Monsters, Magic and Moogles: A Love Letter To Final Fantasy IX
We all remember that sound that now drips with sheer joy and a hint of nostalgia - the original PlayStation start-up theme. I had the joy of hearing that once more as I returned to the magical Kingdom of Alexandria. I sat there clenching my controller with a smile extended from one side of my face to the other. Moments later, I gazed upon that the opening screen to one of my favorite games of all time. Although most people consider Final Fantasy VII to be the strongest entry in the franchise, the same can't be said for me.
This is my love letter to one of the greatest RPGs of all time, Final Fantasy IX.
Looking back at my 11-year-old self, I see a young, tomboyish girl that spent countless hours immersed in video games. She pushed friends, family and neighbors to take her on at any multiplayer game. She ran through jungles as Crash Bandicoot and raided tombs with Lara Croft, while even finding time to kick some virtual ass in Tekken.
Vivi Ornitier still remains as one of th most iconic characters in the Final Fantasy franchise. With his golden glowing eyes to his huge droopy hat to the unexplainable black aura covering his skin (something I spent hours googling), he is just a captivating case to study at first sight. Vivi carries an innocent vibe with endearing, childlike attributes.
In the first few hours, Vivi is easily led in a rather clumsy fashion similar to most kids. As the story started to expand, I learned things about him that just melted my dear heart. Watching a young character deal with awfully grim, complicated conflicts had me hanging on the story’s every word.
This remains as an ongoing theme. As I traveled around the world of Final Fantasy IX, I met new characters that joined me on my quest and witnessed their development as characters in every new trial that faced them.
Antagonists also receive an equal part in the characterization process in this game. Surpassing bosses to find out various NPCs' plights along with why the queen just a downright bitch - there's always a reason to the madness. There’s a cause behind why Kuja acts the way he does and even though I still wanted to kick him into next week, the game still provided me a rich background pertaining to the villains' motivations that almost made me second guess that ass-whipping I dished out.
The soundtrack is no slouch either! Nobuo Uematsu's work on Final Fantasy IX was absolutely breathtaking. Each music track appropriately fits hand-in-hand with the various environments the world had to offer. Playful themes quickly uplifted my spirits when entering light-hearted areas and story events while running around always felt fresh and fun due to the various tunes that played.
Visiting new cities with my loyal party members were always something to look forward to because I knew I'd be greeted with a new batch of fantastic musical scores. Even exploring uncharted territory or opening a critical door that led to the next story revelation, each of these pieces established a theme conveyed not with words or visuals, but with sound. The soundtrack to me is like an old friend that I revisit now and then; I take a few hours out of my day to sit back, relax, and let these songs flood me with the memories of this game.
No Final Fantasy IX retrospective can end without mentioning the Moogles. Sure, you've probably seen them before but this time, we watch them interact with one another - sending each other mognets and love letters of their own. These little subplots are lovely additions to an already lovable game.
Something did change the day I was handed this game. It altered the way I perceived games and introduced me to the role-playing genre. Since then, I have never looked back. I am proud to say that Final Fantasy IX was my first RPG and I hope this letter encourages a few of you to pick up Final Fantasy IX as well.