Final Fantasy IX was recently released on the Nintendo Switch eShop and I picked it up asit is a definite hole in my gaming history. The PS1 era of Final Fantasy games were ones I never played upon release. I’ve now played through VII, have started and put down VIII multiple times and have now started IX. And, wow, what an opening.
FFIX has done the best job in recent memory of making me like characters almost immediately. Whether it’s the likable Vivi who is constantly tripping over everything, the Head of the Pluto Knights, Steiner and his goofy over-exaggerated facial expressions coupled with a serious demeanor or Zidane’s humor, they’re fantastic. With the exception of Queen Brahne, (who will forever haunt my nightmares) I can’t wait to see how the characters further evolve. This holds true for Princess Garnet as well whose sadness is clearly communicated with the player only to have her lead a harrowing chase ending with her asking Zidane to kidnap her.
Now, FFXIII was a much-maligned game in the franchise but one that I enjoyed. However, the double-edged sword in that game for myself was the constant splitting up of the party. On one hand, it allowed for better characterization with more intimate conversations. But it also became irritating as this happened far too deep into the game not allowing desired party compositions. While I can’t say for sure what IX has in store relating to this, the way they handled it during this initial heist sequence was stellar.
Vivi stumbling around the city trying to find a way to see the big play was endearing as he went from ticket booth to rat boy to rooftops constantly taking in everything around him. Meeting up with Alleyway Jack was a brief diversion as a gateway to a minigame which I have yet to try, but one that I will give a shot to at some point.
The interactions between Zidane and his squad are believable and his acting, especially once him, Garnet and Steiner are thrown on-stage is hilarious. His escape with the princess eluding Steiner to eventually fly away (and then crash) made me immediately engaged in their relationship.
Lastly is Steiner who I spent the least amount of time with. But from his rivalry with the opposing guard captain, Beatrix, to him frantically trying to get his soldiers to get moving to find Garnet, he infuses some humor into the archetypal law enforcement official who takes his job a little too seriously. As I know he will become a party member later on, the entire dynamic between him and the rest of the party will be something that I’ll be keeping an eye on.
That’s all I have to say about this captivating opening sequence. The biggest compliment that I can give this part of the game is that the pacing of the story and action is quick while still laying the groundwork for compelling characters. I’m only an hour in after all of this but will be putting in many more hours in the days and weeks to come. Depending on how much I enjoy the game overall, it may be a prime candidate for a “Did You Ever Play” article down the line.