The Final Fantasy 7 Remake was easily one of the biggest games of 2020, the product of 15 years of buildup that brought an all-time great from 1997 to the 21st century. Even if it’s still not clear how many parts the game will be divided into, the FF7 Remake will surely take a large part of Square Enix’s time in the near future.
Though unlikely for now, FF7 Remake’s success does beg the question: are any other titles in the series that may one day get the remake treatment? Final Fantasy’s “golden 3D era” spans from FF7’s launch to FF10 on the PS2, yet despite many magnificent entries, Final Fantasy 9 still stands out as the best-reviewed title in the franchise’s history.
It would be difficult to see FF9 as the next remake based on the sales numbers put up by each game, because FF9 is the worst selling title since Square Enix moved over to the PlayStation at only 5.7 millions copies sold, far from its cousins FF7 (13.25m) or FF8 (9.6m). However, much of that came down to FF9’s poor timing in relation with the PS2’s release only a few months after and the looming arrival of FF10 one year later.
So just exactly why is FF9 so highly regarded to this day? Well, at the time FF9 represented a throwback to the franchise’s origins, a trip to simpler times of flying ships and a medieval fantasy setting in Gaia, which is a very far cry from the anime-like modernized worlds of almost every other Final Fantasy since 1997. This also translates to FF9’s traditional combat and tighter roles being assigned to each party member.
Part of why FF9 looks so distinct from the rest of the Final Fantasys is because Yoshitaka Amano was the man chosen for lead character design. Amano had worked extensively on character illustrations for the first six Final Fantasy games; FF7 and FF8’s creative vision was led by Tetsuya Nomura, hence why those games feature an art style that drastically departed from the series’ roots.
While Amano’s choices were met with certain backslash at the time FF9 came out—especially from newcomers—the cartoonish style resulted in that game aging far better than the other two titles, at least aesthetically speaking. That medieval look hasn’t really been replicated since FF9, but if the Final Fantasy 16 reveal is anything to go by, it’s clearly something that’s never quite left Square Enix as a source of inspiration.
That’s precisely one of the reasons why a FF9 remake would be a dream come true for many. FF7 Remake brought new life to Midgar and the same could be done for lively places like Gaia, Alexandria, Lindblum and Treno, which remain trapped in beautiful old pre-rendered backgrounds, only capable of being modernized with the help of mods and AI upscaling, as FF9’s several official ports have shown.
As far as characters go, FF9 features the usual ragtag bunch with Zidane, Garnet and Vivi moving most of the main story forward. However, FF9 also delivers full story arcs for most of the party the player controls. Sure, Amarant and Quina do not carry the same weight as the others, but the latter is a fantastic comic relief and both could be explored to greater lengths. For example, more charming stories like Eiko’s or Freyas’s devastating quest to find her lost love.
Vivi’s struggles to cope with his own existence and mortality is already a convincing emotional plot driver, while Zidane’s younger years as a thief could do with some flashbacks. And surely Garnet’s journey from spoiled princess to fighting queen is precisely the type of female character one loves to see in games nowadays. All that would be backed by Nobuo Uematsu’s score, which is radically different from the more rock-inspired tunes of FF7 in order to suit the vintage Final Fantasy world.
Much like with FF7, FF9’s gloomy story elements can still manage to deliver a convincing RPG experience in 2020. A reimagined universe and revamped combat would do wonders to rescue it from the marketing sinkhole it was unfortunately plunged into.
There might never be another Final Fantasy remake, but if there ever is, few games would provide better contrast of the series’ history and legacy than FF7 and FF9. At the very least, maybe one day Square Enix can put out a true remaster for FF9 that manages take the best parts of each ports into one single product.
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