Why I Shouldn’t Have Judged FFIX

As I work my way through the old Squaresoft games, the next one I tried was “Final Fantasy IX”. When I first started this game, my initial impressions were not great, and I think a lot of it had to do with the game straying from what I expected it to be. You see, most “Final Fantasy” games tend to be more on the serious side, while this one was rather goofy. Plus, many of the games kind of have a mix of fantasy and sci-fi, while this one was more strictly fantasy, another thing that rather disappointed me. And I was unsure about the style of graphics. So I was being pretty judgmental about this game, I think.

Because there really is nothing wrong with this game. It was a lot of fun. I really liked some of the characters. (Freya was awesome. Vivi was awesome. And Eiko was just plain adorable.) I also liked that the characters had unique abilities, so there was some actual strategy in who you chose for your party, when in most games, the characters really aren’t distinguishable from each other in anything more than appearance. It had a good story, as well, even if I never understand the plots in these games. And Kuja was a pretty interesting villain, even if I really wish he didn’t wear what appears to be a thong. I really don’t understand that decision. Not by him. Not by the company. Not by anything in existence in the universe.

Nevertheless, for the longest time, I just didn’t like this game. I think my biggest problem was how silly it was, and I thought, great, a humorous “FF” game. And I was being sarcastic when I thought that. Because “FF” games aren’t supposed to be silly. Sometimes they’re too much on the serious side, but I’m not used to them being silly. And this distressed me. More than it should have. This whole sequence near the beginning with Garnet getting kidnapped (I’m not really spoiling stuff, because this happens very early on), and those two creepy jester things (how I despised them), and even that woman (Ruby, was it?) with the accent (she’s not even a major character, but she bugged me, too, for whatever reason). And I dislike Quina. He…she…whatever it is. He’s perfectly nice. I just don’t like him. He adds nothing to the game. And I apologize to any Quina fans out there. I’m not really being as malevolent as I sound. I just don’t understand what role he played. Though, I don’t think I understand why Amarant needed to be in the game, either. (Shrug.)

And so, as I played through the game, I felt a good deal of ill will towards it, even when the majority of it was perfectly good, and I had lots of fun while playing it. And even though I did finally warm up to it, and I do think it’s a very good game, it makes me think of how much our expectations can influence how we feel about something. My opinion of the game was obviously affected by what I thought it would be, even if what it ended up being was perfectly good in its own right. And this has happened to me with other games I’ve played, as well.

The game I remember being affected in this manner most of all was “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess”. Back then, video game graphics weren’t quite as amazing as they are now, and with the “Zelda” series being one of my top favorites, I really wanted a “Zelda” game with awesome graphics. The graphics on the N64 weren’t great (perfectly good for its time, but they were still not on the level I wished to see one day), and then “Wind Waker” came out on the GameCube, and they went with a much more cartoonish style of graphics, so once again, a visually stunning “Zelda” game was denied to me.

And then I started seeing screenshots of “Twilight Princess”, and I was amazed at how, well, amazing the graphics looked, making it, thus far (and to this day, this fact still stands…until the new Wii U “Zelda” come out, of course) the best looking “Zelda” game yet. And while judging a game based on its graphics is a really shallow way of forming an opinion of it, I got it in my head that this game would also be the best “Zelda” game ever. Period. I was so excited when I finally got it, but I quickly found that graphics alone don’t make a good game. Obviously.

And at first, I hated this game. Well, maybe hate’s a rather strong word, but I really didn’t like it, especially those creepy children, and though I finished the game, I thought, quite bluntly, that it was crap. And yet, when I thought back on it, I wasn’t sure what was so bad about it. Yeah, I think the earlier parts could be rather boring in places, as I really doubt anyone cared one bit about those children, but the game had some really good dungeons and the most realistic Hyrule I have yet to see. It was just so big that you could almost get a bit lost in it, and it was certainly far more interesting than the way “Ocarina of Time” was set up, with that boring, central field, and some places set unnaturally around its perimeter.

And then it occurred to me that my standards for the game were just much too high for it to ever measure up. Just because the graphics looked nice, I assumed for some reason that the game would be amazing, and so, when it wasn’t as good as my unrealistic expectations believed it would be, I thought it was a bad game. But, once some time went by, I gave the game another chance, and I loved it. My standards were just so high, no game would ever seem good in comparison. And that’s a pretty effective way of ruining every game you play, if you ask me.

And yet, I made the same mistake with “FFIX”, and I think if I didn’t allow myself to judge it so, I would’ve enjoyed it far more. It’s a perfectly good game, and it’s a testament to how good it really must be when I saw how much it appeared to influence “Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles”, including the character design, the emphasis on memories towards the end of both games, and the enemies that I now know made their first appearances in “FFIX”. I know “FF” games do share a lot of enemies, but they usually at least look different. In this game, however, I saw many enemies that looked pretty much identical to what I saw in “Crystal Chronicles”, which was actually pretty darn cool. (And maybe I’m completely mistaken and this game didn’t influence “FF:CC”, but I’d be pretty surprised if it didn’t.)

So I really ought to learn from this and stop judging games based on preconceived ideas I have of them. I ruined my first playthrough of “Twilight Princess” this way, and I didn’t enjoy “FFIX” as much as I otherwise would have, as well. Like with all things, really, we shouldn’t form any opinions until after we actually know what we’re forming opinions about. Video games are no exception. (I also disliked “Despicable Me” my first time watching it because of this. And then I liked it the second time. So it seems even movies aren’t exempt from my judgment.) I just have to remember this when the Wii U “Zelda” comes out….

I’m a Judgmental Duck…Frowny Face

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