Fighting Final Fantasy IX Part 102-114: If A Game Gives Me An Aneurysm, Can I Sue The Developers?

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Part 102: The Most Final Fantasy-Ass Part Of Final Fantasy IX

Saving Amarant from his own fatuousness was where we ended the previous episode. As with the antecedent blog, I would like to remind my readers how Amarant jeopardized our mission for the sake of proving why he prefers working alone. Luckily for us, Amarant essentially "dies" as a character and we never have to think about him again. Having collected every elemental tablet from Ipsen's Castle; our intrepid crew endeavors to place these tablets in their respective temples. Needing to accomplish this task post-haste, Zidane develops the "excellent" strategy of having the cast break into teams of two to deliver the tablets to their corresponding edifices.

Great idea Patton! Let's break up the party without knowing what we are getting ourselves into!
Great idea Patton! Let's break up the party without knowing what we are getting ourselves into!

Right then, this premise makes ZERO SENSE! First, why is it so important we work hastily? Why didn't Zidane give a shit about speeding things up while he was moping about Garnet or playing in a card tournament? Why can't we deliver the tablets one at a time? How is individually transporting four teams to four different temples saving us time? How is this any better than going to each temple one at a time with a full party? If we went to the temples individually we wouldn't have to worry about wasting time picking up each team in their respective temple.

Second, we do not understand what we are dealing with inside these temples. What if Zidane allowed Garnet and Eiko to carry a mission critical payload and Kuja was the boss at their intended temple? They would have been fucked! Why does no one think of this EXACT SITUATION as Zidane proposed this idea? It doesn't help the groupings themselves are FUCKED! Eiko strong-arming her way to have Garnet as her partner, for the sake of "girl talk" was a pick-axe to my temple. I mean for fuck’s sake, I thought the game was done with this comical bullshitery!

Fantastic idea letting the two White Mages form a team!
Fantastic idea letting the two White Mages form a team!

Speaking of comical bullshitery, having the player's party be Zidane and Quina is BULLSHIT! I say this as someone who has put ZERO TIME into leveling Quina or collecting Blue Magic. This further places Zidane’s judgment into question. Why in the world does Zidane just wantonly create these groupings without a care in the world? Isn’t transporting these elemental tablets critical to our quest of stopping Kuja? Why does everyone stop thinking like logical people? Why do the characters think these temples are NOT each guarded by some horrible monster?

BECAUSE THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS!
BECAUSE THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS!

Let's make something apparently clear. I understand this entire sequence is largely an homage of the "Temple of Fiends" from the first Final Fantasy. Fine, it is Square's game and if they wish to pander to their audience that is their prerogative. I will preface, as a Final Fantasy "neophyte," I found this entire sequence to be flat. Sure the direction was fantastic, with quick juxtapositions between each of the parties, but the structure itself felt painfully artificial. We only have player agency over Zidane and Quina's activities at the Earth Shrine, but none at the other shrines. Additionally, the scenes here lack explicit context. We discover the foes which face us at the shrines are "Guardians of Terra." We assume these guardians are connected with Kuja, but filling in this gap is left to the player’s imagination. Lacking context during these moments makes it difficult to get emotionally enthralled with what is witnessed.

As Shakespeare would say
As Shakespeare would say "They fight."

Part 103: The Point Of No Return

The game makes it painfully clear entering the Shimmering Island is the game's "point of no return." The cast has many brief asides, and they are all questionable in terms of self worth. Eiko bluntly confronts Garnet regarding her feelings for Zidane in the cringiest manner imaginable.

Great job in being exactly what it says you are on the tin, Eiko.
Great job in being exactly what it says you are on the tin, Eiko.

Subsequently, Amarant expresses befuddlement with Zidane's need to fight for something besides personal or financial gain. It's as if Amarant has been provided with every possible opportunity to learn the meaning of "altruism," but refuses to do so. I can't even anymore....

I give up.
I give up.

Then we enter the portal to Terra. As I suggested in the previous episode, this is where Final Fantasy IX almost entirely lost me. Full disclosure, had the game not included the “You're Not Alone” sequence, I was fully prepared to “Rage Quit” the game. That scene “saved” me, and if it did not exist, I think my opinion of this game would be entirely different. I feel as if I have already pleaded my case on why I feel this, but I'll articulate my points again for posterity's sake. My ultimate issue with Final Fantasy IX's story pivot is how at conflict it is with the game's original tone and setting. Everything prior to the pivot was on the polar opposite of the narrative spectrum (i.e. light-hearted fantasy) to what the pivot brought to the story (i.e. science-fiction and soul theory). When you compared the two you realize the massive leap of logic you are expected to accept in order for the story to “work.” In Final Fantasy VII and VIII both games have science fiction based pivots, but at least they were science fiction based stories from the get-go.

I have nothing against the prospect of any game providing its story with a major plot twist. A character “pipe bomb,” or general plot twist can genuinely invert your expectations and re-frame the story within a new context. Per contra, I cannot hesitate but throw down caution as this perspective is presented. The attitude that the Final Fantasy franchise is a franchise steeped in adding insane nonsense to its stories at the last minute is troubling. Using twists to maintain an audience can prove counter-intuitive. If this defines the franchise, it practically sets up future entries for failure. Some games will use pivots correctly, and others will not; failure is baked into the franchise by default.

No Zidane, things are FUBAR
No Zidane, things are FUBAR

Finally, and this is what honestly grinds my gears, how did the game prepare me for this? Where was the game's explicit foreshadowing this science fiction alternate dimension even existed? In terms of art direction, there were two set pieces which suggested a futuristic underworld or dimension. Those locations were the Iifia Tree and Oeilvert. Did we witness the characters pontificate upon the alien design of either location? NOPE, and the fact the game cannot connect such dots drives me insane. Worse yet, these two locations exist in isolation and are not reinforced as the story progresses. Oh, and Zidane being able to read the technobabble in Oeilvert and Ipsen's Castle? Turns out he's a clone from Terra, so there's your answer! Was there anything provided within the game to support this revelation? No, so essentially the foreshadowing here comes across as a third-grader's first attempt.

Part 104: Deconstructing Garbage

Let's jump directly into the game's introduction of Terra. After placing the elemental tablets in their respective locations, our party discovers a massive tempest by the Shimmering Island. With the portal being a massive hurricane, Zidane declares our best option is to jump directly into it. Without equipping his party with protective gear or parachutes, everyone jumps straight into the hurricane. Well then… this is a scene in this video game. This happened. Zidane says "hey let's jump smack dab into this massive storm," and everyone goes along with his idea. W-what? WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING ANYMORE?

When can I book jumping into this portal for my next corporate retreat?
When can I book jumping into this portal for my next corporate retreat?
These are the eyes of the devil!
These are the eyes of the devil!

So is this the game's naked attempt to ape Final Fantasy VII's parachute jump scene, or am I crazy for even suggesting this? So much of this game is an homage to prior Final Fantasy games, I honestly would not put it past the developers to have included a nod to Final Fantasy VII. Either way, after we successfully navigate through the portal we discover the neon-drenched dystopian futurescape of Terra. Here is where everything related to the story crumbles for me.

No, we are on the moon you dipshit!
No, we are on the moon you dipshit!

As we take control of Zidane, the old robot man from before appears in front of Zidane and welcomes him to “Terra.” The old man's name is eventually revealed to be “Garland,” because there are not enough references to Final Fantasy I already. Zidane's initial interaction with Garland boils down to a Shakespearean, “What's in a name?” existential debate. Garland prompts Zidane to question his progeny and origins, and Zidane rebuffs Garland. This confrontation spoils Zidane being from Terra with each of Garland’s sentences painfully spelling out this reveal. Having Garland declare “You know nothing,” and “See what Terra is, and what you are,” all but confirm your inklings of Zidane being from Terra.

This spoils the deluge of time the game spends on the dramatic reveal of the Genomes. To make matters worse, we have never seen Zidane torn or emotionally distraught over not knowing his origins. This ultimately castrates the gravitas to a vast majority of Garland’s villainous soliloquies. There was a single brief scene on disc two where Zidane told Garnet a story clearly about himself. The scene highlighted Zidane’s basic desire to know more about his past, but isn’t reinforced during future moments in the story. Instead of making this a major undertone, Final Fantasy IX pulls this out of its toolbox when it is convenient to the story, and this greatly hampers its emotional impact.

What are you talking about? I know 2+2=FISH!
What are you talking about? I know 2+2=FISH!

The idea or concept of Zidane actively wanting to know where he came from has never been addressed beyond a single scene. This results in the moments pertaining to Zidane discovering more about his origins being devoid of narrative stakes. It does not help Zidane conveys a limited emotional range as he learns more about himself, but the scenes were sabotaged from the outset. Why do I care about Zidane knowing more about where he came from? The game's answer is to tie his origin into a hackneyed subplot pertaining to him being the harbinger of Gaia's destruction. Which leads me to:

Part 105: Everything That Happens In Terra Is The Pits

After Garland mysteriously disappears Zidane quickly encounters a female humanoid with a tail, like himself. Zidane dispatches to chase after the girl, and when he finally does, she ends up extolling this:

I swear, this game is mocking me.
I swear, this game is mocking me.

After spending a brief amount of time in Terra we enter a town on this decaying planet named "Bran Bal." As we ascend the steps to the town the airship "Invincible" passes over Garnet and Zidane. As Garnet stares directly into the Invincible's red orifice, she realizes the airship is the ominous “eye in the sky” from earlier. This means the Invincible destroyed the Summoner Village and many other locations significant to Garnet. Because the writers of Final Fantasy IX appear to have no other narrative tools to depict her as experiencing a neurosis, they have her pass out and remain unconscious for two hours… AGAIN!

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME!
YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME!

With Steiner looking over and protecting Garnet; Zidane leads a party to locate a shelter in Bran Bal. As we enter the town, we discover it to be populated with tailed humans who look shockingly like Zidane. It is at this point I feel as if the game insulted my intelligence. Not only has this EXACT PLOT TWIST been painfully splayed out for all to see, but attempting to investigate the matter results in the game farting in your face. Think the second part of that sentence was histrionics? Here's what happens when you attempt to interact with the citizens of Bran Bal:

Who in the what now?
Who in the what now?
Did the writers ask a molecular biologist write the dialogue for the Genomes?
Did the writers ask a molecular biologist write the dialogue for the Genomes?

