Hands-On Impressions Of FFIX For Steam

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Last week, Final Fantasy IX arrived on Steam to lots of eager fans who had been anxiously awaiting its arrival since it had been released on mobile devices early in February. Never having completed Final Fantasy IX  myself back in the day, I thought this would be a great opportunity to try and get back into the game and finally finish it and check it off the list.

As was the case with the other PSX era Final Fantasy titles that made their way to steam, FFIX includes cheats, or “boosters” that allow you to do various things such as max damage, disable random encounters, increase the game’s speed and more. When the game originally released in 2000, people would have to grab a GameShark if they wanted to get access to stuff like dealing maximum damage with every strike. Today though, the ability to do that is simply provided and accessible to whoever wants to use it and I think the game is better for it.

The speed and pace of Final Fantasy IX is the speed and pace of a game that was released many years ago. It’s no secret that gaming has changed, becoming more social and more mobile. Many people are also favoring shorter play sessions. So how is it then that a slower, story and level driven RPG can still be relevant and worthwhile to the quicker paced gamers of today? The very boosters I mentioned earlier (combined with the earlier mobile release). Maybe it’s me, or maybe it truly was an issue with the original game, but I find battles can be very slow. Now, that’s easily solvable by hitting F1 on the keyboard, greatly increasing the speed that everything moves. Of course, funny enough, that great speed increase almost seems like a bad thing when exploring. I’ve often found it quite difficult to navigate areas with the speed booster enabled. I’ve found that walking, instead of running with the speed booster enabled will help with this a bit, though I can’t help but wonder if this speed booster is actually, dare I say it, too fast.

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Other options such as dealing max damage pairs very well with the auto battle option. This is made even better by also enabling the speed booster, making battles quick and easy while still giving you a small amount of grind to lean the abilities granted by your equipment. Of course, if you don’t want to do that, there’s another option in the configuration menu to let you automatically master your abilities, as well as level your characters up all the way, or give you infinite gil.

The boosters are there for players that want to use them, but more importantly, they’re optional, allowing the game to retain the same feel it did when it originally released. However, for those who may not have as much time to play, or those that want to re-play the game, the boosters can be used however desired. Personally, I enjoy throwing on the max damage and speed boosts to quickly get through battles and level up, while also learning my abilities. I could automatically earn those abilities, but I don’t mind doing a short grind session to earn them and gain experience points. Makes it feel like I’m not cheating quite as much.

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The other changes that have been made to the Steam version of Final Fantasy IX are the visuals. The movies found scattered throughout the game have been touched up, making them look better than ever. Keep in mind, these movies still keep the same aspect ratio of your big TV from back in the day, but the visuals inside that space are much better looking. Also touched up for this release are the character models… or rather, some of the character models. As is the case with a lot of touched-up or HD remastered titles, there are few models outside of the main characters that get the makeover treatment. Those characters often stand out when put next to the heroes, and usually not in a good way. The other down side of these newer models, which do look quite lovely, is that they stick out quite a bit on top of the backgrounds. Sadly, as the backgrounds themselves don’t appear to have been touched up, having the characters stand out in the way they do was inevitable.

The interface for the Steam version of FFIX appears copied from the mobile version of the game, making some menus feel a bit bigger than they were originally. However, I find the menus easy to navigate and what’s even better is that the keyboard and mouse controls for this game are actually… not horrible. Starting up the game for the first time, I thought for sure that a controller would be the only way to play the game and I was surprised that wasn’t the case.

At the end of the day, pros and cons aside, the Steam version of Final Fantasy IX is undoubtedly the best version of the game. It allows players a chance to re-play the game just as they remember it, or let them get through it a little easier and a little faster if they so desire.

Square Enix provided a copy of this game for us to check out.