Fighting Final Fantasy IX Part 75-88: This Game Just Wasted Five Hours Of My Life On Faffing About!

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Part 75: We Are In Alexandria… Again... To Accomplish JACK SHIT

Righty-o then, last time we met our motley crew was meditating on some heavy shit. Kuja used a giant eyeball in the sky to ensnare Bahamut, and Queen Brahne was effectively offed in a matter of seconds. Final Fantasy IX’s story popped off in the concluding moments of disc two, and it was a marvel to watch over. Be that as it may, Final Fantasy IX has a noted tradition of failing to complement its action set pieces with appropriate supporting sequences. And guess what dear readers? THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS IN THE FIRST FOUR HOURS OF DISC THREE!

So is no one going to mention how the queen was evil for 99% of the game?
So is no one going to mention how the queen was evil for 99% of the game?

To be honest, I at least see and understand the purpose of Garnet’s coronation. Garnet is effectively torn between two worlds and is left to lament her loss of freedom and independence. As the heir to the Alexandrian throne, Garnet will be forced to assume responsibilities she previously has shirked away from. Here’s where I begin to have a problem with the game’s honest intentions. While you clearly observe the emotions Garnet is meant to telegraph to the audience, the game does a horrible job of spelling out why this is the case. Despite a few flirtations here and there, Garnet still hasn’t explicitly stated her feelings pertaining to Zidane. Nor has she indicated any affections towards the other members of the cast. So what is Garnet torn between? Does she miss her ability to vicariously move from one place to the next? Is she intimidated by her stately responsibilities? Is she embarrassed to confront her feelings regarding Zidane? Is she depressed by the death of her adopted mother? Why does she spend the first three hours of the game moping in the background?

This in and of itself is not a critical malady. As mentioned previously, the game's intent is so comically transparent to the audience, you can fill in many of these narrative gaps yourself. That aside, it feels like a missed chance to elevate Garnet as a character. Here the game practically wasted an opportunity to convey Garnet as confronting, and successfully addressing, a dilemma by herself. Doing so would have established her as the rightful heir to the throne, as well as a strong independent force for action. I mention this on account of the game laying the foundation of this being Garnet’s character arc since her introduction. Lacking this proactive character development simply highlights how inconsistent Garnet’s characterization is. She dons a fanciful dress for the sake of it, but without being afforded the opportunity to earn it. But hey, at least the visual spectacle is interesting to look at.

Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive, stayin' alive.
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive, stayin' alive.

Part 76: Then There’s The Rest Of The Cast

Let’s address my major issue with the first four to five hours of disc three. The problem I have is everything you do is utterly inconsequential to the progression of the story. Kuja essentially has the ability to level entire nations, and practically none of the story’s major players acts upon this. Instead, everyone appears gripped by the news of Garnet being crowned the Queen of Alexandria. I’m sorry, but has everyone forgotten the fact Kuja possesses Bahamut? Does anyone remember Kuja effectively destroying the entire Alexandrian navy in one fell swoop? Doesn’t anyone notice this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!

I'm just going to put this out there... I suspect Kuja may be hatching a nefarious plot on Alexandria. Just a suggestion.
I'm just going to put this out there... I suspect Kuja may be hatching a nefarious plot on Alexandria. Just a suggestion.

Rather than depicting our cast members as being spirited members in an adventure, the game instead conveys them as beholden to their base emotions. Zidane is seen wallowing away due to his carnal lust for Garnet, and Amarant is shown obsessing over his desire to “get even” with Zidane. These are just a few examples of the game entirely regressing its previous characterization of members of our party. For example, Steiner returns to his dumb-ass goofy nature after showcasing a more humanistic side prior to this. Worse yet, Vivi is back to tripping and falling on his ass:

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

I already know what these characters are capable of providing the story! Just ten minutes ago each of these trope heavy marionettes was defying and inverting my expectations. For the game to revert all this for the sake of adding levity to the story is just “small potatoes.” I also feel there are better ways to inject levity into a story without upending previous accomplishments with the game’s primary cast. All the game needed was your run-of-the-mill party or bar scene! Just have a large portion of the cast relax in one location, and DON’T drag it out for hours upon end. As I always say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, but this sure as Hell is NOT one of them.

The game eventually transitions to a brief scene between Vivi and Ruby. When I think of characters which needed a transitional scene… I think of Ruby. Can someone honestly tell me what the purpose to this was? Is this the game’s desire to put in shameless fan service? Is this yet another failed attempt at humor? Or is this the game’s honest attempt to re-frame the characters? Either way, everything we accomplish at Alexandria feels entirely pointless. Worse yet, just as I was finally beginning to warm up to the ATE system it goes back to wasting my goddamned time with pointless bullshit! Which leads us to:

Part 77: The ATEs In Alexandria Are BULLSHIT!

Let’s count this down together. While we are in Alexandria there is a sum total of SIX ATE sequences, and they are all COMPLETE WASTES OF MY TIME! The first ATE depicts Eiko entering the royal palace and comically being rejected sustenance from the palace chefs. Why is Eiko allowed to nonchalantly enter the royal palace after the queen was fucking murdered? No honestly, who the fuck is in charge of security at the royal palace of Alexandria? This is the third to fourth time we have witnessed one of our party members casually entering the palace without consequence, and it’s fucking driving me crazy! Either way, the game sets up Eiko for some bullshit love letter scene. OH WE’LL GET TO THAT SOON!

*insert audible fart sounds*
*insert audible fart sounds*

The second ATE depicts a reunion with a trio of bull/animal people. They announce surprise upon seeing each other and go their merry way. I have no idea why I should give a fuck about any of these characters, or how they are important to the story. Let’s just call this scene a failed attempt at adding sentimentality and move on. Oh, but if you thought this was a wonderful use of your goddamned time, then guess what! The next ATE involves Marcus and Blank gossiping about Zidane’s love life!

Do NONE of you realize there’s a magical space wizard who wishes to KILL ALL OF YOU?!
Do NONE of you realize there’s a magical space wizard who wishes to KILL ALL OF YOU?!

Oh boy, I sure do see the value of the game having this optional cut-scene system. Oh will you look at that, here’s an ATE with a bunch of Moogles you have never seen before, nor understand their purpose in progressing the story:

But at least this foreshadows a needlessly complicated side quest. Oh goody….
But at least this foreshadows a needlessly complicated side quest. Oh goody….

I would be willing to tolerate all this needless bullshit if it actually led to something consequential to the plot. Rather than that, we end up with a series of comical set pieces within Alexandria which do nothing to progress the story. In the end, all the ATEs come across as forced attempts to add humor and levity to the story. Certainly, I can respect the need to provide the cast with “rest time,” especially after a dire and draining moment. However, these ATEs are lacking any narrative backbone, and this results in them feeling disconnected with one another. Our return to Alexandria ends up coming across as less a place for our party to refocus themselves, and more a travelogue found on a tourist brochure. ALSO, DID I MENTION THERE’S AN EVIL SPACE WIZARD WHO WANTS TO SPREAD CHAOS ACROSS THE PLANET?!

Part 78: Saying Goodbye to Garnet, And The Atrocious Love Letter Scene

Somehow through the mist and the madness, Final Fantasy IX finally provides its audience with some narrative sustenance. When Garnet dons her royal garb she initiates her coronation. While this is happening Eiko manages to run into Dr. Tot who takes notice of her horn. We then bear witness to a flashback wherein Dr. Tot reminisces about seeing Garnet for the first time. He reveals Garnet bore a stunning resemblance to Queen Brahne’s, then recently deceased, daughter. Overcome with emotion, the queen and king ordered her horn be removed, and they raised the child as their own.

BRUTALITY!
BRUTALITY!

I personally enjoyed this revelation, but question why it is so haphazardly presented. Why does the game suggest Garnet as filling a void in the Queen’s life here, but spent much of the second disc depicting the queen as viewing Garnet as disposable? Just a handful of hours ago we watched the queen declare her intent to execute Garnet! Don’t these two disparate emotional states entirely contradict each other? As it stands I just view this revelation as the game attempting to dig itself out of a hole. It dropped a bombshell when revealing Garnet as a summoner, and this is likely the best the writers could come up with to make that revelation work. It’s certainly clunky storytelling, but you accept it on account of the game’s heart being in the right place.

