Fighting Final Fantasy IX Part 62-74: Final Fantasy IX Is Throwing Mud Against The Wall And Seeing What Sticks: The Game

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Part 62: Eiko Could Have Been A Contender

This is how we are going to pick up from the Black Mage Village? Are you fucking kidding me?
This is how we are going to pick up from the Black Mage Village? Are you fucking kidding me?

NO! JUST NO! YOU CAN’T... NO! BAD GAME! NO! NOOOOOOO! OH GOD, PLEASE SAVE MY SOUL!

Now let me tell you how I feel. When you stop and think about it, the intermediate act of disc two marks the beginning of Final Fantasy IX’s “middle chapter.” I’m not going to play the role of the backseat writer and exclaim the game requires the prototypical “dark middle chapter.” Nonetheless, the game’s oscillations regarding its tone are just gut wrenching. The game already provided the audience with a “breather” set piece in the form of the wedding sequence at Conde Petie. So why in the world are we being subjected to three hours of Eiko swooning over Zidane, and her unleashing a bullshit love-triangle against Garnet?

FUCK! Is this what my life has come to? What a time to be alive….
FUCK! Is this what my life has come to? What a time to be alive….

Now let’s review all the reasons why Eiko does not “work” for me. Rest assured it’s not all “doom and gloom” over at Grandpa ZombiePie’s front yard. First and foremost, Eiko is a child whose age and design are purposeful for numerous reasons. The inherent tragedy of her being the “last of her kind,” while laughably generic, underscores her need to maintain a bubbly personality. Then we need to simultaneously concede Eiko’s age, and as the game clearly stipulates to the player, Eiko is six years old.

Earlier I mentioned there is an “inherent tragedy” associated to Eiko, and here is where things begin to fall apart for me. Eiko is the last of her race, and the ruins she surrounds herself with further underscores this tragedy. The premise behind Eiko is compelling in and of itself, but it is the packaging that repulsed me. Eiko is what a JRPG character would look like if you had James Cameron or DreamWorks Animation design them. Eiko is just an easy, literary “low-hanging fruit,” meant to pull at your heartstrings. She is the clearest example of a game trying to build sympathy for the audience by using a naive child I have ever seen. Do you want to know what would have been more daring or novel? What if they game provided a character visually repulsive and the game inverted our expectations with how the character interacted with the gang over the course of time? In this scenario, we slowly come to an understanding of the character’s lot in life and they feel “authentic.” Through due diligence and hard work the character must engage a bias or stereotype inherent to the narrative. As you warm to the character, so too do the other party members.

Oh wait, they already tried that and failed miserably.
Oh wait, they already tried that and failed miserably.

Eiko isn’t forced to confront anything. All she needs to do is curtsy and smile, and then you immediately become receptive to her present circumstances. Oh, and by the way, it appears Zidane is continuing to talk to Garnet like an object he possesses. I’m so “glad” this development from the Conde Petie wedding scene is continuing in the game. Well then… I guess I’ll just wonder loudly to myself if Zidane ever gets punched in the face.

Or at the very least Garnet should!
Or at the very least Garnet should!

Part 63: Can We Just Ban All Children In Video Games?

I do wish to highlight a handful of positive points concerning Eiko. First, and foremost, once the game is done with its inane bullshitery the story swoops in to rescue the player from their stupor. Yet again Final Fantasy IX stands on the laurels of its characters in a way that builds our sympathy for every cast member. Eiko’s loneliness also wonderfully ties her to the other party members. You have Vivi, who like Eiko, was adopted by another race and grew up in isolation from the outside world. You could even draw a parallel between Eiko and Zidane as both characters wish to understand more about their origins. This is a wonderful way to tie a new addition to our pre-existing party members so as to feel motivated to accept them. Despite our time with Eiko being limited, we already have a clear understanding why she’s a member of our bevy of intrepid explorers.

Consequently, it is officially time for me to begin my griping. First, Eiko is six years old. Stop and think about that. No honest… I want you to think about that fact for a bit. Eiko is six years old and is prepared to join our adventure to stop an evil David Bowie space wizard. Also, somehow Eiko speaks about her upbringing with near perfect clarity. Not only does she recall the slow death of her race, but she simultaneously can recall the death of her grandfather. So how old was she when that happened, three or four? I don’t know about you, but I sure as fuck only remember one or two things from when I used to be five. However, I’m not using these nit pickings as a total indictment against Eiko. That said, these small things showcase how tenuous Eiko’s character scaffold is.

I mean only a monster like myself would ever want to punch this face.
I mean only a monster like myself would ever want to punch this face.

In the end, Eiko is a Disney character among bigger fish. After inverting the brash Zidane, and properly showcasing Vivi’s humanity; it’s almost as if the game is done with being ambitious. After closely examining Eiko’s design I cannot help but notice how “easy” of a character she is. It is as if Square used their Quality Assurance department to set Eiko’s “Sympathy Levels” at an all-time high. Eiko has large eyes to suggest she is an impressionable youth wishing seek out new life experiences. The bright colors of her clothing are meant to encourage the audience to accept her with open arms. The horn on Eiko’s forehead provides her with any “animal element,” and on top of that, she’s wearing angel wings. So now Eiko’s design symbolically conveys her childlike whimsy. Also, EIKO WAS RAISE BY FUCKING MOOGLES! How can you honestly root against someone raised by Moogles? Then you tack on a “love triangle,” and essentially you have a “creature” that fills its storytelling purposes perfectly. While I can respect this workmanlike storytelling, this just induces a big “yawn” from me.

It is also worth recognizing how expedited and “convenient” Eiko’s back story is. In the brief six years Eio has been on her planet she has managed to live through the death of her grandfather, become the last of her race, and live in complete social isolation from anything NOT a Moogle. Vivi, Garnet, and even Zidane convey a clear sense of introspection over the course of years. Their character arcs are earned after years of avoiding their sometimes painful destiny. Eiko “earns” her release from isolation by just being at the right place and time. Did the writers grasp how illogical this seems? God, I hope so. Did they care? NOPE! Eiko isn’t about creating a character who makes logical sense. Eiko is here to provide another base appeal to your senses so as to provide the game with extra sentimentality. Disney figured this shit out decades ago, and this has been a template that everyone in mass media storytelling has employed… ever.

At least Eiko grows out of talking like this in the game.
At least Eiko grows out of talking like this in the game.

In the end, Eiko comes across as less a character and more of an artifice. Sure what is eventually attempted with her character is interesting in the grand scheme of things, but this is to be anticipated. After the dust from the Black Mage Village has properly settled I cannot help but feel this is just small potatoes. Eiko is here to bide my time before the real shit starts to pop off.

Part 64: On The Road Again To Hot Bullshit

After faffing about with Eiko, our motley crew ends up adding her to the troupe as she leads us to her home. On our way, we end up seeing the enormous and imposing Iifia Tree. The set-up to the Iifia Tree is spectacularly done. There’s a brief sweeping shot of Final Fantasy IX’s most breathtaking topiary, and this transitions well to Zidane’s own befuddlement with the tremendous natural monument. How this is meant to justify the game immediately transitioning the player to a boss battle against the Jolly Green Giant is beyond me.

Wh… what is happening in this video game?
Wh… what is happening in this video game?

This is yet another example of the game becoming cognizant of its insufficient gameplay in the most baseline manner possible. There is no narrative connection between what we have witnessed in the preceding scenes to this exact boss battle. This boss battle is here because the designers wanted it to, and there’s nothing I can do about it. So if the game designers don’t give a shit about this juxtaposition, then why should I? Don’t you love it when a game encourages you to give zero fucks?

Once our tussle with the Jolly Green Giant is over we finally arrive at Eiko’s “home.” I say “home” in quotations given she lives in the ruins of a recently destroyed town completely infested with Moogles. Despite every Moogle looking the same Eiko can tell each of them apart by listing their names with perfect accuracy. In the game, Eiko isn’t the only person able to accomplish this monumental feat. Every person in the world of Final Fantasy IX seems able to do this. Seriously, how do the people in Final Fantasy IX tell the difference between the Moogles? Do the Moogles have accents or different voices? Are there small physical differences between the Moogles I haven’t noticed? Am I going insane? Oh and somehow Eiko has a specific Moogle she has grown especially attached to. This Moogle is named, and I shit you not, “Moogle.” Let’s just say Eiko isn’t exactly the most creative mind in the world of Final Fantasy IX. Moogle also has the magical ability to fit into Eiko’s shirt pocket, and I thoroughly enjoyed how Zidane found this act of wizardry outrageous:

You live in a world of talking Hippos and thong wearing space wizards, but THIS is what surprises?
You live in a world of talking Hippos and thong wearing space wizards, but THIS is what surprises?

It is at this point the story decides to thrust Eiko into a “love triangle.” This was simply the worst. THE… WORST! Comparable to my criticisms of Final Fantasy IX’s previous missteps, I understand what the storytelling is attempting to accomplish here. It’s just the execution falls completely on its face. Moments such as Eiko swooning over Zidane, or immediately butting heads with Garnet are meant to highlight her childlike naivety, while simultaneously underscoring her abject loneliness. As a young impressionable child, Eiko is seeking social interaction with people who look like her, and it goes without saying her behavior is no different from any six-year-old. As someone in the teaching profession, I can attest to children having this innate desire to seek out social interactions and interpersonal relationships at every opportunity they can. The game even suggests in another scene that Eiko taught herself of the social customs of the outside world from romance books and plays. This is the in-game justification her social awkwardness, as well as her blunt attitude.

The fact Eiko is a child is fine once you turn off the logic centers of your brain.
The fact Eiko is a child is fine once you turn off the logic centers of your brain.