Responding to unintelligible technobabble with further technobabble is far from optimal in my books. Every level prior to this the game placed a great amount of emphasis on exploring the world to better understand the context it exists within. On this occasion, where I would argue it matters the most, the writers and designers flipped the bird to the audience. Do you want to know what the deal is with the history of Bran Bal? "GO FUCK YOURSELF," is essentially how the game responds to you!

Eventually, Eiko informs Zidane the young girl from before wishes to talk to him in a laboratory. Where this can be found, or how one navigates Bran Bal is entirely up to the player to discover. Remember how I mentioned there being an insufficient amount of time wherein Zidane is torn about not knowing his parentage? The game becomes cognizant of this and has Freya mention Zidane isn't “acting like himself.” I'm not joking, this is honestly how the game sets into motion Zidane's ENTIRE CHARACTER MOMENT. It was at this moment I swore loudly at my computer screen:

WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU EVEN TALKING ABOUT?!
WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU EVEN TALKING ABOUT?!

So why is this such a problem? Well let’s review basic "facts" related to Zidane’s characterization at this point:

  1. Lines of dialogue where Zidane scoffs at everything Garland or Mikoto says:A FUCK TON!
  2. Lines of dialogue where Zidane seems dismissive of what he sees or is forced to do in Terra:WAY MORE THAN WHAT THE GAME NEEDS!
  3. Lines of dialogue where Zidane appears to express emotional poignancy about discovering himself to be a soulless clone:JACK FUCKING SHIT!

NO, YOU CAN'T DO THIS, THIS IS JUST WRONG! You cannot have a character state to the audience a character seems emotionally distraught and expect the audience to buy into this! I don't make the rules on how to convey a story. If I wrote the rules, then I would have one rule be:

Rule #889: Have characters express an emotional state prior to their character moment which compliments the events of the aforementioned character moment.”

You CAN'T wave a magic wand and say “hey it's time for Character A to be sad and emotional,” because your story demands it. Such a tonal shift must be justified within the context of the story, otherwise, the scene will come across as painfully contrived. I would even go further and say Zidane is essentially on an emotional roller coaster set to the exhilarating speed of five miles-per-hour until the last leg. At that point the coaster accelerates to over 500 miles-per-hour as your clothes are physically ripped from your body.

There's still this kind of shit to pontificate upon for the more inquisitive types!
There's still this kind of shit to pontificate upon for the more inquisitive types!

Admittedly, the game ends up conveying a scene wherein Zidane conveys a spectrum of emotions on par of a normal human being. Here I cannot help but look at the abject laziness of the writing. Imagine for a minute a larger Final Fantasy meta-narrative where each game is connected. Could you imagine Zidane loudly declaring “MAN! I went through a 10-minute emo-phase….” Then off in the corner Cloud and Squall are nodding their heads whilst saying “That's rough, buddy.” Yes, the “You’re Not Alone” scene works on a superficial level and is one of the game’s strongest moments. Yet, when you stop and think about Zidane's eventual depiction of angst, the entire scaffold for the scene comes crashing down like a house of cards.

Part 106: It Just Gets Worse... No, It Just Gets Worse

Because the story demands it, Garnet awakens from her slumber to reveal her hunch the Invincible destroyed the Summoner's Village. Do you recall how Shakespeare usually included a character whose purpose was to summarize the events of the story? Did you know he did this because he suspected most of his audience in the Globe Theater only came for the action sequences of his plays? Shakespeare always viewed a majority of his audience as intellectually beneath him. He included a modernized version of the Greek Chorus to keep the peons in his theater up to speed every half hour. This is how I feel about Garnet’s declaration about the Invincible. It's the writers thinking I'm an idiot who didn’t piece this together ten minutes ago.

But it gets worse.

Finally, Zidane musters the courage to confront the young girl in the laboratory. There he discovers the citizens of Bran Bal are all clones born from a tube. The girl then painstakingly explains to Zidane that he too is one of them, and his race is known as “Genomes.” So were you expecting this revelation would finally cause Zidane to feel more than the two or three emotions he is apt to depict?

Because clones worked out so well for Spider-Man
Because clones worked out so well for Spider-Man

I would like for the record to show at this exact moment I Ctrl+Alt+Delete-d the game and shut it down for a day. I play games because they make me feel good or question my surroundings. I feel like the games I play value my time and have something interesting to offer. The one thing I ask out of every game I play is to not waste my time. At this instance, Final Fantasy IX was wasting my goddamned time. I have put up with its bullshit for three fucking discs. I deserve characters which encourage me to live vicariously. I deserve transformative experiences which allow me to emphasize with the cast. I deserve emotional gravitas which moves me at an interpersonal level. I don't deserve Zidane being a sarcastic prick for comedic purposes.

Fucking give me a break Zidane... not here, and not now.
Fucking give me a break Zidane... not here, and not now.

Zidane is a character the game wishes for me to be emotionally invested in. For much of the game, he repulsed me with his casanova-wannabe antics, and his confrontational attitude with the world which surrounded him. Somehow, and I'm not sure what exactly was the panacea, my stance softened, and I warmed up to Zidane. His interactions with Vivi were excellent, and through the game’s sheer brute force, I believed in his relationship with Garnet. Now was the time for the story to be about him. Now was the time for Zidane to shirk off his superficial posturing. Now was the time for Zidane to mature into the adult we saw inklings of in scenes prior to this.

The game sabotages all this for the sake of having Zidane crack wise. The emotional tone of Zidane in the laboratory and in the next scene with Garland is wrong; it's just entirely wrong. Every scene in Terra and Bran Bal is ruined due to Zidane being Zidane. It’s tragic what the game wastes here. The game could have attempted to aim for our hearts, but instead aimed for our guts. The attempts to induce guttural laughs are painful, and Zidane’s commentary counter-intuitive. Instead of fervidly rejecting Garland’s offer to live out his prophecy from an emotional standpoint, Zidane sarcastically rebukes the old man. I’m just left baffled at what was done here.

But hey, it turns out Zidane isn't a soulless zombie like the rest of the citizens in Bran Bal!

What a fucking cop-out!
What a fucking cop-out!

It’s tough to judge whether Final Fantasy IX made lemonade out of lemons. The spectre of the past looms ominously over Final Fantasy IX, and there’s no denying this. Previous games within the franchise have already tackled the issue of self-discovery, and some better than others. Having Zidane be introspective about his progeny may have drawn direct parallels to Cloud or Squall. On the flip side, how Final Fantasy IX differentiates Zidane from his predecessors is too aggressive, and often disorienting for the audience to witness.

Part 107: I Officially Hate Zidane Again!

With Zidane irreparably "damaged" the game moves onto to contextualizing Garland's motives. If you love Final Fantasy stories being inane bollocks, then are you going to LOVE the next couple of scenes! It is revealed Garland is on a quest to restore Terra to its former glory. Garland created the Genomes to transfer the souls of the people of Terra into them. NOT ONLY THAT, but Garland plans to transport the long dead citizens of Terra to Gaia. To assist this transition, Garland hopes to transform Gaia into Terra by changing its light source from blue to red. I am NOT joking about that previous sentence.

No... there's no way the story gets THAT stupid. There's no way in the wor....
No... there's no way the story gets THAT stupid. There's no way in the wor....

AW SHIT!
AW SHIT!

For those of you who read my Final Fantasy VIII retrospective, you may recall my extensive discussion about narrative “skyhooks,” and “cranes.” For those that are unaware, a “skyhook” is a plot or plot point that exists out of thin air because the writer needs it to be there. There is no base for the skyhook, and in fact, nothing builds up or supports the skyhook other than an otherworldly person needing it to be there. Now we also have “cranes,” and cranes work to develop a narrative skyscraper from a simple foundation. From this foundation a crane provides a set up to a new plot development, and once that development is over the character in question is “elevated” to a new level in the story. From there a visible scaffold guides the character to their ultimate destination.

I honestly wanted to throttle Zidane when he said this.
I honestly wanted to throttle Zidane when he said this.

To Final Fantasy IX's defense, most of its storytelling avoids narrative skyhooks for cranes. Even here the revelations in Terra have a scaffold that builds towards its exposition dumps. However, at some point when a construction company is building a skyscraper they recognize they only need one or two cranes, instead of a dozen. This is ultimately where Final Fantasy IX falters. Not satisfied at proposing a parallel planet or cloning, it then needs to top this all off with soul-transfer and the dichotomy between free-will and predeterminism. Instead of masterfully building a single foundation, Final Fantasy IX haphazardly constructs five… on the third disc.

In any story one or two of these thematics would have sufficed. Topics as dense and complicated as soul-transfer could reasonably last a skilled writer a lifetime to do justice. By presenting all these topics as possible pivot points, the game stretches the story to a proverbial “breaking point.” There was no possible way Final Fantasy IX could handle all these topics and develop them into marvelous moments in the story. You could make the argument the game circumnavigates many of these problems by putting on a special dress and subjecting its audience with its charms, but this is a band-aid in the grand scheme of things.

For once I agree with Zidane!
For once I agree with Zidane!

Part 108: Final Fantasy IX Decides To "Borrow" The Worst Part Of Final Fantasy VII

ARE YOU GODDAMNED KIDDING ME?!
ARE YOU GODDAMNED KIDDING ME?!

Fucking seriously? Are we honestly back to this dumb bullshit about the cyclical nature of souls?

So wait, is Terra inside Gaia? Is it a secret subterranean civilization?
So wait, is Terra inside Gaia? Is it a secret subterranean civilization?

