Why I Think That Final Fantasy IX is a Weak Entry in the Final Fantasy Franchise

So I'm playing through Final Fantasy IX on PS3 right now. To date, I have finished the original release of every mainline entry in the franchise except for FFIX. I played it on emulator years ago (SO BEAUTIFUL) before getting sick to death of the slow battle system while plodding through Memoria. Playing through it again, I've come to the realization that, well, I _don't really think Final Fantasy IX is that great_. In fact, I think it might be one of the weakest entries in the series on account of its highly restrictive and linear story progression. I like Final Fantasy II less, despite having what is a much better overworld, soundtrack, and story than its predecessor. The battle design kills FFII, though.

- The card game is mediocre, but the Chocobo minigame is excellent, the polar opposite of Final Fantasy VIII, which had an awful Chocobo minigame and a thoroughly AWESOME card game.

- The game is very easy, where most boss battles are simply a test of whether you want to attempt to steal all three items from the boss before Zidane gets Trance and crushes the boss in one or two attacks. You're going to get that third item in the next town, anyway, so don't sweat it!

- The battle system is poorly optimized, like the game is too complex to be running on pitiful PSX hardware. Battles are slow, and you spend a majority of the time with full ATB bars on all four characters, waiting for somebody to make a move that you already decided upon 30 seconds ago. In the final dungeon, it even feels like enemies attack regardless of your ATB status.

- Dungeons are rather short, simple, and uncreative affairs (Fossil Roo and The Desert Palace being the glorious exceptions) that are only made harrowing by what feels like a hefty encounter rate.

The list of criticism goes on. People like Final Fantasy IX so much for some reason that I just don't understand. Maybe because it served as neutral ground during the VII/VIII fanboy wars? Could be. Does it make them feel hip to like the one that seems like the underdog from the Nomura-dominated era of Square? Maybe. Final Fantasy IX feels like a good attempt at a throwback with, perhaps, the best cast of characters in the franchise, but a story that overstays its welcome. It is bogged down by numerous design decisions that make this less of a thrill to play, and more of a chore, and that's never a good thing for a Final Fantasy game.

Thoughtful rebuttals? Wholehearted agreement? Speak out in the comments below!