A Place to call Home  – Final Fantasy IX

 

I know … its been a while.. just havent found the time to get anything down in words and also trying to work on something new (watch this space!) so here is something to tide over til then. a piece written by a good friend of Mine Elliot who wanted a shot at writting about a game thats very close to his heart! be sure to leave your thoughts and comments for him.. would help him out 😀

A theme that brings back memories from when I was a child, Final Fantasy IX was probably the first true Final Fantasy game I played properly, it wasn’t until about two years after playing IX that I realised I had played another title when I was about six years old. However, this is not about that title, it is about the title I deem one of the most successful and in my opinion the best final fantasy game made and still is.When it came to my ninth birthday I was given a game that, fifteen years on I still love and hold dear, Final Fantasy IX…I think my mum was just trying to be clever, buying a game with my age on it, not realising what the game was or what was in the game. I learnt a lot of new words from this game. Anyway, I am digressing, I want to share what makes me believe this game is the best title made.The first thing that attracted me was the title screen, watching the name Square Soft appear and then watching the opening transition through the name showing parts of the map and locations of different areas in the game, watching the cargo ship fly towards a gigantic castle beyond measure, all the while the OST ‘A Place to call Home’ plays, now this is one of my favourite things.

The music score for this game was perfection, every location has its own music or a new variation, for instance ‘A Place to call Home’ has three different variations but all link in very well with the theme. The music has depth and emotion and the ability to make you become immersed in the game, the music for each character’s theme gives so much story about them in a sense. The musical scores are all made using brass, woodwind, percussion, and strings, to give a more classical theme however with hints to futuristic tones which matches this game perfectly. The theme for this game is one set in a medieval style, dark ages without a trace of anything modern, yet despite this they keep a futuristic look in the game with the use of something that’s always popular in final fantasy…Airships, but these airships don’t use engines that use oil or electricity as they don’t exist in this game, instead they use something known as mist. Mist is an interesting one, it plagues a continent, that shaped like a bowl by its mountains, never disperses and causes severe effects to people, at the beginning of the game we know it to create monsters and how a race that lived in the mist became strong warriors, but later in game you find out that its created for a specific reason and what the mist is made of would chill you to the very bone.

Now I can’t talk about this game like its god’s gift to us, the game does have some flaws, like everything does, and I will talk about what I found either pointless or absurd. One of those absurd things is the steal mechanic, now the steal mechanic itself is interesting.
Step 1

Steal has to successfully hit the target.

Atk = Random MOD (Level + Spirit)
Def = Random MOD (Enemy Level)

If Atk is equal or greater than Def, Steal is a success and moves to Step 2.
This step can be ignored if Bandit is equipped: Bandit causes any Steal to
have a 100% success rate.

Step 2

Checks to see if you get an item, they’re 4 possible slots to choose from.

Rare : 1/256
Semi-Rare: 16/256
Uncommon : 64/256
Common : 256/256

Slots are checked from Rare to Common. If you fail to get the item in the
Rare slot it moves down to Semi-Rare, fail to get the item in the Semi-Rare
slot it moves down to Uncommon, fail to get the item in Uncommon slot and
you’ll get whatever item is in the Common slot.

If you get a slot that has no item or you already stole it, Steal will fail.

If you equip Master Thief the Rare and Semi-Rare slots are changed from 1/256
and 16/256 to 32/256. Steal will also now ignore empty slots. So that is the mechanic for stealing, there is more but that is irrelevant for us, now there is a boss in Final Fantasy 9 that makes stealing truly infuriating, that is the Hilgigars. The Hilgigars has an item called the ‘Fairy Flute’, this a strong weapon for a character that you cannot obtain until later in game however it is incredibly hard to obtain, so with Hilgigars it has only three items to steal, a common item, an un-common item and the Fairy Flute, now normally it be in the semi-rare slot like the rest of the games bosses’ items are.

However the Fairy Flute is in the Rare slot, leaving the semi-rare slot blank, now if you follow the steps you’ll notice if you fail to steal from the rare it moves to semi-rare then to uncommon and common, now given the steal rate, you are more likely to steal both the common and un-common items quite quickly, and then it leaves that item to steal, however instead of having a 6.25% chance of stealing the item (not much I know) you only have 1% to steal it. Now I personally have never managed to steal that item, and I tried incredibly hard, I spent a good 12 hours at one point trying to steal that item to see how truly difficult it was and all i ended up doing was wasting my own time. So instead I reset the game, fought Hilgigars and killed him in around 5 minutes, absolutely fed up with seeing that stupid boss.

