Playthrough: The Summer of IX

This June, The Starlight Megaphone is pleased to present The Summer of IX!

Final Fantasy IX (US Box Art)

Throughout the month of June, all of the The Starlight Megaphone staff will be playing through the classic PlayStation RPG Final Fantasy IX. One disc will be covered each week, and each Sunday will be occasioned by a post (like this one) with a different FF9-related topic for discussion. The podcast will then discuss the results of the the previous week’s discussion post!

This is your chance to join in a complete playthrough of a game with our staff members. Your ideas, discussion, and suggestions will be included in the Megaphones Ahoy! Podcast. Moreover, all those who participate each week will be entered into our drawing at the end of the month to set harrowing and unpleasant challenges for Oliver and Ethan! Should they bathe in pudding? Perhaps they should be forced to eat some of Caspius’s tuna paste? Our winner will get to choose what manner of dastardly deeds Oliver and Ethan will be forced to participate in for YOUR amusement! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of the sort which can only be found at The Starlight Megaphone.

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Week 1
This week’s discussion focuses on the initial development of the plot in Disc 1. Do you feel that Final Fantasy IX begins satisfactorily? Is it too slow? Is it rushed? Are the characters presented in an interesting and engaging way? As villains are revealed, are their motives sufficiently understandable?

Of course, any sort of discussion about Disc 1 is acceptable. Is the dialogue well-written? Is the music up-to-snuff? Are there any issues with the battle system, the controls, or the overall presentation?

Ragtime Mouse Trivia
Finally, some trivia questions! You’re on your honour not to cheat. See if you can find the answers within the game! All of these questions are answered on Disc 1.

1. What is the proper name for North Gate?
2. During the 9th Lindblum War in 1389, one of Alexandria’s famous generals was only thirteen years old, and had only nine soldiers under her command. What was her name?
3. What fake theatre production did Vivi actually have a ticket for?
4. According to Breirecht (Pluto Knight VI), which other Knight knows the name of all the girls in town?
5. Characters in Final Fantasy IX frequently mention a great playwright who is a reference to the real-life playwright William Shakespeare. What is his name?

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Week 2
This week’s discussion focuses on gameplay and character development through Disc 2. Do you feel that Final Fantasy IX has a solid and engaging battle system? Is it too simplistic, or too complicated? Are the characters entertaining and interesting? Is the plot, as it revolves around the characters, beginning to thicken?

Of course, any sort of discussion about Disc 2 is acceptable. Is the dialogue well-written? Is the music up-to-snuff? Are there any issues with the battle system, the controls, or the overall presentation? Feel free to discuss any issues which are on your mind provided they are relevant through the second disc!

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Week 3
This week’s discussion focuses on the party arrangement and character development up to and through Disc 3. Do you feel that Final Fantasy IX‘s storyline develops in a coherent and interesting way? Is it too obvious, or too complex? Is the character selection varied enough? Are there too many characters, are they developed sufficiently? Is four characters per battle to your liking?

Of course, any sort of discussion about Disc 3 is acceptable. Is the dialogue well-written? Is the music up-to-snuff? Are there any issues with the battle system, the controls, or the overall presentation? Feel free to discuss any issues which are on your mind provided they are relevant through the third disc!

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Week 4
It is time to wrap-up our collective playthrough of Final Fantasy IX! Did you enjoy the game; why or why not? What little complaints do you have? Would you recommend Final Fantasy IX to gamers today? What sort of changes would you make if you were re-releasing it now?

Of course, any sort of discussion about Disc 4 (or the entirety of Final Fantasy IX) is acceptable. Feel free to discuss any issues which are on your mind about Disc 4, the game as a whole, or anything up to this point!

26 comments

  1. You and Oliver have a TERRIBLE memory.

    Happily, I remember it perfectly.

    Hope you two are enjoying yourselves at E3!

  2. Whether or not the game beging satisfactorily really depends on your priorities as a gamer, i.e gameplay over narrative or narrative over gameplay.

