It’s become a cliche at this point, but some games just are perfectly suited for the Switch, Nintendo’s hybrid console. I’ve felt this especially of late as I’ve been slowly pushing myself through the recent re-release of Final Fantasy IX. Last year, I tried to do something similar with Final Fantasy VII when it came out on the ill-fated PlayStation Classic. After enjoying the opening hours for probably the dozenth time, I found it hard to keep playing for the game’s lengthy runtime, and eventually stopped. But I haven’t had that problem with FFIX; instead, it’s become a regular part of my routine, thanks to the flexibility of the Switch.
FFIX has a somewhat strange place in Final Fantasy history. It was the third and final game in the series to appear on the original PlayStation, and it followed two games that dramatically altered what players expect from the franchise. FFVII was a strange, bombastic cyberpunk epic, while FFVIII was a melodramatic story about young love set against a futuristic war. The ninth entry in the series, meanwhile, was a return to Final Fantasy’s roots, namely the fantasy part.
It’s a more traditional story about an escaped princess, the dangers of magic, and warring kingdoms. Despite often being overlooked, it’s also a game that has much of what makes Final Fantasy great: memorable characters, gorgeous locales, thrilling cutscenes, and a complex web of gameplay systems. I’ve also lost far too many hours to Tetra Master, the in-game collectible card game.
Now, it must be noted that this isn’t exactly an amazing port of the game. It’s not a loving tribute that’s been handled with care, like some other recent re-releases. In fact, as far as I can tell, it’s mostly the same as the previous port on mobile, PC, and PS4, which — while it looks great with high-res character models — has a few notable issues. The user interface, in particular, looks incredibly out of place, and the new fast forward feature isn’t as useful as it seems. Instead of speeding just through the boring bits, like the copious random battles, it hurries you through every aspect of the game, making it impossible to, say, follow a conversation.
But it’s been easy to look past these issues because of how convenient the Switch version of FFIX is. I’ve found myself playing it while using the tablet in an array of different capacities: grinding through some battles while watching soccer in the background, getting in a few rounds of Tetra Master in bed, or really digging into the game for hours on my TV. If it weren’t for that flexibility, and having the ability to play the game on my terms, I probably wouldn’t have made it very far.
The fact that FFIX works so well on the Switch isn’t exactly a surprise, but it is good news, especially since other titles from the series are coming as well. I’ve been having such a good time reacquainting myself with Zidane, Vivi, and the rest of the FFIX crew that I’m really excited about exploring all of these old games again — even if, once again, FFVIII is being criminally ignored.