I say the game’s heart is in the right place for many reasons. For one, the scene wherein Beatrix pledges allegiance to Garnet, despite knowing her true heritage, does the story wonders. Garnet has legitimately earned the trust and confidence of Beatrix over the course of the story through her actions, and the game takes the time to remind the audience of this fact in an emotionally taut scene. Similarly, Zidane struggling to find the courage to say goodbye to Garnet is a real and relatable dilemma. We have all been in Zidane’s position where we needed to say goodbye to someone who was right there in front of us. As we toiled away at what to say we either mustered the courage to do so, or shirked away from having closure. So the story framework for those two elements in Alexandria is fine, unfortunately, everything else is rotten to its core.

Eiko, why do you have to ruin everything you touch in Final Fantasy IX?
Eiko, why do you have to ruin everything you touch in Final Fantasy IX?

First, why in the world does the game spend as much time with a ham-fisted romance scene between Steiner and Beatrix, as it does with its maturation of Garnet and Zidane? We end up watching the game painfully set up this love letter scene for a whole twenty minutes. In the meantime, you know exactly where this development is headed, and at no point does the execution of the scene invert your expectations. For a game which has thoroughly defied my assumptions time and time again, it is depressing to witness this game fail to rise to the occasion here. It also does not help the belligerent sexual tension between Steiner and Beatrix is so obvious it would make Mulder and Scully blush. Then the scene ends with an “AWKWARD” walk-in thanks to Baku, and now I’m just left with my arms up in the air in disgust.

There is no God.
There is no God.

This leads me to one cynical conclusion. 80% of what we witnessed in Alexandria should have been cut from the game. Alexandria should have provided Garnet and Zidane the opportunity to shine and develop. Garnet should have faced her dilemma with grace, and Zidane should have taken the “coward’s way out” as he failed to face his. This would have provided two contrasting moments which imparted a clear message to the player. Taking the moral “high road” subjects the recipient with the least amount of heartache and emotional baggage. What we witness instead is a muddled travelogue which fails to elevate anything. Our cast wallows away on those initial base tropes I thought the story had finally decided to shirk away from. Then again, this is the only manner Final Fantasy IX knows how to depict humor or levity. This entire set piece is a train wreck you know is coming, but you still hold out hope will not happen. Then the train wreck happens and you just resign yourself to self-defeat.

NEITHER AM I!
NEITHER AM I!

Part 79: We Are In Treno Playing Cards… BECAUSE FUCK EVERYTHING!

NO SERIOUSLY, FUCK EVERYTHING!
NO SERIOUSLY, FUCK EVERYTHING!

Will someone please tell me why this is happening? I want your honest fucking opinions because why I am playing cards while a magical space wizard is in possession of a city razing dragon is beyond my comprehension. Does the game want to provide the characters with “breathing room?” Well, wasn’t that the whole point of our return to Alexandria? Didn’t we just witness the characters relaxing and recollecting themselves after the conflict at the Iifia Tree? Doesn’t this make our return to Treno, to participate in a card tournament, redundant?

Or how about the notion the game is effectively using its time to build the world in which we are vicariously waltzing through? Whelp, haven’t we already been to Treno before? What more is there to build upon Treno? We already know the city is corrupt and rife with thieves. The game has essentially accomplished all which it could with Treno... yet here we are, playing cards of all things. This sure is a fantastic way to build up Treno as a location of dire importance to the story!

I'm so excited, and I just can't hide it.
I'm so excited, and I just can't hide it.

Once again I understand the intent of the game, but yet again I feel the need to decry the presentation of its intent. I get it, Zidane is rebuking his responsibilities in an attempt to fill the emotional void he feels with something superficial. Nonetheless, having me perform a superficial task within the game so I can relate to Zidane’s current emotional state is decidedly SHITTY! There is no fun to be had playing Tetra Master. NONE WHATSOEVER! The various in-game attempts to frame Tetra Master as this fun activity all the characters pine to do, just makes Tetra Master all the more tragic. It is a shitshow from start to finish, and I will not hear any arguments to the contrary!

AND WHY IS FREYA THE ONLY WHO GIVES A SHIT ABOUT KUJA!
AND WHY IS FREYA THE ONLY WHO GIVES A SHIT ABOUT KUJA!

Part 80: Amarant Continues To Be A Waste Of A Character

Now I can hear some of you typing away a harsh rebuke in response to my prior histrionics. “But Chris, there are some interesting moments with the characters in Treno, and you learn more about Amarant’s backstory!” Huh, that’s funny because I recall Amarant’s only character moment here being hidden within an optional ATE. An optional ATE which amounts to no more than two to three minutes. Which I would respond with a good old fashioned “FUCK THAT!

What an absolute tragedy.
What an absolute tragedy.

This is just shitty on the writing. Eiko at least had an entire level dedicated to her in Madain Sari. If we are going to return to Treno for the sake of playing cards, why can’t we have more character moments with Amarant? If the game had genuinely progressed one of its characters I would have been willing to tolerate its superficial scaffold for doing so. The game had an opportunity to contextualize Amarant’s ho-hum vagabond ways under a new light, but that doesn’t happen. Instead, I’m left with my hands in the air YET AGAIN!

So what does the game actually provide for the audience regarding Amarant's character arc? After selecting the appropriate ATE, we watch Amarant detail to Freya the reasoning behind his intense rivalry with Zidane. After the game juxtaposes to a flashback, we see Amarant as a guard in Treno. Eventually, Amarant discovers Zidane in process of stealing something from the mansion he was guarding. Zidane, using his quick wits, attempts to convince the guards who were chasing after him the actual culprit is Amarant. For some reason the guards believe Zidane, and Amarant is left behind with his life in Treno in tatters. Not only does this ruin Amarant’s career, but it immediately causes him to become a wanted man in Treno.

Wait a minute, THIS IS FUCKED UP!
Wait a minute, THIS IS FUCKED UP!

The problem with this is EVERYTHING! Not only is Amarant unfazed about having his career ruined, but he appears nonplussed about Zidane in general. Amarant indicates insufficient understanding regarding Zidane rather than a clear sense of comradery or attraction. This inadvertently puts his place in the party immediately into question. On top of that, what is Amarant’s character arc? Amarant starts off as an introverted vagabond, and he continues to be an introverted vagabond for the entire story. So what was accomplished in including Amarant in the game? Didn’t Amarant join our party to learn how Zidane fights, and discover what his weaknesses are? What happened to that plot development? In the end, I don’t even think the game has an answer to all these questions. Instead, I think it included Amarant in the game as a showcase of the game’s mechanics rather than its narrative.

Also, can we discuss how Zidane essentially uses racism as a tactic to get away with theft? The only reason why the palace guards believe Zidane, rather than Amarant, is when Zidane highlights Amarant’s appearance to the guards. This is decidedly NOT COOL as it is essentially racial profiling played for comedic purposes. Plus, the palace guards were honestly chasing Zidane after physically watching him steal something from the mansion! Why on Earth do they let Zidane off the hook and immediately think Amarant is the culprit? Somehow we are expected to forget all this and continue to view Zidane as our chivalrous protagonist.

No, wait WHAT? When did you see Amarant steal the shit from the mansion?
No, wait WHAT? When did you see Amarant steal the shit from the mansion?

Park 81: OH GOD EVERYTHING IS ON FIRE!

Before we delve into the meat and potatoes of Final Fantasy IX there are a few things I wish to touch upon. At Treno Vivi decides to revisit the cave in which he was raised. There we learn more about his grandfather, as well as Vivi’s upbringing. It’s a quick little scene I enjoyed as it provides Vivi with some time to be introspective. As Vivi marvels over how far he has come since his humble beginnings, you begin to realize how far we have come in the game. It’s a small moment which allows the player to stop and think about their actions and decision making up to this point, and small touches like these go a long way.

Teach me everything you know Master Quan!
Teach me everything you know Master Quan!

All the same, there are other scenes which I feel are not fully executed upon in Treno. Eiko has another scene with Dr. Tot, and it appears as if we will learn more about the cultural history of the Summoner Tribe, but then we don’t. There’s also an out-of-place subplot where a four-armed man attempts to get one over on Amarant and Eiko but fails on both occasions. I find this “out of place,” seeing how this scene is never mentioned or reinforced throughout the course of disc three. I mention these two scenes as a brief counterpoint to my praise for Vivi’s short aside. If I am going to take the time to highlight small touches which elevate the game, then it would be beholden to me to highlight the small touches which do not.

