The definitive Final Fantasy
Now feels like the perfect time to talk about the premier Roman numeral that got me personally hooked on the drug that is Final Fantasy. Honestly, I was starting to think FFIX was never going to get a re-release and so far it seems to me more properly made than I had expected. At least compared to the Steam-release of Final Fantasy VII a few years back, which was almost the exact same port that came out originally back in ’98 for the PC, bugs and all. This time around, if nothing else, the sprites seem to be remade and the FMV‘s have been slightly touched up, though the pre-rendered backgrounds seem to suffer the most. This is especially odd considering that there’s actually information circling the web that originally the backgrounds were hand-drawn and sported an impressively high resolution, especially back for the day, but of course the limits of systems back then demanded severe downgrades. However there shouldn’t be an issue with that any more. I suppose that’d be too much extra work for Square. Then again, it probably won’t make much difference on a tablet or smartphone as on such a small screen the backgrounds seem to look quite nice. Though who would be willing to play a super-long RPG on a tiny touch screen is beyond me.As I just stated, the fact that this is even getting a somewhat buffed up re-release is astonishing considering how long it took the company to actually bother and start to remake the seventh entry in the franchise, something the series fans have been demanding for ages, and even now we’re not quite sure how it’ll turn out as the game will apparently be released in an episodic fashion, a practice that seems to become more and more popular.
The father of Final Fantasy has stated on multiple occasions that IX is his swan song and encompasses all that the FF series is supposed to stand for. Luckily, people are finally starting to come around to this, as more and more folks confess that it is a criminally under-rated game. As it is known, the art-style and return to a classical high-fantasy setting were the main turnoff’s for many and while the former is completely subjective and understandable, the latter is really inexcusable in and of itself. But understandable, as the ones stating such cases were mainly the new fans of the series that were reeled in by VII and VIII with their futuristic look and anime-esque stories.
In that regard, I’m in a somewhat peculiar situation. The very first game in the series that I ever played was V on the PSone and I didn’t really think too much of it, probably a not too un-common view of many Westerners at the time. The second was the title of the topic so for me it just seemed like a huge leap forward. Honestly, for a while I had little knowledge that the seventh and eight installments took place in completely different type of settings, so I didn’t have a chance to judge the aesthetical aspects of the game on the merits of its intermediate predecessors.
Now what makes this one so great are the following traits: it goes back to its roots and perfects the formula the developers have been working on since the very first entry and visually it’s the best looking FF of the 5th generation of consoles, regardless of the perspective of the art style.
Plot-wise the narrative is extremely solid and is exciting from the get-go. On the whole though, the dialog unfortunately does feel a bit cheesy and juvenile which is probably due to the fact that these types of games are mostly catered towards adolescent boys. That’s peculiar, because when I was an adolescent boy playing it back in the day, I admit, I truly loved the cast and the dialog but was really lacking the necessary prowess to actually play it and would often have to rely on guides to make progress. But honestly, it’s mostly because I was and still am quite sucky at video games because I do remember my peers having little problems plowing through it… which was also the only plowing they were doing at that time, he-he. So even though I found the dialog to be weak in my more “mature” years, I still kept getting hit in the feels every now and then, thanks to the beautiful cutscenes, coupled with the amazing soundtrack. Also, all the game had to convey the conversations with was text, as IX was the last in the series to not have voice acting. Though I suppose having the characters actually speak would have hindered the emotional experience. Voice acting at the time especially was for the most part sub-par in the video game world.
With the re-release, I hope this masterpiece will have a chance to woo a whole new generation and hopefully the Westerners aren’t biased by the lack of Mechs or Materia anymore and get to enjoy the many different and excellent parts of this over-the-top tale. You can judge IX purely by the way its story is presented or by only focusing on the classic turn-based combat, which at times while slow, works like a charm and is truly one of the best examples of this type of system. Id’s also recommend this as the jump-off title to the world of Square-Enix games or at least the Final Fantasies. For a person completely new to JRPG’s, the learning curve might be a little steep (I remember it was for me) but the pay-off is worth it as you’ll never get bored with this one and it might just as well steal a place in your heart for the rest of your life.