Is Garland simply a less memorable rendition of Sephiroth? I only ask because much like Cloud's character arc in Final Fantasy VII, Zidane is revealed to be the trump card of an antagonist’s masterplan. Having sent his only begotten son to Gaia, Garland planned on Zidane furthering his aim of taking over the souls of Gaia... or something like that. Here's where the game honestly "lost me" at a basic comprehension level. There's a cycle of souls on every planet, and this cycle exists on Terra and Gaia. Somehow Garland plans on replacing the souls of Gaia with the souls of Terra. So Garland created Soulcage to turn the Gaian souls into a mist, and replace those souls with Terran souls, or this is what I think is the case. I mean… CAN SOMEONE HELP ME HERE? I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS!

Why does Garland need to control Gaia's cycle of souls? Isn't the cycle of souls on Terra the only cycle he should care about? How is putting the Terran souls in Gaia going to assist him in putting those souls in the Genomes? Why doesn't Garland just transfer the souls of the Terran people into the Genomes and then teleport the Genomes to Gaia? If the Terrans are in the Genome bodies, won't the blue light no longer hurt them? Why doesn’t Garland create clone bodies immune to being damaged by blue light and put the Terran souls in those? Why is Gaia so critical to Garland's plan? There are myriads of planets in the universe; so why not pick another one both uninhabited and doesn't have a light source fatal to the Terrans?

[At least Zidane seems to have regained his common sense.]

Zidane took the words right out of my mouth.
Zidane took the words right out of my mouth.

Beyond that, there’s the simple fact Garland has the technology for transferring souls and cloning people, but DOESN’T USE THIS TECHNOLOGY TO FIX TERRA! You honestly mean to tell me this technologically advanced society couldn’t just “science” their way out of a Malthusian Dilemma? Why not just put everyone into spaceships and explore potential planets to colonize? Why doesn’t any part of Garland’s plan make sense? WHY?

The game addresses none of these plot holes. Worse yet, it believes the panacea to the myriad of issues facing its story is MORE SCIENCE FICTION NONSENSE! This is as bad as you may expect.

Wait, so is Terra underneath Gaia and some sort of subterranean civilization? Where is this happening, and how?
Wait, so is Terra underneath Gaia and some sort of subterranean civilization? Where is this happening, and how?

Part 109: What The Fuck Is The Story Trying To Accomplish With Zidane?

It is at this point Zidane finally allows the vast amounts of story exposition grab hold of him. Or at least partially. He rebukes Quina, and when he catches up to Vivi, an optional ATE which shouldn't be, Zidane is forced to confront a frightening similarity he has with Vivi. He is a homunculus, created to serve the whims of a master he disagrees with. You would suspect Zidane would finally convey a sense of being emotionally torn asunder. Instead, he continues to roll out witticisms as he is forced to reckon with real pressing issues pertaining to his identity and personhood.

What the fuck is the game even attempting to accomplish with Zidane? He oscillates between two emotional states at the drop of a hat, and I do not understand what the reasoning is for this. Did the writers intend for Zidane to come across as falling into a madness? Did they wish for him to hold onto the base emotions that defined him as he is forced to confront a stark reality? Either way, it's shitty the game has Zidane act like an emotionally "broken" automaton in one scene, and a wise-cracking rogue in the next:

Oh wow, we are getting some heavy stuff from Zidane.
Oh wow, we are getting some heavy stuff from Zidane.

...and it's gone.
...and it's gone.

What the fuck is even happening? I get the literal aspects of the scenes at hand. Zidane is Garland's greatest "creation," and has an intended purpose to bring forth untold destruction onto Gaia. What I have to question is what any of this accomplishes. At least with Cloud he experiences a clear mental breakdown and requires a close compatriot to guide him to the truth of his personhood. Cloud's character arc isn't without its faults, but its intent is clear and ends up serving a primary theme in the story. What part to Zidane's character arc ties into a greater thematic in Final Fantasy IX? DON'T YOU DARE SAY SOMETHING AS GENERIC AS "DESTINY!" Some users used the thematic of "destiny" to justify the plot twist of Final Fantasy VIII, and I'm not tolerating that bullshit anymore!

The only of these new undertones I feel services the story is the theme of predestination and free will. This thematic was a defining characteristic of Vivi's storyline and provides the game with some of its greatest moments. With Zidane, the game ends up bludgeoning the audience with its simplicity. The writing behind Zidane is so brutally simple he's honestly painful to listen to. Likewise, Garland’s offer never comes across as a divisive point of contention for Zidane to mull over. Zidane’s choices are to follow his destiny and destroy everything he loves and holds dear, or not. There’s a severe lack of nuance to the dilemma Zidane faces, and this becomes especially clear when the game attempts to draw parallels between Zidane’s angst to Vivi’s.

Like how to piss over a ledge.
Like how to piss over a ledge.

Part 110: Strange Bedfellows And Other Nonsense

"BUT WHAT ABOUT KUJA?" some of you may ask as Final Fantasy IX maniacally cackles in the background. I'm glad you asked because the next exposition dump is about to address this matter! Were you prepared for the dramatic reveal of Kuja being a Genome, and essentially Zidane's brother? Of course you were, this was a foregone conclusion when we learned Kuja came from Terra hours ago. From there it was never a massive leap of logic to assume Kuja was a Genome as it was heavily implied earlier in the game he is a "pawn" of Garland.

HE FUCKING TOLD YOU HE WAS TERRA! WHAT YOU EVEN TALKING ABOUT!
HE FUCKING TOLD YOU HE WAS TERRA! WHAT YOU EVEN TALKING ABOUT!

Kuja's strong will is viewed by Garland to be his greatest "flaw," but Garland still endeavors to use him as a pawn to further his goal of transferring the souls on Terra to Gaia. Speaking of which, is Kuja onboard with transferring the Terran souls to Gaia, or is he fucking shit up in Gaia for fun? I don't entirely understand why Kuja is okay with furthering Garland's plan of spreading chaos on Gaia, but not okay with further the other aspects of Garland's plan. What was Kuja's original end-goal? Was he being evil for the sake of it, or did he have a master plan which was interrupted by Garland?

Garland then droned about the cycle of souls for a solid ten minutes and I couldn't deal with this game's bullshit anymore. I couldn't. Is Garland disrupting the souls of Gaia so he can replace them with the Terran souls? Why doesn't Garland find a different planet easier to transfer the Terran souls too? Why is this happening? Oh dear God why is this happening?

So Garland is okay with waging war by proxy via Kuja, but doesn't want to invade Gaia. This makes PERFECT SENSE!
So Garland is okay with waging war by proxy via Kuja, but doesn't want to invade Gaia. This makes PERFECT SENSE!

After being prompted by Zidane, Garland discloses Zidane's role in his master plan. Zidane is a "perfect" Genome with more power than Kuja. Kuja's response to all this was to drop Zidane on Gaia and hope to never see him again. That last part was an addition on my end because the game does a terrible job of justifying why Kuja drops Zidane on Gaia rather than killing him.

This is the worst way I have ever seen a villain attempt to kill the protagonist in a video game yet.
This is the worst way I have ever seen a villain attempt to kill the protagonist in a video game yet.

Let's move on to other pressing matters. Why did Garland wait until NOW to locate Zidane? If Garland knew Zidane was a critical component to his plan why didn't he actively search for him earlier? Better yet, why didn't Garland create a third Genome? Where the FUCK is Solidus Snake in this story? Why did all the characters cease behaving like logical people?

Part 111: OH GOD PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!

Now let's talk about the Iifa Tree because this is when the game shouts "FUCK ALL!" at the audience. The Iifia Tree is blocking Gaian souls and turning them into Mist. In their stead, the Iifia Tree is replacing these souls with Terran Souls. So here's my problem, where the fuck is Terra? How is Garland transporting these Terran souls to Gaia? Is he using a telescopic space bazooka?

I guess the whole point of Zidane is the fact at some point he was meant to replace Kuja. Despite leaving Zidane to interact and grow up with the people of Gaia, Garland assumes Zidane will always have this blood lust to destroy it. This worked out in Dragon Ball, so I guess it will work out for Final Fantasy IX.

NO! I DON'T UNDERSTAND SHIT!
NO! I DON'T UNDERSTAND SHIT!

Oddly enough, this is where the story wins me back. Zidane's frank rejection of Garland works. As he is left to stew about his destiny, the story refocuses its attention on providing character moments instead of science fiction plot-twists. To be honest, this may be the most emotionally taut line Zidane ever utters in the entire game:

You mean the van down by the river?
You mean the van down by the river?
And THANK GOD this is in the game in the first place!
And THANK GOD this is in the game in the first place!

The reason I welcome this comment from Zidane is that it comes across as an honest rebuke, rather than a misplaced comical wisecrack. Practically speaking, Zidane has more to lose by supporting Garland than he has to gain. Zidane is in love, and values his relationship with Garnet. As the audience, we understand this on account of the myriad of times we watched Zidane proactively pursue this relationship. Zidane’s interpersonal relationships also underscore this point. The friendships he has developed on Gaia have physically and emotionally changed him. It’s here where the game’s commentary on free will and predeterminism begins to “work.” We all have choices which play a role in our destiny. Having Zidane make the “correct” choice, and later Kuja make the "incorrect" choice, is a poignant and powerful message.

While the game’s science-fiction tropes bring nothing to the table to develop Zidane as a character, the idea of “choice” does. Having Zidane reaffirm his allegiances articulates his purpose and place in the story. You can feel and empathize with the emotion in Zidane’s words and thus become a willing participant in progressing his adventure. Having Zidane declare his intention to be a mass murderer NOT SO MUCH!

WAIT WHAT?! IS EVERYONE IN THIS GAME A MASS MURDERER?
WAIT WHAT?! IS EVERYONE IN THIS GAME A MASS MURDERER?

Does the game fail to realize the problem here is Garland and Kuja, and not the millions of Terrans who wish to resurrect their civilization? Why do we indiscriminately need to destroy Terra to protect Gaia from further harm? Remember the movie WALL-E? At what point did WALL-E torch the entire spaceship ferrying humanity because one artificial intelligence overstepped its parameters? My memory is suspect, but do any of you recall WALL-E using a chainsaw to decapitate the last remnants of humanity because of one “evil” robot tasked with protecting the human race?