So back to the “meat and potatoes” of Final Fantasy IX! The card tournament itself is exactly what you would anticipate. It is a series of Tetra Master matches which culminates in a match against a Tetra Master prodigy. For the convenience of the plot, this sage is revealed to be Cid. After defeating Cid we are immediately informed Alexandria is under attack by whom assume to be Kuja. It’s almost as if the threat of Kuja was always looming, and we shouldn’t have wasted our time on Tetra Master in the first place.

But no, now thousands of people are dead because Zidane wanted to play cards!
But no, now thousands of people are dead because Zidane wanted to play cards!

I have harped about the game’s set pieces working better once you “accept the spectacle” for what it is before, and this is yet another example. The only way for this exact series of events to happen is if the plot progress down a pathway of “convenience” rather than logic. There is no logical reason for our troupe of heroes to leave Alexandria to participate in a card tournament. If there was one, then the game spectacularly fails to articulate this reason. However, how can one argue against this when everything is so cinematic and visually stunning?

Save me from this Sisyphean Torment, Bahamut!
Save me from this Sisyphean Torment, Bahamut!

The scope of Kuja’s destruction is simply awe-inspiring. As Bahamut sets the entire city ablaze we immediately understand each character's roles in preventing further destruction. Steiner and Beatrix seek to rescue trapped civilians from monsters; Garnet assumes a leadership role in guiding the city's citizenry; and Zidane seeks to protect the only person he knows he can protect, Garnet. All this is telegraphed to the audience without ham-fisted expository text, or narrative shattering comical set pieces. There’s a sense of stakes to every scene we do witness, and every character takes their roles seriously.

I mentioned earlier how the game provides Garnet with the opportunity to function as a leader rather than as a naive passive observer. As Kuja’s wrath is inflicted upon Alexandria, Garnet has the ability to provide a troupe of knights with orders on how to protect the city. The mechanical execution of this scene is my only qualm with it. The proper roles for each knight are entirely guesswork, and at no point are you provided with any supporting information as to which role fits which knight. All the same, I have to praise the game for providing Garnet the opportunity to assume some royal responsibilities after spending what felt like a lifetime on her coronation.

Part 82: Wait What’s Happening?

Initially the action set pieces in Alexandria work, but then everything starts to slowly fall apart. Things start on a wonderful note with Steiner and Beatrix. The two endeavor to rescue as many citizens from the destructive monsters which Kuja somehow unleashed upon Alexandria. Following a half-dozen or so battles, the couple quickly finds themselves cornered. Just as Steiner begins to muster the courage to admit his affection towards Beatrix they are thrust into a battle to the death. I honestly think this is the best scene the game has had with Steiner yet.

Fine, I'll admit I am finally warming up to Beatrix.
Fine, I'll admit I am finally warming up to Beatrix.

Then things get weird. And not a “good weird,” but instead, a general “Final Fantasy being Final Fantasy” weird. A giant castle appears in Alexandria, and Garnet automatically assumes this castle is completely safe to climb up. Then again the castle is glowing, and we all know you can trust things which glow. Garnet eventually reaches a flat surface on the magical castle where she then exclaims her need to be a strong independent woman who don't need no man telling her what to do.

WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO? ARE YOU HAVING HALLUCINATIONS!
WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO? ARE YOU HAVING HALLUCINATIONS!

The game then transitions to our main party on Cid’s airship. There Zidane prompts Eiko of all people for answers on their current situation. YOU ARE GOING TO ASK EIKO FOR ANSWERS? SHE IS FUCKING SIX YEARS OLD! Following a line of questioning from Zidane, Eiko decides to jump from the ship to reach the magical castle. The magical castle stops Eiko from being smashed to bits and allows her to reconnect with Garnet. Once the two have a moment together we discover Garnet’s gems are causing this to happen, and Alexandria has some sort of eidolon which protects it named “Alexander.” Then they start praying to someone or something… I honestly don’t know what was happening in the story at this point.

How did you know you wouldn't shatter into a million pieces? Did you read the script?
How did you know you wouldn't shatter into a million pieces? Did you read the script?
Speaking of which, where does Alexander begin and end?
Speaking of which, where does Alexander begin and end?

Final Fantasy IX throws a myriad of terms and proper nouns at your direction without ever clearly articulating what is what. It wasn’t until after the magical castle sprouted angel wings I finally could piece together it was an eidolon. The scene is certainly visually stunning, but it is far from being narratively cohesive. The game basically tosses a bunch of bullshit at the scene and hopes it makes some semblance of sense to the audience. Then to make things worse, a random grandpa on a spaceship pops out of nowhere and does something to stop Kuja’s airship, The Invincible, from functioning properly.

What is even happening anymore?
What is even happening anymore?

The game crams what feels like a dozen plot points into one scene. Consequently, no one plot point can shine during this otherwise spectacular moment. This seriously weighs down the visual gravitas of what we witness in Alexandria. So all the while Eiko and Garnet are praying to an unnamed and unknown god; there’s a holy castle shooting laser beams at a dragon; Steiner and Beatrix formalize their relationship; a robot grandpa has some sort of control over Kuja; finally Kuja is powerless to a robot grandpa. What am I to make of all this? Once again I don’t think there’s an answer to this question, and that’s what prevents me from being especially excited at what I witnessed here. All the same, at least everything was pleasant to look at.

Part 83: When In Doubt Just Throw More Explosion On The Screen

Oh and at some point, I fought a textbook. Eventually I beat it.
Oh and at some point, I fought a textbook. Eventually I beat it.

Eventually, our party reaches the base of Alexander. There Zidane offers to locate Garnet and Eiko by himself. Justifying his actions by correctly postulating the dangers of summiting Alexander, as well as his personal need to locate Garnet, our motley crew consents. Once Zidane relocates Garnet and Eiko bright beams of lightning start to destroy Alexander. All I can say is your guess is as good as mine. Are the bolts of lightning coming from the robot grandpa? Is Alexander dying? What’s even happening anymore?

Ultimately, the characters evacuate from the area surrounding Alexander. They accomplish this just before a massive burst of energy from the eidolon effectively levels Alexandria. Or at least this is what I assume to be the case because after the explosion the game smash cuts to robot grandpa, or I should say, Garland. Any of you still wish to argue against my notion of the destruction of Alexandria being a befuddled mess?

Great to know the “protector” of Alexandria can burst into pure energy and destroy the city it's supposed to protect.
Great to know the “protector” of Alexandria can burst into pure energy and destroy the city it's supposed to protect.

The game then provides Garland with another opportunity to extol his “master plan.” The tragic flaw here is the game has done so little to front load or foreshadow Garland’s existence that his words ultimately fall on deaf ears. It wasn’t until I reviewed his dialogue for the purposes of this blog I fully understood the meaning behind Garland’s words or intent. The game throwing in yet another sudden plot development, in a scene already filled to the brim with them, causes Garland’s scene to become immediately forgotten. This is a shame considering how critical Garland will be to some of Final Fantasy IX’s better moments later.

I would also like to point out how I think Garland acts as a distraction to our current cast of characters, especially Kuja. Just as Kuja was starting to develop nicely as a villain the story decides to needlessly complicate things with another villain whose motivations are unclear to the audience. While many of you who have already played Final Fantasy IX could certainly argue Garland plays a critical role in the game’s ultimate story, this is beside the point. Did the story need Garland, or what he fundamentally adds to the plot? I won't entirely answer this now, but I just want all of you to think about this question for a bit.

Part 84: Garnet Gets Hit By The “Anna Karenina Disease”

Somehow Cid is capable of transporting everyone to Lindblum where they can rest and recuperate after the cataclysmic events in Alexandria. After awaking from his slumber Zidane immediately attempts to strike a conversation with Garnet. Despite his best efforts, Zidane notices Garnet is not responding to his normal flirtations. Zidane beats a hasty retreat as he makes his way to Cid’s chambers where a meeting is called between our able-bodied cast members. Here our crew fruitlessly attempts to develop a plan on how to deal with Kuja. While Amarant lectures on how Kuja is above their skill level there’s a fun scene where Kuja is seen fuming over his self-perceived failures at Alexandria. I loved this scene and how it re-framed Kuja as being more vulnerable than as he has previously been depicted as:

Hindsight sure is 20/20!
Hindsight sure is 20/20!

