Ethos’ Relapse Part 2 – Final Fantasy IX

ff9_logoLike Riddles, the first two games on my list are Final Fantasies. And like Riddles, the latter is a personal favourite. But I want to drop all the praise I give to FF9 for its story and characters and mood and music and focus on its truly JRPG qualities. One of the things I under-represent about my ability to replay this game over and over is its ability and leveling system.

The leveling system is about as basic as you can get. Final Fantasy IX was attempting to be a throwback and it absolutely was. You gain experience and level up causing HP/MP and crystal slot values to increase and every monster also gives out money for no reason. But all the appropriate information is there. The post battle screen is quick and informative and it doesn’t force you out of it, you can take your time looking at stats as long as you want without worry about the screen automatically moving on.

But I’m going into too much detail now. The system that I might love the most about IX, however, is the ability system. Each character can learn a wide variety of skills, and while some overlap, each have their own set that they can and can’t learn. These abilities are attached to equipment, but after gaining a certain number of Ability Points, the character learns the ability for good and can activate it at any time provided they have the right number of available crystal points. This system is such a prime example of why I love JRPGs. The characters have forced unique properties, but there is still so much choice. Would you rather equip a powerful new piece of armor, or stick it out with the weak one for a few dozen more battles to learn a helpful ability? Or maybe you’re absolutely fucking insane like me, and you’ll grind for hours to learn every single ability, even the shitty ones you’ll never use. The point is that it’s a system that rewards choice and reflects how much time you put into it.

Even slower with one character...

Even slower with one character...

However, coming from an emulator enhanced play session of FFV, it became screamingly obvious that Final Fantasy IX has the slowest battle system of all the Playstation-era games in the series. I enjoy the battle system, but waiting for your turn to attack is incredibly slow, and highlights the reason why it is called level-grinding. I personally love navigating menu systems, but Final Fantasy IX is certainly a victim of the “press attack until you win” form of grinding the vast majority of the time, and it does so in a slower manner than the two entries before it.

Therefore, I actually think Final Fantasy IX is the poster child for the very best and very worst aspects of JRPGs in general. Luckily, I always have the end goal in mind while playing these sorts of games, so the thought of learning a certain ability or being able to afford an item at the auction house makes the grinding a lot easier to me while it continues to absolutely baffle people like my roommate.

Anyway, while it was one of my first RPGs, I understand now how Final Fantasy IX was supposed to be a throwback to JRPGs of old. And, again strangely following in Riddles’ footsteps, my next RPG is one that breaks the mold a bit more than others, though perhaps not as much as Persona. It’s also one of my favourite games that I rarely mention on this site: Skies of Arcadia.

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4 Responses to “Ethos’ Relapse Part 2 – Final Fantasy IX”

  1. Andogo says:

    Emulator, meet Gameshark. Gameshark, emulator. And I’d like both of you to meet Final Fantasy IX.

    Seriously, ePSXe + PAR plugin, so key. So very key. I’m not sure how relationships with girls are supposed to work, but I’m pretty sure if you could speed up all the boring parts and have access to all the advanced perks that you normally have to level up to get… well, life would be much more civilized.

  2. Ethos says:

    I’ve used that. I can play 2D games on an emulator if I’m forced to, but I’ll do whatever I can not to. I tried FF9 on an emulator once. No thanks.

  3. DarthGibblet says:

    There are so many aspects of real life that could be improved by gameshark, why stop at dating?

  4. DarthGibblet says:

    Oh, and @Ethos: I’m the same way with emulators. For some reason, I just don’t find myself getting sucked in as much as when I play the game on a traditional console. I was fine with Dragon Age, though, so maybe I should try it again at some point. There are a lot of games that could benefit from savestates :D.

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