I say all this to accentuate how the “concept” inherent to Eiko is sound. What I simply object to is the presentation of this concept. The game conveys Eiko’s introduction with the broadest and most painfully heavy-handed strokes you will ever witness in Final Fantasy IX. While it is praiseworthy of the game’s thoroughness to depict Eiko’s social awkwardness as ignorance rather than malice; it’s still tough to stomach through. Where are the moral grays of Vivi, or the slow character development of Garnet?

Part 65: The Game Wastes MY GODDAMNED TIME ON MAKING DINNER!

This scene is great! Everything after it... not so much!
This scene is great! Everything after it... not so much!

Before commencing my moaning and groaning about the inanity of Eiko’s cooking, it is worth mentioning how I enjoyed everyone else’s character acts at Madain Sari. Vivi uses the party’s momentary respite to once again question his mortality. As is usually the case, Vivi’s moments are spectacular, and they set the story up for future heart warming scenes. Garnet conversely appears to be stewing over an existential crisis. While by herself she appears pothering about eidolons, as well as her tumultuous relationship with her mother. Here she openly questions the emptiness she feels now that her eidolons have been removed. WAIT A MINUTE! At Pinnacle Rocks didn’t Garnet express complete ignorance to the existence of eidolons? How can she suddenly feel an emptiness inside of her if she didn’t know these summons existed in the first place? If she did know she had eidolons, why didn’t she use them earlier? It’s not like there WEREN’T BOSSES WHERE USING THEM WOULD HAVE GREATLY ASSISTED OUR PROGRESS! OH NO, IT’S NOT LIKE THE COMBAT ISN’T A COMPLETE SLOG!

Then there’s the elephant in the room.
Then there’s the elephant in the room.

Right then, this cooking nonsense with Eiko is just that, it’s complete nonsense. Certainly, it provides the characters with “breathing room,” to expose the audience to their emotional and personal vulnerabilities, but the execution here feels so slap-dash. This is worse if you decide to view every possible ATE during this sequence. The end result is simply dizzying. In one episode we witness Vivi or Garnet having an emotional aside, and the next we watch Eiko bombastically spell out her desire to foment a relationship with Zidane. Consequently, in the same exact scene Eiko will even express momentary lapses of vulnerability:

I’m sorry but are you secretly Daisy from “The Great Gatsby?”
I’m sorry but are you secretly Daisy from “The Great Gatsby?”

Wha… what is even happening anymore? Did someone at Square have their brain prolapse mid-development? To make matters worse the game decides what the story needs is Quina. There’s honestly no justice in the world anymore.

This is the one time when the game manages to convey exactly how I feel about Quina.
This is the one time when the game manages to convey exactly how I feel about Quina.

Even then, we witness Zidane guiding Garnet to “The Eidolon Wall” which allows her to learn more about the history and religious practices of the Summoner Tribe. That’s good. This is immediately complimented with Eiko accusing Quina of being Kuja, and eventually allowing Quina to assist in making dinner for the crew. That’s bad. We eventually regain control of Zidane who can interact with the Moogles to learn more about the history of Eiko’s tribe, and the deep personal relationship she has with the Moogles. That’s good. The party then eats dinner with Eiko who oscillates between two entirely disparate emotional states in the same scene. That’s… eh. In other words, I feel like I’m shopping at the “House of Evil” for a child’s birthday gift.

You know what? I am willing to excuse Eiko’s immature bluntness when interacting with the party. What this tableau truly highlights is Final Fantasy IX’s frustrating obfuscation of its world building, as well as its desire to provide humor where it is inappropriate. Now to my first point. On my own prerogative, I needed to seek out every Moogle at Madain Sari so as to learn more about the history of the Summoner Tribe, as well as the ruination of their civilization. This is egregious game design. The possibility of not knowing the context of a location is untenable especially given how superficial the packaging for Madain Sari ends up coming across. This background information, as well as the ATEs, made Madain Sari work for me. Without them, this entire set piece comes across as an ill-fated push to force sentimentality in the story. Just have Eiko be Eiko while she informs us of the history of her people, and cut out all this comic relief bullshitery. With regard to the game’s inappropriate use of humor; I honestly feel as if I am shouting directly into a storm at this point.

Part 66: And Then All Of A Sudden All the Characters At Madain Sari “Work”

I honestly have never felt more conflicted with a location in Final Fantasy IX like Madain Sari. On one end the character establishment for Eiko is horribly inconsistent. The forced moments of humor were narrative shattering and provided me with awkward juxtapositions I struggled to stomach through. Then, through the mist and the madness, Final Fantasy IX uses its wonderful cast to draw you back into the game. Lo and behold, just as I was about to summarily dismiss Madain Sari as an honorable failure, it provides me with a touching exhibition between Vivi and Zidane.

ALL WAS FORGIVEN!
ALL WAS FORGIVEN!

I FUCKING ADORED THIS SCENE! Even today never have I seen a game place so much due diligence into establishing interpersonal relationships between its cast members. Final Fantasy IX’s use of interpersonal relationships far outshines everything the game attempts with its romance arcs. Here we witness a dejected Vivi who feels the impending specter of death dragging him down. Recognizing Vivi needs his support, Zidane comforts him in a manner both respectful, and without an ounce of condescension. Zidane doesn’t speak down towards Vivi for feeling his anxieties, and if anything else embraces him for revealing such vulnerabilities to him.

Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate or vanilla?
I guess Zidane love Bruce Lee films.
I guess Zidane love Bruce Lee films.

Zidane’s apt for humor even in the midst of destruction surfaces a more compassionate and emotional side to him. Zidane proactively seeks out opportunities to support his party during their darkest moments, and I have consistently found these episodes to be the true highlights of Final Fantasy IX. It sounds bizarre, but I feel confident in saying it, but a game from over fifteen years ago managed to convey some of the most humanistic characters the medium has ever seen. Acts like these serve as a double-edged sword. This touching aside showcases how half-baked earlier moments in the game were.

All the same, the story lulls are mostly behind us from this point forward regarding Disc Two. I would even argue the game manages to utilize Eiko’s brash and sarcastic sense of humor to its benefit. As she leads you to the Iifia Tree she does so with a sense of glee and joy you can honestly get behind. I have to hope whoever designed and/or wrote this game had a good laugh when they stopped and thought about what they were creating. God, I hope that is the case because the game seems to emanate a sense of pure joy when you play it.

Part 67: I Don't Understand What's Happening Anymore

I would like to take this time to
I would like to take this time to "thank" whoever at Square thought it was a great idea to force the player to field a party with TWO white mages! Fantastic work all around!

Surprise, after breaking the barrier protecting the Iifia Tree our party is immediately thrust into a dungeon! This dungeon happens to be populated by a myriad of undead monsters which pack a wallop. Okay, so fuck that. I used “Soft” kill all the Lovecraftian octopus monsters, and “Life” spells to instantly kill any of the undead monsters. I certainly understand the perspective which would argue I seriously need to stop avoiding trying to understand this game’s mechanics, but I am a creature of habit if anything else. If I see an opportunity to cut a corner I am going to take it. Just rest assured knowing I never worked in the food service industry. Otherwise, people would be dead. A ton of people would be dead.

This is how I feel when I wake up at 6:00 a.m. as I get ready for work.
This is how I feel when I wake up at 6:00 a.m. as I get ready for work.

The Iifia Tree caused me to experience flashbacks to the plate climbing section from Final Fantasy VII. Luckily the platforming bits on the Iifia Tree are brief, as well as few and far between. All the same, the look and design of the level reeked of Square’s prototypical environmental platforming design. Here the greatest challenge isn’t the random encounters or environmental puzzles. Instead, the true enemy is your ability to parse out the environments to figure out what is and is not interactable.

Luckily for us, the level design is at least interesting inside the bowels of the Iifia Tree. Despite the Iifia Tree’s welcoming exterior, entering the chasm into the belly of the beast reveals a far more nefarious truth. The Iifia Tree’s interior manages to visually establish a sense of artificiality, and I mean “artificial” literally. Inside we see dark and sickly mechanical structures, and the lovely naturalistic exterior fades away. The environmental filter also transitions from a soft blue, to black, and finally to an infirm neon green. Then there’s the music which masterfully hits home the hunch things are not what they seem. Boom, this right here is what I would raucously exclaim to be “adroit” direction. The visuals, gameplay, and music all blend to create a sense of death and dread.

Great idea Eiko! That elevator looks 100% legit!
Great idea Eiko! That elevator looks 100% legit!

So the art direction isn’t the issue here, but this is not to say the game has excellent “direction.” The reason for the troupe being at the Iifia Tree is muddled at this point, and what the party wishes to accomplish here is especially so. It goes without saying our cast was directed to the Iifia Tree on a tip from the Black Mage Village. Nonetheless, there are few if any clues to suggest the party is making progress in their quest to locate Kuja. In essence, this has the consequence of creating the sense the crew is continuing their journey by pure convenience rather than justifiable intuition. When one stops and thinks about it until an enormous talking tree accosts them there’s no evidence to suggest entering the Iifia Tree is bringing our motley crew closer to their sequential conclusion.

This is a real thing which happens in this game.
This is a real thing which happens in this game.

Part 68: WHELP! It Is Time For The Story To Get Stupid!

Boarding a sketchy looking elevator on a spike covered plant, our party decides now is the time to question where “mist” comes from. Final Fantasy IX sure does pick the weirdest places to have exposition induced diarrhea.

We got 99 problems but mist ain't one.
We got 99 problems but mist ain't one.