Kuja has already received twice as much characterization as the queen did, and this is a welcomed change of pace. As our cast wallows at their inability to locate Kuja, Eiko brings them the dire news we already were able to piece together ten minutes ago. It appears Garnet has lost her voice and is essentially afflicted with some sort of psychosis. Dr. Tot even “scientifically” postulates Garnet’s condition is a result of her witnessing the devastation of her homeland.

Well I guess Tolstoy wrote this story.
Well I guess Tolstoy wrote this story.

I am between two worlds on this matter. On one hand, I appreciate how the game uses its in-game mechanics to depict a character in turmoil or undergoing a psychosis. The game even takes the time to provide Garnet with silent soliloquies wherein she blames herself for the destruction wrought upon Alexandria. Having only briefly assumed the responsibilities of being Alexandria’s queen, Garnet already views herself as a failure. The failure Garnet feels is a real and raw emotion I think everyone can empathize with. On that note, it is worth mentioning how respectful the rest of the cast is to Garnet whilst in her present condition. Everyone immediately can recognize why Garnet is feeling this turmoil and tries to help her in their own way.

Oh quit your whining Steiner!
Oh quit your whining Steiner!

Conversely, I find the crippling of the game’s best healer to be annoying, as well as the game’s depiction of Garnet’s psychosis wanting. While the practical removal of Garnet as an effective party member is a nuisance, it’s the second point I found the most bothersome. For all intents and purposes, Garnet is afflicted with what I like to call the “Anna Karenina Disease.” Here a female character succumbs to a wasting illness, or an undiagnosable "female malady," usually tied to their emotional state. While Final Fantasy IX tries its darnedest to justify Garnet’s present condition, the game still falls prey to one of the oldest tricks in the book. When in doubt, smack your female lead with a wasting disease to establish how evil your villain is. It’s a cheap trick, to say the least, and one I would have hoped Final Fantasy IX would have avoided at all costs, but it is one which proves effective in execution. Conversely, I hate how pedantic this trope is. Oh boy let me guess, Garnet will regain her ability to talk during a moment of self-empowerment and independence. Herein lies my ultimate problem with the “Anna Karenina Disease,” you know EXACTLY where the story is going with the female protagonist afflicted by it. There are ultimately no surprises to be had here. You simply need to sit back and hope the character moments it subjects you to are well done. This necessitates a level a trust with the Final Fantasy franchise I am not comfortable affording it.

Part 85: Oh And The Game Wastes My Time On More Pointless Bullshit!

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Man, this game can go fuck itself sometimes! A major issue I have with Final Fantasy IX has been the game's consistent inability to bridge the gap between its poignant story moments. Here the immediate complement to witnessing the razing of Alexandria is collecting potions to cure Cid of being a bug. Fuck that! Fuck this game! Fuck everyone who thought this was a good use of my time! We just learned Garnet is in turmoil, and this is honestly the best the writers could come up with to complement that? FUCK ME! FUCK CID, AND FUCK HIM FOR ROPING ME INTO HIS BULLSHIT!

Collecting the potions for Cid is contrite and contrived at best, and narratively harmful at its worse. This is no better than any of the terrible mini-games in Final Fantasy VII. These aren’t blessings in disguise! They are fucking blights on an otherwise fantastic game! Collecting the potions is exactly what it says on the tin. You have to aimlessly wander the streets of Lindblum hoping to interact with anyone who may be in possession of one of the three potions Cid believes will cure him of his bug form.

Then, of course, the potions fail BECAUSE VIDEO GAMES!
Then, of course, the potions fail BECAUSE VIDEO GAMES!

Now there’s one scene during our return to Lindblum, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I wish to praise. Here Zidane is attempting to retrieve the potions when we encounter the couple we rescued in Burmecia. Zidane interacts with the couple and they quickly welcome their army of children to him. The couple even introduces Zidane as “father’s savior,” to his drove of offspring.

That's a lot of kids. Well they are rats.
That's a lot of kids. Well they are rats.

Taking the time to provide a visual reward for your actions from a previous scene is certainly a treat. I know I keep saying there’s an attention to detail in Final Fantasy IX I find respectable, but it bears repeating. On top of this scene, as you walk throughout the streets of Lindblum you begin to notice the city is recovering from the devastation wrought upon it by Queen Brahne’s army from earlier. It is not an entire rebirth, but it is a recovery built upon the hard work of every NPC in Lindblum. Time and time again we have witnessed the citizenry work on rebuilding their homes and businesses and the fact we can see progress on this rebuilding took me by surprise. In any case, after Cid has been transformed into a frog our party decides to head on over to the Black Mage Village to collect clues on Kuja’s current whereabouts.

Part 86: Hooray! The Story Goes Back To Being Interesting!

Oh Black Mage Village, please save this story from further tedium!
Oh Black Mage Village, please save this story from further tedium!

I guess I can count my blessings because the brief transitional scene we have in the Black Mage Village assuages many of my aforementioned qualms. Back is the emotional grit and brevity I have previously championed. Gone are the forced moments of comedy which shirk the game of its humanity. We enter the Black Mage Village and discover it to be abandoned of its normal villagers. All who remain are the leader, as well as the black mages who have been nurturing a Chocobo egg since our first incursion into the township.

Why is this Chocobo called Bobby Corwin? Is this a reference I missed?
Why is this Chocobo called Bobby Corwin? Is this a reference I missed?

The leader has a frank and honest conversation with Vivi and Zidane. Kuja arrived at the village and revealed the mortality of the black mages to all its citizens. Per contra, Kuja promised the black mages with a cure to their mortality. Much like the victims of a cult, the villagers flocked to Kuja in droves not realizing they were being hoodwinked. As the village leader explains this you begin to place yourself into the moccasins of the villagers. You understand the reasons behind their decision making, and while you may not agree with it, you empathize with their circumstances. We have all pined for an easy fix to a complicated matter which has none, and this is exactly what the black mages are guilty of. It is worth noting the game is clear there is not a “right or wrong” answer regarding this matter. Vivi professes to being able to place himself in the shoes of his compatriots, while also wishing to stop Kuja’s nefarious plot. Final Fantasy IX avoids boiling down complicated issues into a two-sided spectrum which would otherwise belittle the scope of the morality of the issue in the first place. While most games today still fall prey of color coding, or visually indicating the good or bad of any issue, Final Fantasy IX embraces the entire spectrum and asks you to reach your own conclusions.

Lo and behold , it's Vivi to the rescue!
Lo and behold , it's Vivi to the rescue!

I would also like to mention how vicious the foreshadowing is regarding Kuja’s promises to the black mages. Later moments in the story will essentially hoist Kuja on his own petard, and he will be left wishing he truly did have the ability to extend one’s life. What could have simply been a scene where we learn where to find the villain, also provides a deeper purpose and this further highlights how masterful the writing can be. The developers are not just getting the most bang for their buck, but they are simultaneously weaving in multiple dimensions to their storytelling. This causes the audience to stop and think about previous moments in the game, and ask themselves if their original interpretation of its purpose was correct. Any time a game prompts me to look back, initiate my metacognition, and reflect upon my thinking is a game worthy of unequivocal praise.

Eventually, we make our way to the Chocobo stable to find the other two black mages who elected to stay behind. The baby Chocobo provides the game of its most nakedly transparent metaphor yet, but one I at least respect. From the despair which has otherwise gripped the Black Mage Village has come life, and while all which surrounds the village may be death, there still remains the potential for new life. This, in turn, serves as a fantastic foreshadowing of future developments in the Black Mage Village, as well as Vivi. Despite the trials and tribulations which beset the village there is still hope for the village and its citizens to grow and expand their culture and learning.

This metaphor provides the game with its final segue to Vivi interacting with the village leader. After struggling to answer why he stayed behind, the village leader continues to be relentless in refusing to reveal where Kuja can be found. The leader has the real fear we may inflict more harm to his fellow citizens than Kuja. As was the case prior, while we are not expected to agree with the leader we can at the least empathize with him. Vivi, who steadfastly avoids talking down to or belittling the leader, proceeds to share his life story with him. He professes he is aware his time is limited, but remains to committed to crafting the greatest amount of good out of his finite time. He remains devoted to stopping Kuja as Vivi now understands the meaning to the feelings of pain and loss. Vivi also knows Kuja wishes to inflict these harmful feelings across all the continents.

Hate leads to suffering....
Hate leads to suffering....

