Just like the iconic track that accompanies the opening credits and title screen, playing Final Fantasy IX always gives me the feeling that I’m returning home or seeing an old friend after a long journey. Every time I boot it up I get chills of nostalgia for the thrill of diving back into a world full of fantasy, magic, and Chocobos. If you’re new to the series, don’t let the number nine scare you away. As is typical with most games in the Final Fantasy franchise, each one features self-contained characters and plot so you don’t need to have played the previous games.
Final Fantasy IX was the first game in the franchise I ever played, and what a game it was to start off with! Since then I’ve played all the numbered games in the series and more than a few spin-offs, but I always come back to IX. The story, although fairly predictable for JRPG players, delves into a very human approach in a world filled with magic and monsters. It explores what it means to be human and what a family can be. When I played it as a middle schooler, I can’t tell you enough how much this game helped me grow as a person. Now that it’s available on the Nintendo Switch an entirely new generation can experience it for the first time.
If you couldn’t already tell, Final Fantasy IX is my favorite in the long running series. It often gets overshadowed by its mega popular older brother, Final Fantasy VII (also coming to the Switch in March). Although VII is great and it’s one of the most influential games of all time, IX was the last of the PlayStation One Final Fantasy titles to release for the system. VII and VIII were trying new things and changing up the setting and formula that previous games had established, such as shifting from medieval fantasy to a more modern technological world. Final Fantasy IX is very much a return to the older titles with a heavy focus on knights, magic, and traveling acting troupes. It’s for that reason that the game feels so nostalgic even if you’ve never played it before, but even more so to players like me who have played it countless times.
It’s a little surreal playing this game on a Nintendo console, something I never thought possible. For a while, it felt like the PlayStation era Final Fantasies were locked to that console, but here we are. So many classic Final Fantasy games are getting remastered ports to the Nintendo Switch and I’m so happy one of the first is IX.
Of course this isn’t just a port! Although the original game looked great for its time by pushing the then aging PlayStation One to its limit, Square Enix gave it a fresh coat of paint to make it look just as good as you remember it. All of the updates that were introduced in the PC port are in the Switch version as well. HD visuals and revamped character models go a long way to make this game look even better than before.
A few gameplay tweaks were added as well, such as the ability to start off with all of your characters at level 99 or start with the maximum amount of money. Players can also turn off random monster encounters, something that classic JRPGs were notorious for in the past. These quality of life improvements help make this the easiest way to experience Final Fantasy IX, especially for younger players or those that just want to breeze through the story without grinding levels.
Although these changes help the game stay relevant with today’s gamers it retains all of the previous PC port’s annoyances. Square Enix added the option to increase the game’s speed, which saves a ton of time if you are grinding levels and fighting. However if you have this option on and you enter one of the game’s fantastic HD cutscenes that scene will also play in a hilariously fast-forward setting. Then you’ll have to pause the game and turn the speed multiplier off. It’s a miner inconvenience, but I can’t help but think it would have been an easy fix.
Final Fantasy games are known for their amazing musical scores. IX is no different, boasting, in my opinion, some of the best tracks ever put out by the legendary composer, Nobuo Uematsu. The track “Crossing Those Hills” might be one of the best tracks in the game, which plays on the field map so you get to hear it quite often. The problem is every time you encounter a monster the music will reset leaving you to only hear the first ten or so seconds of the song over and over again. I know this is a small grievance but it’s one with a simple fix.
The last tiny issue I had with this otherwise solid port is the text font in the game. It just doesn’t look great when compared to the font in the PlayStation original. Like stated previously this is a minor issue that doesn’t hinder the gameplay in any way but I just wish there was an option to change the font back to the original. All of these minor problems seem like easy fixes and it makes one wonder why Square didn’t resolve any of the issues when players of the PC port noted them.
All in all, Final Fantasy IX on Switch is a great port with a few small issues. None of them are game breaking problems but can make you ask “why Square Enix?” The characters, story, and classic turn-based battles are just as great today as they were nearly 19 years ago. If you’ve never played IX or you are looking to enter the series, this is a great gateway into the world of Final Fantasy. You will be humming the tunes for years to come.
Final Fantasy IX Review
- Graphics - 9/109/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 9/109/10
- Lasting Appeal - 9/109/10
Final Thoughts: EXCELLENT
The Switch port of Final Fantasy IX is a great way for new players and veterans alike to experience the timeless tale in the best looking version of the game to date. There are a few annoyances that come along for the ride, but nothing that’s going to hinder this fantastic game. Get ready to fall in love with Vivi all over again.
Tony has been gaming ever since he could walk. Pokémon Blue Version helped him learn how to read. His greatest accomplishment is not just having played the entire Kingdom Hearts series but also understanding it.