This game was a bit of a disappointment.
I really like Final Fantasy, and what I like about it is that each game brings something new to the table. There’s a spirit of constant invention, which intensifies between the fourth and eighth installments.
Not with Final Fantasy IX. I get that the game is meant to be a tribute to all the ones that preceded it, but the result feels hackneyed and unoriginal. The most novel thing I recall was a skipping-rope minigame. The battle system and the plot should be familiar to anyone whose played Final Fantasy Four. There’s also a new card game, although this one is complicated beyond all comprehensibility.
The plot didn’t work with me either. Zidane was a flat protagonist, a slightly sleazy moral exemplar who later confronts a distasteful truth about his past. His love interest is Garnet, a princess who is surprisingly not to keen on being a princess. My favourite character was Steiner. He’s a knight who must learn the difference between obeying orders and doing the right thing, and he looks like the mayor from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Vivi was also good. He looks like a stock Final Fantasy Black Mage, and he’s also a robot. The problem with this game’s story is that is focuses on the dull characters and marginalises the interesting ones.
Oh, and there’s also some megalomaniac trying to destroy the world. It couldn’t be any other way in an RPG.
My other complaint is that the game was too long. Sixty hours long. Final Fantasy IX made me rethink my thinking towards game longevity. Maybe it wasn’t such a hot idea to tackle a video game epic while pursuing a post-graduate degree. I dunno, maybe forty hours is my limit for an RPG.
I will admit that the graphics were very beautiful. They had a delightful storybook quality about them.
I’d recommend this game for Final Fantasy completists, although it makes me question whether I want to be one, if this is any indication of what I have to look forward to. If you want to begin playing this series, I say start with the fourth or sixth game.
I’ve been thinking about my optimum game length, and I still think that 30-50 hours is the best.