Through his journey with his friends, Vivi has learned to understand and appreciate life, while also discerning the importance of avoiding pain and death. Those who would abuse life, or even end it wantonly like Kuja, are not figures to be embraced openly. Vivi has evolved spectacularly from the naive and impressionable youth we first encountered, and he shares this with the village leader. It is this emotional plea, and not an act of violence or force, which convinces the leader to finally relent and tell us where to find Kuja. To me, this is one of the most powerful lessons which Final Fantasy IX has imparted on its audience. While appealing to people’s emotions and humanity may not be the easiest way to accomplish your task, it is the most moral and rewarding path one can take.

Part 87: I Think Someone At Square Watch David Lynch’s Dune One Too Many Times

With everyone thoroughly impressed by Vivi’s plea, we witness Garnet silently meditating over what she has just seen. She is still incapable of speaking but is not prevented from having internal monologues. During one such monologue, she indicates a greater need on her part to be stronger and more independent like Vivi. Noticing Garnet in distress, Eiko approaches her and can automatically deduce what is troubling her. While I could decry this as being oddly “convenient,” the game’s execution completely redeems it of this moniker:

What happened to your independent streak?
What happened to your independent streak?

These are the “real” moments which should populate Final Fantasy IX, and not the pointless faffing about. The characters are beyond relaxing and playing around, as they did so for much of disc one and two. Now is the time for each of them to play an active role in addressing the problems and maladies which face their world as well as themselves. Not only that but the members of our party know how important each of them is in accomplishing our goal of stopping Kuja. On top of this, everyone is gaining something tangible from being on this adventure. Garnet is learning how to be a just leader; Vivi is learning the importance of cherishing every moment he has; finally, Zidane is learning he cannot handle every problem he faces alone. Each of our party members has a legitimate reason for being on this adventure beyond a general desire to stop the villain. Not only that, but the game fully executes on each of these points within its narrative, and does so in some of the most fantastic and emotionally taut scenes I have witnessed in a video game. So where do we go from here?

Well, then we fought a giant sand worm.
Well, then we fought a giant sand worm.

Well… at least we aren't playing Tetra Master. After following up on the hint Kuja is located in an underground palace beneath a sand pit, we immediately find our entire party ensnared in a trap set by Kuja. Maybe next time when we see a sandpit we ALL shouldn’t jump into it. I’m just going to propose this as an idea and move on. Having imprisoned our entire party, Kuja forces Zidane to hear out a proposal he wishes to share with him.

And to further highlight how evil Kuja is to the audience, his evil lair is above a lava pit.
And to further highlight how evil Kuja is to the audience, his evil lair is above a lava pit.

When Zidane enters Kuja’s private quarters, Kuja confides his “master plan” with him. Kuja wishes for Zidane to assemble a party to infiltrate a dungeon in the ancient city of Oeilvert. The reason Kuja has not already accomplished this is the ancient city has a special barrier which inhibits all forms of magic within it. This tenuous alliance is just that, and it is clear Kuja wishes to use the resources from within this ancient city to further his own goal of purposefully spreading more chaos across the continent. However, with our party dangling over pits of lava, we are forced to accept Kuja’s temporary truce.

Part 88: I Regret My Life Choices

Do you want to know who sped through Kuja’s explanation on the magical barrier in Oeilvert?

I did….
I did….

You know, the special barrier which renders all the magic based members of your party inert?

Whelp….
Whelp….

Do you want to guess what my party composition was for the dungeon in Oeilvert? Just guess…. If you need a hint think of the worst possible party to bring to Oeilvert.

Because this is what I ended up bringing. See you all next time as I loudly bemoan my life choices.
Because this is what I ended up bringing. See you all next time as I loudly bemoan my life choices.

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Your Blogs have the best titles!

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#2 ZombiePie  Staff

@dixavd said:

Your Blogs have the best titles!

Well... I am glad SOMEONE finally appreciates them.

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I'll defend the start of Disc 3. The characters had just gone on an adventure unlike any that anyone they ever knew had done; leaving the Mist Continent and seeing the wider world. They're finally back home, and they don't have any real ability to act against Kuja (they don't know where he is or how to reach him). It makes sense that they would take some time to do some mundane stuff against. And in terms of pacing, I think having a breather episode makes sense as well after the climax at the Iifa Tree. I agree that Treno wasn't necessary, and it would've made sense for the party to stay in Alexandria in case Kuja attacked, but I thought the Alexandria stuff was fine. And also, this is the first time in around 7 or 8 hours that there are friendly characters around who aren't black mages, dwarves, or moogles; so the game giving space to those characters is a way of keeping the world seem alive and active.

Regarding the Knights of Pluto, Garnet's orders don't actually have to be guesswork; assuming you spoke to all of them when you were controlling Steiner at the beginning of the game and you remember what they said.

I also thought Alexander was visually confusing, but I wasn't confused by what happened in the scene. Kuja attacked Alexandria using the Invincible to control Bahamut; Alexander, as an eidolon that's also sort of guardian spirit of the city (this is the one confusing bit) prepares to defend Alexandria; Garnet summons Alexander in its full strength with the help of Eiko (its a very strong eidolon); Alexander blocks Bahamut; Garland shows up on the Invincible and takes control of the ship; he uses its power (power that it seems Kuja is either not aware of or not able to use) to destroy Alexander; Alexander's destruction unleashes enough energy to level most of the city (like a nuclear reactor going critical).

And as for Garland, I think he is important to the story because of the impact he has on Kuja. I think he should've been introduced earlier though, that Kuja had more screen time prior to his arrival, and that the Queen's role was diminished and/or that she was killed off earlier so that there'd be more space for Kuja and Garland.

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I love to faff.

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This was an especially good edition Zombie! And Merry Xmas, ps, if that's your thing. Thanks for suffering to give us the gift of these blogs. Much appreciated :D

Really bust a gut on your dead team vs the text book. Best non sequitur image in the series so far!

Once again, Black Mage Village hitting with those narrative haymakers. That location is responsible for so much of what I remember fondly of FFIX.

There's a part coming up (pretty sure very soon) I feel someone needs to say something to you about, but, it would be spoiling it. Dunno if your sherpa gave you any hints or what already, but good luck.

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You're going to love the end of this game so much.

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audioBusting

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Hey ZP, just want to let you know that I'm buying the game off the Steam Winter Sale because of your blog. You make it sound so interesting!

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#9 ZombiePie  Staff

@fezrock said:

I'll defend the start of Disc 3. The characters had just gone on an adventure unlike any that anyone they ever knew had done; leaving the Mist Continent and seeing the wider world. They're finally back home, and they don't have any real ability to act against Kuja (they don't know where he is or how to reach him). It makes sense that they would take some time to do some mundane stuff against. And in terms of pacing, I think having a breather episode makes sense as well after the climax at the Iifa Tree. I agree that Treno wasn't necessary, and it would've made sense for the party to stay in Alexandria in case Kuja attacked, but I thought the Alexandria stuff was fine. And also, this is the first time in around 7 or 8 hours that there are friendly characters around who aren't black mages, dwarves, or moogles; so the game giving space to those characters is a way of keeping the world seem alive and active.

Regarding the Knights of Pluto, Garnet's orders don't actually have to be guesswork; assuming you spoke to all of them when you were controlling Steiner at the beginning of the game and you remember what they said.

I also thought Alexander was visually confusing, but I wasn't confused by what happened in the scene. Kuja attacked Alexandria using the Invincible to control Bahamut; Alexander, as an eidolon that's also sort of guardian spirit of the city (this is the one confusing bit) prepares to defend Alexandria; Garnet summons Alexander in its full strength with the help of Eiko (its a very strong eidolon); Alexander blocks Bahamut; Garland shows up on the Invincible and takes control of the ship; he uses its power (power that it seems Kuja is either not aware of or not able to use) to destroy Alexander; Alexander's destruction unleashes enough energy to level most of the city (like a nuclear reactor going critical).

And as for Garland, I think he is important to the story because of the impact he has on Kuja. I think he should've been introduced earlier though, that Kuja had more screen time prior to his arrival, and that the Queen's role was diminished and/or that she was killed off earlier so that there'd be more space for Kuja and Garland.

