Final Fantasy IX A Personal Review


Final Fantasy has been with me nearly as long as I’ve been alive, and yet Final Fantasy IX or FFIX for short is one of those entries that I never paid much attention to. Almost no one I know actually talked about it and in my immediate entourage and I didn’t know anyone who actually even heard of it. To be fair, I’m not from a “gamer” country, so gaming back then wasn’t that popular even among school kids. I only knew about FFVII and FFVIII.

Even though I enjoyed FFVII and FFVIII a lot, I never actually finished them. but when I saw FFIX at a local shop, I immediately had to get myself a copy. It wasn’t the original game, but rather 4 pirated discs which came in a plastic case. (Back then I didn’t even know what an original cd looked like). I remember trying it, didn’t like the artstyle and immediately dropped the game from my memory.

As I’ve played more FF games throughout the years, I’ve started hearing other people on the internet talk about FFIX was actually a hidden gem, and any FF fan should do himself a favor to play it. Some even said that it was the best FF game they ever played. But is this true? Well, this is what I set to find out over the year.

Now that I’m more familiar with FF and actually understand that Square wanted to go back to the roots, I actually really enjoy the artstyle and the more traditional fantasy-inspired world now. Back then, most FF fans came off of FFVII and FFVIII and not the earlier 2D titles, and they were confused why a Final Fantasy game looked this cartoony. The lack of sci-fi aspects also confused them greatly.


Final Fantasy IX follows the journey of Zidane Tribal, a skilled thief, and his friends as they uncover a plot by Queen Brahne of Alexandria to acquire powerful magical entities called Eidolons. Along the way, they meet Princess Garnet, who joins them in their quest to stop Brahne’s ambitions. As they delve deeper into the mystery, they encounter a manipulative antagonist named Kuja. The group must confront various challenges and adversaries while trying to prevent a catastrophic event that threatens the world of Gaia.

Initial positive impressions

Let’s just say I went into FFIX with very high expectations. On the surface, everything looked right. It has a very interesting world and setting, a pretty fun main character who’s not an emo. This was a breath of fresh air compared to Squall and Cloud from the two earlier entries. I even found the soundtrack superb as usual. Nobuo Uematsu again outdid himself, and really managed to capture the fantastical world of Gaia with its lush landscapes and busy towns.

So far so good. I really enjoyed some of the mini-games (but not all, as you will find out later in my review) and the typical goof-saving-the-princess kind of story. It was a change of pace for a Final Fantasy title. The story progressed at a reasonable pace never letting me bored for a single moment. In many ways it was more engaging than Final Fantasy 8’s earlier plotline.

But beneath all of this, I noticed huge problems with this title that really detracted from the experience.

The negatives

First, the encounter rate in some areas were ridiculous. You couldn’t walk a few steps before meeting an enemy.

Second, the battle system is SLOW as hell. For some reason, you can’t just enter a battle and be done with it. No, the camera had to zoom and pan out for like a full 5 seconds before you could do anything. Also you had to wait for every animation to finish before your character even had a chance to do the stuff you ordered him to do several seconds ago. Don’t get me started on auto-potion. Fortunately, I installed the moguri mod, which not only AI-remastered the backgrounds to be high detailed, but also fixed problems with the battle system by getting rid of the initial zoom and increased battle speed.

Third, the moguri mod couldn’t fix was the Trance system. Frankly, I understand one of FF’s appeal is its experimentation just like with junction in FFVIII and I can say without a doubt, that it’s perhaps the worst “limit-break” system out of any FF games I played. Unlike limit breaks from other FF titles, here, there’s absolutely no way to save it for a boss fight. It activates when you receive enough damage, and often that meant your character going trance when you least need it to, like towards the end of a battle or in an easy random battle. I also didn’t particularly like the way abilities are learnt by your characters. The game forces you to continue using an item to learn its ability. I do no like this as it didn’t give me the creative freedom of freely choosing which equipment I wanted to wear at a specific time as I was more worried about trying to learn all the abilities the items had to offer.

Fourth, the sidequests kill the pacing of the game. There’s a chocobo quest in the game that have digging the ground with your chocobo and finding treasures around the world. While interesting in concept, the rewards were very unsatisfying especially for the amount of man hours you had to put in. Based on what others have said about it, I didn’t even want to do this questline. I already had the final ship, the blue narciss so any chocobo that could walk, swim or climb mountains was absolutely useless to me. So I managed to avoid it all until I reached the last part of the mognet central quest which involved passing letters from one mog to the next.

Guess what? The last part of the quest absolutely required me to reach a certain point in the chocobo quest so I could just finish it. Note to Square, don’t fking tie your sidequests together. Had I known that the mognet central quest was tied to the chocobo quest, I wouldn’t have started either.

The game also included other mind-numbingly boring side quests like answering a bunch of questions that the monster gives you or catching frogs with Quina. I understand side quests aren’t actually FF’s strongest suit, but I felt they were even more tedious here than they were in previous titles. The tetra card game was also simply not as good as FFVIII’s triple triad. They tried to make the card game more complex, and it just didn’t work out in its favour.

Fifth, the story. Yes, I did initially enjoy the story a lot but when I got to disc 3, it crawled to a halt. Once the initial story arcs of Quina, Amarant, Freya and even Vivi (Who did have the best storyline compared to the others by far) were over, there really wasn’t much to look forward to. Garnet, Eiko and Steiner were just OKAY. I don’t have any strong feelings for them. On this point, FFVIII has the advantage, as every character were somewhat related to each other in a meaningful way, leading to a more satisfying and emotional conclusion.

I did enjoy the final disc a lot more although Kuja isn’t exactly a super interesting main villain. Zidane finding everything about his origins and the world of Terra was a legit nice moment of character development for him. It showed that Zidane actually cared for his friends, and he wanted to set them aside so he could just finish off Kuja on his own terms.

Still worth checking out

Anyway, I might come off as a bit harsh on this game but ultimately, Final Fantasy 9 beyond some the grievances mentioned is still a very solid JRPG that is at the very least worth checking out if you’re a fan of the franchise. I just don’t think it’s worthy of the recent praise. Do I think it’s better than FFVIII? No. Do I think it’s worse? Not particularly. Both FFVIII and FFIX were initially controversial when they were released which is why they also have their fair share of defenders online. I’m more in tune with FFVIII personally speaking even though it’s not necessarily the better game.

There also have been rumors circulating of the game being remade. I say, bring it on. A proper FFIX remake could fix all the problems the original game had and even more. But you know what would be better than a remake? A sequel. I’d like to see how princess Garnet is managing her kingdom and all.

Anyway, that’s it for my Final Fantasy 9 review, be sure to check out SugiG’s mod list if you’re looking to enhance your FFIX experience like I did.