News of a Final Fantasy 9 animated series wasn’t something I expected to hear this week, but the more I sit on the announcement and what it means for the game’s wider universe, the more excited I am to see it. Compared to nearly every other game in the franchise, the ninth instalment lends itself beautifully to animation.
Unlike other games in the series from its era, Final Fantasy 9 is deliberately stylised, with each character possessing a distinct frame that isn’t aiming for realism, yet still exudes a genuine aura of humanity. These personalities are fun, emotionally resonant, and instantly relatable. Better yet, you can see how their lives would play out away from the main narrative, and that’s all the impetus we need to see it take on a new form.
The upcoming adaptation is being worked on by Square Enix in partnership with Cyber Group Studios, a French animation company previously responsible for an extensive line of children’s shows and films. Its style is seemingly rather diverse, so it could be a suitable candidate for something like Final Fantasy 9, which has a visual identity that lends itself rather well to a sense of childlike wonder. I never would have imagined this show in my own mind, but now it’s happening, I couldn’t be more ecstatic.
According to Kidscreen, the show will be aimed at a younger demographic, which isn’t too surprising given that the plot of Final Fantasy 9 is a little lighter than other entries in the series, purposefully expressing a Disney-esque whimsy across its world and characters despite the overarching goal of saving the world and accepting your own self-worth. Whether the adaptation aims to retell the main story or opts for a continuation of sorts remains to be seen, but given it’s aimed at a younger audience, the former is likely the best approach.
I’d love to see the original plot expanded upon, providing more room for character development and a broader exploration of locations beyond boss arenas, dungeons, and the occasional shop. Lindblum and Alexandria were sprawling cities with their own distinct culture and architecture, yet they’ve only ever been seen through pre-rendered backgrounds that sadly don’t stand the test of time. You could upscale them on PC if you fancied, but the modern ports and initial release are blurry experiences that don’t do the original vision justice. It’s a shame, but the animated show could help fans relive cherished memories while also showing newcomers what they’ve been missing.
If the vanilla plot is left alone in favour of a direct continuation of the main narrative, there are so many directions for Final Fantasy 9 to go in. The world is saved, so it could be a lighthearted reunion with many of its beloved characters as they settle into a peaceful world, rekindling friendships and pursuing romance now they aren’t on the brink of an apocalypse. Zidane and Garnet are now an item, as indicated by the game’s final cutscene, but this adorable realisation will likely be met with the harsh reality of ruling a kingdom the size of Alexandria, and how our heroes will need to contend with the worst villain of all – politics.
Away from the bureaucracy, we can catch up with existing characters as they return to their respective homelands, having to establish a new daily routine and come to terms with the fact that perhaps they just aren’t needed anymore. Such an examination of existing characters would be alluring, introducing them to a new audience while also building upon the foundations of their personalities with new goals and struggles that must be reckoned with. Once the stage is set, a new threat could emerge, one on the level of Kuja that must be defeated so the land can be free. It’s a simple premise, but an effective one.
Like I mentioned before, revisiting the game’s tale for a new audience is the most likely route, but part of me is desperate to see this universe expanded upon outside of fanfiction, Coca-Cola adverts (yes, those are a thing), and weird spin-off games. Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children and Final Fantasy 15: Kingsglaive were both overly serious examples of anime melodrama that failed to capitalise on what made their source material so compelling, and because of this they’re remembered for all of the wrong reasons.
Final Fantasy 9’s animated series could help subvert this trend, expanding upon or reimagining the game that helped inspire it instead of bastardising it with needless contrivance and awkwardly new character designs that leave us sour and disappointed. If we’re lucky, it could even be the next Castlevania, albeit for a younger and infinitely less masochistic audience.
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