    From the perspective of narrative this game has a suitably bombastic opening replete with piracy, deception, airship crashes and the comedic stylings of Steiner. I particularly liked the way the game started off at a narrative climax before slowing down a little after a few hours of play.

    If you come into FFIX with a preference for gameplay however the opening may be a little slow, as I didn’t feel that I had complete control of the game until after the airship crash.

    Hapily I’m the former rather than the latter, and so the begining is one of my favourite sequences in the entire game.

  3. I generally like a good mix of gameplay and narrative, but when in doubt I lean toward the position of gameplay over narrative. Nevertheless, I love the opening. I feel it sets the stage adequately whilst involving the character–I’m never expected simply to press X for thirty minutes whilst cutscenes and text are crammed down my throat; instead, I participate. I control Zidane and give answers in the meeting. I search for the Princess as Zidane and Garnet. I put on the play, perform the sword fight, and fight off Steiner’s meddling. As Vivi I explore Alexandria, learn about the world and the situation, and meet key characters right away. This ‘learning’ phase lasts thirty minutes and then the Prima Vista goes down and I am given complete control.

    Ladies and gentlemen, that’s how you do an introduction.

  4. Yeah, whenever a replay a game a lot, I usually get most tired of the beginning. This happens even with games I really love like Majora’s Mask and Final Fantasy XII. But I never get tired of FF9’s beginning. Caspius summed it up perfectly with his description, so I won’t play the parrot, but I’ll add that I’m always surprised by how much music is crammed into the opening hours. Nobou really outdid himself.
    I also love how much exploring is rewarded even in the beginning as there are a plethora of items and even a small mini game and tiny side-quest in Alexandria. I also like how the game introduces its multi-perspective form right from the start as it continues to be one of the game’s strongest points.
    I obviously have a lot more gushing to do, but I’m exhausted from my flight and I don’t know how long this sketchy internet will last. Looking forward to the conferences!

  5. Yeah this was supposed to be one of Uematsu’s favorite OSTs to work on, and I also dug the FFVII Rufus cameo tune.

    When I criticised it from a gameplay perspective, I wasn’t trying to call it one big interactive cutscene, but rather I was pointing out that you don’t really get your hands on the rpg aspects until a couple of hours in.

  6. FFIX is chock-a-block with amazing compositions of every imaginable form.

    If any work speaks to Uematsu’s art as a composer, it is the score to FF9.

  7. I still prefer the FFVII OST, though the FFIX OST is of a higher quality.

  8. When you first told me that I was going to have to play though FFIX again, I wasn’t entirely pleased. The last time I played this game I was in middle school and was not particularly fond of it. Having played through the first few hours, however, I am prepared to whole-heartedly embark on this journey.

    Personally, I’ve really enjoyed the beginning so far. It’s refreshing to be rewarded for diligent area searching with hidden items — something that seems to have mostly disappeared in more recent games. I also particularly liked the little sword-fight in the play, even if I sucked terribly at it. For me, the beginning had the perfect mix of narrative and gameplay, as it allowed me to control characters, find items, participate in the little pirate’s play, and so on.

  9. @SN – It is enthusiastically Nobuo’s favourite soundtrack (and FF game, actually). He was only told to write a few battle themes, a character theme for each, and a few additional tracks, but he went on to score the most thorough and well-rounded Final Fantasy soundtrack.
    I agree that the FFVII OST has some real gems and captures the mood very well, but I can’t help but claim the FFIX OST as my favourite, and that’s reiterated each time I revisit the game.

  10. I would just like to say that the first disk is amazing in my eyes. I enjoyed the theater scene in the beginning along with the CGI with the forest going to stone. I believe it is very well written and I really hope that some day they have a remake of that game which will probably be in about 15-20 years.

  11. @Ethos- The sound quality is better, as to my recollection the only MP3 on the FFVII was one winged angel, with the rest of the OST comprised of Midis. Also the FFIX OST in much livlier with some nice folk music elements, something that makes you feel more like dancing than saveing the world XD. The FFVII OST on the other hand has much more emotional ressonance to it, and as such is much more memorable for me, with the character themes for Aeris and Tifa being some of the prettiest tunes I’ve ever heard. Listening to the FFIX OST is just like playing FFIX for me, it’s all great fun but it doesn’t really stay with me.

