Archive for January, 2011

My Perspective: Final Fantasy IX

WARNING: This post contains spoilers and opinions you probably won’t like.

I still cry every time I see this image, but not as hard as I used to.

For those of you that don’t know, I don’t like Final Fantasy IX. At all. This has garnered me quite a bit of hate (and I’m sure it will continue to do so in the future). However, my good friend Jon of JanaiBlog pointed out that i’ve never played more than the first hour or so of the game, and that I couldn’t judge it unless I gave it more of a try, and he was absolutely right.

So, I set out on a journey to experience FFIX. I certainly wasn’t going to take the time to play the game myself, as I had no doubts that the battle system and gameplay weren’t bad (and it isn’t, more on this later). It was the story that I had a real problem with. So, I decided to go to the best Final Fantasy let’s player in creation, HCBailly, to experience this game.

First off, let me start by saying that I have to admit Final Fantasy IX is not as bad as I originally thought it was. The art always bothered me (but ISN’T a reason to not like a game!), but after watching a few videos of it, I really didn’t even pay attention to the quality of the graphics, since it was the storyline that had always irked me. I wanted to delve into the characters and story and see what it was all about, and then think long and hard on my true opinions of this game.

The plot, in my opinion, is boring (I can sense the fanboy tears coming!). It seemed to have so much potential, with political intrigue, wars, manufacturing black mages, and a plethora of different races and creatures to flesh out. However, I consistently felt like the game squandered such potential. The political issues were predictable, the wars were repetitive, the black mage storyline didn’t go nearly as far as it could have (although I have to admit, it was pretty damn cool), and each race left something to be desired. The game seemed to try and make up for this with the use of Active Time Events (ATE), which allowed the player to see some short scenes of things going on outside of the scope of the main characters. This was a great idea, but they could have added a few more ATE scenes to flesh out even more then they had. I just didn’t find myself really caring about the plot. The character, however, were a different story.

The characters themselves were all-around lackluster to me. There were a few characters that I absolutely LOVED, and one or two that I liked, but for the most part, they left something to be desired. The character interactions and relationships, however, I actually very much enjoyed (more on this later). There were some characters, such as Quina, that seemed to be all but forced into the story, but other than that, the characters were handled far better than I expected them to be, which was a relief to me, since all of them were downright loathesome during the first hour or two of gameplay.

These are the issues that I was sort of split on. However, there are some things I really enjoyed and some things that I really, really didn’t. To soothe the rage that I’m sure is coursing through your veins, let’s start off by taking a look at what I loved about Final Fantasy IX.

  • Vivi. Seriously, you can’t not love him! He is honest, flawed (but not overly so), and relatable. In fact, I would dare say that he is one of the best characters in Final Fantasy history. When I began to feel like I wanted to stop watching the gameplay and spare myself, Vivi absolutely kept me going. Through his eyes, we see much of the struggle that the innocent people of Gaia feel. He is a powerful and well-made character.
  • Kuja. One of the better villains of the Final Fantasy series for sure. He doesn’t stand around hesitating, he goes off and does what he wants to do, and let’s nothing stand in his way. He orchestrates some crazy things, and he probably has more backstory to him than most other FF villains, thanks to great writing on his part and a few ATE scenes featuring him. I always love a good villain with some backstory, and Kuja definitely fit the bill.
  • Zidane, believe it or not, is one of the better main characters in the series. I usually hate main characters in just about everything, but I found Zidane to be rather bearable and realistic. This was a happy surprise for me.
  • Steiner and Beatrix’s relationship is downright fricken’ adorable. The entire debacle with the love letter actually made me laugh out loud, and I found the romance between these two to be rather endearing.
  • The battle system was great. Specifically, I enjoyed the way they handled enemy skills. Rather than standing around for 20 minutes waiting for a monster to hit a specific character with a specific attack, you just wear their HP down and have Quina ‘eat’ them. I thought this was a fantastic idea. I also was intrigued by the idea of skills attached to weapons, armor, and accessories. I can see it being annoying, but it’s a different and refreshing take on skills and equipment, and I can only imagine how much fun it is to plan out who is going to learn what skills at what point (yes, I like a good amount of micro-planning in my gameplay and yes, I am insane).
  • The music was superb, as was to be expected. All Final Fantasy games are known for their music, and this game certainly did not lack in that regard. The theme from the Black Mage Village in particular has been a favorite of mine since the game came out.
  • Dagger’s loss of her voice after the destruction of Alexandria was a very nice and well thought-out addition to the game. It’s a logical, totally believable reaction, and the fact that it plays into battles by having Dagger randomly unable to follow the battle commands given to her adds a bit of difficulty in an interesting way.
  • The Mognet and the Chocographs were fun touches to the game. They were interesting and worthwhile side-quests that really didn’t deter from trying to play through the actual game. They were integrated into everything very nicely.

