Wait, what? Why am I reviewing a 10 year old game?
Well, because I recently played through it for the first time courtesy of the PSN. Simple, right? Actually, I’m only on the fourth and final disc so I haven’t actually beaten it and I won’t be doing an all-encompassing review of the title. Instead, I’ll focus on a few specific points that managed to catch my attention over the course of my playthrough, so this is more of a look at FFIX through the prism of ten years of advancement in game development.
- First things first: random battles have got to go. If you’re a Japanese developer and you’re still putting random battles in your RPGs, you deserve to fail. They’re archaic, intrusive, discourage exploration, and, bottom line, nothing in a video game should be ever random. There’s no nostalgia to be found in random battles anymore. Expletives were freely passed at the start of nearly every battle over the course of my time with FFIX and it stands to reason that anything that frustrates the player should be removed from the game in question. Please stop this sadistic practice.
- On the upside, most developers worldwide have had no trouble incorporating checkpoint systems into their games. Thank you, Halo. Unfortunately, FFIX came out a couple years before that particular wave started and this has been the cause of a fair amount of frustration over my playthrough. I was actually late to work at one point because I wanted to squeeze in some 30 minutes of playtime and my next save point didn’t arrive until after at least 90 minutes. Hey, I wasn’t going to quit and replay those random battles and I wasn’t going to leave my energy-hogging PS3 on for over 10 hours until I got back. Lesson learned: I never again played FFIX unless I had at least 2 hours to spare.
- I don’t know how it happened but Vivi has become one of my favorite Final Fantasy characters ever. Much like Gohan of Dragonball Z, Vivi falls under the “powerful but insecure” archetype. Those characters have never really appealed to me but somewhere between his sincerity, his questioning nature and the almost ninja-like quality of his design and I fell in love. Vivi is awesome.
- Final Fantasy IX’s Limit Break/Overdrive system is called Trance and it’s kinda stupidly designed. Each character’s Trance bar fills up when taking damage and, when full, that character gets a stat boost, an appearance change and improved commands (Vivi, for example, gets to cast magic twice in one turn). You get about three turns while in Trance but the problem is that your character returns to normal at the end of every battle. Too many times did I gain Trance just before the last enemy was killed without having a chance to use it. That, coupled with the snail’s pace at which the Trance bar builds, makes this a pretty unreliable and fairly useless system.
- One of the more pleasant surprises in playing this game was something I kinda knew already: a lack of voice acting makes bad dialogue much easier to swallow. When antagonist Kuja makes his labored speech, I took it with a completely straight face whereas I feel voice acting with that same dialogue could’ve induced some groaning. On the flip side, watching pre-rendered cutscenes without any voices is almost discomforting.
- Last but not least, the equip/skill system is odd. Basically, what magic and abilities you learn is based on what equipment you have so equipping weapons/armor is never about having the highest stats or properties to attack enemies with (as it should be) and always about “what ability has this guy not learned yet?” I think the game could’ve benefited from splitting this into two separate systems but, then again, that might add needless complications to the game.
So what’s my review of this game I haven’t quite finished yet?
I like it. Some of the more dated conventions of the genre present in FFIX have caused a great amount of frustration on my end but the more classic Final Fantasy elements in this game have made this a really enjoyable ride nonetheless. I’ve heard people say that the throwback nature of this game is dishonest but I never felt that way personally. And, though perhaps obvious to many, it bears saying that Square can create some amazing art. A few of the characters designs are weak (Kuja, Zidane) but the artistry behind some of these worlds is just breathtaking.
I don’t think I would hesitate to say that Final Fantasy IX is among my top 3 FF games.Posted on August 23, 2010 in Reviews, Video Games |