So the stealing mechanic is good…but some bosses were just stupidly ridiculous to steal from, but Hilgigars just took the cake. So that is one small detail I find annoying, but now I spoke about something bad…let us talk about something good….well not good in itself…but designed rather well. Push aside the Super Soldier with an Oedipus complex, forget about the clown that was broken and transformed, we are on about an antagonist that is so terrifying, so annoying, so manipulative and condescending that I love to hate so much, although the androgynous part does terrify me slightly. The one and only…Kuja. So what to say about Kuja, well firstly I will admit I thought he was female to begin with…I mean come on look how he dressed, the only reason that clothing is accepted…and only JUST accepted is because he is male, if he were female that would never get past finalisation. Saying that, being able to have feathers for hair is an impressive look.

 

I give credit where credit is due, in dissidia (although not at all relevant to the game) the voice actor gives justice to the character’s voice, that musical aria he has, the fluidity and poetic tones just give me more reason to love this antagonist. Now he is very different to the Super Soldier and Demented Clown however he has achieved more than those two put together, he caused a full-scale war with a continent, fuelling one side with magical weapons, managed to take over one of the strongest Eidolons ever known and to top it off he manages to do what both the soldier and clown failed to do…..destroy a planet…heck he almost destroyed two planets in total, and because of his actions it wouldn’t stop there, his actions almost caused the entire universe to be wiped from existence.

Now with that I do have some issues, his actions almost caused the universe to be destroyed, but not by his hands, it would be by another entity, one that has had no reason to be placed in the game, where nothing was even tied to it and has a line that was stolen from Star Wars…Necron, apparently it watched what Kuja had done and decided that all life should fade.

Fair enough that’s a reason to have a final boss be a final boss, however Necron had no reason to be here, Necron just shows up and like “hey, I watched all this, I think I’m just going to destroy everything, cuz ya’know…shits and giggles” …and so you face Necron, and when it comes to defeating it, you get teleported away by Kuja whilst it just collapses in on itself…Now what gets me is the fact that Necron wasn’t the first final boss they had in mind, it was meant to be Hades, God of the Underworld, but they decided “nah he can be a legendary synthesis hidden in an illusionary ocean” (btw spoilers to anyone who never found out who it was) which you have to defeat in a battle which is totally optional. Even that would’ve been pointless, as again there is no information that would link Hades into the game to be a plot twist like Necron, he’s just…there…just waiting to be faced by confused kids and adults alike thinking “wtf are you doing here”

So back to Kuja, poor Kuja, so scared of someone granted more power he sent them to the world he would destroy, and when he finally gained immeasurable power…he finds out he was going to die very soon after. That feeling that no matter how hard you try, it all comes down to nothing. I understand that…although I don’t have the power to destroy my home planet and then go on an attempted planet massacre spree. Now Kuja should’ve been the final boss, and if you’re like me and think Necron is a poor example, you’ll treat him like it, when he transforms into his Trance state he drastically changes, from becoming a silver haired man to a bright blood red fury…or furry monkey man, with terrifying power that can destroy anything with a glance. Speaking of bosses, what about the super boss of the game, a forgotten eidolon that has lost its known shape…Ozma, a giant spherical summon that has a terrifyingly different ai to every other enemy in game.

So final fantasy battles have changed through the 30 years, from turn based, where you would select each character’s move and then the battle would happen and whoever was fastest would go first, this stayed for the first three games, when final fantasy IV (II for the Americans) came out they brought out the active battle system, where each character had a gauge and once it filled up they had a turn, now the enemy also had this, so it meant the battles would be more fluid, now this can be changed so that when you select spells or items or skills the game stops, or stay on active where attacks still happen whilst you decide…this means the game gets a bit more difficult.