KUJA PLEASE DESTROY TERRA BEFORE ZIDANE SO I DO NOT HAVE TO FURTHER QUESTION THIS GAME'S MORALS!
KUJA PLEASE DESTROY TERRA BEFORE ZIDANE SO I DO NOT HAVE TO FURTHER QUESTION THIS GAME'S MORALS!

Part 112: Everything Is Forgiven (i.e. The "You're Not Alone" Scene Is FUCKING AMAZING!)

I will be blunt with you right now.

  • Point #1: The musical track "You're Not Alone" is FUCKING AMAZING!
  • Point #2: The scene in which this track is used almost justifies the mountains of science-fiction bullshit we had to wade through to witness it. I EMPHASIZE "ALMOST!"

I already mention the massive flaw of this scene. When you stop and think about it, ten minutes of angst, seemingly out of nowhere, is “messy” storytelling. For almost the entirety of our time at Terra, we watched Zidane learn about his progeny, and act relatively unfazed. Now we are expected to agree Zidane is emotionally torn between two worlds. We also are expected to accept that ten minutes of angst is enough to cause Zidane to wake from his depressive episode. Somewhere, Squall is scoffing at Zidane for being an “amateur.” BUT THE HELL WITH IT! The scene’s heart is in the right place so I’m willing to accept what it brings to the table! Even if what it brings to the table is nothing more than Taco Bell. It may be nutritionally deficient, but I’m still eating it with a smile!

Fucking somehow, through the mist and the madness, through Hell or high water, the game makes all its previous hoity–toity science fiction technobabble a side note. Here the game finally conveys an emotionally evocative message resonant to all people. You are in control of your destiny, and your friends and family are the clearest reminder you have of this. Being at a personal low-point in his life Zidane can only remember the negatives of his interactions with his interpersonal relationships.

This is how I feel when I have Arby's for dunner.
This is how I feel when I have Arby's for dunner.

The game finally characterizes Zidane in a manner complementary to what happens in the game. Depressed and dejected, Zidane declares himself to be "an empty vessel," and ignores his surroundings. The supporting cast members then have to jolt Zidane from his stupor and make him cognizant of the sacrifices they are willing to make for him.

Looks as if we have another laser guided Vivi-bomb aimed directly at our hearts.
Looks as if we have another laser guided Vivi-bomb aimed directly at our hearts.

Upon rejecting the initial efforts of his friends, Zidane finds himself in a series of battles against horrible monsters and requires his companions to bail him out. This is without a doubt the single greatest non-Vivi related scene in the game. After being a brotherly figure to so many of the supporting cast members; it is now time for Zidane to rely upon the help of others as he deals with an existential crisis. It is a wonderful inversion of his role since the game has already endeavored to depict Zidane as helping his party members through perilous situations. Additionally, the scene is a happy marriage between gameplay and story with each combat sequence seamlessly highlighting Zidane’s need for his garrulous troupe of friends.

How good is this scene? The game somehow makes Amarant, who has been the doyenne of mediocrity, a highlight!

How is this happening? How are the crappy characters no longer garbage?
How is this happening? How are the crappy characters no longer garbage?

This scene even conveys Steiner, an idiot I have been bereft of feeling an emotional connection to, as a stand-up guy! I'm not fucking joking, look at this amazing line of dialogue:

Excuse me, but WHO ARE YOU? I'm looking for Steiner, and NOT a decent human being!
Excuse me, but WHO ARE YOU? I'm looking for Steiner, and NOT a decent human being!

Despite continual reminders from his close friends, Zidane still feels empowered to reject the reality of his esteem. Then, as Zidane is forced to confront the most difficult foe he has faced yet, the person he values the most comes to his rescue.

IT'S A MIRACLE! It's the magic of storytelling in action!
IT'S A MIRACLE! It's the magic of storytelling in action!

Triaging the interactions Zidane has to culminate with an interplay with Garnet is once again the writers reminding us of their skills. The cast comes together once more to admonish Zidane of every accomplishment they have had with him. It is the emotional honesty and sincerity of the scene which touched me the most. It's so simple, yet evocative simultaneously. You understand why Zidane felt dejected in the first place and what his compatriots are attempting to communicate to him. Then, after Zidane recollects himself it's an accomplishment the supporting cast earns via their own hard work. After coming back to his senses Zidane gathers the party once more to remind them of their new purpose; they, as a team, must stop Garland from bringing further harm to Gaia.

Part 113: Another Justifiable Boss Rush And A Grand Final Premise

With the team ready to confront Garland and all which he represents, our team defiantly marches to Garland's inner sanctum... right after they navigate a platform puzzle.

IS THERE NO GOD FOR JRPG LEVEL DESIGN?!
IS THERE NO GOD FOR JRPG LEVEL DESIGN?!

This minor quibble aside, Final Fantasy IX crafts a complimentary scene to accompany Zidane's character moment. After Garland offers Zidane one final opportunity to join his side, Zidane unequivocally rejects Garland and sets into motion the game's climax. Our first confrontation involves a battle against Kuja's dragon, and this encounter is NO JOKE! Armed to the teeth with wind attacks, some of which can hit your entire party, the silver dragon could dispatch my company with relative ease. Upon my third or fourth confrontation with the silver dragon, Zidane entered Trance, and I used Grand Lethal to end my woes. This set into motion my final confrontation with Garland.

Fuck off! Let's just fight and get this shit over with!
Fuck off! Let's just fight and get this shit over with!

With Garland down for the count, Kuja arrives and uses the Invincible to weaken Garland further. After some taunting on Kuja's part, he approaches Garland and mocks the old man as he battles the party. After an extended tussle, it appears Kuja is KO-ed much like Garland. However, Kuja instead enters Trance and immediately levels the party in one fell swoop. The game's justification for Kuja finding this newfound power, he absorbed the Gaian souls aboard the Invincible, again frames Kuja as an unsalvageable menace. Kuja has already abused the lives of the Black Mages and now has wasted the souls of innocent civilians; he is beyond redeeming. Kuja openly mocking Garnet that he has consumed her biological mother's soul was a low blow I can fully support. It’s cheap, but goddamn does it get the job done. Moments like those again underscore Kuja being the villainous inversion of Zidane. The glee Kuja conveys in making the lives of others miserable is complementary to his flamboyant personality.

Kuja sold the other souls to Satan. BECAUSE HE'S EVIL!
Kuja sold the other souls to Satan. BECAUSE HE'S EVIL!

After punting him to his death, Garland pulls the rug from underneath Kuja. Garland reveals to Kuja that he designed him to have a limited lifespan and his time is about to reach its end. This is one of the most spectacular examples of a villain being "hoisted by his own petard." After providing the Black Mages with the empty promise of extending their lives; Kuja finds what he brazenly abused, time, used against him. It’s a wonderful callback and an example of the foreshadowing I called for earlier.

Frustrated he cannot be the ruler of both Terra and Gaia, Kuja attempts to extinguish all life as we know it. He decides immediately that if cannot live to see the climax of his power, then no one deserves to live. This serves as a stark reminder of how Vivi and Zidane faced a similar dilemma, Vivi, more so, but took the moral high ground. In facing the premature demise of his life, Vivi made the most of his time by doing the greatest amount of good he could. Kuja takes the selfish route and holds everyone responsible for his mortality. It is an anger we understand but are not meant to emphasize with.

A face only a mother could love... or I should say robot grandpa.
A face only a mother could love... or I should say robot grandpa.

This ends up providing the game with its final premise before its conclusion. Kuja is on a rampage to destroy everything we know and love. While Kuja has reached the "incorrect" conclusion to his dilemma, he has reached a conclusion you understand the logic to. I do not say this to suggest I feel sympathy for Kuja, but instead as a counterpoint to my previous groveling of Final Fantasy IX lacking a villain with a coherent raison d'etre. It is a tenuous and “cheap” reason for being, but it is at least a coherent one. I call this cheap for a reason. Kuja’s madness occurs suddenly and plays on base emotions rather than nuanced ones. Likewise, if this is what happens when the game pulls something from “its playbook,” then I don’t want to be right.

Looks like Terra finally got the red light it was asking for.
Looks like Terra finally got the red light it was asking for.

By having a clear antagonist in the game's eleventh hour Final Fantasy IX sets up stakes which we feel compelled to buy into. Kuja's torching of Terra highlights the dire situation Gaia faces if our heroes fail. As our party watches in awe as Kuja shatters the planet of Terra they embark to minimize the pain and suffering. We commandeer the Invincible and use it to transport the surviving Genomes to Gaia. As we leave Terra, it becomes apparent there is no turning back. Kuja must be stopped.

Part 114: 50/50 Storytelling Has Me Split Yet Again

Oh Final Fantasy IX, what am I to make of you? You are a slow lumbering beast who holds its punches until I least expect it. Once you unleash your flurry of blows, they prove to be devastating. Yet here I am left to once again question if I should recommend others play you. I am essentially “stuck” repeating the same soundbite over and over again.

I do not know how I honestly feel about this game.

After having subjected me to what was essentially the game's "drizzly shits," it simultaneously provided me with one of its most evocative scenes yet. I feel rather confident that many others would enjoy experiencing these moments, but am I to also wantonly condemn people to hours of frustration and insanity? This question continues to divide my opinion of this game. I am truly flummoxed.

Regardless, this was hopefully another entertaining and educational dive into Final Fantasy IX.Maybe next time we meet there will be less craziness involved.

Oh... fuck me.
Oh... fuck me.

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#1 Posted by dudeglove (12579 posts) -

At least, we are, as they say, at *that* point.

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#2 Posted by Rebel_Scum (1235 posts) -

I guarantee if you play FFVI after this the series will redeem itself. VIII & IX are a hard sell due to the story and dialogue.

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#3 Posted by Fezrock (206 posts) -

1. I always saw Zidane's wisecracks as his defense mechanism. On Terra, he keeps saying more and more of them, and at more and more inappropriate times, because he's trying to avoid confronting everything being thrown at him. Which culminates in the fantastic "you're not alone" scene, when he's finally overwhelmed and starts briefly acting like Cloud and Squall instead.

