Final Fantasy IX
Release Date: November 13, 2000 (NA)
Platform Played On: PS1
2018 Placement: #36 (-27)
What It Is:
From FF6 to FF8, the Final Fantasy series got progressively further from the “fantasy” aspect. FF8 especially double-downed on a nearly all human world that went to space and in some ways leaned more science fiction than fantasy. FF9 was a “return to form” at the time, with a beautiful fantasy world with crazy-looking characters of all shapes and sizes. It dropped the unique systems of FF7 and FF8 for a much simpler leveling up/item system and in general was very well received because it just “felt” more like the SNES Final Fantasies in presentation.
It’s a JRPG-ass JRPG, with everything you would expect from one. A love story between the main male and female protagonists, a secondary protagonist that is actually the best character in the game (Vivi the black mage), and an out of nowhere final boss that is kind of like a god but doesn’t actually have anything to do with the rest of the game. It also does a lot of quality of life improvements, like shortening summons so they don’t take two minutes of your life every time you summon one. It doesn’t really reinvent the wheel, but it does provide a very solid, fantastical turn-based RPG experience.
Why It’s Important To Me:
I grew up on Final Fantasy, but had mixed feelings about FF8 due to its Draw system spiking the worst obsessive-compulsive tendencies in me. FF9 being a more “classic” Final Fantasy (lol thinking about that 20 years later) was really refreshing and I just loved diving into the world. The system of weapons teaching you abilities was a really cool riff on the job system. The characters also had wonderful interactions. Zidane, Garnet, Steiner, and Vivi are a solid starting four who all are very unique and very endearing (aside from Zidane being a bit of a sexist pig).
It also has awesome music (as most Final Fantasies do) – the boss music is one of my favorites of all the FF games due to how its structure makes the actual battle feel a lot more impactful. FF9 is one of those games that, again, doesn’t do anything groundbreaking or crazy innovative but just nails every aspect of the genre to give a very memorable and lasting experience. From the story to the characters to the world-building to the music, each part of the foundation makes up a 100% great game. And what can I say, I’m a huge Final Fantasy nerd so that just makes it get even more points in my book.
My Strongest Memory:
Okay there’s two: the first is the most well known complain of the game: fucking Necron. The penultimate final boss is perfect – the character is a longstanding rival with the main party throughout the entire game so the fight has weight and emotion behind it. Then after you beat him, suddenly you’re in the presence of this motherfucker and he’s like “I’m a god, I’ve decided everyone should die” or some shit and then you fight him for no reason. Literally an ass-pull of a boss with little to no foreshadowing. It’s such an absurd end to the game, to the point that it wraps around from bad to outright hilarious.
The second is one of my favorite Final Fantasy characters of all-time: Beatrix. She’s the honorable knight who serves one of the main villains and is just absolutely a badass. Every time you fight her, she destroys you without mercy. And then for the brief period of the game where she joins as a guest in your party, she absolutely wrecks enemies. I love her so much. She also has two of the best musical themes of the entire game, nay all of Final Fantasy: her base theme and her battle theme. Beatrix rules.
Why It’s #63:
Back at the beginning of the countdown I said the top 3 Final Fantasies weren’t even in question. This is #3 of the best mainline Final Fantasies and there’s nothing you can say that would change my mind. Quirky, fun characters, a stellar soundtrack, and all the things I’ve said multiple times already in this entry to the point I’ve started repeating myself just to make a point. If you want to play a “classic” “fantasy” “video game” this is a great place to start because it has everything and is also great for newer people to the genre.