Posted by thatpinguino (817 posts) -

My favorite game when I was growing up was Final Fantasy IX. I loved every character in that game, especially the more “colorful” characters like Freya the rat-woman dragoon and Quina gender-ambiguous, blue-mage chef. My favorite of all of them was Amarant, the rogue with a heart. He is the classic, archetypal, "he is your enemy at first but then joins you because he really is a good guy deep down inside," rogue. I always loved his silly red dreadlocks and his lone wolf dialog, but during my first few playthroughs I couldn’t find a way to actually use him in my party. You see, he really is one of the only characters in Final Fantasy IX that does not seem to have a clear place in combat. He doesn’t deal a ton of damage, he does not heal particularly well, and his most damaging attacks throw money or weapons at the enemy. Furthermore, all of Amarant’s abilities only target single characters; this made it difficult to count on him to be a healer or a damage dealer. He was a little bit of everything and completely incomprehensible to a young me.

When I went back to the game some years later I took it upon myself to finish the game using Amarant in my party. As I forced myself to use this awkward character some of his abilities really did not make sense to me. Throughout the story he acts like a loner and a cut-throat: someone who, until he joins the party halfway through the game, is supposed to be completely self-sufficient. This image fell in line with some of his skills. For example, his chakra ability healed one character’s hp and mp by a small amount. This ability made perfect sense for a loner; he could heal himself and keep his mp high so he would not need items or rest to recover. Even his throw abilities made sense as money and possessions seemed of little value to him. Yet, abilities like revive, curse, and cover made no sense for a self-sufficient loner to have. Curse was an ability that inflicted a random elemental weakness on an enemy. Revive, well , revived one ally. Cover allowed Amarant to take damage in place of one of his allies when they were attacked. It was odd that Amarant could create elemental weaknesses as he has no elemental attacks; he could not exploit the weaknesses he created. Revive made little sense because he could not heal himself if he was already knocked out. Also, cover made little sense because a loner would not have an ally to cover.

These abilities did not fit the lone warrior persona that Amarant had shown through much of the game; however, they did make a lot of sense when Amarant became a willing party member and opened up a little. Towards the end of the game Amarant learns the value of teamwork after an encounter in Ipsen’s Castle, during which he elects to go solo into one of the most dangerous dungeons in the game. He expectedly gets beaten to a pulp before being saved by Zidane. From this moment on Amarant became a full member of the party: no more espousing the virtues of solitude and no more complaining about the other party members holding him back. It is at this point that I realized Amarant’s role in combat and in the game.

He was the ultimate “glue guy.” Amarant’s role was to do the dirty work and the support stuff that other characters cannot. He could heal other character’s mp; he could revive allies; he could cast auto-life and regen; he could deal good damage; he could create weaknesses for others to exploit. When he tranced (FFIX’s version of a limit break) he became an even better role-player as all of his abilities changed from target-one to target-all. He was the most versatile and unique support character in my party and the little touches to his abilities, as well as some story turns, made me see it. Using him in this capacity I was able to cruise through the game, until the final boss. My whole party was mauled by the final boss’s high damage attacks and my healers were berserk, yet Amarant’s healing abilities kept everyone alive. His high damage throw ability added a much needed punch to my attack. Once he reached trance I was able to make my party near-invincible, thanks to his aura ability which cast auto-life and regen on the whole team. At one point he was the last man standing and, thanks to trance, he was able to cast revive on everyone, thus saving the team. The former loner became my team MVP.

What makes this character so interesting for me now is the subtle design decisions that made him more than a sum of his parts. Amarant was not the simple mix of Final Fantasy character classes that he seemed to be at first: ninja, samurai, and monk. In a game where many characters simply were their archetypes in both story and gameplay, Amarant was a character who created a new archetype. The rogue with a heart may not be a new character type, but the way his abilities complemented his characterization was new, at least for me. It is one thing to talk about his heart in cut-scenes, but it is quite another to allow me to discover it in a heated boss battle when he is the only thing keeping my party alive. Amarant’s character development was not merely aesthetic, but it was taken into account in his abilities.