But in the end what did this "breathing room" cost the story? No new parts of the world were depicted, none of the characters progressed forward, and worse of all many of the characters regressed. The game presents all of the characters living on by isolated and secluded from one another. As a result, the characters do not exactly feel like a team. Well there are times when they feel like a team, but that is when the game wants them to. That's why I cited BioWare or The Witcher 3 as an example of this done correctly. If you are going to have a "breather episode," then at the very least have most of the cast together forming some sense of comradery.

I barely am able to remember what I ate for lunch, or what color my undergarments are. Expecting me to remember information two discs ago is what I would call an "undue burden" on the part of the game. If you listen to episode three of the Final Fantasy IX podcast I recorded with @thatpinguino, I am not alone in feeling like the action set piece in Alexandria was a befuddled mess. Another co-host admitted to struggling to understand what was happening. He, like me, also was playing Final Fantasy IX for the first time by the way. Maybe the scene works better with 20/20 hindsight, but going in blind, the scene simply does not work as intended.

I think all of the bullshit related to how Garland modifies Kuja as a character in the story is terrible. That was some dumb, dumb stuff.

@hassun said:

I love to faff.

My use of British lingo had to be approved by @mento. I originally thought "faffing" meant the same as "fuck."

@mattyftm will be glad to know a few users have thought I am British. There's a long story as to why I use British slang so much.

This was an especially good edition Zombie! And Merry Xmas, ps, if that's your thing. Thanks for suffering to give us the gift of these blogs. Much appreciated :D

Really bust a gut on your dead team vs the text book. Best non sequitur image in the series so far!

Once again, Black Mage Village hitting with those narrative haymakers. That location is responsible for so much of what I remember fondly of FFIX.

There's a part coming up (pretty sure very soon) I feel someone needs to say something to you about, but, it would be spoiling it. Dunno if your sherpa gave you any hints or what already, but good luck.

THAT MOTHERFUCKING TEXTBOOK! OH MY GOD THAT BOSS IS SUCH AN ASSHOLE! I actually "cut" the rant for the Tantarian Boss fight on account of the proper blog already exceeding the thirteen page mark. So now that I have you, here we go:

Let's talk about the boss battle with Tantarian for a moment. First off, actually FINDING this dipshit is beyond FUCKED. The game spends all of this time framing the need to make haste and find Garnet, and who would have thought there was some devil possessed textbook in the royal library? Once you manage to initiate the fight itself, get ready to pray to the random die-roll goddess! The player has to use their physical attacks to flip the pages of the textbook to the proper number, which in this case is around page 150-200. Once you knock this asshole out of his shell you need to switch to magic attacks as physical attacks will cause him to go back to his original state. Oh wait, you have a physical attack queued up before Tantarian popped out of his location? WELL FUCK YOU! Worse yet, because the men and women who crafted this fucker wanted you to hate yourself, Tantarian has a devastating attack called "THANK YOU, FUCK YOU, BYE!" SO THIS BATTLE IS COMPLETE BOLLOCKS!

GOD WHY HAVE YOU GIVEN ME ALL OF THESE CHARACTERS WITH THE BODIES OF A TODDLERS! WHY CAN I NEVER VICARIOUS LIVE THROUGH A GAME USING RYAN REYNOLDS? I WANT THAT BOD!

I'm starting to think I shouldn't have cut this section.

Hey ZP, just want to let you know that I'm buying the game off the Steam Winter Sale because of your blog. You make it sound so interesting!

I have failed you. I simply have failed you most of all.

I mean it is not like there is a glut of quality games which are being released in the present. Many of which have perfected what Final Fantasy IX's "rougher parts."

@hassun said:

You're going to love the end of this game so much.

Here's a spoiler if you feel daring: IT IS A BUNCH OF BOLLOCKS!

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#10 Mento  Moderator

Best thing I did this week was successfully convince ZP that "faffing" was innocuous and not a deeply disturbing sex thing. I'm glad he asked me first before going to UrbanDictionary.

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More like Final Faffasy amirite?

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@zombiepie: What newer JRPG that has improved on those rougher parts would you recommend over it? Final Fantasy XV...?

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If that's the party you picked to being to Oilvert I wonder how much attention you're paying.

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#15  Edited By soimadeanaccount

Alexander is a recurring summon in the series, and it is usually in the form/shape of a castle. Alexandria, castle, and summoner, is actually quite a dead giveaway for some. Also I think there were promotional artwork that features the standoff between Bahamut and Alexander. It is one of those "you know it is there, but don't know when the game will give it to you" bit.

Garnet losing her voice is interesting in a sense that it is another rise and fall for her character progression. I agree that this leaves them only one path to go down, the eventual return of her voice, but still a somewhat reasonable outcome of her taking the throne and the destruction of Alexandria that follows.

Garland...well fuck man, when he showed up I was honestly kind of excited, portraying him as yet another power above Kuja was honestly not what I was expecting, and there are many directions they could have gone with a 3 way tussle between Zidane's crew, Kuja, and Garland. Sadly it leads to what I find to be the worst scene of the game.

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#16 ZombiePie  Staff

@mento said:

Best thing I did this week was successfully convince ZP that "faffing" was innocuous and not a deeply disturbing sex thing. I'm glad he asked me first before going to UrbanDictionary.

@hassun said:

@zombiepie: @mento: is "poppycock" next?

Fun Fact: My Japanese grandmother has always argued British accent are easier to understand than most American accents. As a result, I watched A TON of BBC America. Basically Faulty Towers, Doctor Who, EastEnders, and Blackadder taught her how to speak better English.

The consequence was that when she attempts to swear, she would use British swear words I had no idea what their meanings were. Luckily she also managed to marry a military truck driver from South Carolina to assist in that regard.

@zombiepie: What newer JRPG that has improved on those rougher parts would you recommend over it? Final Fantasy XV...?

Fuck if I know! I'm a Western CRPG fan through and through. Speaking of which, I just had an RPG "cultural exchange" with @thatpinguino about the Western CRPG schools of thought regarding tutorializing and side quests. He's going crazy over the idea of side-quests filling in critically important gameplay parts of the game. I guess that is not a thing in JRPGs.

Side quests teaching you how to play the game better is okay in my books as that's basically every game from Bethesda Softworks' wheelhouse. In games like Morrowind if you weren't doing side quests in those games, you were fucked in the main quest. Thus you did the side quests because they were entertaining ways to gain experience. They concealed the fact that you were essentially grinding.

If that's the party you picked to being to Oilvert I wonder how much attention you're paying.

CLEARLY NOT ENOUGH! I briefly Skyped with Gino while playing the third and fourth discs, and he was able to quickly identify at least a dozen mistakes I was making. At one point during a mission briefing I was speeding through the dialogue while loudly shouting "BLAH BLAH BLAH STORY BLAH BLAH STORY STORY BLAH!"

Gino nearly killed me afterward.

I did not know how to cast all magic until the third disc. This is not a joke. I was also cast Cure instead of Curaga because I thought Curaga was a spell that cured status ailment, instead of being a stronger version of Cure. We really do need to discuss who I am TERRIBLE at playing Final Fantasy IX, and those problems are a beast of my own creation.

Alexander is a recurring summon in the series, and it is usually in the form/shape of a castle. Alexandria, castle, and summoner, is actually quite a dead giveaway for some. Also I think there were promotional artwork that features the standoff between Bahamut and Alexander. It is one of those "you know it is there, but don't know when the game will give it to you" bit.

Garnet losing her voice is interesting in a sense that it is another rise and fall for her character progression. I agree that this leaves them only one path to go down, the eventual return of her voice, but still a somewhat reasonable outcome of her taking the throne and the destruction of Alexandria that follows.

Garland...well fuck man, when he showed up I was honestly kind of excited, portraying him as yet another power above Kuja was honestly not what I was expecting, and there are many directions they could have gone with a 3 way tussle between Zidane's crew, Kuja, and Garland. Sadly it leads to what I find to be the worst scene of the game.

  • References are fine also long as they neither impact the main story, nor get so out of hand they become annoying. While Alexander's inclusion here commits neither sin, I cannot help but feel the scene lacks proper context. Many certainly would know what Alexander looks like, but what connection does Alexander have to Kuja or Bahamut? Why did Alexander explode? What really caused the events at Alexandria to happen?
  • CAN WE PLEASE RETIRE THE "WOMAN CUTTING HER HAIR TO SIGNIFY INDEPENDENCE AND MATURITY?" HOLY SHIT IS THAT SCENE DUMB!
  • OH MY GOD WE AGREE ON SOMETHING! I CANNOT WAIT UNTIL WE GET TO THAT!
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  • CAN WE PLEASE RETIRE THE "WOMAN CUTTING HER HAIR TO SIGNIFY INDEPENDENCE AND MATURITY?" HOLY SHIT IS THAT SCENE DUMB!

