrack in FFIX. Part of what sucked me into this adventure was the music. Every story scene was paired with music that suited it perfectly. The Evil Forest had a mysterious and magical sound, Garnet’s song had a beautiful nostalgic sound to it and boss battles had a stressful, but very fitting, exciting sound. Who wouldn’t find themselves falling in love with JRPGs when you realized they had grand cinematics, interesting characters explored much more deeply than various other genres and beautiful music which melded magnificently with every scene?

TALES OF SYMPHONIA | GameCube Cover

One of many exciting covers which got me interested in playing what I hoped was a new JRPG to enjoy.

FINAL FANTASY IX was the start of what became an obsession with the JRPG genre. I remember after finishing it, I wanted anything that even looked like a cool JRPG. Before Christmas I’d browse game stores and look at game covers to find what I wanted to ask for. Later on once I had my own money to regularly spend on games and my own PS2, I’d browse the shelves of GameStop and stupidly buy anything that even looked like a JRPG. I say stupidly because this is when I consider myself to have still been a casual gamer. I didn’t research games on the internet and carefully pick out what I knew I would like or read reviews. Nope not me, I simply went to a game store, found cool JRPG styled covers and blew money on anything I thought looked interesting and resembled a JRPG. In this day and age when I could’ve looked up reviews and early YouTube likely had videos with footage of these games, I should’ve been more careful. Nonetheless, I led myself to some wonderful titles. My discovery of TALES OF SYMPHONIA was just me deciding it looked intriguing and asking for it for Christmas one year. I found my love of Shadow Hearts through playing my oldest brother’s copy of Chaos Wars and looking up which games featured in it had actually been localized. Yeah you’d think I would’ve looked up reviews or what other games I could get into. But no, I simply loved playing Chaos Wars and saw that Shadow Hearts was something with a fully localized series. Then one day I happened across the first and third game at a GameStop and bought them both. Later on I bought Shadow Hearts Covenant at a local retro game store. FINAL FANTASY IX was the beginning of my adoration for this huge genre that had already been coming out of Japan for decades.

FINAL FANTASY IX | Eiko gets stuck

Eiko is one of my favorite FFIX characters.

Despite having now experienced a ton of JRPG titles since I first stumbled upon these beautiful games years ago, I still consider FINAL FANTASY IX to be up there at the top. FINAL FANTASY IX is what I see as the peak of the FINAL FANTASY series. It has fun characters who are all very different from each other. It has a unique and wonderful soundtrack. Graphically and design-wise, it still holds up the best out of all of the PS1 FINAL FANTASY entries. It was created once SQUARESOFT really knew what they were doing with the original PlayStation having already made VII and VIII, they truly perfected the formula with IX. FFIX isn’t missing anything. It has a large overworld with all of the standard options of an old JRPG. There are fun minigames, what with the chocobo treasure hunting and Tetra Master card game. Even the equipment system is ideal with its five slots and how you learn your skills from keeping certain stuff equipped throughout numerous battles. I will always adore FINAL FANTASY IX, it’s wonderfully charming and to this day, it is the epitome of what a JRPG should be.

If you have yet to experience FINAL FANTASY IX for yourself, you can buy it in the eShop or the PlayStation Store. And if you want to experience it more traditionally, a digital copy of the original version is still purchasable for PS3 and PS Vita.

About Jenae R

Jenae is an RPG enthusiast who also enjoys cats, humidity-free warm weather, Dean Koontz books and a select handful of non RPG series and games. Two of her all-time favorite games are the original Shadow Hearts and Final Fantasy IX. She loves to ramble on about her numerous gaming opinions and is fortunate enough to be able to do it here at oprainfall.