#1 Edited by thatpinguino (817 posts) -

My favorite game when I was growing up was Final Fantasy IX. I loved every character in that game, especially the more “colorful” characters like Freya the rat-woman dragoon and Quina gender-ambiguous, blue-mage chef. My favorite of all of them was Amarant, the rogue with a heart. He is the classic, archetypal, "he is your enemy at first but then joins you because he really is a good guy deep down inside," rogue. I always loved his silly red dreadlocks and his lone wolf dialog, but during my first few playthroughs I couldn’t find a way to actually use him in my party. You see, he really is one of the only characters in Final Fantasy IX that does not seem to have a clear place in combat. He doesn’t deal a ton of damage, he does not heal particularly well, and his most damaging attacks throw money or weapons at the enemy. Furthermore, all of Amarant’s abilities only target single characters; this made it difficult to count on him to be a healer or a damage dealer. He was a little bit of everything and completely incomprehensible to a young me.

When I went back to the game some years later I took it upon myself to finish the game using Amarant in my party. As I forced myself to use this awkward character some of his abilities really did not make sense to me. Throughout the story he acts like a loner and a cut-throat: someone who, until he joins the party halfway through the game, is supposed to be completely self-sufficient. This image fell in line with some of his skills. For example, his chakra ability healed one character’s hp and mp by a small amount. This ability made perfect sense for a loner; he could heal himself and keep his mp high so he would not need items or rest to recover. Even his throw abilities made sense as money and possessions seemed of little value to him. Yet, abilities like revive, curse, and cover made no sense for a self-sufficient loner to have. Curse was an ability that inflicted a random elemental weakness on an enemy. Revive, well , revived one ally. Cover allowed Amarant to take damage in place of one of his allies when they were attacked. It was odd that Amarant could create elemental weaknesses as he has no elemental attacks; he could not exploit the weaknesses he created. Revive made little sense because he could not heal himself if he was already knocked out. Also, cover made little sense because a loner would not have an ally to cover.

These abilities did not fit the lone warrior persona that Amarant had shown through much of the game; however, they did make a lot of sense when Amarant became a willing party member and opened up a little. Towards the end of the game Amarant learns the value of teamwork after an encounter in Ipsen’s Castle, during which he elects to go solo into one of the most dangerous dungeons in the game. He expectedly gets beaten to a pulp before being saved by Zidane. From this moment on Amarant became a full member of the party: no more espousing the virtues of solitude and no more complaining about the other party members holding him back. It is at this point that I realized Amarant’s role in combat and in the game.

He was the ultimate “glue guy.” Amarant’s role was to do the dirty work and the support stuff that other characters cannot. He could heal other character’s mp; he could revive allies; he could cast auto-life and regen; he could deal good damage; he could create weaknesses for others to exploit. When he tranced (FFIX’s version of a limit break) he became an even better role-player as all of his abilities changed from target-one to target-all. He was the most versatile and unique support character in my party and the little touches to his abilities, as well as some story turns, made me see it. Using him in this capacity I was able to cruise through the game, until the final boss. My whole party was mauled by the final boss’s high damage attacks and my healers were berserk, yet Amarant’s healing abilities kept everyone alive. His high damage throw ability added a much needed punch to my attack. Once he reached trance I was able to make my party near-invincible, thanks to his aura ability which cast auto-life and regen on the whole team. At one point he was the last man standing and, thanks to trance, he was able to cast revive on everyone, thus saving the team. The former loner became my team MVP.

What makes this character so interesting for me now is the subtle design decisions that made him more than a sum of his parts. Amarant was not the simple mix of Final Fantasy character classes that he seemed to be at first: ninja, samurai, and monk. In a game where many characters simply were their archetypes in both story and gameplay, Amarant was a character who created a new archetype. The rogue with a heart may not be a new character type, but the way his abilities complemented his characterization was new, at least for me. It is one thing to talk about his heart in cut-scenes, but it is quite another to allow me to discover it in a heated boss battle when he is the only thing keeping my party alive. Amarant’s character development was not merely aesthetic, but it was taken into account in his abilities.