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#18 MattyFTM  Moderator

@mento said:

Best thing I did this week was successfully convince ZP that "faffing" was innocuous and not a deeply disturbing sex thing. I'm glad he asked me first before going to UrbanDictionary.

That's probably the best thing you've done all year. Maybe ever.

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#19  Edited By audioBusting

@zombiepie:I got into Western CRPG's a bit late and it is a pretty weird contrast how it emphasises a more open structure and a sense of "realism", for the lack of a better word. I find it a bit bizarre how the sidequests are generally way more interesting than the main storyline.

Anyway, I've just played a couple hours of FFIX and oh boy, it is rough like you wrote (especially Zidane's lines). I found the fast forward button though, which makes the battles and backtracking way more tolerable.

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@zombiepie:

I don't think every moment of a story needs to advance that story or its themes to be worthwhile. I found those scenes at the start of Disc 3 to be enjoyable to watch (and a well-deserved breather to the player as well as the characters) and that gives them merit to me, regardless of how they fit into the broader picture.

As for the Knights of Pluto, I'm not defending that design decision. I just found it interesting that it is in fact not random. And also that its worth looking up the answers online because if you get all the orders right you get an Angel Earrings accessory, which are fairly rare and extremely useful (they give auto-regen, among other abilities).

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#21 gamer_152  Moderator

When the criticisms of games like these are often so surface level or games like these are even accepted as narratively great without any real scrutiny, it's great to see you going through them with a fine-toothed comb. As for the Tetra Master section, I suspect the devs though it was much better than it was and wanted to add some variety to the game.

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@gamer_152 said:

As for the Tetra Master section, I suspect the devs though it was much better than it was and wanted to add some variety to the game.

It is quite bewildering how much they seem to like it. They've even remade Tetra Master for the PlayOnline service (with a $1 monthly subscription fee) and kept it up for 7 years.

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#23  Edited By ZombiePie  Staff

It's that time of the year again! It's time for me to allow the community to pick what's going to kill me slowly next! It's time for me to take a deep breath and sound off on the "Conch Shell of Schadenfreude!" Well... I made that last part up. There's no magical conch shell... there's no magic about this at all. I'm really just the worst kind of charlatan. Anyways, it's time for our weekly all-call to the members of this community who are not total morons about JRPGs like I am!

@audiobusting@fezrock@hassun@soimadeanaccount@teddie@mento@geraltitude@wchigo@dudeglove@mechamarshmallow@beforet@encephalon@kmfrob@danielkempster@mikelemmer@lawgamer@mandude@arbitrarywater@mento@thatpinguino

My Problem: I have $40 worth of Steam Credit and I want to spend all of it on JRPG nonsense. Here's my spending triage as it stands, and you have the ability to share what goes up or down the triage:

Locked (this is going to get bought)

Tier 2 (Will be given priority based on order if budget allows)

  • Final Fantasy Type-0 - ($14.99) - It's a big chunk of my budget, but I have it on good authority that this game has basically the same plot as Final Fantasy VIII, AND I HAVE TO KNOW IF THIS IS TRUE!
  • Tales of Zestiria - ($12.49) - Maybe I need to branch out? I don't know... I leave my fate in your hands yet again.
  • Grandia II - ($9.99) - A questionable PC port of a beloved JRPG from the past? When have I ever let that stop me?
  • Final Fantasy IV: The After Years - ($7.99) - Everyone who has played this has described it to be a "depression factory," so of course, I included it!

Tier 3 (Placed on a wishlist for next time)

Tier 4 (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPE)

  • The Last Remnant - ($4.99) - FUN FACT! Two users have attempted to complete this game for blog purposes on this fine website, and BOTH HAVE FAILED! Isn't that right @dochaus?
  • Ys: The Ark of Napishtim - ($4.99) - I hope you all understand how PSYCHED I at the prospect of playing a game which will honestly take months to complete... real excited.

Wondering why I don't have Tales of Symphonia on my list? THAT'S A GREAT QUESTION WITH A HORRIBLE ANSWER!

 Ho ho... oh no.
Ho ho... oh no.

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sparky_buzzsaw

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Everybody should play one Disgaea game. Just one. That's it. If they don't infect hook you by that point, you're free. Free!

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ArbitraryWater

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@zombiepie: Hey now, you forgot the nice little palette cleanser I sent you.

No Caption Provided

And, for the record, you should definitely get Final Fantasy Type-0 because I read Mento's summary of how it ends and it sounds redonkulous. Or you can get Grandia II and we'll do a dueling blog series because I've actually heard it's good.

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@zombiepie: I'm guessing games like FFXIII are not on the list because you already own them?

I've heard the motion blur is pretty crazy in Type-0, leading to some people getting motion sick while playing the game, so why not go for that so you can hurt yourself physically as much as you hurt your soul. Type-0 and X/X-2 comes to around $33 so you only have $7 left at that point... not a whole lot left you can spend so I'll go with Last Remnant to complete the terrible trifecta.

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audioBusting

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#27  Edited By audioBusting

I have a pretty good feeling you will absolutely hate Hyperdimension Neptunia, even more than I did. I'm not sure if that means it goes up or down the list.

Edit: By the way, how about Final Fantasy XIV for $9.99???

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@zombiepie:I'd suggest:

  • Hyperdimension down the list; from what I've heard, I suspect you'll hate it so much you won't finish it.
  • Disgaea will (probably) involve 100+ hours of grinding to finish. Put up/down based on your preference.
  • Ys: I & II down. You fight in them by running into enemies at the correct angle.
  • Ys: Ark of Napishtim up. It's an action-RPG, so I expect it would only take you a few weeks.
  • Grandia 2 up. The port is actually pretty good; I enjoyed my time with it.
  • FF4: The After Years down. It depends so much on the original FF4 you would have to play that first to understand how depressing of a factory it is.

Finally, I am disappointed Infinite Undiscovery is not on Steam; it's an utterly boring RPG with an incomprehensible name my mind still has trouble wrapping itself around.

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#29  Edited By kmfrob

@zombiepie: Well out of the options you put forward, it has to be FFX for me. It's not that I like the game (I, in fact, think it's close to awful), but I'm not overly familiar with other JRPGs that fall outside of the Squaresoft banner!

I would say you would be far better served playing FFVI or XII as they are both (but in particular VI) genuinely good games!

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hassun

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Tales of Symphonia would probably actually be a pretty good choice. Other than that I am wondering if a very mechanics/gamplay JRPG would really fit your personal brand of masochism.

  • I would disqualify Disgaea immediately. Massive grindfest.
  • Ys is very much an action RPG so I'm not sure how easy it'll be the write about.
  • Neptunia is anime moe and titties combined with video game references. Might be better to go with Megadimension Neptunia VII ( http://store.steampowered.com/app/460120/ )
  • Trials in the sky might be a good choice as well actually.
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dudeglove

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Play Vagrant Story instead

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Fezrock

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I've actually played very few JRPGs since the '90s, so I can't comment on most of your list. What I can say though is: ALL NEPTUNIA GAMES ARE TERRIBLE TRASH TO ANYONE WHO DOESN'T ADORE EVERYTHING ABOUT JRPGS! (I tried one out when there was a crazy steam sale, 90% off or something like that; got my refund after 90 minutes) I don't think it would even be fun to hate-playthrough, it would just be bad.

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#33  Edited By LawGamer

From your list, personally I would pick FFXII over X/X-2, but I don't think it's available for PC. Don't know if the upcoming remaster will change that. If you play X, I think you need a rule that if you play X, you must then play X-2.

I'd drop Zestiria from your list. It's bad. It isn't even "Good-Bad." It's just Bad-Bad.

As a branching out thing, I would recommend the original Valkyria Chronicles. It's still sort of an RPG, but it's mostly a strategy game. Think anime XCOM. Plus, Japanese-WWII-fantasy-Europe is the best Europe.

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#34  Edited By DocHaus

@zombiepie: Thanks for reminding me of my everlasting shame and bad attempts to ape The Dark Id's earlier work when I should've just used my own editorial voice, you asshole.