Final fantasy IX had the active time battle which is the same as the system from old, just refined slightly, although I do admit that the battles are incredibly slow paced compared to Final Fantasy VII or VIII. So generally, the enemy have their own active time battle gauge which you cannot see, and once it fills up they will act on a move that is decided by RNG and decide on who it hits with RNG. Now Ozma is incredibly unique, it wasn’t until I was around 18 that I figured out that Ozma’s ai was different and I had looked into it to find out that it is completely different to every enemy and boss in game.

So, with Ozma you have to be careful what you do, if you select a move/item that is directed at Ozma then it’s ATB Gauge instantly fills up and it selects a move and uses it before you can even have your turn, to top it all off it even stacks its moves for however many times you selected a move/item at it. This will lead to a quick and devastating annihilation. The only way to get past that was to wait til Ozma had its turn and whilst it was doing its move, select the move/item you wanted to use, that way it couldn’t instantly fill its gauge and destroy you.

Now not only does it have that, but it can adapt its moves based on your equipment, if you have equipment that absorbs or negates holy magic, it will not use holy on you, if you can negate or absorb shadow magic, it will not use Doomsday on you, the strongest shadow spell in game that also damages itself. Now this is bad because it increases the rng for certain moves it has, one being Meteor, a highly unpredictable spell, Meteor is like Comet, a spell that does damage based on the caster’s spirit, but it can also miss, the only difference is Meteor can target all enemy/characters, now Ozma’s spirit is incredibly high, and I remember I went to battle it once and it got to use Meteor first and all four of my characters took over six thousand damage and were one-shotted. Besides Meteor, it also has a move called curse, now this hits all characters for damage (around the two thousand mark) and also inflicts many bad status effects, most you can actually guard against except for two, berserk and mini, which makes fighting it harder.

It also has a very unique move that only Necron can use besides itself, this is Grand Cross, a spell that inflicts every bad status effect in the game, including petrify and death, this is very difficult to predict unless you can guard against everything, the only affects you cannot guard against are death, berserk and mini, if like myself you went to face Necron without any protection from status effects felt the dangers then you know as much as I do that you want to protect from the more dangerous ones, Venom, Petrify, Heat/Freeze, these effects will render you useless and defeated if not protected against.

So Ozma has all these dangerous spells and moves and incredibly difficult to fight even at high levels, to make things worse unless you do a certain side quest you cannot even attack it physically unless you have long range ability, the ability to throw or jump and must rely on magic or skills, now this can be done if you prepare properly. So as a Super Boss he is definitely one of the hardest to face, sure compared to Emerald/Ruby Weapon from VII or Omega Weapon in VIII it doesn’t have as much health but with its unique a.i, the ability to adapt to your equipment, and having an immunity unless you do a side quest. Ozma is easily one of the top ten super bosses in the series.

So this is a long…essay I have written, now I own final fantasy IX on my PlayStation, PlayStation portable, PlayStation 4 and on PC and played many different games with many different rules I follow such as no abilities, no grinding, and doing a mage only run I have played this game so much I have done everything, collect all the tetra master cards, learn all abilities, complete the chocobo hot n’ cold game, the friendly monster quest, the only thing I have not been able to complete is collecting all the final weapons in the game, I have collected all but one. The accursed Excalibur II, now Excalibur II? Why is there a second one? How can there be a second fabled sword of the stone that is actually stronger? How do I get said sword?

The answer is simple…. you play the game, yet you don’t.

Cryptic right?

To acquire Excalibur II you have to get to the final area in Memoria, the (technically last) second to last dungeon in the game within…TWELVE HOURS, that is a feat that, to anyone that has done, I acknowledge is incredible, as to even fathom completing a feat like that, you cannot get into any encounters whatsoever in game, you have to beat the game using incredibly low level characters (possibly a full team of level 1) and somehow manage to defeat bosses using level 1 characters that have no strong weapons/skills but also skip every fmv in game. To even attempt to do this you must know what you are doing and how to do it properly.

So why haven’t I done this? Well to put it simply, I do not think I could do it in twelve hours, however I do not even have that option…because that only applies to those who have the NTSC—U/NTSC-J versions of the game, if you like myself own the PAL version of the game, have it slightly harder, you must do it within TEN hours. So that’s my main issue with Final Fantasy IX, however with all the flaws this game has it remains close in my heart and will always be in my memories, one’s of being young, not understanding the game itself, not understanding the story of this game until just a few years ago. Memories that remind me of the Place that I call…

 

 

 

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