My Final Fantasy History (ranked)

VII – Like many, it was my first full JRPG experience. I loved it then, and still love the melancholy tone/music, sci-fi setting, and chasing the Sephiroth trail. It’s also the only one I’ve finished. What a n00b.

IV – While dabbling with the earlier titles this one stuck out to me. I immediately loved the light/dark story and grey morality that was rarely seen in games of that time. I’d love to finish this one next.

VI – Another dabbler, which in JRPG terms means around 20 hours in. Such a massive story and cast, I can see why this is a favorite for many and how revolutionary it was at the time. After Squaresoft wrung everything out of the 16-bit cartridge format it makes sense they had to go with Playstation’s CD media for VII

– Got about halfway through but wasn’t clicking with the sunny atmosphere and goofy lead character. I understand it’s a great setup for his later plot development but I rarely felt compelled to play this one. Still have the X/X-2 HD Vita version to eventually get to.

XIII – I was several years removed from the hype of this game by the time I played it which might have helped. The combat is a mix of excellent innovation and frustrating linearity as many tougher enemies feel as if they have just one solution. The game is still insanely beautiful to look at today and a lesson that characters need to ‘do’, not ‘tell’ to be interesting.

Now let’s talk about Final Fantasy IX

Before playing my impression of it was “throwback fan-service that was received very well”. After a good ten hours with it I feel that’s only scratching the surface (also, ten hours is just scratching the surface of a four-disc PS1 game (also, don’t scratch the surface of a PS1 game)). Sure there are moogles, chocobos, colored mages and the rest, but the core fundamentals of what truly makes a great FF game are Characters, Story, and play mechanics, and those are done very well.

After not clicking with X’s sunshine theme I was a bit hesitant of this merry band of drama-kids and a goofy Knight. But what turned the corner for me was Vivi the underdog. Controlling Vivi for a portion of the opening act was a strong choice. Everything is against him. He finds out he had a fake ticket, he has to work as a slave for a literal street rat, and he generally seems to have gotten the short stick in life. But as he joins the crew and the first battles come around it’s quickly apparent that his magic is more powerful than even he knows. The princess seems to be on a similar arc of empowerment as she immediately flips the script of being rescue fodder and was already planning her own escape. Back to Vivi, I was sold when he encounters mysterious creations that look identical to him and how he begins to question his own existence. This is definitely better than a sunny day at the beach.

The combat starts off at a great level, with numbers so low it’s easy to get a grip on the system and realize the importance of each mechanic. I’ve enjoyed the boss battles, especially with the fabulously integrated conversation and story elements throughout, but the frequency of random encounters is tediously high. I find myself missing the 3X speed offered in many of the FF ports, but alas I’m playing the original on a Vita.

The humour in this game surprised me. Many games are funny……for a game, but I’d say IX transcends that successfully. The womanizing lead and blindly loyal knight provide many of the jokey lines but some of the NPCs get in on the action as well. My favorite bit features Guard #1 explaining a the entrance to the city in a very RPG manner while Guard #2 calls him a know-it-all and questions why he didn’t become a tour guide instead.

FF games are always known for their looks and this one is no exception. I’m a huge fan of pre-rendered backgrounds as they work well with the Playstation’s limitation and I feel it’s closer to artistry rather than engineering a 3D environment. Static camera angles in the hands of a skilled creator can tell more of a specific story as well. There’s a lot of obvious love and detail poured into just about every scene so far.

I was surprised at how early it got its hooks into me but I’m fully on board and glad I’m playing on the Vita to sneak in a quick session whenever possible. I recently switched the action/cancel buttons to L1/L2 to make it more comfortable to play lying in bed or one-handed, which sounds a lot dirtier than it actually is.

This game holds up and is definitely worth playing in 2016 if you have any inclination towards RPGs or story-based games. Part 2 will follow when I’ve digested another big chunk of this fabulous game. I’m also looking forward to completing enough entries in the series that I can do a proper ranking of the whole darn thing.

Let me know what you think.