#2 Posted by JackSukeru (5908 posts) -

FF9 might also be my favorite Final Fantasy game. It's the first one I played, among the first rpg's I played and the only one of the modern Final Fantasy games (I'm talking 7 and up) that I've ever pushed to finish. Having initially borrowed it from a friend and played about half of it, I feel that it speaks to the characters in the game that I came back to it later, after losing my save, and played the first half again, eventually finishing it.

I don't have a lot of love or nostalgic feelings for the FF series in general, or any rpg's at all probably, but I do really like the world and characters in 9.

#3 Posted by thatpinguino (817 posts) -

@RockmanBionics: Yeah FFIX will always be my favorite, I think it has the most well realized world of the ps1 era ff games, and that's saying something considering its general population includes fish and hippopotamus people.

#4 Edited by GoliathAssassin84 (10 posts) -

You know what? After reading you blog here, I'm fairly uncertain I have ever really used Amarant correctly. I mean, I get the whole revelation post-Ipsen's Castle and how he's a sleeper support character and everything. I got that too. But for some reason, I plum forgot that Amarant even had a trance effect that expanded his single-targets to all-party spells. I've used him properly in small increments perhaps, but I've certainly never exploited him to his insane potential. I've never used him as much more than a physical monster/backup healer when needed. You've inspired me, sir! I'm not due for another FFIX playthrough just yet, but I am basically determined now that the next time I play, I will try to feature Amarant as my MVP in every way possible. Thank you for potentially adding another aspect to my FFIX play strategy.

I've always been disappointed with Amarant as a character, to tell the truth. He's too quick to fight and too emotionally distant for my liking. (Funny to see his first meetings with Freya and Zidane though!) I've always thought that perhaps if we had learned more about his early life and why he became so negative then maybe he'd be more justified. I mean, being framed as a notorious thief is pretty bad, but... couldn't you just move far away and continue your happy life at that point? No, no... there's got to be something way more traumatic in Amarant's past than whatever Zidane caused. Come to think of it, Amarant may be the one player character that I do not feel we were given enough of. If I were to make a sequel, I would give him (and Lani) a larger storyline. It'd be a sarcastic romance not often seen in the series.

@thatpinguino: That's also saying something considering nearly all of the world's advanced cultures either live on the Mist Continent or have long been extinct...

#5 Posted by thatpinguino (817 posts) -

@goliathassassin84: Fun fact: if you do as much of the chocobo side quest as possible at every point in the game you can get Amarant's second best weapon as soon as you go to the forgotten continent, along with Freya's best weapon. That makes using Amarant a whole lot easier.

I think that Amarant is actually the least developed character from a story perspective, but the most unique character from a gameplay perspective in the game. He barely has any lines of dialog and he hardly has any story focus, but man is it fun to have a character that can do so much so well.

#6 Posted by NoctisLucisCaelum (94 posts) -

FFIX had such an incredible cast of characters. My personal favorite being Garnet. A close second was Vivi. Freya's search of Fratley was heartwarming. Steiner had some of the funniest moments in the whole game (the love letter scene specifically). Eiko's crush on Zidane was adorable. Zidane was alright, kinda wish he was more like Locke from FFVI. Also, I wish Beatrix stayed in the party.

Nice write up on Amarant, he was fantastic in battle. That being said, I felt like he and Quina were the least developed characters.

#7 Edited by Fredchuckdave (5352 posts) -

Woo necro, Steiner is good, Kuja is terrible, Vivi is overrated, Beatrix is okay, Zidane is okay, Zidane's boss and Cid were awesome, everyone else is pretty damn bland. Garnet is notable for being stupid enough to name herself after a dagger.

#8 Edited by thatpinguino (817 posts) -

@fredchuckdave: You can't keep a good blog down! Also at least Garnet didn't name herself after a rod or staff.


#9 Posted by NoctisLucisCaelum (94 posts) -

@thatpinguino: Amen to that, I love a good blog regarding FFIX. *high fives that pinguino*

#10 Posted by thatpinguino (817 posts) -