In 2000, after a pair of PlayStation games that were more science fiction than swords and sorcery, I wanted a Final Fantasy that skewed heavily towards classic fantasy fare. Final Fantasy IX, released on July 7, 2000, in Japan, was exactly the game I was looking for.
Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi said Final Fantasy IX was “closest to my ideal view of what Final Fantasy should be.” Granted it was said in a 2000 interview with IGN and there’ve been six more numbered FF games since, but I’m holding him to it (plus he backed it up in 2017). As much as I’ve enjoyed the voice acting/MMO era of Final Fantasy, nothing’s quite captured the magic of adorable magic scamp Vivi getting mixed up with Zidane’s roguish acting troupe and the plot to kidnap Princess Garnet from her horrible home of Alexandria.
Look at that cast. Steiner is an honest-to-goodness knight, complete with armor and a sword. Instead of a cool, aloof hero, we have Amarant, the very last member to join the party. Our main character is a little guy with a tail and a dagger. Freya is an anthropomorphic rat. Look at Quina’s tongue. Just look at it. This is the last set of Final Fantasy characters that don’t look like a traveling band of supermodels.
I will never forget sitting in the bedroom of my apartment in Alpharetta, Georgia, controller in hand, crying like a baby as the end credits to Final Fantasy IX played. Feel free to sing along.
I could go on and on about this game, but we’ve already gone on and on about the best Final Fantasy many times over the years here at Kotaku. Here are some of my favorite posts.
Former Kotaku writer Jason Schreier will never finish his long-running Final Fantasy retrospective series, but he ended on a high note.
I also love his coverage of the infamous strategy guide, in which most of the actual strategy was actually on a bad website instead of in the book.
That horrible strategy guide is perhaps one of the reasons a sidequest in the game wasn’t discovered by Western audiences until 2013.
I love the way different writers see the same game differently. I never stopped to really appreciate Final Fantasy IX’s background art until Ethan wrote a piece about it in 2017.
And perhaps my favorite bit of Final Fantasy IX silliness, stern knight Steiner, renamed the sad-face emoji.
What’s your favorite Final Fantasy IX memory?