Editorial: What I Don’t Like About Final Fantasy IX

Shock and horror! Yes it’s true, that title reads correctly; there are actually negative things I can say about Final Fantasy IX. I thought that because my comments on the weekly feature posts and anytime I’m on the podcast will be overwhelmingly positive, I would counter my legitimate praise with some legitimate criticism. A few of my issues may lie with points that occur in Disc Four – at the time of this writing, Lusipurr.com is officially playing the second disc – but those issues will spur a more general editorial at that time, so bear with me!

 

It's little wonder that Kuja's feminity is one of the game's running jokes
It's little wonder that Kuja's feminity is one of the game's running jokes

Kuja’s character gets a little confused –
Now don’t get me wrong, I really like Kuja as a villain. He’s more than just world domination rants and maniacal laughter (although he has his share too). He has some great moments and I think his motivations make sense. However, because of the generally light-hearted tone of the game, there are moments in which Kuja attempts to play both the comic relief and dramatic semi-crazed villain and it falls flat. Characters like Steiner do a far better job of including genuine hilarity by staying true to their personalities. Kuja is great as a dramatic, jealous narcissist and the writers should have strictly kept him to that.

The Multi-Perspective Story-Telling Ends –
The thing I probably yell from the rooftops about the most is FF9‘s unique story-telling technique. Splitting the party into parts helps give more intimate looks into the characters and breathes extra life into the world. Not only that, it keeps the game from getting boring. Jumping back and forth between characters at just the right time creates interest in the new set of characters while building anticipation for the team just left behind. So it blows my mind that this technique is largely abandoned in later parts of the game (I’m aware there is the rare odd exception). There are still intriguing plot points and there is still good character work, but I definitely miss the well-paced story switching from earlier on. Although it is not nearly as bad as…

The Attempt at Bad Philosophy is Entirely Out of Place
While I am a complete sucker for the final cinematic and all the story elements after the final boss, I cannot say the same for the final hour or so leading up to that moment. Final Fantasty IX works best when it strikes genuine emotional chords with a character focused approach. The drama is more believable because it stems from the characters and their natural actions and reactions. The end of the game, however, tries to attach irrelevant philosophical concepts to explain fairly recently introduced plot points that feel entirely detached from the rest of the game. It goes against what the rest of the game does so well and it’s a little baffling.
And finally…

Freya Sucks –
I’ve really had to come to terms with this conclusion. I love Freya’s character design, her late-game battle prowess, and the culture and history of Burmecia, but in the story she represents the largest missed opportunity. Her obsession with the lost Sir Fratley is less believable than every other romantic theme and character hook, and her dramatic way of speaking doesn’t have Steiner’s charm or Dagger’s subtext. In fact, the Burmecians speak far more casually than Freya herself, and she hasn’t even lived there in years, Dragon Knight status be damned. Frustratingly, Freya’s best scene is her first one which depicts a far more playful tone in the bar with Zidane than any scene I can remember after. Granted, I’m currently on Disc Two on this particular playthrough, but I have beat the game enough times to trust my memory on this one.

So that’s it! I have other minor gripes here and there, but these are really the only ones that sting me when I think of what could have been. What about you guys? We’ve been focusing on the many positives of FF9 so far, but what are some of your complaints? Do you disagree with mine? Let me know in the comments section below.

0 comments

  1. Haha when I saw the title of this article I thought it had been authored by Master Cheif.

    The multi-perspective storytelling had to fall away at some point in order for them to start building up the end game. I do have to agree with you however that the ending felt a little tacked on. They spent the entire game trying to establish a quaint, playful tone and then at the eleventh hour they tried to introduce all this gravity to the story, which really didn’t fit in the world they established. (though it’s been so long since I’ve played that my recolections on this aren’t exactly reliable).

    And yeah Freya sucks, she doesn’t much personality to the party, and I got so bloody sick of hearing her mope about Sir Frately.

  2. Actually I love Freya. She’s my favorite character in FFIX, but the writters made her dissapear from the plot after the events in Cleyra, even though she was so prominent in it since her first appearance in Lindblum. All we see of her after that is some tiny scenes with Amarant that are actually more focused in his development anyways. She’s badass in battle throughout the game, so she always had a special place in my party.

  3. I don’t really enjoy the Trance system on the simple fact that you have little control over when it happens. with VII and VIII, you could choose when to use your limit breaks and so if you wanted to hold off until a boss fight or some such, you could. but with IX, I find myself going into trance during weak random encounters just to have a non-tranced character steal the win before I can do anything exciting. It’s great getting new skills for zidane during a trance, but kind of useless if my other characters are wiping the enemies out in one shot, leaving zidane with nothing to destroy.

  4. Y’know, I agree with the Trance timing thing. I love the system and how it’s unique to each character, but the fact that it doesn’t carry over can be extremely frustrating for the reasons you guys mentioned.

    @Epyon – I agree about battle placement. Freya’s fantastic, especially with that Dragon Killer ability. And I love the Burmecia and Cleyra SECTIONS, I could just do without Freya’s dialogue the vast majority of the time. Although the Cleyra music is tied with Lindblum Castle for weakest track.

  5. @SN: I before E, motherfucker. ;)

    @Ethos: Funny you should make a comment about Kuja’s femininity. I remember waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back when people were waiting for the game to come out in the US. There were people who actually thought Kuja was female. Someone even drew “her” topless, and with not a bad rack either. Too bad I was on the library’s computers at the time, or I’d show you guys. Never seen that pic since.