2. There's a lot going on with the Terran plot, and it doesn't follow any of the rules of science as we know them, but I don't think it was really too complicated. Terra is a separate planet, which for "reasons" is dying. To save its people, Garland is going replace another planet, physically and spiritually/lifestream-y, with Terra. The physical part isn't properly explained, but somehow Terra can take a planet's place; and until that fully happens its sort of like the alternate dimension version of the planet its replacing. The spiritual part is pretty straightforward. Garland created the Iifa tree to disrupt Gaia's lifestream, and once its fully disrupted he'll replace it with Terra's. He sent Kuja to create war to speed up the process by having more people dying, and thereby get disrupted by Iifa earlier than they otherwise would have. And Terra is locked into replacing Gaia because Garland tried to initiate the physical replacement process 500 years ago, screwed it up, and now needs to finish what he started.

Basically, he wants to hollow Gaia out and fill its void with Terra. The light is the representation of each planet's lifestream; which was a concept Square reused in The Spirits Within movie.

In the end though, the specifics of the plan aren't as important as the fact that there was a plan with an understandable end goal (save Terra). And the fact that this plan was responsible for the creation of Kuja and Zidane and set all the wheels of the game's underlying plot into motion.

3. Was it said that all 4 Terran guardians needed to be defeated at the same time? I honestly don't remember, but that would be a valid reason for splitting the party up into groups of 2 (though they really should've gotten some back up from NPCs; but, video games!)

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#4 Posted by Jesus_Phish (3167 posts) -

RPGs that do the "lets split the party" thing can fuck off. I've always hated it. I like to have my group, the same 3-4 people that I like to just use forever. Then the game says "ok, now you have to have two groups. Good thing you've a group of level 65s and a group of level 20s who still have their basic equipment!"

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#5 Posted by Batavist (59 posts) -

You most likely renounced that right when agreeing to the terms and conditions. Apologies for the fatuous comment, thanks for the new word.

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#6 Posted by LawGamer (1302 posts) -

In response to your original question of whether you can sue Square if you suffer an aneurysm, the answer is that it is doubtful.

Given that the game was originally released in 2000, it is likely you may run into statute of limitations problems given that you are playing the game in 2017. Additionally, as someone who has now played two prior Final Fantasy games, you are well aware that the series may induce anger, frustration, and potential psychosis. Therefore, continuing the series in the face of such known dangers would likely fall under the category of "assumption of the risk."

In all seriousness though, I feel your pain with regards to the series need to constantly refer back to itself. It feels like each of the modern games needs to pick a "classic" Final Fantasy to be a spirit animal, and is usually the worse for it. With IX, it was trying to go back to the original Final Fantasy. With XV, it keeps wanting to go back to VI. Except that the originals were better games because they were original at the time, where the new ones try to shoehorn those elements in for the sake of nostalgia.

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#7 Edited by thatpinguino (2652 posts) -

@fezrock: @zombiepie The game does say that the reason for splitting the party up was that you need to defeat all four guardians simultaneously.

The reason Zidane has his big moment of doubt is a combination of the facts he's learned and Garland casts some spell on him at the end of his monologue. Zidane's "I'm an empty vessel" thing is echoing the words Garland said to him "the body becomes a vessel".

Also Zidane's wisecracks are definitely a defense mechanism. Whenever he feels uncomfortable, out of control, or like he needs to live up to some Casanova ideal, he cracks wise. He responds by acting as though the thing that is disturbing him is no big deal. It happens throughout the game.

This one is specifically for ZP: maybe it's due to the way you write these blogs, but it's super weird to see you complain about sequences that are 4-5 sentences long that are immediately explained or paid off like 10 minutes later. Bran Bal takes all of 10-20 minutes and 10-20 minutes after that you're in the "Not Alone" sequence. The setup and the delivery are pretty dang close together on that one.

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#8 Posted by Sinusoidal (3331 posts) -

You think Final Fantasy hurts your brain, you should slot Xenogears into your schedule.

What's worse than an aneurysm? Multiple aneurysms? Man, I wish they'd finished that game properly.

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#9 Edited by Encephalon (1702 posts) -

You did it, man. You got through FFIX's late-game twist! Barring two more totally out-of-nowhere plot developments in the final dungeon (the Crystal and Necron), it's pretty much smooth sailing to credits, story-wise.

It was cool seeing that you responded to the You're Not Alone segment that way. I feel every FF has one of those transcendent moments that make even the weird bullshit tolerable in retrospect. In the games you've played, I'd say VII has the resolution to Cloud's arc in the Lifestream, VIII has the GARDEN BATTLE, and IX has You're Not Alone. If you ever get around to the PS2 or PS3 entries, I'll be curious to see what makes that kind of impression on you.

You mentioning Zidane and Vivi peeing over a ledge uncorked a truly ghastly thought in my head, I thought you should know: if Vivi is capable of urination, does he have anything down there? Is it made from black ghost smoke like the rest of him?

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#10 Edited by cloudymusic (1881 posts) -

You once said you weren't ready to go down this rabbit-hole yet, but here you go.

Loading Video...
Loading Video...

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#11 Posted by soimadeanaccount (469 posts) -

The You are not Alone scene killed the game for me. There I said it.

Yes it should have been a good scene, perhaps it is probably a good scene if we isolate it on its own, the music is awesome. But I can't get the parts that came before it off of it considering that's the build up.

I am willing to dive into its brand of fantasy-sci-fi, I am willing to put up with the clones and soul transfArring, also it is a theme you will see often in Final Fantasy especially in conjunction with crystals, it is basically lifestream, except Garland is trying to control the flow, and we all know when shit flows backward ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

Zidane flip flopping character twice over in such short time just doesn't work for me. When I see this, it reminds me of what they did with Cloud in FFVII, the intro, breakdown, rock bottom, and rebuild of his character across more than half of the game is still what I regard as one of the high point of storytelling in game. Here in IX Zidane has to do all that in less than an hour if that all within a handful of screens.

Like you said Zidane's character is well established to really not give much thoughts about his past and his "role" unlike Garnet and Vivi. I like his wisecracking ways, I actually like him being not serious in Terra and in front of Garland, it fits the character. He was a beacon of strength that essentially babysat Garnet and Vivi previously despite all his flaws, simply put Zidane is stronger than that, there's no point for him to just tumble over and be emo. I mean they could start chipping away at him, it would have been interesting, but it would have to take some time, time that the game doesn't have since we know it is nearly its end.

And when he does fall it is resolve even quicker with the You are not Alone scene. None of these have any weight. I get it, no one really wants another emo hero moping around especially after seeing two in a row already with VII and VIII, along with a muted Garnet earlier. I know it could get old if we have Zidane stumbling about as an ineffective party member, but god damn the scene resolve itself essentially right after the set up is done. Or perhaps it is better this way because the set up was poor also.

There's just so much regarding this in concept and in theory. This is supposedly the main character crosses path with the main twist of the story. It should be an important scene, if not the biggest. This is when Zidane's stake in the story actually happens, thinking back there's really no stake for Zidane to be in this entire fiasco other than him trying to hit on Garnet. In some strange ways he has been the ordinary everyman in all this despite leading Vivi and Garnet through their extraordinary problems, and here the game reveals he too is extraordinary. In some weird ways they have done it better in the past in VII, and this only serve to make the outcome even more disappointing.

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#12 Posted by ZombiePie (6893 posts) -

@fezrock: Alright so here are a few passing thoughts I have in lieu of your comments:

  1. I was originally willing to accept this exact scenario right up until Zidane begun using 90s era slang whenever he rebuffed Mikoto and Garland. I would also argue that Zidane's "defensive mechanism" narratively makes it impossible to fully accept the "You're Not Alone" scene. Why is he able to maintain this mechanism for 90% of his time in Terra, but all of the sudden he's depressed and mopey for ten minutes afterwards?
  2. Everything you are saying feels like hearsay. The game fails articulate all of this with visual supports or sweeping cutscenes as it was apt to do previously. Beyond that, I think everything associated with the transferring of souls and Garland's plot is terrible. It's needlessly complicated technobabble which comes out of nowhere, and the game only utilizes in this one isolated set piece. After Kuja torches the place it's basically never referenced again.
  3. WELL DAMN IT!
How the HELL would they even know when to put the tablets in place at the correct time?
How the HELL would they even know when to put the tablets in place at the correct time?

At least, we are, as they say, at *that* point.

I honestly do not even now which "point" you have been referencing as being the lowest point in the game. There's like... three, and I dislike each of them equally.

I guarantee if you play FFVI after this the series will redeem itself. VIII & IX are a hard sell due to the story and dialogue.

Right now I have officially boarded the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster "pain train." What's the worst that can happen?

Because you know... I hate myself and want to become the first person to die playing a Final Fantasy game.

RPGs that do the "lets split the party" thing can fuck off. I've always hated it. I like to have my group, the same 3-4 people that I like to just use forever. Then the game says "ok, now you have to have two groups. Good thing you've a group of level 65s and a group of level 20s who still have their basic equipment!"

The worst aspect of Final Fantasy IX's rendition of this trope is the game doesn't even bother to let you take control of the other parties. Not only does the game take the time to contrive its way to split the party up into groups, but you only get to view the cool battle of one party. Where's the justice in that?

@lawgamer said:

Given that the game was originally released in 2000, it is likely you may run into statute of limitations problems given that you are playing the game in 2017. Additionally, as someone who has now played two prior Final Fantasy games, you are well aware that the series may induce anger, frustration, and potential psychosis. Therefore, continuing the series in the face of such known dangers would likely fall under the category of "assumption of the risk."

In all seriousness though, I feel your pain with regards to the series need to constantly refer back to itself. It feels like each of the modern games needs to pick a "classic" Final Fantasy to be a spirit animal, and is usually the worse for it. With IX, it was trying to go back to the original Final Fantasy. With XV, it keeps wanting to go back to VI. Except that the originals were better games because they were original at the time, where the new ones try to shoehorn those elements in for the sake of nostalgia.

