A great game, a shoddy port.
Final Fantasy IX, in and of itself, is a wonderful game. Harkening to the earlier days of the series, the PlayStation’s final installment is utterly charming. An intriguing story, rich soundtrack and vibrant characters make it easy to recommend. The Switch re-release is a serviceable port, but unfortunately it fails to fix bugs found in the PlayStation 4 and Steam ports that have been out for years.
First and foremost, Final Fantasy IX is a great game, filled with hours of wonderful storytelling and vibrant settings. I’ll admit the pacing is a bit slow, but the constantly creeping mystery surrounding the origins of main characters such as Zidane and Vivi kept me going. And once I got deeper into the game, there was a fascinating story to be found. The battle system is just kind of there (earning abilities based on character class and weapons), and I never felt as engaged with it as I did in other Final Fantasy titles, but it’s still serviceable.
Final Fantasy IX is now nearly 20 years old, and it shows. Moving around in the overworld can be kind of a chore, and the slow pace of battling feels like a boring grind. Thankfully, there’s a number of quality of life features in this port that alleviate these kinds of issues. There’s a fast forward option, which zooms you through dialogue, the overworld map and battles. There are also options to eliminate random encounters, kill enemies in one hit and become invincible. This makes it much easier if you just want to clear the game as quickly as possible without hitting any roadblocks.
Another upgrade is sort of a mixed bag. The character models have been cleaned up and look great, a big upgrade from the original PlayStation release. The problem is that the pre-rendered graphics, which the Final Fantasy games of this generation relied heavily on, did not get an upgrade for HD devices, making most of the backgrounds look grainy and blurry. It’s a shame, as the art direction of the game is tremendous. It’s just unfortunate that some parts just couldn’t be touched up more.
While the new quality of life features are great, this port of Final Fantasy IX, which is based on a mobile re-release, has issues that have never been fixed which is a real shame as they’re very noticeable. The game’s UI, for example, looks very bland and plain compared to the original. This isn’t a huge issue, but it’s not that appealing on a cosmetic level and I'm not sure why they kept this mobile-based UI that's been an issue for most of the Final Fantasy re-releases. The bigger issue is random crashing during the game —at least twice during cutscenes my game froze to the point where I had to reboot the game. It’s almost astonishing that despite noticeable technical problems, Square Enix did nothing to resolve these kinds of issues after nearly three years.
That’s not to say people should avoid this re-release, because despite the problems there’s a strong game here that’s worth playing and experiencing. FFIX is reminiscent of a simpler time, boasting a strong narrative and quality of life features that make it easy to get into. I just wish it had a better presentation, one that a game of this quality truly deserves.