The characters' befuddlement, as well as their drive to work together, is a nice touch in the grand scheme of things. It is quaint but greatly appreciated seeing the members of a party work together as a team so as to solve a pressing stopgap in the story. I say this while peering at Final Fantasy VIII with an intense glare. Nevertheless, our team moseys their way to a magical harp looking contraption. If you felt this terrifying backdrop was the perfect place for Eiko to make a pass on Zidane then you would be correct.

This is a video game-ass video game sometimes.
This is a video game-ass video game sometimes.

Normally I would decry such balderdash, but it results in a momentary flash of introspection on the part of Zidane I found ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS!

IT TOOK YOU UNTIL KNOW TO REALIZE THIS!
IT TOOK YOU UNTIL KNOW TO REALIZE THIS!
NO SHIT! Trying to foment a relationship using respectful and kind language? Is this game set in the future?
NO SHIT! Trying to foment a relationship using respectful and kind language? Is this game set in the future?

In any event, a giant zombified tree monster pops out of nowhere and admonishes Zidane and company. This giant topiary monster appears to be the commandant of the Iifia Tree. As our Deus Ex Machina explains, the Iifia Tree processes “something” to create the mist which blankets the continents. This mist is then used to encourage aggressive and even warlike behavior by anything it touches. Kuja is using the mist to produce Black Mages and other weapons of war. If you ever wanted a perfect example of a video game story pulling a villain out of its ass in order to make its story work, well here you go!

Right then, why does the story stop making sense? Was Soulcage created by Kuja? Was Soulcage always the guardian of the Iifia Tree? Why does Soulcage allow Kuja to use the mist to create the Black Mages? It is mentioned earlier Kuja is a “weapons dealer.” Are all of Kuja’s weapons coming from the mist? Is Kuja using the mist to make guns and swords? Who does Soulcage take orders from, and why? Soulcage said it had already seen its death a thousand years ago, and then we defeated it. Does this mean I will have to fight Soulcage again? If Soulcage is trying to contaminate the world with mist why isn’t he pumping out mist at a higher capacity? Why is he allowing the Iifia Tree to hold back on its evil mojo? Isn’t the whole point of the Iifia Tree to destroy civilization as we know it? Why does Soulcage support Kuja’s plan for world domination? WHY?

At least Soulcage can be defeated by applying a Phoenix Down to it.
At least Soulcage can be defeated by applying a Phoenix Down to it.

Part 69: Final Fantasy IX’s Start And Stop Pacing Is Killing Me Softly

After Final Fantasy IX subjects us to what is essentially an exposition dump regarding the purpose of the mist, its story suddenly halts. The characters marvel over the clear skies of the continent, and then they hurry back to Madain Sari with an unacceptable nonchalance. Our motley crew brushes aside the dire situation both they and the greater world are in, as well as their responsibility to locate Kuja expeditiously. The excuse for this is doubtlessly atrocious.

How do you know that? Did you read the script?
How do you know that? Did you read the script?

What the fuck did you just say, Zidane? Are you pulling this shit straight out of your ass? I thought we went to the Iifia Tree with the hope of directly confronting Kuja! We clearly didn’t accomplish that, so why the fuck are you claiming “mission accomplished?” Well whatever, if the game thinks it can just make shit up on the fly without a care in the world, I’ll just fucking let it. Here we are at a crossroad with the story, and essentially the game is setting us for “story time with Eiko and friends.” I can hear you furiously frothing at the mouth with rage as I type this. I can practically hear you exclaiming “BUT CHRIS (i.e. my name)! The return to Madain Sari provides some wonderful story routines for the cast (i.e. Eiko and Garnet), and seamlessly introduces our final party member!” Yeah well… that’s why I feel so conflicted about this set piece.

The literal aspects of our return to Madain Sari are simply "plot by convenience." The characters temporarily stop their quest to locate Kuja, because the story needs them to. Their assumption of Kuja returning to the Iifia Tree proves correct because the story needs this to happen. Finally, there are no immediate exigencies for our ragtag party temporarily halting their investigation. I mean why does the outfit just automatically assume Kuja doesn’t have any other lackeys at or near the Iifia Tree? Why are we not conducting a thorough investigation as to how the mist is actually manufactured at the Iifia Tree? I hope this line of questioning proves my main point here. The story simply stops when it shouldn’t have, and this disruption of flow is all the more disorienting when you consider the circumstances our party is currently confronting.

If you hate Vivi, we can't be friends.
If you hate Vivi, we can't be friends.

But that aside Final Fantasy IX can almost be forgiven for all these quibbles when you stop and appreciate what it ventures with its characters at Madain Sari. Vivi forces the party to pontificate upon the aftereffects of our actions; Eiko is compelled to confront her isolationism; Zidane rises to the occasion on multiple fronts; finally, Garnet evolves beyond her substandard “fish out of water” archetype. This forward progress in terms of the story is greatly appreciated, and as with previous scenes provides the audience with touching and poignant moments. When a game has at least a workable cast that seems genuine, and their drama is reputable, you are willing to forgive the superficial backdrop they may be hiding behind.

This is why I wouldn’t decry any of my issues as being a “gut punch.” I mean I could complain about the tonal inconsistencies with Final Fantasy IX until I’m blue in the face, but doing so is pointless when the game’s heart is in the right place. Final Fantasy IX is cognizant of the fact its characters are above and beyond anything attempted with tits main story, and thus provides them with the proper opportunities to shine. The story annoyances associated with Madain Sari are less a sudden impact, and more alike being stabbed repeatedly with a butter knife. It’s not going to kill me immediately, but that isn’t to say it doesn’t hurt. So make with that what you will.

Part 70: A Little Humanity Goes A Long Way

As we marvel over our victory over Soulcage, Vivi points out the most notable consequence of our actions. Without mist, no further Black Mages will be created, and this, in turn, means Vivi’s race will cease to exist. Final Fantasy IX doesn’t strive to answer this conundrum immediately, and I do not wish to suggest it should, but I do wish to mention my appreciation of the game providing this line of dialogue. Final Fantasy IX’s writing saw an opportunity for the cast and player to genuinely pontificate upon the impacts of our actions, rather than ignoring such consequences even exist. This is a monumental improvement upon the previous Final Fantasy games I have played.

With this bit behind us, one of Eiko’s Moogles informs her of a major theft at Madain Sari. Following Eiko to her home we discover countless precious gems have been stolen from her abode. The emotion of Eiko dejected at this discovery is palpable. Eiko makes it clear to the audience how the earrings stolen were the last remnants of her grandfather. By losing these earrings Eiko has in effect lost a part of her past, and she is so overcome with emotion you can honestly feel for her.

Because you certainly have behaved like an adult prior to this.
Because you certainly have behaved like an adult prior to this.

Then Zidane decides this is the appropriate time to make a pass on Garnet:

Zidane is my nominee for
Zidane is my nominee for "Greatest Nightmare of 2016."

Somehow between getting some air, and Zidane being a jackass, Eiko got kidnapped by the female mercenary, Lani, from earlier. When Zidane confronts Lani at The Eidolon Wall she immediately demands he hands over Garnet’s gemstones. Stuck at an impasse our party is saved when some green-skinned, red-afroed mo-fo pounces on Lani. With the tide against her Lani relents and is forced to surrender all the gemstones she has in her tow.

Somehow I don't think so.
Somehow I don't think so.

I actually found this to be a bit anticlimactic. While the game certainly needed to provide the story with a proper introduction to the abilities of our final cast member, Amarant, I can’t help but question if this was the best course of action. Instead of allowing Zidane an opportunity to outwit or use his intuition to solve a pressing issue the game employs a deus ex machina. This is just the proverbial “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to Amarant’s moribund introduction.

Part 71: Everything About Amarant’s Introduction Is Terrible... Including Amarant

Right away I just would like for the record to show I think Amarant’s late introduction is a storytelling “tactical error.” His late introduction stunts his character development, and what little development he is provided feels hollow comparatively to the rest of the cast. To make matters worse we never witness Amarant evolve from his initial character trope of that as the aloof vagabond. Now to Amarant’s defense he doesn’t exactly have time to evolve from this character arch, but this just proves my point that he should have been introduced earlier in the game. Then there’s the tussle we have between Amarant and Zidane. This battle is torturous. It is a bad thing.

For those wondering, the PC version has an auto save feature which is a GODSEND!
For those wondering, the PC version has an auto save feature which is a GODSEND!

This one-on-one confrontation exacerbates each of Final Fantasy IX’s battle-based mechanical issues. Zidane’s ATB meter fills up at a laborious rate, and once it has filled up Amarant has already sliced you twice. The player is then thrust into a frustrating Catch-22 wherein they are forced to use their only turn on healing potions as Amarant quickly whittles away at your patience. Our battle with Amarant is beyond contrived. Why in the world does Amarant have the ability to employ life-threatening attacks, whereas I am stuck exhaustively trying to stay alive? On that note, why does Amarant have the ability to attack twice within the time it takes Zidane to attack once? How the fuck is that fair? What is meant to be a quick battle between two warriors immediately becomes an absolute bore.

Just look at the amount of wasted space for this battle! What the fuck?
Just look at the amount of wasted space for this battle! What the fuck?

The amount of “dead time” between each attack truly underscores how slow Final Fantasy IX’s combat system is. The mechanics of the battle system prevent the intent of what the developers attempted to accomplish with this scene. I can only imagine the designers noticed this, but were powerless to do anything. Zidan’s battle with Amarant is meant to be “their moment,” but the true impact of that moment is thoroughly sabotaged. But hey, at least Amarant and Zidane “bro it out” after their fight and agree to work together.

That last sentence was me being histrionic. If Amarant's story line just involved him
That last sentence was me being histrionic. If Amarant's story line just involved him "bro-ing out" with everyone, that would have been 100 times better than what the game actually has him do.