This sounds like something I should take to the Supreme Court! In all honesty, I have to openly question how much of Final Fantasy IX's narrative mistakes are a "product of the time." I would unequivocally state for the record the story in IX is an overall improvement over VII and VIII. Then again I have no idea if the over value of technical excellence in those two games regressed the quality of storytelling in the franchise. Every episode one of you chimes in to say my story-based groveling would not apply to Final Fantasy V or VI. I guess I have to ask if the move to 3D resulted in the series triaging storytelling below presentation quality, or if the PlayStation One era is just a reflection of the overall thematics of Japanese entertainment at the time. What with Hideaki Anno and Kunihiko Ikuhara basically shaking the entertainment industry to its core.

Again, the need for the series to use its iconography for fanservice rather than creating a cohesive narrative is one of my primary reasons why I would argue it is NOT a "true" franchise/series. The iconography is used to remind the audience of the past, and this nostalgia is exploited to cause fans to oversee the game's inherent flaws.

This one is specifically for ZP: maybe it's due to the way you write these blogs, but it's super weird to see you complain about sequences that are 4-5 sentences long that are immediately explained or paid off like 10 minutes later. Bran Bal takes all of 10-20 minutes and 10-20 minutes after that you're in the "Not Alone" sequence. The setup and the delivery are pretty dang close together on that one.

I spend a great deal of time discussing this longer than what any reasonable person would for a reason. The game's scaffold for its emotional gravitas isatrocious. We spend ten minutes of Zidane acting unfazed and effectively using a defensive mechanism for ten to fifteen minutes, and then this mechanism is no longer working... because the story needs it to stop working. I would also argue the premise of Zidane having a single ten-minute scene to mope and come to terms with his progeny is beyond contrived. While the game babbled about souls and alternate dimensions for ten minutes, it provides an equal amount of time on what is a vastly superior and more rewarding scene/development.

A ten-minute scene for a character to come to terms with their personal demons is kind of offensive.

Give Final Fantasy VII and VIII some credit. Despite all their flaws, they didn't just have the protagonist have "their moment," in a single ten-minute scene. Their character "low points" were major events within the story the game built towards and attempted to foster as a major focus point. It's not perfect, but at least the characters are provided what is a more appropriate amount of time to grow and develop... well at least for Could... kind of.

You did it, man. You got through FFIX's late-game twist! Barring two more totally out-of-nowhere plot developments in the final dungeon (the Crystal and Necron), it's pretty much smooth sailing to credits, story-wise.

It was cool seeing that you responded to the You're Not Alone segment that way. I feel every FF has one of those transcendent moments that make even the weird bullshit tolerable in retrospect. In the games you've played, I'd say VII has the resolution to Cloud's arc in the Lifestream, VIII has the GARDEN BATTLE, and IX has You're Not Alone. If you ever get around to the PS2 or PS3 entries, I'll be curious to see what makes that kind of impression on you.

You mentioning Zidane and Vivi peeing over a ledge uncorked a truly ghastly thought in my head, I thought you should know: if Vivi is capable of urination, does he have anything down there? Is it made from black ghost smoke like the rest of him?

  1. Oh, we will get to those two "Chestnuts" in a little bit! Mark my words, I have nothing positive to say about your two "discussion points." I mean... give me a break that last boss battle is GARBAGE! WHAT WAS THAT ABOUT?
  2. It is interesting to see someone completely agree with me in regards to the best scenes in Final Fantasy VII to IX. I guess if a game has at least one truly amazing scene in it, that's an accomplishment in and of itself.
  3. YO! @mento sent me links to what Black Mages look like when they become "Black Wizards" in Final Fantasy I! THEY ARE LIKE REAL PEOPLE, BUT WITH HOODS ON THEIR HEADS! DOES THIS MEAN VIVI IS A REAL PERSON?!?
What is love, baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more.
What is love, baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more.

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#13 Posted by dudeglove (12579 posts) -

@dudeglove said:

At least, we are, as they say, at *that* point.

I honestly do not even now which "point" you have been referencing as being the lowest point in the game. There's like... three, and I dislike each of them equally.

I completely forgot the latter half of the game until now, but it reminded me that I recalled that someone somewhere in FF7-and-up land was really really pushing the themes of the main hero's non-identity and the notion of "who am I really" (along with "let's kill god!" as the solution) without any nuance whatsoever, because in 7 Cloud and Seph are clones (or puppets, or something?), in 8 boring arse Squall has a memory lapse or something and doesn't really know who he is and is in a funk about it (also they go to space), in 9 it's all this shit, and then in FF10 it happens again (which I won't spoil) albeit it's potentially even dumber than you might think. Not as convoluted as whatever the fuck they scrabbled together for 9, potentially as bad as what 8 does, but they beat the drum of this idea of "you are nothing but a pawn because you were created in some manner so break the cycle and kill your gods and masters and take back agency of your life" because reasons??? It's not lazy story-telling, it's just bad.

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#14 Edited by Fezrock (206 posts) -

@zombiepie: Between the stress of it all, and Garland's "empty vessel" code words, it's not surprising to me at least that Zidane would finally break. It was all over rather quick, but I guess that speaks to his inner strength and the power of the relationships he's developed with others; which is the key difference he has from Kuja.

As for Terra, I pulled together my explanation from a few different places, but I'm fairly certain that's all in the game. Regardless though, the details of the plan aren't the important part; what's important is that there is a plan so that we can get to the consequences the plan has for everyone.

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#15 Posted by GERALTITUDE (5719 posts) -

First, in reference to your comment on my last comment - don't worry about whether I'm being sarcastic or not Zombie - even I don't know!

And now, some thoughts...

Zidane's About Face: I think this is supposed to be a "needle that broke that camel's back" sort of moment. Zidane can crack wise for only so long before that confident exterior breaks. That was how I read it originally in any case. This squares well with me as I imagine a young man trying to "stay cool," kind of like someone trying not to freak during a break up (not that I have any experience there). It goes without saying the quality of the execution is... uh... up to debate. In any case, I do really love the "You're not alone" sequence, though it is pretty cliche. It's the equivalent of that scene in Rudy where the captain tells coach to let Rudy play, and then allllllll the football team comes streaming in one at a time dropping their jerseys off. "We won't play if Rudy don't!". Gosh that scene really gets to me... I love when people believe in each other!

Now with the above out of the way I have to reveal something about myself which may paint me as a monster... You didn't mention this at all so I assume it did nothing for you, and, in general, I think you could wipe your ass with Garland, but he is a real favourite of mine. His theme song is my favourite song from Final Fantasy IX and I listen to it all the time. I listen to it in the shower, playing SFV, at work, and even driving home. Yes, my heart is black. For those who forgot, you can here this masterpiece here. I have to share a little bit of how powerful a character Garland seemed to me. Not in the random battle sense. See between my playing of FFVIII and FFIX ambition got the best of me, and I ended up playing FFI, II, IV, V and VI. So Garland was a not a new name to me. It's funny, because in FF, it usually is just the name that carries on, with very little about personality and characteristic coming with it. Cid is a mechanic, Garland is a bad guy. All the same, seeing this name which I attributed to this little evil sprite was very affecting. We've talked about this and Zombie's threads before but FFIX was very much sold as THE RETURN TO FANTASY and it really felt like it. Even seeing four characters lined up was at first jaw-dropping and! So words like Gaia or Terra or Crystal or Guardians also seemed powerful, but why? They are just words, after all. In any case, just a reminder what I like about this series. The newcomer vs FF. Unfortunately for us though, you're becoming quite the vet! If you do ever make it back to the older games, it'll be interesting to see these puzzle pieces fit together.

So, FFX huh? I'm not even going to gesture to the quality of the story but I do think that it is the high-water mark of FF's turn-based combat system. I realize to you this is like saying "it is the least smelly" but honestly it's good, and really among the few RPGs I can think of that super easily solved the problem of being able / wanting to use your entire squad at any moment. As you make your way towards this game, consider once more the title of "Final Fantasy" and mark @dudeglove's words carefully: they beat the drum of this idea of "you are nothing but a pawn because you were created in some manner so break the cycle and kill your gods and masters and take back agency of your life". Final Fantasy, perhaps the most cyclical of all franchises, is itself very much about breaking cycles. Let this frame your Summoner's path. Getting a bit ahead of myself though, huh? Can't wait to see you wrap this baby up!

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#16 Posted by LawGamer (1302 posts) -

@lawgamer said:

Given that the game was originally released in 2000, it is likely you may run into statute of limitations problems given that you are playing the game in 2017. Additionally, as someone who has now played two prior Final Fantasy games, you are well aware that the series may induce anger, frustration, and potential psychosis. Therefore, continuing the series in the face of such known dangers would likely fall under the category of "assumption of the risk."

In all seriousness though, I feel your pain with regards to the series need to constantly refer back to itself. It feels like each of the modern games needs to pick a "classic" Final Fantasy to be a spirit animal, and is usually the worse for it. With IX, it was trying to go back to the original Final Fantasy. With XV, it keeps wanting to go back to VI. Except that the originals were better games because they were original at the time, where the new ones try to shoehorn those elements in for the sake of nostalgia.

This sounds like something I should take to the Supreme Court! In all honesty, I have to openly question how much of Final Fantasy IX's narrative mistakes are a "product of the time." I would unequivocally state for the record the story in IX is an overall improvement over VII and VIII. Then again I have no idea if the over value of technical excellence in those two games regressed the quality of storytelling in the franchise. Every episode one of you chimes in to say my story-based groveling would not apply to Final Fantasy V or VI. I guess I have to ask if the move to 3D resulted in the series triaging storytelling below presentation quality, or if the PlayStation One era is just a reflection of the overall thematics of Japanese entertainment at the time. What with Hideaki Anno and Kunihiko Ikuhara basically shaking the entertainment industry to its core.

Again, the need for the series to use its iconography for fanservice rather than creating a cohesive narrative is one of my primary reasons why I would argue it is NOT a "true" franchise/series. The iconography is used to remind the audience of the past, and this nostalgia is exploited to cause fans to oversee the game's inherent flaws.

What is love, baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more.
What is love, baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more.

I think there's a little something to that just in the fact that when FFVII was such a big hit, the series did seem to take kind of the wrong lessons forward. Subsequent entries really started to focus on impressive CG intros and massive set-pieces in the gameplay because that's what they though people hooked onto from VII.

