Final Fantasy 9 is 20 today – here’s why it’s still the best one


One of the best Closing Fantasy recreation first launched 20 years in the past right this moment.

Closing Fantasy 9 hit shops in Japan on July 7, 2000 – and it couldn’t have been developed and launched at a tougher, transient time.

That Closing Fantasy 9 is so fondly remembered is one thing of a miracle. Internally, it was developed concurrently and partially in the identical Honolulu workplace because the ill-fated Hollywood film Closing Fantasy: The Spirits Inside. It was a wildly totally different recreation to its massively profitable PlayStation predecessors – much less practical grit and extra a cute, cartoon-like medieval fantasy.

Then there’s that launch date – a PlayStation recreation arriving in Japan 4 months after the PlayStation 2, on its launch day it was virtually inherently previous information. It doesn’t assist that it was introduced alongside Closing Fantasy 10 and 11 – with voice appearing, super-realistic visuals and on-line connectivity in these video games, FF9 seemed archaic from the second it was revealed.

And but it wasn’t! Closing Fantasy 9 is an unbelievable recreation, and one commonly voted as the most effective titles within the sequence. It feels as if it deserves to be invoked with the identical hushed tones as reverence and Closing Fantasy 6 and seven; it’s among the many most holy. To the true scholar, it’s also plainly the very best one.

I may be biased, although. Closing Fantasy 9 turning twenty years previous is a deeply private anniversary to me, as the sport marks my entry into the world of writing about video video games, in a way. A die-hard fan of FF7 and FF8, I used to be desperate to study as a lot as I may within the run-up to FF9’s launch. That dragged me into the Closing Fantasy neighborhood, and from there, at age 11, into content material creation for fan websites. I did this via faculty, via college, and, nicely – right here I’m. Nonetheless right here. You’ll be able to all thank or blame FF9.

My private perspective put aside, FF9 is certainly particular for all these causes listed above. It’s typically reductively described as a throwback recreation, a tribute to previous Closing Fantasy titles. Whereas it’s completely full of references and winks for followers, it’s way over that, nonetheless. It’s a novel Closing Fantasy with its personal type and power that hadn’t fairly been completed earlier than or since.

A part of that is right down to the sport being made by a multicultural, worldwide staff of builders. Whereas in fact Japanese-led, an enormous quantity of FF9’s improvement, notably its artwork, was undertaken in Hawaii, a US territory. The sport’s workers included Individuals, French, Germans and extra. As of late, many Japanese video games are made by numerous groups because of worldwide hiring insurance policies and outsourcing, however FF9 was forward of the curve.

That worldwide streak may be felt all through the sport’s design, which isn’t simply the lovable medieval pastiche you discover in video games like Dragon Quest, however one thing extra brimming with character and particularly each a way of cheekiness and contrasting darkness. This, says key FF9 artist Toshiyuki Itahana, was because of the various members of the sport’s artwork staff every bringing a special perspective.

Whereas the totally different approaches of its worldwide staff, Closing Fantasy 9 can also be the final FF title to really be pushed by the imaginative and prescient of sequence creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. Whereas just a few later video games would have his identify hooked up in varied roles, FF9 was the final the place he really outlined the sport from high to backside, whereas criminally under-recognized director Hiroyuki Ito – who additionally directed FF12 and co-directed FF6 – ensured that imaginative and prescient was executed absolutely.

Producer Shinji Hashimoto places it finest, saying the sport was made “beneath Sakaguchi’s lead”, and that “Sakaguchi’s imaginative and prescient and the world he wished to create actually got here via”.

Whereas Closing Fantasy 7 was the break-out hit second for the franchise, FF9 is the second all the things actually modified – after this recreation, there was a flip towards actually specializing in the newest visible know-how and cinematic presentation. After FF9 it’d even be truthful to say Closing Fantasy has spent the following twenty years trying to find its soul – the closest it has come to reclaiming its true glory being its most up-to-date launch: a remake of its most well-known title.

The sport isn’t good, clearly. The battles are gradual, a consequence of stretched to breaking level PS1 {hardware} and Sakaguchi’s intention to evoke the true turn-based nature of early Closing Fantasy. A few of its characters are much less developed than others – Amarant the chief offender. It may’ve completed with out that Yoda quote from the ultimate boss. Tetra Grasp is admittedly no Triple Triad, both.

However for each minor miss like that there’s one thing that’s best-in-class for the sequence, like Zidane’s mid-game disaster of identification, composer Nobuo Uematsu settling into an actual assured groove together with his masterful use of leitmotif, and Beatrix, the best uber-powerful antihero in a sequence with a very sturdy pedigree in that class of character.

Different components of FF9 are so sturdy, just like the Energetic Time Occasion system that allows you to see a number of occasions going down on the similar time, permitting for a better depth of exploration and storytelling in Gaia’s charming cities and cities. This cautious constructing of character of each the world and solid actually pays off – and when the time comes for the story to finish and for FF9’s themes to culminate in going through down mortality itself, it pays dividends.

In my thoughts, Closing Fantasy 9 is without doubt one of the all-time nice Japanese RPGs. If you need the very best, most tightly constructed and full Japanese RPG ever made, play Chrono Set off. If you need essentially the most culturally important, play Closing Fantasy 7. If you wish to be most moved, play Closing Fantasy 6. All the beforehand talked about are wonderful – all-timers – however if you would like the very best? Effectively, for my cash, that’s 9.

So right here’s to a basic at twenty years previous. For higher and for worse, it appears really unlikely there’ll ever be a Closing Fantasy fairly like this once more. For that, Closing Fantasy 9 will without end be particular.

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