And what was this all in the name of? Being able to include an aloof warrior monk in the story? Amarant makes it clear he and Zidane have “unfinished business” to address at some point. Following the introduction of this story beat the game entirely forgets it until another hour has passed. Worse yet, there’s no foreshadowing or recurring moments that build up an impending confrontation between Zidane and Amarant. So, in the end, Amarant comes across as entirely wasted potential, and this is a shame given how novel he is in combat. Amarant is a cross between an agile ninja and a warrior monk. I cannot attest to understanding how to take full advantage of Amarant in combat, but what I can at least appreciate is how different he feels mechanically in battle. Watching him waste away enemies by throwing junk at them is a constant supply of hilarity.

Part 72: Eiko And Garnet Become Interesting... Mostly

WELL I’LL BE DAMNED! Who would have guessed Final Fantasy IX could take two of the most painfully rigid character archetypes and invert them in a compelling manner. Upon what I can only hope is our final return to Madain Sari, Zidane has two touching exhibitions with Eiko and Garnet separately. The first setting, which involves Eiko, is an emotionally taut scene wherein Eiko embraces her “call to adventure,” and in turn shirks away her emotional and social isolationism. Caught between honoring the last wishes of her grandfather, versus her own personal desires, Eiko is forced to confront a truly adult social malady. How Eiko decides upon an answer, which results in her embracing her “call to adventure,” is a lovely milieu which evokes a response from the audience. Moments like these almost cause you to forget Eiko is six years old, or her previous story-based bullshitery. I would like to place extra emphasis on the word “almost.”

Here's your friendly reminder Final Fantasy IX uses the same pointless dialogue choices from FFVIII.
Here's your friendly reminder Final Fantasy IX uses the same pointless dialogue choices from FFVIII.

The troupe’s universal acceptance of Eiko further establishes the necessity of Eiko being a part of our troupe of heroes. Eiko deeply desires to interact with the outside world, and thus establish long-term interpersonal relationships. How Final Fantasy IX endeavors to establish why each of its party members is entwined in the story is beyond respectable, albeit a bit inconsistent. While all this attention is afforded to Eiko, we also have Amarant sitting in the background just moping in a corner. While Eiko is afforded every opportunity to shine as a character, Amarant and Quina just continue to waste oxygen. So instead of delving into Amarant’s pathos, logos, and/or ethos he simply expressed befuddlement with Zidane’s lack of blood lust, and that is all we get from the game for a solid two hours.

Then we have the story pivot related to Garnet. Now I must be honest with you, my opinion on this specific matter has flip-flopped constantly. So, if my final impressions of this story revelation end up coming across as dazed and confused, then I simply apologize. At the risk of sounding generic, sometimes video games are not a matter of “black and white” objectivism.

FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU.......
FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU.......
FUCKING A! Garnet finally puts Zidane in his place! Where has this been all my life?
FUCKING A! Garnet finally puts Zidane in his place! Where has this been all my life?

With that aside let’s meticulously break down the scene at hand. The story starts out with Zidane and Garnet flirting with a level of belligerent sexual tension Mulder and Scully would blush at. It’s an honest enough exhibition where Zidane’s debonair attitude plays off of Garnet’s naivete wonderfully. Both parties share a level of appreciation towards one another that comes across as both honest and genuine. Then things get FUCKING WEIRD!

Let's all agree to never eat food prepared by Moogles ever again.
Let's all agree to never eat food prepared by Moogles ever again.

While Zidane paddles to a cliff, the cliff starts singing. Or I think that is what happened… I don’t know what’s real anymore. This causes Garnet to experience flashbacks to her previously forgotten childhood. So I guess the cliff may sing AND cure amnesia. Garnet faints at some point, or at least I think she does, and she has a dream about the Summoner Village. The flashback shows a giant eye in the sky, which we have seen before, and a woman on a boat. The mysterious masked lady is holding a baby, and the woman looks like Garnet. The eye in the sky is destroying the summoner village, or at least this is what I think it was doing. On top of that, Madain Sari is impacted by a massive hurricane. I assume the eye in the sky is causing the storm, otherwise, the Summoner Tribe got hit by a double-whammy. I don’t know… the game presents all these visuals without any supporting text and hopes you can figure this shit out by yourself. Either way, we discover Garnet is actually a member of the summoner tribe despite her present lack of a horn on her forehead.

Well this is certainly a story pivot.
Well this is certainly a story pivot.

Good golly Miss Molly, where do I even start? Let’s call attention to what I appreciate with this story development. First, the relationship that buds between Garnet and Eiko is a massive improvement from their love triangle tryst from earlier. The two characters slowly establish a familial relationship like sisters and this continues being an absolute treat throughout the story. I also greatly appreciated how much more introspective Garnet becomes after this moment. With a tenuous grasp of her past, Garnet feels more independent, as well as self-guided from this point forward. She certainly has progressed nicely from her “holier–than–thou” beginnings. This plot development also plays a role in reinforcing why Garnet still wishes to break the queen from her maniacal stupor. While the queen certainly is guilty of more than a few war crimes, she is all Garnet has at this point in terms of a family figure. You do not have to agree with her decision making regarding this point, but at least you can follow it. Zidane even makes a rather poignant inference on this matter:

I've only loved one being, and I've lost him twice!
I've only loved one being, and I've lost him twice!

Onto my perceived negatives, and boy are there plenty! I just want to say this is some Final Fantasy-ass plot development if I have ever seen it. For reasons which are beyond my comprehension, Garnet couldn’t simply be the daughter of the queen. No, instead she needed to be adopted from a nigh-extinct race. Why couldn’t the plot twist be the entire royal family of Alexandria is members of the summoner race? Or how about having the Queen related to the destruction of the summoner tribe as part of her insane quest for world domination? I mention all this for a reason. There’s a disconnect between this plot development and everything the game has solicited with Garnet prior. If the queen knew Garnet was a summoner why did she wait as long as she did before extracting Bahamut? Wouldn’t you want to do that BEFORE attempting to invade other countries? Because of this, the development of Garnet being a summoner comes across as an example of the developers digging themselves out of a hole. They already mechanically had Garnet be a white mage with the ability to summon eidolons. Given all the story justifications for what the eidolons are, this was probably the best the writers could come up with to justify having Garnet being able to summon shit.

But at least the game makes this work to its benefit. The characters continue to evolve and develop beyond their initial tropes. Simultaneously there’s an oddly compelling connection between the gameplay and the story. As the game becomes more transparent with its mechanics, so do the characters. For example, the in-game discovery of eidolons allows the player to use them in combat.

Part 73: Shit Pops Off Fucking Quick!

After all these touching and emotional quiet moments the shit hits the fan. After we accept Amarant to our party we immediately notice Kuja flying to the Iifia Tree on a dragon. Here we are immediately subjected to one of the most heavy-handed evil villain soliloquies I have seen in a GOOD LONG TIME!

MOTHERFUCKER EVEN SAYS “MWAHAHA” IN HIS GODDAMNED SOLILOQUY! WHO WROTE THIS? A SIX-YEAR-OLD?
MOTHERFUCKER EVEN SAYS “MWAHAHA” IN HIS GODDAMNED SOLILOQUY! WHO WROTE THIS? A SIX-YEAR-OLD?

Sensing an impending confrontation, our ragtag group dispatches to the base of the Iifia Tree. After convincing Amarant to carry Vivi and Eiko ourunit immediately locates and confronts Kuja. Did I mention how laughably evil the game depicts Kuja at this point of the story? My God, the game practically bludgeons you over the head with its simplicity whenever Kuja talks. After droning about wishing to drag the mist continent into war ad nauseam, and posturing himself as a would-be Shakespearean poet, the game makes it difficult to take Kuja seriously. Certainly, his flamboyant design is a factor of this, but his mannerisms are what immediately repelled me from his character. At some point, I just want a straightforward villain with a believable motivation for working outside the confines of humanistic moralities. IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK FOR IN A FINAL FANTASY GAME? EVEN THE LEGEND OF ZELDA FRANCHISE ACCOMPLISHED THIS!

After tolerating Kuja’s bullshitery for what seems like twenty minutes Queen Brahne arrives with a massive naval fleet in tow. Viewing Kuja as the only person capable of stopping her from world domination, or whatever she is trying to accomplish in the story, the queen opens a salvo of destruction upon Kuja as well as the Iifia Tree. As mentioned earlier, despite the evidence the queen is beyond redemption Garnet still believes she can “save” her adopted mother. After dispatching a handful of random encounter baddies Garnet locates the sealed eidolon at the base of the Iifia Tree. Unfortunately, Garnet realizes the eidolon is Leviathan, who as a sea serpent can do shit against a crazed maniac flying on top of a dragon.

You wouldn't have this problem if you had the Knights of the Round Summon.
You wouldn't have this problem if you had the Knights of the Round Summon.

Tired of her fleet’s insufficient progress the queen decides to summon Bahamut on Kuja. While the scene that ensues is visually stunning it is almost ruined by Kuja’s shitty affectations. At one point we watch Kuja subject us to the terribly off-putting “how impressive, you drew my blood” evil villain trope. Once again, I honestly wish I was lying about this:

I suspect this game may have been written using Cliff Notes.
I suspect this game may have been written using Cliff Notes.

Part 74: Everything Goes BOOM, And Then Disc Two Is Over

Once Kuja is done with his flamboyant posturing he immediately summons the giant ominous eye in the sky we have seen earlier. Using this eye to gain control over Bahamut Kuja immediately uses the dragon to subject massive destruction on the queen and her fleet. With the climactic destruction complete the game smash cuts to black, and eventually to narration done by Vivi. Vivi not only narrates his hatred for Queen Brahne, but also an inability to feel anything amidst all this death and destruction. The emptiness Vivi indicates is an emptiness any one of us could relate to. Even if something you abjectly disliked was destroyed there still is the need to rebuild and recover from that hatred. The moment here is a friendly reminder death rarely should be embraced with open arms.