  6. @MC – Ha ha! Even having played the game a billion times, I STILL have confusing feelings when he(?) comes on screen. And it’s the internet, I’m sure that picture is floating around somewhere…
    Aeris dying seems to come to mind…

  7. Queen Brahne calling Kuja a “girly boy” is one of the highpoints of the game, and plays a wonderful opposite to Kuja’s nickname for her: “the elephant woman”.

    I know you don’t like him as comic relief, but some of his lines are just too classic: “Her ugliness and stupidity are truly impressive!” (referring to Brahne) from the same scene is one of my favourites of all RPGs.

    I think he pulls off both very well, and comes across not only as self-obsessed, but as deliriously megalomaniacal to the point that he believes in his own invincibility. So, it is no wonder that he ‘jokes on the scaffold’, when one considers how little esteem he puts in anything outside himself.

  8. @Lusipurr – I DO like that line, it reminds me of something my younger brother would say. Hopefully this playthrough will change my opinion of him which is based in memory. Although my opinion is not entirely negative, I just remember a few scenes being obvious misses.

  9. FFIX was really refreshing in that way.
    It had some hilarious moments, bright and colorful art
    and was lighthearted and fun while maintaining a solid plot.

    It wasnt dark and depressing, not a game that wanted to be a movie,
    but furthermore a game that simply wanted to be fun.

    I wish there would be more games like that.

  10. Kuja always looked slightly…gender confused to me. I didn’t remember the game making light of it though. I do recall hearing about somebody thinking that Kuja was a girl for half the game which is pretty funny though.

  11. @evilpaul:

    I’m still waiting for the day when a gender-confused
    girl with a mustache is going to be the next FF villain.

    I never was a big fan of the feminine looking villains in that series – especially not after I
    played Crisis Core and read the mail about Sephiroth
    using special hair conditioner manufactured by the
    Shinra Corporation.
    I really hope that was just a joke.

    Where have all the Kefkas gone ?

  12. You mean all those manly fellows wearing make-up with feathers in their hair?

    Kefka while being an awesome character isn’t exactly the paragon of masculinity.

  13. A girl with a Snidely Whiplash moustache would be a pretty awesome JRPG villain. :D

    Kefka wasn’t super macho or anything, but he was also only 22 pixels tall for most of the game. You really only see him in-game in more detail when you get to play as General Leo for 5 minutes before Kefka murders him and at the final battle (oops, spoilers!). Because of that he didn’t have anywhere near as much of a crossdresser thing going on that later installment’s villains did.

    I’m personally hoping to see JRPGs move away from the androgenous teen characters and follow their maturing audience. Twnenty plus people can save the world too I’m fairly certain.

  14. Hahahahyaha,probably not too much different from our Emos though.

  15. @evilpaul

    Are you sure ? :P

    As far as I know a hero has to meet the major condition
    to be 16 years old in order to save the world.

    It is always a pleasure to see a group of young and angsty teenagers save the world from evil,
    while an entire countries military fails to defeat a
    handful of slimes with heavy casualties.

    Just imagine a whole platoon of NPC soldiers firing their machineguns loaded with 1-damage rounds at a Cactuar which is speeding through their ranks, massacering everyone.
    An officer is on the radio hectically calling in reinforcements,
    only to be torn into pieces by the rain of 1000 needles descending upon him.

  16. @evilpaul – Well there were the FMVs in the PlayStation version of FFVI which made Kefka look like he’d fit well in a Marilyn Manson video.

    @SN – The sound like they ARE our Emos. Must suck being a straight Japanese girl… Pickins are slim there it seems.

  17. Well they can always ride unescorted on the public trains for some tender loving sexual assaults and gropage.

  18. “Well there were the FMVs in the PlayStation version of FFVI which made Kefka look like he’d fit well in a Marilyn Manson video.”

    Ditto the original Amano art for him, you just never used to be able to tell on tiny pixel Kefka.

  19. Wasnt FF9 the last Final Fantasy to have a world map
    on which you were able to freely move around on ?

  20. i thought the game was waaaay too easy. 7 and 8 had much more complicated battle and magic systems , and hearder bosses to boot. it was disapointing that some characters, zidane in particular, were pretty much a 5th (or in this case 4th) wheel. Like he only had 8 or so skills, the two best ones being steel and theivery, the latter being only really useful if you bothered to use the former hundreds of times (succesfully). and even then when you had theivery all maxed out the optional bosses where pieces of cake with or without it…
    years later to this day i still remember grinding levels and skills to beat ruby, or to be strong enough to gain eden, but do i remember hades or ozma? hell no!even the Yans ive completely forgotten about…
    furthermore the story was forgettable. i 7 we’ve got cloud with his identity crisis, and 8 we’ve got the intense relationship beautifully defpicted between squall and rinoa. and what do we have in 9? a search for identity and purpose, with no clear reason just a really strong will…
    the card battle was also nerfed up something fierce. its more of a casual game in 9 with no real desire within the player to collect em’ all, while in 8 it was a fully blown quest with crazy things like regions, special players and the ability to mod items from cards.

    on the plus side the graphics where pretty decent. and thats ALL

  21. While I appreciate your input, zerox, I’ve got to wonder how you can describe the relationship between Squall and Rinoa as an intense one that was beautifull depicted, and then call Final Fantasy IX’s story forgettable. FF9 oozes story and character. While it is quite easy, and that’s a valid complaint if you are bothered by such things (many are, I am not), FF9 went for “good” instead of “complicated” and I think it paid off in spades.