Final Fantasy 9 enjoys a unique status in the Final Fantasy canon. It threw off the shackles of being an ‘underrated’ classic that plagued its reputation, largely due to its vocal fanbase and various remasters. Now, it’s hailed as one of the best in the series, inspiring the same reverence as FF7 and Tactics.
Final Fantasy 16: A Return to Tradition
Low-tech World and Royalty
Final Fantasy 16 seems to be following in FF9’s footsteps. After three games filled with modern trappings (such as futuristic airships, road trips, and Vivienne Westwood), the newest entry to the series looks to be a wholly medieval affair. Once again, we can expect a low-tech world, an emphasis on magic, and the heavy interference that royalty seems intrinsically drawn to.
A Love Letter to the Series
In the same way FF9 was meant to be a love letter to the series’ origins, FF16 isn’t shy about its references and inspirations. These go past the vaguely medieval architecture and haunting, cavernous ruins of distant civilisations, and the return of Moogles as a commonplace, helpful presence in the world. Far more Game of Thrones than Blade Runner.
Aesthetic and Narrative Comparisons
Medieval Architecture and Feudal Governments
While the two games don’t share an overall aesthetic – FF9 being colourful and cute while FF16 has a grittier, realistic design philosophy – the settings are inherently comparable. While medieval architecture and seemingly feudal governments are two similarities drawn simply, the games also share a narrative emphasis on the realities of war and the dangers of employing weapons of mass destruction, which take the form of kaiju-esque summons.
The Realities of War and Weapons of Mass Destruction
Both games feature protagonists who can manifest these magical weapons of untold power. In FF9, Garnet has her Eidolons stolen from her by her mother, who uses them to decimate entire cities. Her character arc revolves around learning how to manage her powers and prevent further misuse. In Final Fantasy 16, Clive is the host of Ifrit, one of the game’s Eikons, in a world where they are also used as weapons of war. He loses friends, family, and significant parts of his life thanks to the abuse of such powers, and the narrative will likely follow the emotional toll such beings have on not just our protagonist, but the everyday people who call this fantastical world home.
The Emotional Toll of Eikons in Final Fantasy 16
The Heavy Sense of Gravity in FF9
Final Fantasy 9 depicts the use of summons in war with a heavy sense of gravity. The scenes in which Queen Brahne lays waste to Cleyra with Odin and Lindblum with Atomos are some of the game’s standouts, beautifully expressing the implied horrors of indiscriminate murder and genocide.
The Importance of Treating War with Disgust and Reverence
With Eikons playing such a central role in FF16’s narrative, I’d bet my pointy mage hat that we’ll see some incomprehensible horrors at the hand of Eikon-wielding villains. Final Fantasy doesn’t always treat war with the disgust and reverence that it deserves, but it did an excellent job with FF9 – with FF16 seeming to follow in its footsteps closely, I’m optimistic that it won’t let us down.
Expectations of Deep Character Arcs
The Development Team’s Expertise
This is also why I’m confident we’re in for some satisfying, narratively deep character arcs. The development team making FF16 is the very same that produced not only FF9 but also FF14 and Tactics. These games are masterclasses in character writing, featuring compelling heroes, complex villains, and relationships that develop in natural, realistic ways.
The Nuanced Hero of Final Fantasy 16
With FF16 giving us extended, playable glimpses at Clive’s younger days, it’s clear that not only does the game have a focus on creating an epic story that spans generations but also on giving us a full, rounded view of its protagonist. We’ll see Clive grow and evolve over time and possibly become the most nuanced hero that Final Fantasy has ever produced.
Final Fantasy 9’s Underrated Past
The Delayed Appreciation
When Final Fantasy 9 released, it wasn’t afforded the attention it deserved. Some of the criticism directed toward it was fair – the combat system kinda sucked – but much of that was to do with FF9 being the last Final Fantasy on the PS1 and FF10 coming out only 13 months later, blowing it away in terms of visual fidelity and fancy new features. Final Fantasy 9 was a love letter that was left unread for many years, with the recipients preferring its elder brother, who could afford voice acting and more pixels. It took a long while for the intricacies to be picked up, the nuances noticed, and the love felt.
Final Fantasy 16 as a Perfect Love Letter
This time around, the love letter is coming at the perfect time. I have nothing against the more modern and sci-fi entries in the series, but as a nostalgic lad who grew up on traditional ‘swords and wizards’ RPGs, Final Fantasy 16 hearkens back to a time filled with wonder. Fantasy worlds are fascinating reflections of our own that I can lose myself in, not eerie facsimiles where I can listen to Florence and the Machine while I push a car down a road with my buddies. Final Fantasy 9 is my favourite game, and I’m eager to see just how closely this new game follows in its footsteps.