I usually just feel empty inside when I eat Taco Bell for dinner.
I usually just feel empty inside when I eat Taco Bell for dinner.

Had the game ended on this note I would have applauded it unequivocally. However, the game decides to poison the well by providing Queen Brahne with a redemptive arc in the last three minutes of disc two.

There honestly are not enough wet fart sound effects I could make to accurately depict how I feel about this scene.
There honestly are not enough wet fart sound effects I could make to accurately depict how I feel about this scene.

It’s almost as if the game continues to ignore the elephant in the room, but is cognizant of the fact that there is indeed a GIANT ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM! I know I am guilty of “back seat writing” on this blog series, but here I simply must insist. The story has done NOTHING to develop the queen as anything more than a comical mustache twirling villain you could find in a 1960s era Disney film. This type of villain does not warrant a redemptive story arc! This is especially the case if the corrupting factor for the villain wasn’t entirely clear to the audience. How am I supposed to empathize with someone who is not only guilty of war crimes but committed those war crimes with a sadistic sense of pleasure? What even caused the queen to be broken from her stupor? Why is any of this happening? So it goes without saying this scene does not work even at a superficial level.

I would like to once again ask why we do not see more examples of this groundbreaking technology in FFIX.
I would like to once again ask why we do not see more examples of this groundbreaking technology in FFIX.

With that I appear done with disc two, and to be honest I have no idea how to feel. On one hand, the game has begun to embrace its colorful cast of characters, and has provided them with some truly memorable moments I will cherish for the rest of my life. Simultaneously, the game sabotages this goodwill time and time again with inanity and fluff. Disc two, and Final Fantasy IX in general features some of the worst “economy of action” I have ever seen in a video game. The disc starts with Steiner ferreting Garnet in a bag of pickles and ends with Garnet making amends with her dying mother. While this is certainly an improvement upon disc one, I cannot help but remind myself of how frustrated this game has made me feel, while simultaneously enthralling me with its humanity. There exists fifteen mainline story set pieces on disc two of Final Fantasy IX. Only around half of these tableaus are successful in honoring the mood and tone which benefits Final Fantasy IX the most.

If anything, Final Fantasy IX works best when it breaks away from the mold which defined the franchise for years prior. When the game seeks out opportunities to improve upon the mistakes of the past it truly shines and stands as a testament to video game storytelling. When it devolves into comical fan service I have a burning passion to punching people in the face. And trust me, I have wanted to punch a bunch of people in the face while playing this game.

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dudeglove

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We are ALMOST at the worst point

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ZombiePie

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#2 ZombiePie  Staff

@dudeglove@geraltitude@thatpinguino@wchigo@dhutch@mechamarshmallow@soimadeanaccount@hassun@beforet@teddie@encephalon@gee_rad@mento@sparky_buzzsaw@kmfrob@lawgamer@mandude@cloudymusic@danielkempster

Ladies, gentlemen, and those who identify as neither, I wish to place a motion which is unprecedented to the fair members of the Giant Bomb Final Fantasy Community Senate. After hours of toiling away I wish to request "Wolpaw's Law" regarding the Chocograph Sidequest. After multiple promises to be committed towards your wishes I regret to inform all of you that I have failed you.

This would mark the first time in which I have filed such a formal request regarding a Final Fantasy game. Rest assured, this is only a partial request of Wolpaw's Law, and this request does not rescind previous commitments towards completing this fair game.

The time table for the Senate floor to debate this matter has been set for three days. Your questions and input are greatly appreciated. This request requires a two thirds majority, and is open to filibuster.

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sparky_buzzsaw

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@zombiepie: Suffer for your art and dance for us, your puppet masters! Dance! Daaaaaance!

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@zombiepie: The rewards I think are totally worth it,

and you can totally break the system on pc by playing the whole thing in fast forward, the timer goes at normal speed while you move and dig at whatever 2x or whatever it is

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FrostyRyan

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Just stopping by to say the characters alone are why this game is great and Vivi is my favorite FF character ever.

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#6  Edited By hassun

@zombiepie: You can skip rope jumping all you like but Chocographs and Chocobo Hot and Cold/Dig here! Chocobo! stays in.

The rewards are great and let's not forget about Chocobo's Dream World.

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GERALTITUDE

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The harder the squeeze, the sweeter the juice.

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dudeglove

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My general opinion of this game is that it's a pile of garbage with some occasional interesting parts, but don't feel forced to wade through garbage just to find something interesting.

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Gee_rad

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Y'all are crazy. Chocobo Hot and Cold is tedious. Finding the chocograph locations is only interesting if you have more time than money to spend on video games. I just rewatched the ending to make sure I wasn't misremembering it, but, nope, it's not even worth seeing ZombiePie get mad about. And Zidane's ultimate weapon and some of the other items are nice, but not so nice that they are worth doing the chocographs if you don't enjoy them.

I say you can skip it. But you have to review Final Fantasy IX in terms of time-to-crate.

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deactivated-5a98cbe47ca3b

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I recently played and wrote about Final Fantasy XV and found the gameplay fun and the story to be a disappointing heap.

That being said I remember loving, absolutely loving Final Fantasy IX. I still quote it to be my favorite Final Fantasy of all time.

THAT being said I haven't really played it since the PSX was a modern system.

I'm starting to doubt whether or not I actually liked Final Fantasy at all. Perhaps I lied to myself for so long that my fantasy became a reality...

No Caption Provided

Oh god.

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Skip the Chocograph stuff, you really don't miss much of anything.

Its hard to defend a lot of this last bit of Disc 2; its certainly my least favorite part of the game. With Eiko specifically, I'm forced to just headcanon-pretend that she's around 13; its the only way anything about her makes any sense at all.

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soimadeanaccount

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Literature is full of trope, I would even say the only mark it made in history are tropes and shortcuts. Railing a game for using common trope, railing the game when it does something too different, but also wishing it to be a classical straight line hero vs villain which is pretty much the most basic of all trope is madness! You can't have it all, and you can't not have any. It also varies with what baggage the audience bring with them.

Eiko's character introduction and how she meshing into the story is very efficient. Her archetype as the last survivor, except she really isn't which the player learns very quickly. She only half fill the lonely last of her kind character, since she has moogles for better or worse. Why she acts and behaves the way she does is also quickly establish (learn from books and fictions...a bit of meta commentary perhaps). These points speed her up quickly to fulfilling her role, imagine if the game has to spend time building up a lonely character before she can interact with the rest of the cast. Her upbeat character alone is enough of a counterpoint to her stereotype and let her fit in with the rest of the party.

Which brings up the next point. IMO FF traditionally has an issue of focusing only on selected few characters even within your party, sometimes it is warrant, but sometimes it makes the rest of the cast look bad. It usually falls down to who the main character has the chance to deal with. This is what I think ATEs sort of try to solve in 9, the whole splitting up your team also helps, but the game has its up and downs regarding that. In 9 the core core cast I think is pretty obvious, Garnet, Vivi, and Zidane, while this isn't very diverse the onus is now how to work Eiko into this mix. Eiko is pretty much god damn engineered to play off the three other core characters. Eiko and Vivi share similar age and set up, but vastly different personalities. Eiko and Zidane is pretty much the table turner on Zidane hitting on Garnet and the only one who can match Zidane's upbeat character. Eiko and Garnet are pretty obvious, with a slight twist being Garnet is the older one, but Eiko is the more experienced summoner. I think the game actually plays with these ideas later on as well. Eiko just barges into the game late and established easily as the #4 character even if she doesn't quite make it to the same level of the top 3.

On the other hand we have Amarant, I will take Quina over Amarant.

Redemption for the Queen really isn't much one way or another, she didn't really redeem herself, I guess it serves to fill Garnet's story to a certain extend. Plus I think it was established that the Queen was actually a pretty decent ruler before shit goes wrong. Will leave Kuja mostly alone for now, although his typically villainous behavior falls in line with how it usually work in other medium. I think this is also the first time he takes center stage.

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MechaMarshmallow

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I think Eiko kind of highlights the beauty and problems that IX have in one compact package. There are some great ideas there. Mixtures of classic tropes and twists upon them. Characters designed to play off of each other and elicit emotion. Things that sound so good in theory, and in the rare moments of greatness shine through like few narrative games really can...

And yet, it's all mired and bogged down in so much. Odd decisions for the sake of whimsy that sabotage the tone. Pointless scenes stacked atop each other in places they don't belong. And the pacing - most of the characters in IX develop well, but it's so plodding and slow paced and sometimes even slips back from where it is.

In her best moments Eiko, and the cast and IX as a whole, is great and hilarious and somber when needed. But dang it, the first five awkward attempts at hitting on Zidane got across that particular character trait, I don't need that particular gag played out for another two hours of gameplay to 'get' it.

Perhaps the game is just too long for its own good.

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#14  Edited By mandude

It was well established by Garnet, Steiner and Beatrix, - in what they said and how they acted, - that Queen Brahne wasn't acting like herself. I believe one of the characters mentions it started when her arms dealer (Kuja) showed up.

Queen Brahne wasn't redeemed. What you are seeing is the dissonance between how Garnet sees her and how the rest of the party sees her. Garnet has known her for much longer, and despite being subject to her recent tyranny, she is obviously familiar with a much more human side. A side the party (and the player) have never seen. I am certain this dissonance is intentional.

