Happy 20th Birthday, Final Fantasy IX: Reflecting on My Favorite Game of All Time

It’s July 7th, and today marks Final Fantasy IX‘s 20th anniversary. Final Fantasy IX never reached the same heights of fame as VII or X, but it didn’t go without love, either. In the twenty year span, Final Fantasy IX has been remastered and re-released on mobile phones, the Playstation 4, and the Nintendo Switch. Arguably the best track from the game, “You’re Not Alone” is played at the Final Fantasy concerts (along with some other notable tracks like “Rose of May” depending on the year). The final battle against Kuja has been immortalized in a gorgeous, colorful figurine. It even got a unique theme for the Playstation 4, featuring some of the most precious artwork of Black Mages I’ve ever seen. It may not be much, but the steady recognition Final Fantasy IX has gotten over the years fills my heart with joy. After all, it connected with me in a way that I haven’t really experienced with any other game.

When I first played Final Fantasy IX, I was a senior in high school. I had attempted to play other Final Fantasy games in the past, but to no avail — in each case, I would usually give up within a few hours. My experience with the series was very limited and basically non-existent, so attempting to do a Top 25 Games Ever List with the rest of the crew here at Objection Network was something of a challenge. My list had gaping holes and omissions that would be pretty glaring if anyone could see what my original list. But I also thought I would use it as an opportunity to see what games everyone else listed and see if I should play them myself. At the time, Final Fantasy IX ranked number 17. Not bad, within the top 25. Reading the positive, glowing reviews of the game peaked my interest. After all, I hadn’t been particularly interested in the other Final Fantasy games I attempted to play — maybe this would be the one I needed as my entry point into the series.

As a Christmas gift, I got a Playstation 1 copy of Final Fantasy IX that I could play on my PS2 (which I still have, despite no longer having a system to play it on). And right away, Final Fantasy IX stole my heart with its charming graphics and art style, quirky and memorable characters, and a surprisingly layered and deep story of existentialism and identity all starting with a seemingly stereotypical princess abduction. Everything about the game works. The world is huge and there’s so much to explore, the music fits every scene, and the combat system is extremely fun and addictive. I have so many fond memories of experiencing the game for the first time, to the point that sometimes I wish I could erase my memory of ever playing just so I could re-live it all over again.

But after defeating Necron and watching the ending unfold, something felt off. I started feeling like I was missing something really important. I was on the edge of my seat as the final cutscene began to play, with the sinking feeling in the back of my mind that I wasn’t remembering something right. The moment when Garnet was swept up in Zidane’s arms and she punched him in the chest, it felt familiar, like I had seen it before. And then it clicked. I had seen it before.

When Final Fantasy IX first came out, I was 6 years old. I have very few memories from being that young, but it turns out one of the strongest ones I have is watching Shaun play Final Fantasy IX, and watching the ending with him. I remember sitting on the brown couch in front of our old TV, and I remember the specific moment when Garnet punches Zidane in the chest during their hug. But without knowing what the game was called, or anything else about it, I didn’t realize that all those years before, I had already seen the ending to what was now my favorite video game of all time. It all came back full circle in a strange way, too. Who knew that something I saw when I was a young kid would stay with me years later, and that I would end up playing the very same game Shaun played and adoring it?

I don’t have an experience like that with any other video game, and it makes Final Fantasy IX very special to me. It truly feels like a game that’s been with me my whole life, before I even began playing video games or developed an interest in them. As my first Final Fantasy game, it also solidified my enjoyment of the series, as I went on to play VI, VII, and XIV. Final Fantasy IX has been a truly formative experience for me, and I doubt I’ll ever love a game as strongly as this one.

Happy 20th Anniversary, Final Fantasy IX.

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