Astro Toy with Rob Bricken: Final Fantasy IX Play Arts

by Rob Bricken, Nov 15th 2009

ZIDANE, GARNET AND VIVI
Series: Final Fantasy IX
Toyline: Play Arts
By: Square Enix
Cost: $30 each

Oh my god do I hate Final Fantasy IX.

I say this not only to warn you of a possible bias on my part against this newest round of Final Fantasy Play Arts figures by Square Enix, but also because Final Fantasy IX is terrible role-playing game worthy of my hate and yours. After years of excellent, meaningful storytelling with complex characters in a fantasy/science fiction setting — and I'm talking back into the SNES era, here — Square decides to go with another giant crystal hunt? Bleh.

Admittedly, since I play RPGs more for the storytelling than the gameplay, it is possible that the actual gameplay was good. I'll never know, because I quit after no longer being able to stare at the horrible little midget-creatures Square decided to cast in the game:

Look, I know FFVII/VIII/X/XIII character designer Tetsuya Nomura has a pointy hair and leather belt buckle fetish that borders on the obscene, but none of his characters ever made me nauseous. Just sayin’.

Now, with that warning, onto the figures: They're not very good.

What a surprise, right? If you're still actually reading this and didn't skip right to the ANN forums to write me a very nasty comment about how wrong I am, I'm reasonably confident I can prove this in a way independent of my feelings for the game. The fact of the matter is that these figures are pretty good, but still a step down from earlier FF Play Arts (which might be considered appropriate, ahem) — but, if you look at the price, they cost an extra $5 from those earlier figures, too. It's these two factors that informed this review, and not my utter, fully justified loathing of Final Fantasy IX. And its horrible characters.

Let's start with Vivi, shall we? The de facto fan favorite character of the game, Vivi is also the best figure in the Play Arts series. Admittedly, his ink-black blob of a skull is easier to sculpt than anime faces, which gives him a bit of an advantage. Vivi has the standard Play Arts arm articulation (ball-joint shoulders, hinged elbows, swivel hands) and a ball-jointed head with a good range of movement. Under his coat is a chest joint which allows him to bend forward slightly or… not bend forward slightly. As for his legs? Vivi is the squattest of the squat munchkins populating Final Fantasy IX, so he has no knees, which I can understand. He has two very shallow ball joints for his hips, which means he can sit, or her can do this:

Frankly, it might have been better to let the hips be swivel joints. His feet and ankles are articulated, which, because his legs are so short, is 100% useless. Frankly, most of the lower articulation is a sacrifice of form for very little function, and I think Square would have done better just to sculpt his lower half as one piece. That said, Vivi does have some great textures on his hat and jacket, and some excellent paint highlights on the same (although his striped pants are a little off, paint-wise). But certainly, if you're getting one of the FF9 Play Arts, get Vivi.

Much like her digital counterpart, Garnet is pretty dull. There's not particularly wrong with her, although there's not anything stupendously right, either. Her necklace is certainly well done, and I think her pensive expression is excellent. While she has the same articulation as Vivi and other Play arts (plus knees), her joints are incredibly stiff, and often need to be forced hard to make them move. This is true with all the FF9 Play Arts, and not nearly as much of a problem on the FF7, FFX, or the Kingdom Hearts figures. Not sure what's going on there.

Really, Garnet's biggest problem is her character design, which has her wearing some kind of orange body suit/overalls. This leaves nothing to hide her very noticeable hip joints, something other Play Arts figures usually manage to avoid. Even Cloud, who has pants almost as tight as Garnet's, has a crotch T-joint sculpt to minimize the obtrusiveness of the joint. Why Garnet didn't get the same consideration as previous figures I'll never know (but will always claim is because even Square Enix hates Final Fantasy IX).

And finally, we come to Zidane, who I'm very confident in telling you is the worst of the series. Please note the Zidane character art I posted above. Now check this out:


Looks good, right? Very close to the art? I honestly can't complain about that — well, I could, but that would be my FF9 hate talking and not my toy expertise. But Zidane has bigger problems anyways. First note his bulbous shoulders that stick out from his torso like flesh softballs. Many articulated action figures have these, because it's the easiest way to utilize a ball joint. But Square Enix has always avoided this in the past, preferring to go the extra mile and sculpt extra pieces in the joint to let the arms look and fall more naturally.

Right? But this pales in consideration to the problems of Zidane's hands, and how they hold his weapons — which to say they don't. Instead of making hands that can grasp his weapons — again, like in every single Play Arts line ever — Square gave Zidane and the others pegs in the middle of their palms which are supposed to go through a hole in their weapons hilts. Garnet and Vivi make out okay (although I still contend this is upper lazy compared to making hands that can hold the weapons on their own), but trying to make Zidane hold his sword is needlessly frustrating. As for his other weird weapon, the one in the hilt, I never once managed to get him to hold it in either of his hands. This, I feel, is a failing. Oh, and that massive hilt? It is glued firmly to his left thigh, so I hope you didn't want to move Zidane's left leg forward because you can't.

Seriously, guys. These things do not have the same level of quality as earlier Play Arts figures. The sculpting is still fine and the paint apps are good, but the joints are of lower quality, which results in a worse looking figure. And instead of working with the design, Square's just decided its regular articulation is good for every figure, regardless of its size or character design, which results in more problems as well. Again, these are still good figures overall, but compared to previous Play Arts, they're a definitely step down. Maybe the lesser quality would be a little easier to handle if they didn't suddenly cost an extra $5 each. Obviously, they could be made of gold and come with a free Megan Fox accessory and I still wouldn't like them. But I doubt I'm alone in that.

After all, even Krauser has some taste.

Looking to pick some up for yourself? Here's a link!

Square Enix Shop: $29.99 each
Big Bad Toy Store: $29.99 each
Amazon: $19.99 each

You can read more of Rob Bricken's bitter, needlessly mean-spirited thoughts on toys and many non-anime subjects over at ToplessRobot.com (which is safe for work).
Thanks to Phillip Harrington for designing and creating the Astro Toy banner.

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