A similar thing happened in my own life. My grandmother subjected my father and his 9 siblings to her own brand of tyranny. I saw much of the effects it had on my extended family, and this defined how I saw her. When she died and her body was on display, it was surreal to see how suddenly fond of her they seemed to be. A fondness I had seen in them for the very first time. So much so, that the woman who was walking about a few days earlier and the woman in the coffin couldn't be reconciled. It was a side of her I had never been around to see, and the only conclusion I could come to was that I obviously didn't know her, and that my short history with her was insufficient in defining her as a person.

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I never really understood why Amarant exists. He joins the so late in the story, and from what I remember, he barely ever says or does anything that matters. His sole redeeming feature is that ninjas in Final Fantasy games are usually cool and fun to use. In FF7 and FF8 I think everyone joins you by the end of disc 1 (optional characters in FF7 aside, which I think most people usually get pretty early on anyway), but this game adds not one, but two new party members like 20 hours in. Eiko does serve a purpose even if "precocious six-year-old" is the worst trope in the world, but Amarant just seems like he could be removed and nobody would even notice.

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#16  Edited By Kosayn

FF9's got such a kinetic first hour, and such a show-stopping finale. It rates very high for me. Zidane being a bit of a chauvinist is part of the appeal after many cookie cutter depressed, self-centered protagonists from Squaresoft. An actual character with different faults! Well, I can feel the love for it even amidst these gripes.

ANYWAY

I'd argue that most FFs have nichey and experimental mechanics in the middle, and the storytelling is mostly amateur hour. This is part of what made JRPGs fun before Chrono, FF7, and the PS2 pulled them kicking and screaming into mainstream success. It was trying to raise a whole different bar from what we were used to from Hollywood or western fantasy authors.

I had friends who played these milennial big name RPGs, but felt alienated by this strange, more anime-inspired storytelling once the sound and fury of the FMVs died down. Going back to these games now - often they amazed us due to pulling the most they could get out of the hardware and translation teams at the time. Square got to push the envelope over and over as the industry grew up, and growing up was a major part of their brand. But those things have improved steadily for 20 years.

We go back and try to hold everything to the standards and attitudes of say, Persona 4, but it's best to understand that even P4 will seem quaint and hacky someday, too. Also good to remember that these stories are meant to be appealing to your inner teenager, who may not be entirely dead, but has probably been turned down to a dull roar.

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#17 ZombiePie  Staff

@mechamarshmallow: I guess your words are a more "diplomatic" manner of putting it. The concept of the character is fine, and parts fo the character work wonders for the game, but there's this inherent superficiality regarding the entire presentation you cannot shake off. Eiko was designed using a template, and there is no way I can be convinced otherwise. This is neither praiseworthy, nor is it worth condemning, it simply is a fact of life. Final Fantasy IX takes so many risks in its stories, and what I lament is how Eiko is not one of them. This is especially tragic when you stop and consider what was actually attempted with her background story.

Then all of the pieces to the puzzle come together and you almost want to forgive the game as a result. This is why I am having such a hard time meeting my deadlines and targets for my blogs for this game. Final Fantasy IX is clearly able to elicit an emotional reaction out of me the previous two Final Fantasy games did not. However, the emotional reaction it has elicited has not always been positive. Needless to say, shouldn't I still praise the game for being able to elicit a response anyways? I'm still trying to answer this exact question before moving forward witth the next episode.

@soimadeanaccount: My point is not to rail against Eiko as a trope based character in and of herself. My point is her introduction and design do not do what the game eventually wishes to accomplish with her character justice. We are introduced to Eiko as the third-wheel in a forced comedy love-triangle. Then the game wishes for us to forget this and drops a major exposition dump about her being the last of her race. The narrative jump from comical set-piece at the dinner table to dower tragedy is a dizzying affair. Not only that, but the game oscillates between these two characterizations of Eiko, and worse yet once her character moments are done she just goes back to being a wise-cracker.

Considering all the time the game spent to build up her inherent tragedy this seems like a waste of her character. This is a game which attempts to invert expectations with its characters, but with Eiko you get exactly what it says on the tin. They are what we thought they were.

@feralchemy: We mentioned it on the podcast, but the Steam version is the version to play if you are interested in re-visiting Final Fantasy IX. You have the ability to not only fast-forward through cutscenes and dialogue, but you can modify the game to be easier. This includes being able to disable the random encounters in the game. This is a godsend.

If you want to play a Final Fantasy game which was designed with a clear sense of joy, then I would strongly recommend Final Fantasy IX. There is not a single malicious or cynical bone in Final Fantasy IX.

@fezrock said:

Its hard to defend a lot of this last bit of Disc 2; its certainly my least favorite part of the game. With Eiko specifically, I'm forced to just headcanon-pretend that she's around 13; its the only way anything about her makes any sense at all.

In order to have her character "work," you simply have to ignore the canon age for her. Once you are able to accept this caveat you can begin to accept what is attempted with her as a character. How a six-year-old is able to come to terms with being the last of her race, knowing how to cook and prepare entire meals, or read Shakespearian plays is beyond me.

Certainly, you could say the same about the rest of the cast, because I am sorry, but Zidane and Garnet CANNOT BE TEENAGERS! THEY JUST CAN'T! I don't care they are teenagers canonically, but their mannerisms and maturity is that of a young adult.

My general opinion of this game is that it's a pile of garbage with some occasional interesting parts, but don't feel forced to wade through garbage just to find something interesting.

I will never play Final Fantasy IX a second time. That said I do not regret playing the game. It's one of those gaming oddities I feel compelled to recommend people attempt to play at least once in their life, but give then the prerogative to overrule my recommendation. The gravitas and sincerity of the game is something to marvel over. However, it simply is a slog to get through the first ten or twelve hours.

@gee_rad said:

Y'all are crazy. Chocobo Hot and Cold is tedious. Finding the chocograph locations is only interesting if you have more time than money to spend on video games. I just rewatched the ending to make sure I wasn't misremembering it, but, nope, it's not even worth seeing ZombiePie get mad about. And Zidane's ultimate weapon and some of the other items are nice, but not so nice that they are worth doing the chocographs if you don't enjoy them.

I say you can skip it. But you have to review Final Fantasy IX in terms of time-to-crate.

As @thatpinguino can attest, playing Chocobo Hot and Cold caused me to experience an existential crisis on par with what I felt breeding and racing Chocobos in Final Fantasy VII. Hopefully, this blog series will not cause me to link to Enya music videos.

It is also worth mentioning I played Hot and Cold in the worst way possible. I marathoned the entire quest in one sitting.

That resulted in ten straight hours of Chocobo based nonsense. I even mapped out all of the beaches for Fat Chocobo.

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I guess for me I never view Eiko as that much of a tragic character, yes there's obviously a sad and lonely undertone to her story, but her character doesn't really dwell on it. Perhaps there's even a hint of her forcing herself to not dwell on it, yet it rears its head occasionally, she carries an air of cheerfulness more often than not.

Eiko's exceptionally young age is strange, but I see it plays in two ways. Her being young yet remains somewhat cheerful of her current situation could be view as a sign of strength or it could also be view as her being too young to fully understands her situation therefore she doesn't react to it the same way as the rest of the cast (or the audience).

The flip flop of comedy and tragedy, personally never bothers me, but I think for Eiko it sort of works in a sense that she might not see it as that big of a deal or perhaps forces herself through it while everyone else view it differently. There's sort of an extra punch if tragic events were to show up during joyful times.

As for chocobo, I will take chocobo hot and cold over chocobo racing any day. Also power through it all in one go late game is definitely not the way to go, the promise of getting the reward as soon as possible in the story with the game pretty much telling you you can stop for now probably makes a big difference.

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@dudeglove said:

My general opinion of this game is that it's a pile of garbage with some occasional interesting parts, but don't feel forced to wade through garbage just to find something interesting.

I will never play Final Fantasy IX a second time. That said I do not regret playing the game. It's one of those gaming oddities I feel compelled to recommend people attempt to play at least once in their life, but give then the prerogative to overrule my recommendation. The gravitas and sincerity of the game is something to marvel over. However, it simply is a slog to get through the first ten or twelve hours.

Here's what I remember from FFIX in some sort of order:

1. Ooh we're in a circus troupe thing, this is bizarre

2. ooh we're in a forest and it's turning to stone, this is also bizarre and fantastical

3. ooh now there's evil black mages and these people seem evil in a fun colorful way

4. (disc 1 ends) Gee I hope the next few discs are just as good.

...

...

Many hours later

5. (disc 4) The actual fuck is this crystal thing.

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@zombiepie: My rule of thumb for almost every JRPG I've played is to pretend that almost literally every single character is approximately 10 years older than their canon age. It usually works out pretty well for me. The only exceptions are when the characters are actually schoolchildren; games like FFVIII and Persona 4.

I agree that Zidane and Garnett work better as young adults than teenagers. Steiner the grouchy, stuck-in-his-ways knight works better if he's 43 than being a 33 year old. Freya's backstory doesn't work if she's only 21 (it means Fratley left when she was 17, which means she started a torrid relationship when she was what? 13?), but it does if she's 31. Amarant doesn't really matter, but a grizzled bounty hunter makes more sense as a 36 year old than a 26 year old. It holds true for the non-party characters as well; the Queen is only 39, Cid is 36 (!!!), Kuja is 24, and so on.

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#21 ZombiePie  Staff

@kosayn: Zidane being a character with faults is one thing, but the writing pushes him too far to the opposite side of the spectrum on a number of occasions. Some of his interactions are simply harassment, and there's no other way to describe it. Certainly, the character recovers from this fault as the story progresses, but there still remains a slightly bitter aftertaste.

