Yeah, so, I caved. Among all this talk about Final Fantasy IX receiving a remastering for mobile phones and Steam I’d been thinking about the game quite a bit and how much I enjoyed certain parts of the game. However, one of the things I remembered most about the game was that certain segments of the game were practically punishing in its difficulty and I thought to revisit the game in spite of myself, seeing as I had the port for my PlayStation 3 already and that was, for the most part, unchanged, to my knowledge. I thought I’d go back and see if this was one of those games that memory had gotten all wrong.
I gotta say, I’m a sucker for retro games and when it comes to games like this, I can’t exactly pick up a remaster and say something along the lines of “oh hey, this is all shiny and new, I think I’ll give it a chance” because of the fact that there’s not a whole lot that has changed and, honestly, I’ve seen the game in motion in its new form, and it looks like the equivalent of a polished turd. It still looks awful compared to the graphics of today and the game has enough polish otherwise that it didn’t really need much tweaking so this is one revisit I’ll be leaving to the original port.
Hearing that opening theme for the first time is really something and I remember why I loved the game so much: while it’s clear that this game was made the way it was in response to fan outcry, this game’s simplicity and brevity is one of its more charming and endearing points. You have a group of adventurers who are out on a rather straightforward quest: to find the truth – both about themselves and about the world they live in. I mean, of course, you’re saving the world and there’s crystals and there’s all these other Final Fantasy staples but, at the end of the day, that’s what you’re dealing with: a bunch of lost souls trying to find themselves in a world that’s dying. Nobody really is open and in your face about how brooding they are and the story unfolds in many different ways without everybody dragging their butts around telling everyone about how sad or apathetic they are until the situation really calls for it. It was really a refreshing breath of fresh air, especially where the story and presentation are concerned, as everything moves at a nice, steady, and sometimes whimsical pace.
With that in mind, it wasn’t that hard to pick the game back up: I’ve grown a little jaded where JRPGs are concerned. They’re either way too stereotypical or they’re downright masterpieces and it’s often hard to tell which is which, these days, without having played it yourself. It felt nice to come back into a world that actually felt like it was trying to keep you motivated to play as opposed to trying so hard to get you to feel something and be so damn cathartic. It was a welcome change from Final Fantasy VIII, for sure, the first game I’d pretty much drained every event and possibility out of since Final Fantasy IV; VIII drained me out. There’s elements of that game that I honestly did not enjoy at all and I really only went through to the extent that I was because I had a few friends who were very much into that game.
This time, playing through, though, I got a whole new feeling: I remembered the game being a whole lot harder than it actually was; I guess this was just another incident where I remembered the game quite differently, in some respects. Playing through the game was a breeze and it gave me the perfect opportunity to enjoy the game’s story and smaller nuances. This is the happiest a retro game has made me in a long time and I really appreciate it for doing that. Been a super long time since I’ve been able to just coast through a game at my own pace and really feel comfortable with it. I really got the chance to just sit back and enjoy what’s going on around me.
However, I can’t go through this because of the new remaster without actually checking it out, so I did, if only briefly; it’s alright, I guess. Nothing unexpected, really: animation’s sharper, textures are sharper, polys are more refined – if only a little, cutscenes are a little cleaner… for the most part, nothing’s really changed. Is that good? Somewhat. It’s extremely good in the sense that you shouldn’t really mess with a game of this caliber: a lot of people consider this game Square’s swan song before turning the franchise into a mess. However, it’s also bad in the sense that they’re charging for this game like they do almost all of their digital purchases: obscenely. If you’re not going to do a whole lot more that couldn’t be done easily with ePSXe – that’s a PlayStation emulator for those who don’t know – then why charge a gratuitous amount of money? Because they can, that’s why. And they’ll get away with it, too.
Can’t win ’em all. However, though, I am thankful for the remaster if, at the very least, for reminding me of what a classic this game is. So… uh… thanks, Square. I guess.