You might think that a publisher with as much prestige as Square Enix would want to preserve its history in as smart a way as possible, allowing new generations of video game fans to discover and fall in love with Final Fantasy. But... nope.
Final Fantasy IX launched on Switch and Xbox this week, and as I loaded up the Switch version Wednesday night (via code provided by Square Enix), I was unsurprised but still disappointed to see that it was the same port that Square had put on PC and PS4, which itself was based on the versions the publisher developed for iOS and Android. The character models are higher-resolution than they were in the original, but that graphical improvement comes with some drawbacks. Final Fantasy IX on Switch retains that ugly interface and font (seen above) and has a few quirks that make it clear this was meant to be a mobile game, like warning you in the character naming screens that emoticons aren’t allowed.
What’s irritated people most might be the music bug. All the modern versions of Final Fantasy IX have come with the same annoying flaw—after every battle, the field music track will start from the top. So if you run into battles every 10 seconds on the world map, you’ll only get to listen to the first 10 seconds of the world map theme—my favorite track in the game—before it starts all over again. As pointed out by a ResetEra poster, this bug has been prevalent not just in previous ports of FFIX, but in other new Square Enix ports of Final Fantasy games. For Final Fantasy X, they patched it out. It’s a bug that’s not easy to notice, but once you do spot it, it’s impossible to stop hearing the problem.
Even the good new features in this version of Final Fantasy IX are implemented in a frustrating way. For example, there’s a fast forward toggle in the console ports of Final Fantasy IX. Which is fantastic—the best way to play many of these old role-playing games in 2019 is to speed through the many, many random encounters. But rather than letting you fast forward combat at varying speeds with the press of a button, the way the excellent Final Fantasy XII remake does, this version of the game adds an extra step. To toggle fast-forward, you need to pause the game, then press R. It’ll make everything super-fast, not just combat, which essentially makes the game unplayable outside of battles. Then, to turn it back off, you need to pause the game again and press R again. That extra button press is more annoying than it seems.
And, hey, as I was testing out the buttons in the previous paragraph, my game crashed on this screen, which seems fitting:
Final Fantasy IX costs $21 on the Nintendo eShop, it should be noted. When Square Enix released Chrono Trigger for PC last year in horrible shape, fan outcry led the publisher to put out a series of patches that fixed many of the problems. Here’s hoping they can do the same this time around, because Switch users can’t just mod this into a good port.