I have nothing against "anime storytelling." Goodness, I have even written editorial content for a certainly failed anime website which will go un-named. However, it is worth mentioning even anime knows when to tone down, or fully embrace its absurdity. Final Fantasy IX does neither. Its pivot neither pushes the spectrum of reality far away from its original tone, nor does it center the game on its establishing themes. It's just something which happens... and the game kind of abandons for the sake of even more character drama. At some point, the people behind this franchise have to realize their characters are not the problem, but the central story is.

P.S. Besides Final Fantasy VII I have yet to play any of the examples you cited in your post. While this is certainly NOT the site to admit it, but I have simply never played a game in the Persona franchise. I know... I should be "ashamed."

@mandude said:

A similar thing happened in my own life. My grandmother subjected my father and his 9 siblings to her own brand of tyranny. I saw much of the effects it had on my extended family, and this defined how I saw her. When she died and her body was on display, it was surreal to see how suddenly fond of her they seemed to be. A fondness I had seen in them for the very first time. So much so, that the woman who was walking about a few days earlier and the woman in the coffin couldn't be reconciled. It was a side of her I had never been around to see, and the only conclusion I could come to was that I obviously didn't know her, and that my short history with her was insufficient in defining her as a person.

First, I wish to thank you for sharing this story. I always enjoy witnessing users share their experiential life events under the backdrop of me slopping through a JRPG. Honestly, I greatly appreciate this, and hope at some point to finally write something worthy of an endearing comment such as yours.

What you are describing is an interpersonal event which you could relate to due to the longstanding relationship you had with your relatives. Their experiences, and tribulations were parables and stories, regardless of intention, which became a part of your identity and personhood. You had the pleasure of a lifetime to have this develop, but Final Fantasy IX only had two discs to accomplish this with Queen Bragne. While the final scene can partially be played up to being just part of "the human experience," this simply does not suffice in my opinion. Queen Brahne is never seen maniacally lording over her subject or Garnet, and instead is witnessed rolling out a war machine which brings genocide to other cultures.

We have no understanding in the game as to what the queen has done to warrant the love and affection of Garnet. Such context would have allowed me to better accept her as less a mustache-twirling villain, and more a tragic villain. If the game wished to frame her as a victim of her own greed or madness why not better frame this greed or madness? The last scene the character is seen in is not an effective time to accomplish all of this.

I guess for me I never view Eiko as that much of a tragic character, yes there's obviously a sad and lonely undertone to her story, but her character doesn't really dwell on it. Perhaps there's even a hint of her forcing herself to not dwell on it, yet it rears its head occasionally, she carries an air of cheerfulness more often than not.

Eiko's exceptionally young age is strange, but I see it plays in two ways. Her being young yet remains somewhat cheerful of her current situation could be view as a sign of strength or it could also be view as her being too young to fully understands her situation therefore she doesn't react to it the same way as the rest of the cast (or the audience).

The flip flop of comedy and tragedy, personally never bothers me, but I think for Eiko it sort of works in a sense that she might not see it as that big of a deal or perhaps forces herself through it while everyone else view it differently. There's sort of an extra punch if tragic events were to show up during joyful times.

As for chocobo, I will take chocobo hot and cold over chocobo racing any day. Also power through it all in one go late game is definitely not the way to go, the promise of getting the reward as soon as possible in the story with the game pretty much telling you you can stop for now probably makes a big difference.

Eiko is played for drama when her heritage is convenient to the plot. When it isn;t she is a complete comical device meant to drive a wedge between Garnet and Zidane in the most eye-rollingly terrible manner possible. How in the world a game can become so hot and cold with a single character in the same scene is beyond my comprehension. Why can't these characters just have a single character trait and storyline? Why does every character have to fill multiple genre blending rolls? This is honestly something about this franchise which is driving me absolutely crazy.

I think I may prefer Chocobo Racing over Hot and Cold. Racing and breeding is a far more straightforward experience, whereas Hot and Cold is a random number algorithm all-throughout. You honestly have to pray to the "Die Roll Goddess," otherwise you could be stuck for hours hoping to get the last goddamned Chocograph in the fucking lagoon level, because FUCK ME THAT'S WHY! AND WHAT WAS IT ALL IN THE NAME FOR? SOME BULLSHIT ARMOR SETS AND LISTENING TO FAT CHOCOBO TALK ABOUT HOW THERE WAS EVEN MORE BULLSHIT TREASURE TO FIND!

FUCK THAT! FUCK LIFE!

4. (disc 1 ends) Gee I hope the next few discs are just as good.

...

...

Many hours later

5. (disc 4) The actual fuck is this crystal thing.

MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!

I have seen the stupidest story pivots in this franchise at the very least, right?

@fezrock said:

@zombiepie: My rule of thumb for almost every JRPG I've played is to pretend that almost literally every single character is approximately 10 years older than their canon age. It usually works out pretty well for me. The only exceptions are when the characters are actually schoolchildren; games like FFVIII and Persona 4.

I agree that Zidane and Garnett work better as young adults than teenagers. Steiner the grouchy, stuck-in-his-ways knight works better if he's 43 than being a 33 year old. Freya's backstory doesn't work if she's only 21 (it means Fratley left when she was 17, which means she started a torrid relationship when she was what? 13?), but it does if she's 31. Amarant doesn't really matter, but a grizzled bounty hunter makes more sense as a 36 year old than a 26 year old. It holds true for the non-party characters as well; the Queen is only 39, Cid is 36 (!!!), Kuja is 24, and so on.

Final Fantasy IX preys victim to the classic paradox of attempting to appeal to its audience with the age of its characters at the sacrifice of narrative sense. This is something I never fully understood but to each their own. I mean didn't we all watch Indiana Jones and feel he was an absolute badass despite being half the age of the protagonist? Also, if you wished to depict young love you cannot depict it as being the same as adult love without adding an uncomfortable element to your story. How Zidane and Eiko behave simply is not how any person their age would act. The occasionally lecherous tendencies of both characters are made more abhorrent when you consider their age. This failure or misstep showcases how the game can sometimes improperly use its characters as artifaces rather than genuine vicarious vessels in the game.

You have no idea how excited I am to have a conversation about age in regards to a source of Japanese media which did not devolve into the "BUT THE AGE OF CONSENT IN JAPAN IS..." We finally proved the internet wrong, it can be done.

We need to create an anime/JRPG version of Godwin's law. I have no idea what to call it.

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I have seen the stupidest story pivots in this franchise at the very least, right?

Loading Video...

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As with all stories of this type in any medium, I think the best scenes aren't necessarily those of battles, or big group scenes, or the worldly conflicts, but those of the intimate moments between characters like that scene between Vivi and Zidane. After X, Square sort of lost that perspective in a lot of ways, but then again, so did everyone else. It's what made Tales from the Borderlands and Witcher 3 work so well for me. Sure, the other writing in those games was passable too, but some of the best moments in gaming last year came from the quiet interactions between Geralt and his companions and friends, or the camraderie that developed between the Tales from the Borderlands characters.

It strikes me as I write this that there just aren't a lot of games that got that right this year, and that it's generally an oddity when there is a game that does. Uncharted 4 wastes its clever moment to moment dialogue on plot tropes and cliches that grind the best parts of the story down into eye-rolling territory. I hope that changes in 2017.

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I have seen the stupidest story pivots in this franchise at the very least, right?

Lightning Returns. It'll break you.

I'm not gonna lie, when I replayed FFIX this year and got to the Brahne death scene, I said "wait, wasn't there more to this?". I could've sworn she had a proper arc, but no, there were just a couple hints at her being a nice lady until her husband died, then going nuts because she's greedy I guess? And then she just stops being greedy because she's dying? I dunno, I must've made up my own story in regards to her "resolution" the first time I played it.

Eiko is in World of Final Fantasy and she is barely even Eiko so I wonder if anybody actually liked her original characteristics (that said, they totally ruined Vivi too so who knows?). Her and Amarant are sorely underused/explored characters, when the other party members (okay maybe not Freya in your case) have so much more going on and are so much more interesting. I hope you're okay knowing, now that you're apparently done with the game, that no Final Fantasy game you play will ever have a character as good as Vivi ever again.

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@sparky_buzzsaw: I was with until you said Uncharted 4 doesn't have intimate character moments when I can recall two. Though one of them has to be found and triggered by the player, while the other is that silent driving moment at the end of the game. Sure those very few intimate moments compared to the games that were showered with them last year, but U4 still had them.

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#26  Edited By sparky_buzzsaw

@toysoldier83: It had them, yeah, but the support struts of those moments were huge eye-rolling moments that removed me completely from any poignancy those moments might have had. That game relies too heavily upon the "dead family member mysteriously returning" and "character's been deceiving you all along!" cliches for the moments around them to have any sort of lasting impact in the same way the games I listed do. I have a very solid rule that when the former occurs in any other medium - particularly TV - I abandon ship. If the gameplay in UC4 hadn't been so good, I would've given up entirely on that game within the first few hours.

And when the entirety of the series is built upon the weak foundation that is the whole "we found X location, but it was really leading to Y," those intimate character moments essentially become nothing but a house of cards.

And don't even get me started on the whole trope of Drake not telling his wife about what he's doing. That's just wildly dumb and has never come across as anything but when it's used in any medium, not just games.

With Final Fantasy, it's a bit more forgivable because the whole thing is so quintessentially stupid as a whole. With Uncharted 4, you can almost see them achieve a good storyline, if not necesarily great. With Final Fantasy, let's face it - the entirety of the series is based upon big huge dumb anime-ass cliches and tropes. In that regard, the best character moments of the Final Fantasy games stand out because they're diamonds in the rough. With Uncharted, it's all the more disappointing because with a slightly less lazily told story for the sake of its gameplay elements, it really could have been a fun swashbuckling-type story. As it stands, sure, there are some okay moments, but they're never as great as they could have been.