Maybe some people did, but as you have mentioned in your blog on the series, some of the best moments are the smaller character ones; Aeris' mom recounting adopting and raising Aeris, Barret confronting Dyne, Vivi dealing with mortality and his imminent death, etc.

I know I keep going back to it, but XV is really guilty of this. There are several big set piece battles against summons that are legitimately the worst parts of that game. As impressive as they look, they are just shallow and don't really have much justification in the plot (and they play really badly). It probably wouldn't matter except that you get the sense that these sequences came at the expense of actually developing the characters. The game keeps hinting interesting things about character backstories that it never takes the time to tell, because it's in such a rush to get to the next "big moment."

I'm not really certain that the thematic elements change all that much from game to game. Most of the games primary themes revolve around either unjust gods or ideas of fate and how characters either fight it or learn to accept it. The difference is in how well each individual game tells those stories.

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#17 Edited by Hassun (7883 posts) -

"I honestly would not put it past the developers to have included a nod to Final Fantasy VII."

I dunno, you tell me.

No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided

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"The game somehow makes Amarant, who has been the doyenne of mediocrity, a highlight!"

I still say this game's greatest sin is probably that it utterly fails to give multiple members of your party any development.

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Next ep should be glorious.

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#18 Posted by soimadeanaccount (469 posts) -

I don't think FF series as a whole have ever been big as character story. VII merely follow the one intro and resolution scene per character for anyone that isn't Cloud, Tifa, and Aeris. Barret gets a little extra mostly for being around the longest. VI has a large cast, but there are definitely some throwaways in there. Perhaps how wide it is prevents it from going too deep effectively also, but it does have a handful of interesting character moments for a selected few characters. I find nothing impressive in IV, if not repulsive with its revolving door of characters that ultimately did nothing. X was their first struggle with voices. XII had potential in a sense that the characters feel lived in, but the focus of the game is elsewhere, not bad, but not exceptional. XIII might secretly have the most evenly spread character stories, but did so by going against the tradition completely in some respects. As a whole I think the series is actually on an upward trend (granted I haven't touch XV) in terms of techniques maybe with a few missteps here and there, but its own brand of novelty is starting to wears thin while the classics really aren't as good as people remember.

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#19 Posted by ZombiePie (6893 posts) -

The You are not Alone scene killed the game for me. There I said it.

Here's what I will say, I do not disagree with you in concept. When you examine the scene literally its intent is so nakedly transparent to the audience it is almost comical. Where I disagree is in regards to the ultimate execution of the scene. The emotional core of the "You're Not Alone" scene is more in-line with the emotional tone of the first two discs than anything else in Terra. As such, it deserves a pass rather than any of the Garland stuff.

The flip-flopping of Zidane's character is a major issue for me as well. The game should have stuck with one tone throughout the entirety of the Third Disc. But at the same time, I would argue Terra in general does not allow for this. The level's introduction is such a tonal shift in comparison to the rest of the game. So what if you just entirely cut Terra out and stick with Kuja being a weapons merchant on a quest for ultimate power?

In general this is a case where I honestly think Final Fantasy IX should have just "played it safe" rather than try and re-invent the wheel.

I completely forgot the latter half of the game until now, but it reminded me that I recalled that someone somewhere in FF7-and-up land was really really pushing the themes of the main hero's non-identity and the notion of "who am I really" (along with "let's kill god!" as the solution) without any nuance whatsoever, because in 7 Cloud and Seph are clones (or puppets, or something?), in 8 boring arse Squall has a memory lapse or something and doesn't really know who he is and is in a funk about it (also they go to space), in 9 it's all this shit, and then in FF10 it happens again (which I won't spoil) albeit it's potentially even dumber than you might think. Not as convoluted as whatever the fuck they scrabbled together for 9, potentially as bad as what 8 does, but they beat the drum of this idea of "you are nothing but a pawn because you were created in some manner so break the cycle and kill your gods and masters and take back agency of your life" because reasons??? It's not lazy story-telling, it's just bad.

Sure, I guess I didn't entirely connect the dots regarding that stuff. Then again, I'm not entirely capable of doing so for a variety of reasons. The game trying to explain Zidane's progeny is a case of the game ultimately trying to dig itself out of a hole. It's oddly enough a case of the game not sticking with a consistent direction. Or worse yet, when it does pick a direction it doesn't go far enough into that direction.

It's so painfully obvious Kuja and Zidane are related, but the game needs to hobble the sub-plot of cloning that it can't just have Kuja and Zidane be long lost brothers. Zidane has a destiny to destroy the world, but there was no foreshadowing or gas-lighting he had this destiny. Then there's the soul transfer stuff and I think we discover what the true villain of Final Fantasy IX is.

No Caption Provided

Zidane's About Face: I think this is supposed to be a "needle that broke that camel's back" sort of moment. Zidane can crack wise for only so long before that confident exterior breaks. That was how I read it originally in any case. This squares well with me as I imagine a young man trying to "stay cool," kind of like someone trying not to freak during a break up (not that I have any experience there). It goes without saying the quality of the execution is... uh... up to debate. In any case, I do really love the "You're not alone" sequence, though it is pretty cliche. It's the equivalent of that scene in Rudy where the captain tells coach to let Rudy play, and then allllllll the football team comes streaming in one at a time dropping their jerseys off. "We won't play if Rudy don't!". Gosh that scene really gets to me... I love when people believe in each other!

Here's my major problem. The game doesn't actually coherently depict what exactly "broke the camel's back." Instead, we go from a confident Zidane to broken camel IN ONE SCENE! There's no front-loading or slow build up, he's just broken the second "You're Not Alone" begins playing. So much is conveyed to you within the interactions between Zidane and Garland that it is honestly hard to pinpoint the exact moment we are meant to buy into his downfall.

Let's give Final Fantasy VII credit where credit is due. You knew the exact moment when Cloud "broke." It was fucking dumb as bricks, but you knew when it happened. When it comes to Zidane, I honestly do not know the exact line of dialogue, character, or moment breaks him. Was it his initial discover in the lab with Mikoto? Was it learning his destiny with Garland? Was it finding out he is related to Kuja? The wise cracks prevents the game from developing an answer to what I honestly feel is an important question, and hence why I do not praise their inclusion.

I will say to you about Garland's theme that it was better in Final Fantasy VIII:

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@lawgamer said:

I think there's a little something to that just in the fact that when FFVII was such a big hit, the series did seem to take kind of the wrong lessons forward. Subsequent entries really started to focus on impressive CG intros and massive set-pieces in the gameplay because that's what they though people hooked onto from VII.

Maybe some people did, but as you have mentioned in your blog on the series, some of the best moments are the smaller character ones; Aeris' mom recounting adopting and raising Aeris, Barret confronting Dyne, Vivi dealing with mortality and his imminent death, etc.

I recall @thatpinguino making a similar claim on our final FFVII podcast. While the technical excellence of the franchise has certainly grown leaps and bounds; the franchise's investment in narrative has been relatively inconsistent. The smaller character moments have always been the more emotionally resonant with me. Sure there are scenes such as infiltrating the reactor, the Garden Battle, or destruction of Cleyra, where a game manages to create a sweeping scene without the characters as a focal point, but these are few and far between.

It's an unfair comparison, but one I still feel apt to point out. A vast majority of these issues remind me of what gutted the Star Wars prequels. Across all of these games the moments I have enjoyed the most have involved characters fighting a clearly articulated drama. These moments have avoided the more "salacious" moments of their respective entries. The characters we gravitate towards are characters that feel like real people we want to see grow and prosper. They are the characters we want to vicariously control. When you suck out the humanity to any story for the sake of putting in massive visual set pieces... things kind of suck.

@hassun I get trying to borrow iconography to create a sense of look and feel, but at some point this series needs to have a serious dialogue with itself. At some point you run the risk of shoving in iconography from various unrelated sources. My comment is more about the series trying to one-up the previous entry; rather than standing on ones' own laurels.

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#20 Posted by Hassun (7883 posts) -

@zombiepie: I think that's kind of a core problem with FFIX as a whole. It's too much of a tribute act. For its place and time I'm sure it made sense (end of the PS1 lifecycle) and I know nostalgia and references often sell as well but it definitely doesn't do much for me.

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#21 Posted by ZombiePie (6893 posts) -

I don't think FF series as a whole have ever been big as character story. VII merely follow the one intro and resolution scene per character for anyone that isn't Cloud, Tifa, and Aeris. Barret gets a little extra mostly for being around the longest. VI has a large cast, but there are definitely some throwaways in there. Perhaps how wide it is prevents it from going too deep effectively also, but it does have a handful of interesting character moments for a selected few characters. I find nothing impressive in IV, if not repulsive with its revolving door of characters that ultimately did nothing. X was their first struggle with voices. XII had potential in a sense that the characters feel lived in, but the focus of the game is elsewhere, not bad, but not exceptional. XIII might secretly have the most evenly spread character stories, but did so by going against the tradition completely in some respects. As a whole I think the series is actually on an upward trend (granted I haven't touch XV) in terms of techniques maybe with a few missteps here and there, but its own brand of novelty is starting to wears thin while the classics really aren't as good as people remember.

Catching up with @thatpinguino's replay of Final Fantasy V suggests the Final fantasy franchise use to have stories grounded in more simpler scaffolds centered around characters rather than pivots. This is not to suggest the older games do not lack pivots, but vast swaths of the storytelling is dedicated to developing characters than crazy shit which blows your mind. I could be wrong here so I'm all ears.

In the two hours I have played Final Fantasy X I can simply declare the game a product of the time. Look back at any anime dubbing around the time it released and you will immediately identify the quality of voice acting the producers had at their disposal. It has its "moment," good GOD that is an understatement, BUT I am hard pressed to skewer the game when I consider the best case scenario for the game.

@hassun said:

@zombiepie: I think that's kind of a core problem with FFIX as a whole. It's too much of a tribute act. For its place and time I'm sure it made sense (end of the PS1 lifecycle) and I know nostalgia and references often sell as well but it definitely doesn't do much for me.

