The GWJ JRPG Club: Final Fantasy IX (Q2 2023)

That’s exactly why I rushed to finish this one; these no telling if/when I would get back to it.

Congrats, Sundown!

I am just beyond the end of Disk 1, myself. I'm back with Dagger and Steiner, and am on the way to Treno. Playing this very slowly -- when I'm with it, I like it, but I find myself less compelled to pick FF IX up as opposed to other games in my collection (like, right now, Marvel's Midnight Suns).

Sundown wrote:

I don’t know, the individual parts all seemed uneven, but it still more or less worked for me as a whole. I’d say it’s greater than the sum of it’s parts. Playing this one actually made me more more interested in playing later FF games with a bit more polish (this is the highest numbered game in the series I’ve played), so I’d be down for 10, 12 or maybe 15 with the club later if people are ever interested.

I'd love to tackle a more recent game! FF10, 12, and 15 are all very different, and I've not played 15. 10 is my all-time favorite, though. I love the story, think the cast works really well together and fits the world very well, love the overall plot, and -- very important, when compared to this game and its SLOW fights -- 10 is fully turn-based. To me, that feels better than ATB, though I do think that FF9 is probably the worst version of ATB in the series.

bobbywatson wrote:

I think buying Zelda just killed any chance of me going back to this :(

Yeah, I have decided I am not allowed to buy Zelda until I finish FF9, especially since I am playing FF9 on the Switch. I think it would be a long time to get back to it.

I have definitely noted the ATB feels very clunky in this one. Animations take a long time, and since ATB doesn't pause during them, you and enemies generate a full ATB gauge during that animation. Makes things like haste and slow kind of pointless, unless you are on wait and abuse leaving one character with charge to pause the timers.

As others have mentioned, the cast is pretty much all forgettable. Vivi is like the one good standout, with Steiner being remembered for how comical he is. Whenever I think about this game, my favorite character is actually Beatrix. She's not really a party member, but I like her design and she reminds me of Leo from FF6, who I loved as a kid. They are both commanders that are probably the most powerful in their corrupt nation, but are still honorable.


And game is finished!

This game was quite a ride. Never once did the story really let off the gas pedal, it was always moving forward, with a pretty clear sense of direction and stakes. I don't think I would trust SquareEnix with it at this point, but a light remaster of this game would be pretty amazing. I enjoyed learning abilities from equipment, so that I was not just always getting the thing with higher numbers, especially since a lot of equipment had secondary effects, so you hung onto them and re-equipped them later. The story does feel pretty loosey-goosey throughout, but they do manage to pull it all together in the end. No single moment is really given the time it needs to breathe though, and characters kind of just come and go without making a lasting impression. I mentioned it in an earlier post, but the only characters I remembered from when I originally played it are Vivi, Garnet (Dagger), Steiner, and Beatrix. I can confidently say, Beatrix still remains my favorite FF9 character, even though she gets very limited screen time.

I did just about everything in the game, I believe the only thing I left undone was the optional boss related to the friendly monsters. I could go and do that, but don't really have any desire to dip back into the game at the moment. I think this is the weakest the ATB system has been in the series, enemies are just so fast, and animations don't pause the timers, that unless you are abusing the wait system, enemies will likely get multiple attacks for each of yours. Kind of makes the whole system feel clunky. I can see why modern FFs have moved away from it. I wish they had gone pure turn-based (like FF10) instead of action, but that is just my personal preference. I also feel like this game has the most missables and secret items just tucked around everywhere I have seen. Lots of treasure hidden behind geometry, or items not even in chests, just you have to know where to find it, or run your face against every wall.

The modern versions with the reduced encounter rate really made the dungeons feel empty. Towards the end of disc 3, I was actually starting to be underleveled for where I was. When I went to Mount Gulug, the random enemies were actually like 10 levels above me and giving me a little bit of trouble. I have read that the original encounter rate was horrible and you would get random encounters like every five steps, but this is almost too far in the other direction. I could go through dungeons without a single random encounter sometimes.

One weakness to the ability system in this game, is I felt like I spent more time in the menus preparing for boss fights and dungeons than I did actually playing the game. You go to a new area, so there are new enemies, so you need to swap your status defense and attack boost abilities. Bosses don't necessarily match what the enemies in the dungeon do either, so at the moogle you also need to swap your abilities and gear to tackle the boss. Also, just how much stuff there is to steal off bosses. I spent more time stealing during boss encounters than I did killing the boss. Much of it is getting equipment earlier than would be possible, but there are a few rare or unique items as well. I like enemies have cool things to steal so that it feels good to use that ability, but they may have gone a little overboard in this game.

Merphle, that fan art is amazing! They are a much better couple than Garnet and Zidane.