  12. Just a quick correction: the FFVII soundtrack is all MIDI, just like FFIX. The vocals in One-Winged Angel are MIDI samples. If you listen to them carefully, this will be readily apparent.

  13. @Reetin – you and me both.
    @SN – FF7’s OST has some incredibly emotional tracks. I agree. I find the same with FF9, but this is obviously subjective
    @Caspius – Excepting the FFIX OST+ you mean. Unless I’m incorrect there too.

  14. @Ethos: Correct. The orchestrated tracks (mostly if not exclusively used in cutscenes) are not MIDI.

  15. I was certain that SE were using mp3s exclusively by the time FFIX rolled around.

  16. Yup. As a guy who has worked with more than his fair share of orchestration samples, I confirm that!
    I have a lot of detailed notes about Disc One, but I’m too ragged from this week so far to detail them yet. Hopefully soon.

  17. The sword fight in the beginning is still one of my favorite parts of the game. Although difficult to master, I usually play it through a couple times because I have so much fun during it. The music during that part is awesome, and I remember The Black Mages doing an amazing version of it.

  18. @Bup – Yup! I’m obsessive about it. I played through it only 3 times this time before I got 95/100 people and the Queen to like it.
    It’s a good tune, and it plays again during Chocobo’s Hot and Cold.

  19. It is possible to get 100/100. I managed it wayyy back in the day when I was hanging out in #fret — took me about 2 hours to do though.

  20. Started playing FF IX on my old style playstation, but it died on me. I’ve had to switch to ps2 now. The graphics are a little better.

  21. I’m playing it on my PSP, and it looks so good on that screen.
    I was never that obsessive over getting 100/100 on the sword fight, I just really enjoyed the song. I need to find that Black Mages cover sometime….

  22. @Bup – I’d really like to play it on the PSP, I expect to pick one of those systems up soon. I didn’t really follow the PSP Go! and I, to be honest, forget that portion of the press conference, so I’ll have to look into that to see if I’d prefer to wait for it, but either way, I’m finally jumping into the Sony console world very soon.

    @Tumblecheck – I’ve always played my PSX games on my PS2, it’s very convenient for that, and I forgot that it smoothed things out a bit!

  23. Well yeah the FFIX battle system is a tad simplistic, and it’s certainly not going to win any awards for thinking outside of the box, but frankly after the convoluted shambles that was the junction system, this was exactly the sort of battle system required. The strength of FFIX’s battle system doesn’t lie in its intricacy or its originality, but rather in its balance. FFIX’s combat is a good challenge without going overboard,and thus it acts as a good incentive to keep at it.

  24. @SN – Exactly. Sums it up. Plus the ability system is so addicting for ADDs like me, so I feel like every battle is going toward more than just a level up.

  25. The ability system did make it fun checking out shops for new armor and weapons.

  26. The abilities from weapons/armor is an aspect of something I really like in RPGs.

    It’s boring when you have to fight for an hour to gain a level and only receive tiny stat boosts or something. When you win 10 battles and gain a completely new ability or something it keeps things interesting. “Just two more fights and I’ll learn Ability X!”, etc.

  27. Yeah it felt really rewarding, whilst also feeling really traditional (which makes it something of a microcosm for the game design in its entireity).

  28. That’s a good point that I didn’t even quite realize, NooB. The ability system really DOES make it fun to look in the armor shop. I’m kinda realizing that FFIX has set the tone for the way I play all my RPGs. I keep all my weapons, usually (synthesis), and I go into weapon shops expecting the same rewarding feeling, and I’m not usually satisfied.
    Disc two is great, it’s the disc for the two villains. Kuja is off his fucking rocker, but I love ‘im. The story ramps up at such a good pace that you really begin to care about everything that’s happening. Still keeps the multi-perspective!

  29. I just love Zorn and Thorn.

    What gets me really dissapointed is plain old vanilla leveling up, with nothing more compelling to give meaning to grinding out battles. There’s nothing better than games like FFIX and X where you earn yourself frequent incremental rewards for grinding, which becomes really addictive.