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This game has a love triangle with a six-year-old? Welp.

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Why can't these characters just have a single character trait and storyline? Why does every character have to fill multiple genre blending rolls? This is honestly something about this franchise which is driving me absolutely crazy.

Because that could be boring as hell. Sure I can appreciate iteration and technique that goes into making a straightforward simple story and character again and again, but at this point in time there are enough one dimensional characters and story to go around where they are fine and good, but unremarkable. It also treads very close to how convincing are the characters selling you their role. Which by today's standard becomes a showcase of voice acting and face scanning prowess, while isn't necessarily a bad thing, but that's no longer story or character; that's performance, recording, and tech.

The whole romance thing in IX is kind of meh anyways, you know exactly where it is going. Romance plot doesn't really do much one way or another in FF or in games in general I find, X might be the ever so slightly more interesting (or terrible :p) one. Xenogears and Shadow Hearts 1 and 2 did some interesting things with the romance plot, but you shouldn't play them.

Story and characters in games have come a long way. A simple rising action and focus experience is in every other action game. There's no point nor room for a JRPG to exist along side them. Therefore they have to do something different. At that point you can argue if JRPG should exist anymore and that's probably one of the reasons why they are in a downward spiral for such a long time. The other reason is even for the people that liked them, what they like about them are different enough that the (relatively) newer games can't satisfy everyone, and I don't think it is a genre that can support the different splinter groups in the player base. Along with if JRPG is already a subset of RPG (or what even is a RPGs now a days).

About central story being good or bad is...well difficult to say. Here's a confession, I follow this somewhat closely not because I want to see if FF still holds up by current standard (old games rarely hold up regardless of what it is), I also don't care which ones people like or not (I already know it is divisive and some people are just wrong! :p.) What I am interested is to see what people are looking for in a so called "good" story or how they judge if a story is "good" (not if they are right or not, but rather what goes on inside their heads). For far too long I see shit like "X game is good because it has a good story" or "X game is better than Y because it has a better story", the obvious retort is then "Y game has a better story than X" ad infinitum. In the end nothing came out of it, and it isn't just limited to games either, along with comparisons across and between different media.

With the end of the (mis)adventure with IX here are a few games that might be interesting. I don't recommend that you necessarily "play" through them proper, just need to see them. they aren't all necessarily good but they make interesting cases if you care about these kind of stuff.

FFIV, yep another final fantasy, play until the grinding gets to you, then cheat engine it or watch the rest.

Chrono Trigger, watch the Endurance Run.

Persona 3 and 4, IMO these two go together, their story aren't related, but they are similar in mechanics and different enough in focus of story that is worth seeing and comparing. Play 3 first, Persona 3 FES preferred but not necessary. Ideally play through about 2 in game months of it (it works in a calendar system), then find a new game+ save and plow through it quickly with a guide. There's also an epilogue in Persona 3 FES, watch video of it, don't need to play through it. For Persona 4 either go through it quickly with a NG+ save with a guide or just watch the Endurance Run

Star Ocean The Last Hope (or Star Ocean 4 as some call it), watch it, don't need to play it.

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#29 ZombiePie  Staff

As with all stories of this type in any medium, I think the best scenes aren't necessarily those of battles, or big group scenes, or the worldly conflicts, but those of the intimate moments between characters like that scene between Vivi and Zidane. After X, Square sort of lost that perspective in a lot of ways, but then again, so did everyone else. It's what made Tales from the Borderlands and Witcher 3 work so well for me. Sure, the other writing in those games was passable too, but some of the best moments in gaming last year came from the quiet interactions between Geralt and his companions and friends, or the camraderie that developed between the Tales from the Borderlands characters.

It's almost as if this entire franchise has been a progressive battle to seek a balance between its raw mechanics, and narrative ambition. As long as you can clearly see the intent of the game you are able to at least ignore its missteps. I make no qualms about not entirely enjoying Final Fantasy IX. My issues are endemic to many mediums, but my opinion is my own to have. That aside, when Final Fantasy IX tales the time to provide its cast with "breathing room," its oftentimes a marvel worth getting excited about. The small touches here and there are evidence enough for me to see bright minds worked on this game, and only had honest intentions when creating it.

@teddie said:

I'm not gonna lie, when I replayed FFIX this year and got to the Brahne death scene, I said "wait, wasn't there more to this?". I could've sworn she had a proper arc, but no, there were just a couple hints at her being a nice lady until her husband died, then going nuts because she's greedy I guess? And then she just stops being greedy because she's dying? I dunno, I must've made up my own story in regards to her "resolution" the first time I played it.

Eiko is in World of Final Fantasy and she is barely even Eiko so I wonder if anybody actually liked her original characteristics (that said, they totally ruined Vivi too so who knows?). Her and Amarant are sorely underused/explored characters, when the other party members (okay maybe not Freya in your case) have so much more going on and are so much more interesting. I hope you're okay knowing, now that you're apparently done with the game, that no Final Fantasy game you play will ever have a character as good as Vivi ever again.

Brahne is without a doubt one of the most generic villains I have seen in my folly into Final Fantasy. Her drive and ambition are never clearly stipulated to the audience, and worse yet, she receives what can only be described as one of the most, but not the most, ill-fated redemption arcs in the game. What is baffling to me is how easy this would have been rectified. Just have her obsessed over the death of her husband, or greedy! Is that too much to ask for?

It is great to hear how SquareEnix is retconning the characterization of Final Fantasy characters beyond VII. Amarant and Eiko have one freaking scene where we learn about their backstory, and then the game expects us to be satisfied with that. Where's the justice in that?

@sparky_buzzsaw: I was with until you said Uncharted 4 doesn't have intimate character moments when I can recall two. Though one of them has to be found and triggered by the player, while the other is that silent driving moment at the end of the game. Sure those very few intimate moments compared to the games that were showered with them last year, but U4 still had them.

I mentioned it as a joke on an earlier episode, but can we talk about how in Uncharted 2 Nathan Drake DESTROYED SHAMBHALA? Here's this beautiful mythical city of purity... and then Nathan Drake razed it to the ground. Then in future games the Uncharted series wants to convince me Drake has a preservationist code of ethics... BUT HE RUINED SHAMBHALA! There were all of those natives you murdered with ancient customs and knowledge... AND THEY ARE DEAD FOREVER!

This game has a love triangle with a six-year-old? Welp.

This is the perfect reaction to the entire scene. However, I have been told that other games in the Final Fantasy franchise are as "problematic" as this.

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@zombiepie: Agreed. And so long as something is playable and not broken in a lot of ways, I will forgive any game in just about any genre for a lot of mistakes if, as you say, there are honest intentions behind its creation. That's maybe the thing I like least about Final Fantasy games after X. They've lost that spark. Sure, it's evident people put a lot of work into the games that come, but none of them have that earnest heart of the ones that came before.

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#31 ZombiePie  Staff

@soimadeanaccount: First I wish to say our interactions on this series have been some of my favorite in my decade long use of Giant Bomb. Having a good mental exercise every day or so does wonders for ones' overall health. Not only that, but I greatly appreciate someone taking the time to share a more experienced a nuanced relationship with the Final Fantasy franchise.

There's nothing wrong with the "same but slightly different" approach to storytelling. I mean the James Bond franchise has been able to prove this over the course of five decades. My personal preference would be for the entire Final Fantasy franchise to sacrifice its hard swings in favor of tired and true storytelling. Narratives which stand on the laurels of their own accomplishments rather than the impact of their daring pivots. This need to one-up the previous entry can only prove disappointing and dysfunctional for all involved in my mind.

Fun fact about Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. I was with my college roommate as he was playing that game when its "plot twist" revealed itself. As it happened I watched the life from my roommates face leave his body and it was glorious. Never before have I watched a game so thoroughly gut a person's joy as Till the End of Time did. On top of that, my roommate rage quit the game and never played it again.

@zombiepie: Agreed. And so long as something is playable and not broken in a lot of ways, I will forgive any game in just about any genre for a lot of mistakes if, as you say, there are honest intentions behind its creation. That's maybe the thing I like least about Final Fantasy games after X. They've lost that spark. Sure, it's evident people put a lot of work into the games that come, but none of them have that earnest heart of the ones that came before.

Certainly this is endemic to any storied franchise in the history of all media. Every franchise requires the occasional "back to the basics" reboot, which re-injects passion and excitement into a franchise or series. Then the next entries begin to expand the scope of the series, and we are essentially back where we started. It's almost as if the Final Fantasy franchise is beholden to the Chinese Dynastic Cycle.

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Oh.My.God. YES! Star Ocean 3! So you have seen ground zero with your own eyes and live to tell about! If only reaction videos were a thing back then it might be the only case where I could get behind them!

For a brief moment I was actually debating if I should add it to the list of "interesting cases" and have the caveat of quit watching it after a certain point just for the lolz, but decided against it because that might be too cruel and unusual and ultimately it is just a data point of nonsensical to the extreme.

I manage to power through and finish the game. That sequence was definitely...something. Ridiculousness aside the worse (or best? I don't even know anymore) part is how anticlimactic the "scene" is with the level of build up (intentionally trolling!?) For every "what the fuck" moment I encounter in video games from that point forward it is still not quite Star Ocean 3 level for better or for worse. It also marks the beginning of my love/hate relationship with tri-Ace but for different reasons.

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@zombiepie said:

I have seen the stupidest story pivots in this franchise at the very least, right?

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I know I am WAY late (I am replaying FFIX on switch and following along with the blog), but this is got to be one of the greatest comments I have ever seen. I almost spit coffee all over my computer without even clicking the video. Poor, poor ZombiePie.

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