So the dialogue I would then wish to start is whether or not this is a problem I will experience in every Final fantasy game. Has it been addressed in any way, or is it a proverbial "elephant in the closet?" Was this present in the 2D era as well?

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#22 Edited by LawGamer (1302 posts) -

@hassun said:

@zombiepie: I think that's kind of a core problem with FFIX as a whole. It's too much of a tribute act. For its place and time I'm sure it made sense (end of the PS1 lifecycle) and I know nostalgia and references often sell as well but it definitely doesn't do much for me.

So the dialogue I would then wish to start is whether or not this is a problem I will experience in every Final fantasy game. Has it been addressed in any way, or is it a proverbial "elephant in the closet?" Was this present in the 2D era as well?

To the first point, all the post-SNES games wear their influences on their sleeve to some extent. Most modern Final Fantasies are what The Force Awakens is to the original Star Wars. They directly and obviously call back to a lot of elements in earlier entries in sort of a desperate need to seek approval from the core fan base. Like how the Nu Star Wars rushes right to the Han and Chewie Fan Service Hour but how the plot is really just A New Hope . . . But Bigger!

That said, FFXII (a.k.a. the best modern Final Fantasy) definitely does so a little bit less. That one has all the Moogle/Chocobo/Magicite/Crystal stuff other FFs have, but its more overtly its own thing. More of a re-imagining than a straight up homage. Maybe more like the relationship of the New Tomb Raider to the Old Tomb Raider? It's got all the elements of the series, they're just integrated into the world in a way that fits rather than being shoehorned in there.

As to the question of 2D Final Fantasies, I don't know that earlier Final Fantasies call back to each other as much as they were sort of repetitive in the stories they told. It was always (1) a small group of warriors (2) protecting crystals (3) from an Ancient Existential Evil (4) that wants to end existence. Of course, the benefit of having such a simplistic story was that they needed to focus somewhat more on the individual characters. I guess the best way to describe it is as Foreground/Background. In older Final Fantasies, the non-sensical world-saving plot twists were more of the Background element to the characters, whereas in the modern ones the pseudo-sci-fi bullshittery has moved to the Foreground with characters as a distant second.

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#23 Posted by soimadeanaccount (469 posts) -

I just don't get a significant character focus vibe from the earlier titles, or most FFs in general. Granted I have only finish 4 and 6 and mess around with a little of 5 in terms of their pre-3D era. I think the simplicity is not only within the plot and story line, but in the characters as well, to me it isn't so much as character first and plot second or vice versa, but rather the older games take the simple path in both aspects. 6 is probably the stand out in terms of characters (and perhaps plot and as a game in general). Only 9 really hearkens back to the older games and has a somewhat larger focus on the cast of characters. 7, 8, 10 are all vastly different from the classics and really dive toward the deep end.

The simple way I see it is 4 takes the easy way out on both, 6 is a step forward on both, 7 go hard on plot and 8 gone too hard(?), 9 try to round it out with more character, and then 10 go hard on plot again, but try to round it out with a romance plot.

12 and 13 are their post 11 era sandwiched by two MMOs. Which to me signify two things. First is the big shift in terms of combat/gameplay, second is the focus on world building with off shoots and serialization (the recent article on FF7 talk about this.) Ivalice of 12 isn't totally original, it was from Tactics, FNC of 13 is...well isn't 15 still somewhat part of it despite the rebranding? There's also the retroactive creation of Compilation of FF7. Of the two I will say 13 has more focus on characters, although it has been a while since I play 12 while 13 is still fresh on my mind. I was probably in a different mindset as well when I played 12 also, crawling out from the blackhole that is 11 for better or worse. Also I am one of the few crazy people who really like 13. 6+7=13!

The thing is outside FF, there are other series out there that do character stories (arguably) better, as much as I like giving flak to Star Ocean 3 and 4 along with my love/hate relationship with tri-Ace, these games do actively spend time to focus on characters, rather they are effective or desirable or not is debatable. Also there's the granddaddy character story of all, Persona 4 (and 3 as well) which dwarfs everyone.

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#24 Edited by Hassun (7883 posts) -

I definitely make a distinction between a nostalgia piece/tribute act and being inspired by (or even based on) something.

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#25 Posted by ZombiePie (6893 posts) -
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#26 Posted by dudeglove (12579 posts) -
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#27 Posted by Teddie (1497 posts) -

@zombiepie: What if I told you Dissidia had 2 PSP games with indepth story modes?

You Are Not Alone is a really good sequence, but you're right in that there's a bit of a disconnect between it and the scene before it (to the point where I thought Garland had put Zidane under some kind of mind control the first time I played the game).

Re: References, I still think they're pretty harmless because they don't detract from the game if you don't get them. There's a scene early on in Evil Forest where the band you were traveling with plays a song from FFVII, but it still sounds like something that band would play, and it's not the entire crux of the scene. Your comment about the Black Mages being humans in FF1 is another good example of this, where they took a familiar/iconic design from the earlier games and reinvented everything else about them, grounding them in the world they created in IX.

In the two hours I have played Final Fantasy X I can simply declare the game a product of the time. Look back at any anime dubbing around the time it released and you will immediately identify the quality of voice acting the producers had at their disposal. It has its "moment," good GOD that is an understatement, BUT I am hard pressed to skewer the game when I consider the best case scenario for the game.

Nope! You don't get to make that argument anymore! Not when this entire series of blogs has been looking at video game stories without any "of the time" context. That, and MGS2 came out the same year and had an amazing dub.

Okay I'm mostly joking and super cannot wait to see what you think of FFX, especially in the context of "followup to the PS1 era FFs". I've come around on it entirely since I first played it, but I can only appreciate it in the same way I appreciate a game like Deadly Premonition. It's got heart but goddamn it's too hilarious and awkward and messy to take it as seriously as it wants you to.

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#28 Posted by Hassun (7883 posts) -

@zombiepie: I refuse to believe you've never heard of the Dissidia series.

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Avatar image for zombiepie
#29 Posted by ZombiePie (6893 posts) -

@jesus_phish: @batavist: @encephalon: @cloudymusic: @sinusoidal: @fezrock: @rebel_scum: @geraltitude: @lawgamer: @soimadeanaccount: @dudeglove: @teddie: @hassun: @mikelemmer

Whelp... the final episode of this blog series sure has been delayed, and I think this time around I owe most of you an answer. Fun fact for all of you who tune in and look forward to this series, but the final episode of every series has coincided with the worst possible personal drama you could ever imagine. I'm being serious, this blog series is FUCKING CURSED! Here's a rundown of why the concluding episodes have always been a drag for me:

  1. Final Fantasy VIII - The final episode coincided with me getting pink slipped, and having to move in with my parents in order to avoid going bankrupt.
  2. Final Fantasy VII - The final episode was delayed for TWO MONTHS, which I never tuned you all in as why that was the case. Well... I pink slipped AGAIN, but this time in the worst way possible. As I was teaching the superintendent walked into my classroom in order to pass me my pink slip, AS I WAS TEACHING A CLASS! Then I had to teach another two class periods.
  3. Final Fantasy IX - My grandfather was admitted to the ER after contracting a bacteria resistant urinary tract infection, and my step-brother has been diagnosed with Tuberculosis.

I normally solicit the community in picking my next, but it's going to be Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster. You heard that right, X AND X-2. To be perfectly honest, I need some stupid anime in my life right now. So I think I'll be able to publish the last episode for the Final Fantasy IX series sometime this week... maybe.

Be that as it may, I am absolutely confident the Final Fantasy franchise genuinely wants to kill me.

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#30 Posted by dudeglove (12579 posts) -

I am sorry to hear about your family troubles, ZP :(

Avatar image for sinusoidal
#31 Posted by Sinusoidal (3331 posts) -

Man, if VII, VIII and IX did that to you, X is going to cause a meltdown or tornado in your vicinity.

That said, any plans on how far you're going to go with X? The international version was my first, and I tried to 100% it, but gave up. There's a lot of optional content, some of it extraordinarily grindy. The Dark Aeons are probably the hardest thing ever in a FF game.

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#32 Posted by Jesus_Phish (3167 posts) -

@zombiepie: Sorry to hear about your troubles. Both personal life and with Final Fantasy games.

Also for some reason I can see you championing FFX2 as the best game of the entire series. Just a hunch based on nothing*


*Apart from the story (which is basically shit in every 3d FF game) it's actually a very good game with a cool job system and combat system. And the focus on just three characters is a real nice change from pretending to have to give a shit about guys like Irvine or Quina.

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#33 Posted by Hassun (7883 posts) -

@zombiepie: I'll be with you for FFX but count me right the fuck out for X-2.

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#34 Posted by thatpinguino (2652 posts) -

@zombiepie My condolences about your family trauma. If it's any consolation, we're in this blood pact together. I shall be there to play FFX with you and answer your frenzied IMs about where to go and what to do. We got this! Even FFX-2!

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#36 Edited by LawGamer (1302 posts) -

@zombiepie: Jeez man, really sorry to hear about all of that. My grandfather went through the same sort of thing a few years ago. At the same time my uncle got hit by a drunk driver. So I sorta know what you're going through. Maybe you should consider farming out the last segments of these blogs to spread the misery around a little. Sort of like giving someone the object of a gypsy curse, but with video games.

Or . . . you could get a nice massage!

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#37 Posted by soimadeanaccount (469 posts) -

My thoughts go to your family, and be sure to take care of yourself as well.

I can use this extra time to refresh myself with FFX, and maybe dive into X-2 for real. Some of the points about its narrower focus and the job system in a less hectic environment sound interesting and I have never considered.

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#38 Edited by GERALTITUDE (5719 posts) -

Sucks to hear about your fam duder, sincere good luck.

As a professional detective I can tell you've clearly been pink slipped for letting Final Fantasy get the best of you. Every time a kid asks a question "Final Fantasy! And that's final" is the answer in your class I bet.

Even more stunning is your decision to play X and X-2... Take some time real off in between and be prepared. X gonna give it to ya, as they say. Good game.

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