  30. @SN – Zorn and Thorn are great. And their theme is one of the soundtrack’s greats. I love the variety of the villains, and that we’re never too far removed from any of them. Disc Two is just as strong so far. I just fear this one part in Disc Three that is my bane. The part of the game where I stop the most during a replay. And it’s actually because of the stuff I LIKE about the game. Just in overload. But more about that next week!

  31. I think I appreciate this game more now than I did when I played it way back when. It has a great script and wonderful characterization. I do have a couple of minor complaints, however.

    Why did they have to make the Trance system activate as soon as it’s filled. essentially, it’s the limit break system and in previous titles, they made it an option. It frustrates me because I was in a random encounter, with zidane going into a trance, then Quina killed the last creature and ended the fight. I didn’t get a chance to use Zidane’s abilities and now it’s lost.

    Also, it seems like the ATB bar moves in a stilted way, like how it moved in the PSone remakes of V and VI, while the ATB in VII moved more like an hour glass. it doesn’t really matter, but I would have thought Square would try to improve, rather than regress.

    Still, these problems are very minor and I’m still loving the game.

  32. This disc has one of my favorite scenes in any Final Fantasy game. The love scene between Steiner and Beatrix.

  33. Yes! All the love stories coming to fruition! I really haven’t seen love handled so well in any other game.

  34. The defence, and subsequent destruction, of Alexandria is one of the most awesome moments in RPGs. I absolutely love that scene.

    Garnet realising who she is, and the unveiling of Kuja’s plan, combine to make this disc a truly fulfilling experience.

    I love the various locales explored, too. Oeilvert in the desert is a bizarre and strange place like something from the planet Andoria in Star Trek. This is followed up by an upside-down castle. Puzzles abound!

    The ‘Slew of Love Letters’ scene is awesome, too. Is there anyone who doesn’t like it?

  35. No Pete we will not have a summer of fable, with as much content as Fable had we could have maybe 10 minutes of Fable.

  36. I would like to say congrats oliver for finally getting a pretty girlfriend.

  37. Reetin stupid Galka, Fable has tons of content with an awesome dog companion!!!!!

  38. Hope you guys take the time to discuss with detail what the final scene of FFIX (Terra and Gaia becoming one) means for you. Do Gaia and Terra become one, does Terra take over Gaia? I’ve got my own thoughts but don’t know what the “canon” is.

  39. @Epyon – I actually don’t have an opinion there because I really didn’t find that stuff interesting. It was introduced so late into the story that it didn’t have any ties. It wasn’t relevant to the character themes, and it just generally seemed out of place. I love the ending, but the fourth disc is absolutely my least favourite in terms of plot.

  40. I actually like the plot quite a bit. It shows up Kuja’s incredible narcissism as so self-obsessed that the world itself cannot be allowed to exist in the absence of the self. Very powerful, and a testament to the reality that narcissistic people are the bane of civilisation. Unfortunately, our media and education system is designed to produce them, and we have succeeded beyond our wildest fancies. We now are possessed of the greediest, most selfish, egotistical, self-obsessed population ever to inhabit the globe.

    Disc 4 is so short; and this is really my only problem with it. Essentially, Disc 4 contains the minigames one hasn’t finished, and the final dungeon. I’ve finished all the sidequests and minigames–yes, all of them, Ozma excepted–and now I haven’t anything left to do. Every character has every ability, they all have their best equipment, and they are all far stronger than they need to be to deal with Kuja and Necron.

    And yet I want to do more! Why does it have to end here? Why can’t we have another disc full of material?

    I suppose that is the sign of an excellent game: to enjoy it all the way through, and to want more when it finally comes to an end.

  41. That’s exactly how I always thought of the third disc of FFVII, I had expected it to be of a similar length to the first two discs and instead it just contained the final dungeon.

  42. I only finally started up playing FF9 again yesterday to my infinite shame. I couldn’t help but smile as the intro movie started to play though. About five hours in now and the game is reminding me why I liked Final Fantasy in the first place.

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