The first time I played a Final Fantasy game was when I was about 12 years old. My dad would take me to the video store and I’d look at all the covers of the Playstation games. Final Fantasy IX‘s cover art caught my eye. The cartoony style really spoke to me, and at the time I was subscribed to GamePro magazine. They had just run a bunch of features on the game, and I’d already read and re-read the walkthrough of the game multiple times. I eventually ended up buying and falling in love with it.
Final Fantasy IX was my first exposure to JRPG‘s. I didn’t even really have any experience with a normal RPG at this point, so I didn’t have any frame of reference for what the game would play like. The Final Fantasy series (and JRPG’s as a whole) typically features a cast of teenage characters who end up saving the world from a villain or a catastrophe. It usually plays on a lot of Japanese tropes and archetypes. I ended up loving this game so much, that I was very disappointed later on when I tried playing other JRPG’s. I found them to be much more evocative of the Japanese pop culture than I was interested in engaging with. I’ve never really understood or enjoyed a lot of the content put out by Japan (movies, games, TV) but Final Fantasy IX was different.
The first time I played through this game, the things that really stood out to me were the story and characters. This was around the time I was starting to really get into reading fantasy novels, and this Final Fantasy was the most westernized game in the series. It tells a story about a princess in a medieval setting who needs to be saved, etc. etc. It definitely doesn’t follow a typical western fantasy plot, but it wears it’s Japanese origins on it’s sleeves. It’s a great combination of Japanese and Western influences, and I loved living in it’s world with those characters. Vivi and Steiner especially stood out to me, whenever I think about this game I think of those two.
I haven’t played this game in 10 years or longer, so when I found out it was coming out on iOS earlier this year I was super excited. I was sad to see that the story and characters didn’t hold up so well this many years later. I’m not sure if it’s due to my age and maturity now in 2016, but a lot of the humor and story beats fell really flat for me. There was definitely a lot of nostalgia going back to an old game I loved so much as a kid, but the things I liked about it then are not what I like about it now. This time playing through it, I’m having a lot more fun with the battle system and figuring out each of the bosses. This update included several extra features that help with grinding, such as a setting that lets you deal 9,999 on each hit or a setting to turn off random encounters.
This allows me to skip all the really grindy sections of the game and focus more on the boss battles and revisiting the story. I think this was a really smart move for this update, as the grinding that I remember as a kid would be pretty hard to deal with in 2016. I’m about halfway through the game and I’m moving through it pretty quick. Definitely recommend picking it up if you’ve never played Final Fantasy, or if you’re a long time fan looking for some nostalgia.