Just for that, I will vote for moving up the list:

  • FFX/X-2: Because you're going to go all the way with FF eventually.
  • Tales of Zestiria: Have fun playing with dumb AI teammates, bad story twists that hit your party, and a crafting system that actively hates you!
  • The Last Remnant: Sarcastic griping aside, you might have fun with this one, if the increased difficulty doesn't wear down your patience!
  • Trails In the Sky: Because you could use a palette cleanser for your RPG fix and small, new-ish localization team worked their asses off to make this a great game for western audiences.

Also, I would move FF Type-0 down the list, because every story chapter is staggered out by locking it behind a level gate to progress lest you like watching your team get slaughtered, and outside of straight up grinding or plinking away at boss health, the game's "fastest" way of levelling up is to visit the "secret" trainer and not play the game for a day or so. And you can only do this with one character at a time. And you can only gain a maximum of 4 levels while doing this each time. You can tell it was originally meant as a MMORPG that relied on friends to help boost you up, but after the PSP died they had to cut it down to fit single-player in the HD editions. This is why I stopped playing somewhere after the fourth or fifth story chapter.

On the bright side, the story itself is alright, though more a mash of FF8 and 13 than straight-up 8. Also (spoiled so people here don't throw a fit even though it's revealed at the start of the game) Cid is the Bad Guy this time, so that's a cool twist.

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beforet

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#35  Edited By beforet

@zombiepie: I don't know if I can honestly recommend the Neptunia games. Not because they're bad (I mean, they ain't exactly what I'd call good), but because they aren't really interesting or notable. The other games you've played have had a significance to them. Something worth having an opinion on, even if it's negative. I've played a little of the first game, and the writing and jokes are sometimes chuckle worthy, but there isn't really anything significant to point to as "the reason" to play those games. They are kind of middling, even boring. I'd recommend a pass on those.

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#36  Edited By soimadeanaccount

I don't have much to offer since I have only played like less than 2 of the games on the list.

I never really finish X, made it to the final dungeon then things got busy (It might have been due to FFXI erasing a year to two of my life). I have a copy of X-2 still in shrink wrap that I got as a gift. (You know shit has gone bad when people around you know you are into these things!)

I remember Grandia II being decent, not great, but not too bad. Also flower pope

Considering I don't like FFIV proper, The After Years never interest me much, but doesn't that mean you have to play through FFIV first?

Type-0 is another tri-Ace joint I think, bet it will be combat mechanics heavy with grindy/skill involve much like XIII-2 and XIII-3 for better or worse. I was thinking about trying it out next, but I don't know if I have it in me to go three in a roll since I am currently finishing up XIII-3. Fun fact, if you really want to hate yourself play XIII-2, which is mostly non-offensive, and probably has some finer points in there, yet seems to shoot itself on the foot over and over again while staring at you with a "yeah! I meant to do that" look!

I have heard that Disgaea is grindy, and being a tactical RPG are two things that I am not a huge fan of, but I know people swear by them. Oh and damage numbers for days.

I was very close to giving Last Remnant a try when I was in a game/JRPG drought, but I think I got SMT Devil Summoner instead coming off the Persona high. Heard the mechanics are kind of complex.

As for Hyperdimension Neptunia...I don't think you can keep your job anymore if you play that. But hey animu waifus are certainly pretty unique to JRPGs among other genre, and I have heard that the mechanics of these games aren't all bad.

Real advice maybe you should bank it and wait for FFXII remaster, and look up its mechanics. I feel like the series took a sharp turn in mechanics after XI and adopted much of its concepts and applied them directly into XII sometimes to a fault.

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I would like to throw in a JRPG wildcard in the form of Dragon's Dogma, because that game has some shit going on (but only at the end). It's probably not a great game to do a blog series on but it's some pretty fun actiony combat with occasional Shadow of the Colossus climbing mechanics. Also, the best character creator ever in that it has a bunch of customizeablity, but also stuff like height and weight will factor into how much stamina, health, carry weight, and even jump height you have. Honestly though, I just want to see you yell about the ending.

Otherwise:

  • Disgaea is super grindy but it was the first "tactics" game I ever played and is now my basis for all tactis games since. I actually tried to play Final Fantasy Tactics immediately after Disgaea 4 and couldn't bring myself to play more than a few minutes because it wasn't as fun. The humour is pretty infantile, but also harmless and stupid. I'd say Disgaea 1 has an insufferable cast, but then they all sort of do to varying degrees.
  • Final Fantasy Type-0 is a video game that I played for 5 hours. There is no autosave. It crashed. I never played it again.
  • Zestiria is okay, but that and the entire series (Tales of) are what I'd call "average". Weirdly enough, I have a penchant for "average" JRPGs so I love that entire series but ehhhh... Just play Symphonia instead, preferably right after FFX because from what I've played they have the same story.
  • I played 2 hours of The Last Remnant in 2011. I don't remember any of it. I barely remember buying it. I kind of wonder if anyone's ever finished that game.
  • Fuck Final Fantasy Type-0 FUCK IT
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#38  Edited By ZombiePie  Staff

@dochaus: So is Trails In the Sky the pick if I want to just play a solid and straightforward JRPG? Because I do think I need to play just one JRPG with no stupid ass story pivot or ridiculous nonsense.

Everybody should play one Disgaea game. Just one. That's it. If they don't infect hook you by that point, you're free. Free!

I heard those games are animeezy fo' sheezy!

@wchigo said:

@zombiepie: I'm guessing games like FFXIII are not on the list because you already own them?

I've heard the motion blur is pretty crazy in Type-0, leading to some people getting motion sick while playing the game, so why not go for that so you can hurt yourself physically as much as you hurt your soul. Type-0 and X/X-2 comes to around $33 so you only have $7 left at that point... not a whole lot left you can spend so I'll go with Last Remnant to complete the terrible trifecta.

I have every entry in the Final Fantasy XIII franchise already. Type-0 sets the horrible precedent of me playing the Final Fantasy spin-off games, and the last thing I want to do is play Dirge of Cerebus. The Last Remnant looks like a complete abomination.

By the way, how about Final Fantasy XIV for $9.99???

MMORPGs are the assassin of my dreams. However, you are correct in highlighting me not having a copy of Final Fantasy XIV. Whether or not I should play either of the MMOs is an executive order up to the community.

@kmfrob said:

@zombiepie: Well out of the options you put forward, it has to be FFX for me. It's not that I like the game (I, in fact, think it's close to awful), but I'm not overly familiar with other JRPGs that fall outside of the Squaresoft banner!

I would say you would be far better served playing FFVI or XII as they are both (but in particular VI) genuinely good games!

I own a copy of Final Fantasy VI, but it is the abhorrent iOS/PC port. XII looks like a glorified MMORPG, but when it comes to PC I will gladly partake in its nonsense.

@lawgamer said:

I'd drop Zestiria from your list. It's bad. It isn't even "Good-Bad." It's just Bad-Bad.

As a branching out thing, I would recommend the original Valkyria Chronicles. It's still sort of an RPG, but it's mostly a strategy game. Think anime XCOM. Plus, Japanese-WWII-fantasy-Europe is the best Europe.

I own a copy of Valkyria Chronicles, and its strategy based gameplay highly interests me. I am a huge fan of XCOM and the Civilization franchise. Also, when have I ever let a game being "bad" ever stop me?

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@zombiepie: I'm still working my way through it, but I'd say yes, go play Trails in the Sky for a good JRPG.

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@zombiepie: XII does take a lot from MMO genre tropes that is for sure. And it is also bogged down by a tendency to gravitate towards the type of politics focused story that is entirely un-engaging based on the fact that the world is fictional and therefore why should you care (think Star Wars Ep. I - III).

However, out of all the mainline Final Fantasy releases, it is probably the most unique and that in itself is interesting. I'm not saying it's going to blow your socks off, but it might serve as a welcome change of pace after working your way through 7 to 9.

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I would say the political push/pull part of FFXII is the more interesting part of the game, them moving away from it more and more and went back to the same old heroes saving the world as the game went on is what disappointed me most.

Did Lunar ever got ported to PC?

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Trails in the Sky is actually a fantastic, solid JRPG and thus would be a perfect addition to this blog series that has been about JRPGs that are also amazing!

That being said, I would be curious to see The Last Remnant get played and written about. Steam tells me I managed to put in 15 hours into that game before giving up and literally the only thing I can remember about it is that you eventually learn how to summon gigantic floating weapons.

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