Deep Listens: Final Fantasy Nine Lives: Part 2

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thatpinguino

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Edited By thatpinguino  Staff
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Deep Listens is a gaming podcast series I'm recording with a few of my friends. Every two weeks we pick and play a new game and then discuss it from a literary, philosophical, and game design perspective. Its kind of like a book club for video games. We try to dig as deep as we can on an individual game every episode so check it out!

In our second episode of our continuing series of podcasts on FFIX Gino, Pete, and hostage... I mean guest, Chris "Zombiepie" -REDACTED- discuss disc 2 of FFIX. We start out by discussing our ongoing issues with the ATE system and the combat system. After that, we cover every major plot point on disc 2 including deep dives into Cleyra, Lindblum, the Black Mage Village, and the last scene of disc 2. Has the game passed the hump for Pete and ZP or will Gino be on his own? Well, the answer is complicated.

Final Fantasy Nine Lives: Part 2

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vasta_narada

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#1  Edited By vasta_narada

It'll take some time to fully articulate myself, being that my ability for self-expression is a bit low, so I'll have to leave some real feedback another time (also it's been a hot minute since I played disc 2 of FF9, and I'm getting through disc 1 right now so I'm working on it). For now I'll just say that this episode was a real treat to listen to. The discussion on the first disc was a bit of a downer for me as an FFIX apologist of sorts, so I'm happy to see that ZP and Pete are a bit more on board--even if that comes with some major caveats.

The biggest reason that I love FFIX is that it goes for a range and nuance of emotion that I don't feel a lot of the series does, which you all touch on in Cleyra, Lindblum, and Black Mage Village. VII always felt too narrow--sure there are great scenes like Barret and Dyne, Aerith's final scene, among others, but it bounces back and forth between only a couple ideas with not much middle room. And there's no subtlety in VIII. Plus, I feel like FFIX hits its marks for the most part, when it's trying. There are spots where the editors could have used a heavier hand (Gargan Roo, Fossil Roo, Conde Petie), but as you discussed, those are there as combat filler or for (unwarranted) comedy.

The other reason is that it tries lots of different ways to convey its story, such as gameplay-narrative intermingling, which is something I always appreciate for how hard it is to do. The Trance system, which as cool as it is as an idea, is garbage mechanically so besides that I like Mognet for its attempt to give a bystander's perspective (ZP and Pete may hate it, but since you only need to deliver the last few letters and those are on a separate chain from the rest of them, you can opt-out of Mognet whenever you please), the party's rigid class and abilities feeding into their personas and vice-versa, and the ATEs (for all the mishandling, I like the attempt. I still don't understand why the more important ones were just scenes that played in the transition from one room to another like other cutscenes).

I like the point you made at the end, Gino, where you said that the fact you guys are talking about the game like literature at all is a testament to the game. The story by itself is engaging, as begrudgingly admitted by your co-hosts, but the world of FFIX just feels so lived in, especially compared to other games in the series. There are lots of locales in the Final Fantasy series, but so few places, and FFIX has a lot of them. Lindblum is a place, man!

Can't wait for the disc 3 discussion (hopefully I'll be caught up by then but I kinda doubt it)! I always love hearing new takes on the game, and I've been hoping to rally some of my friends to undergo this endeavor so we could record our own discussions but no luck so far.

Oh, also, what happened to Billy? Did he bounce off the game or was he just unavailable?

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I've been playing this game in little chunks at night to relax now that classes are getting super stressful, so all this FFIX content you guys are bringing to the site is really appreciated since it gives me somewhere to discuss the game for once! I didn't even realize I'd finished disc 1 hours ago (since there's no transitions in the PC version?).

This 'cast was a constant stream of "Wait is that how you pronounce X!?" Always just read Cleyra as "Clay-ra", "Quina" as "Queen-a" etc.

I think Zidane's whole "falling back" into hitting on Garnet in really gross/awkward ways is meant to come across as a defense mechanism. He doesn't really know how to approach Garnet (or some situations with Garnet) in a mature way, so he makes light of it or tried to come across as way more confident than he actually is. I know a lotta people hate him for the way he acts, and I guess it's kinda hard to get into his character without some hindsight.

I'm really glad that blinded Grandma NPC seemed to hit everyone the same way it did me. I kinda forgot how much heart they put into even the smaller elements of the narrative. Really didn't agree with ZP about putting focus on side characters being detrimental-- worldbuilding is so much more important to me in a video game than a linear or more traditionally structured narrative, since you're going to be exploring and interacting with the world on a way deeper level than you will the cutscenes. It's not important to the story to see those characters running around looking for a cure for their buddy, but it shows that there's more to the world than the main characters, and their lives and problems don't just stop or get solved offscreen because they're not at the heart of the plot. If they cut all those asides with Tantalus and just had Blank show up with a line of exposition about Supersoft at a later point, sure it wouldn't be detrimental to the plot, and it'd improve the pacing of the plot, but it'd break the illusion of those characters existing outside of the plot-- and in that sense, it'd make the world feel a lot smaller and a lot more constructed-- and in turn, make navigating and occupying space in that world feel a little more unnatural and unbelievable.

Goddamn this game makes for some fun discussions, though.

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thatpinguino

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#3 thatpinguino  Staff

@teddie: I think when ZP mentioned that he likes streamlined and lean stories it kind explained all of his issues with FFIX's storytelling. IX's greatest strength is something that does not appeal to him directly.

@vasta_narada:Billy had to bow out of this episode due to technical issues on his end. He'll be back for our next segment and we'll get some quick impressions from him on disc 2.

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vasta_narada

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@teddie: I have to agree regarding the Tantalus storyline. ZP loves to invoke Checkov's gun in regards to the storytelling in FFIX, but I feel like the game is following that principle, just in reverse. The story to get the Supersoft and free Blank, the little details in general and the ATEs all exist because the story and world of FFIX loses so much without them. Paring down those elements isn't the answer, it's building them up and adding more.

I would also say that any time spent learning about Tantalus is also time spent learning about Zidane; he was brought up by Baku in this environment and pretty much everyone in the crew follows the same ideals. The times that Zidane doesn't he mentions as such, as we saw in disc 1, when he tells Dagger that he's left the band on many occasions. Hence I feel that witnessing the struggle to free Blank and seeing the value they place on brotherhood is also a reflection of Zidane that we can see come through in his interactions with Vivi and Amarant in particular.

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