Now, let’s take a look at the things that I had Kefka-level hate for in this game. Yes, I will probably be nitpicking. Take a deep breath, folks.

  • Zidane’s tail is never even mentioned until somewhere in the second disc. Seriously, why does nobody question him on this? People even question Freya about being a rat, and her people are a well-known race! Even if someone like Vivi would have asked toward the beginning and Zidane would have shrugged and said he had no idea why he was born with it, it would have made much more sense! Only through subtle lines do we realize that Zidane really has no idea exactly where he comes from. It felt like the writers decided somewhere close to the halfway point to make Zidane’s tail part of the plot.
  • Steiner. Just everything about him, from his stubbornness to his inability to shut up to that annoying clanging sound from his armor when he jumps up and down in panic and/or rage. This will probably earn me more ire than anything else, since I am well aware that Steiner is a rather beloved character. I cannot stand him.
  • Tetra Master. Come on, even those of you that like this game have to admit that this is probably the most useless thing they threw in there. Triple Triad in Final Fantasy VIII was one thing, but Tetra Master is nothing but a failed attempt to emulate the success that Triple Triad had.
  • Zorn and Thorn are probably one of the worst attempts at comic relief I’ve ever seen in a video game. They serve no purpose. You could have replaced them with unnamed soldiers and it would have taken nothing away from the game.
  • Dagger’s backstory was one of the more predictable things in the game. The moment it was revealed that Eiko was a summoner who had lived in Madain Sari all of her life, I knew what was coming. Besides, there is no way Dagger was naturally born from someone like Queen Brahne. Just…no. In fact, the idea that they just named Dagger after their dead child was creepy and just odd to me. Seriously, who does that?

So, all in all, Final Fantasy IX wasn’t as bad of a game as I thought. In fact, it really isn’t a bad game at all. I feel the same way about it that I do Final Fantasy X in the sense that the gameplay was great, but everything else was pretty bad. The one thing FFIX does have over FFX though is the characters, all of whom, whether I liked them or not, were much better than the ones in it’s successor.

Still, the plot left me bored and uninspired, and at times I felt like I was beating myself over the head to try and get through the let’s play, so I can’t even imagine what I would have gone through trying to actually play it myself. Even so, I must concede that there are far worse games out there, and it certainly isn’t the worst Final Fantasy game ever made. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, and I’m glad that this game enthralled so many people, but it just didn’t do it for me.

Oh, and if you’re still raging, go read the Final Fantasy IX review on Real Otaku Gamer. It’ll make you feel better.

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Chu★Cast Episode 4: 2010 and Beyond: An Otaku Perspective

Brent (@OtakuNoVideo) of Otaku, No Video and Greg (@TheDigitalBug) from the anime blog Reisen Goes To School By Bus join me in the fourth episode of Chu★Cast!

We talk about what anime and video game gifts we received this year, as well as what 2010 was like for the anime industry, hitting on some of the most memorable stories and issues of the year (such as the Youth Ordinance Bill and how moe has changed in 2010), ending in our thoughts on what 2011 will bring for anime and the anime industry, as well as what we’d like to see in the new year!

A very happy, healthy, and bright New Year to all of you!

Chu★Cast is now available on iTunes for free! Get it here now!

If you want to download this podcast outside of iTunes, click on the Mevio player to go to the episode’s site, then click the down arrow on the bottom of the Mevio player to download the MP3. Enjoy!

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