Congrats Malkroth, and great reflections! Though I haven't played nearly as much of the game as you, my experience has been consistent with pretty much everything you wrote. I think that's part of the reason FF9 has not gripped me like I expected it to.

I'll level you up in the other thread!

Over here in the caboose of this train, I've finally rolled Opening Credits & begun FF9!

I've named Zidane & gotten control of the lil guy who I know from KH2 is Vivi, who's having a rough day. I just left off at the first Moogle save point because the dry-as-cardboard explanation of Tetra Master left me so sleepy I almost dropped my Switch from falling asleep at the wheel.

I'm taking solace in y'all's earlier reassurances that Tetra Master will only be necessary one time, but I'm wistful that I'm not taking to it more, given everyone in this starting town seems to love this dang card game, and I love that Yu-Gi-Oh/card game anime trope of "everyone in society plays this TCG and you can throw down & play for keeps w/ any schmoe on the street".

I'll chip away some more while waiting on my oil change later today, more to come!

I'm still plugging away at this off and on in between marathon TotK sessions. I got the airship and beat Ipsen's Castle. I'm realizing that I don't like the dungeon designs in this game. Too many multiple-branching paths or something, I feel like I'm constantly hitting dead ends (sometimes with a chest, sometimes not) and having to backtrack. Most of them don't seem to have much in the way of a cohesive design aesthetic; the settings are kind of orthogonal to the storytelling if that makes sense.

It's starting to be a bit of a slog tbh.

A couple days later and I've moseyed my way through the end of the opening play and into the Evil Forest. I've been introduced to (and have been enjoying whenever they pop up) Active Time Events. The game's sense of humor has generally gelled with me thus far (Steiner is a big beautiful boy and I will protect him at all costs, his physical humor has been a highlight) now that we're rolling with what seems to be a core chunk of our crew.

I kinda like how this game has, at least in the small chunk I've seen so far, a hearty amount of goofy lil guys. Queen Brahne's twin jesters unfortunately fall into that category, but you know who else does? The lil dog-dude scholars from when you have Steiner running around. Love those lil guys.

Did prior releases of this game include any sort of tutorials for general gameplay? I've noticed there's an option for Tutorials hidden away at the bottom of the Config menu, but were they always so sequestered? I think I've gotten the hang of it all, but the first sets of fights took some latent familiarity w/ franchise conventions to get by.

I think I am going to set this one down for a time and maybe pick it back up at the end of the month, going into the next 3-month period (when we'll have a new game, so ... maybe not). I just can't quite find myself wanting to play this as much as some other things on my backlog.

Pushed through to the end of Disc 3. As I recall, there isn't much to Disc 4 besides the final dungeon and ending cinematics.

The story has largely descended into incoherent anime bullsh*t at this point. Sometimes I swear they've got a checklist of callbacks to the first 8 games and every scene they pull a new one out of a hat.


The young nihilist villain murders the elderly fascist villain by kicking him off a cliff? Why not. (FF6)

Some lifestream / river of souls bullsh*t? Sure. (FF7)

Invasion from space by creepy aliens from a dead world led by the main character's brother? f*ck it, throw it in there. (FF4)

The four elemental fiends? Eh... we'll give you one. The other three happen off-screen.

Well at the time it came out FF9 was billed as a nostalgic FF. I thought it was interesting to play what is now an old game that is calling back to a yet older time, but I guess I have a pretty high tolerance for those jrpg tropes in general.

Looking back on the game, FF9 really does feel like a capstone to a time in the series. It makes lots of callbacks, references, and is generally just more Final Fantasy without a whole lot of innovation. Even the ability system is basically a job class-lite system. And looking at a timeline of releases, that kind of makes sense. FF7 released in 97, 8 in 99, 9 in 2000, and 10 in 2001, so at this point they were basically releasing a new game every year. Add the fact that this is the last PS1 game in the series, and in Japan the PS2 was already out and in North America/Europe it would be available in a matter of months. If I had to guess, this game was handled by a secondary team while their main team worked on FF10.

Reflecting on my experience, I did enjoy how breezy the game felt. Story sequences are never overly long, with just enough to trigger your imagination to fill in the gaps. It does leave it feeling sparse compared to modern games, but modern ones can also err on too far on the side of being verbose, making them slogs to get through. But I never had that dreaded feeling of "Oh, here's another cutscene. Time to put the controller down for five minutes."

I saw it described as a changing of the guard - FF9 was developed by some series veterans who were about to step back, while FF10 was the coming out of the next generation. Don't know how accurate that is but it feels right!

I also enjoyed the lack of self seriousness (I wonder if FF16 will make us look back on this even more fondly). I mean, I like a thinkpiece now and then but it's also nice to relax and be swept along on an adventure.