Part 27: I Just Don’t Even Know Anymore….
Before we put a close to our last meeting, the party had narrowly avoided being apprehended by Black Waltz 3. This accomplishment is not without consequence. The South Gate which is the only access point to Lindblum has been destroyed because of our actions, and our airship is essentially a lost cause. I found the succeeding scenes following the Black Waltz chase to be a lost opportunity on the part of the game. Instead of having the characters deeply pontificate upon the consequences of their actions, the characters just move on as if nothing cataclysmic has happened. What I find grievously offensive is when we enter the gates of Lindblum, and none of the characters are held accountable for their actions. We honestly just destroyed this kingdom’s only trade route with the outside world… how in the world are we the heroes in this scenario? Had Final Fantasy IX not pinned for forced scenes of sentimentality prior I may not have mentioned this. The game normally takes its time not to “yadda yadda yadda” any of its story set pieces, and it is awkward that it did here.
I believe in the adage of “If you can’t afford it, FUCKING FINANCE IT!” That adage has nothing to do with Final Fantasy IX, but my second favorite adage does. “Leave no stone unturned,” is a guiding principle in life and storytelling, and I feel this adage is being conveniently ignored for much of the story. Our party comprises of a runaway princess, human-monkey hybrid monster, factory made space wizard, and dumbass knight #998. Each of these characters is a potential portal to allow the player to live vicariously in the game. Time and time again Final Fantasy IX plops stones right in front of you face, but delays the act of turning these stones over FOR HOURS UPON END! SHIT, instead of leaving no stone unturned, this game wants you to ignore all the stones on the ground until it wants you to. Here I am champing at the bit for some form of character development beyond Vivi’s existential crisis, and once again the game refuses to oblige.
Vivi, a character who has just been asked to confront his personhood, goes back to being a situational gag machine wherein he falls over onto his face when exploring new places. Nothing furthers Vivi’s character development until the second disc which is six or seven hours away. Then we have Steiner who briefly showcased a more manipulative bent, but acting beyond his initial defining trope isn’t built upon until the second disc as well. At least Garnet isn’t standing in the background anymore! But to be honest, her story “upgrade” in the last act of disc one is questionable. Instead of being beholden to all the male characters, she’s just beholden to one! Then there’s Zidane… and I believe I have clarified I dislike Zidane. Now that’s NOT to suggest that I wouldn’t have been open minded to something interesting happening with Zidane. I mention all of this to point out where Final Fantasy IX COULD HAVE gone with its story. Anything would have been exponentially better than 90% of what you do in Lindblum.
Part 28: The Royal Family of Lindblum Makes No Fucking Sense
Bear with me here because what I am about to grouse about is the most nitpicky that I will get for this blog series. Even I recognize how much of an asshole the next couple of paragraphs come across to the reader. That aside, as a history teacher I simply could not give this game a pass. Rest assured knowing I am fully aware that the bile I am about to spew is pure histrionics.
So here we go…. Let me get this straight, Cid is the “regent” of Lindblum, and he is Garnet’s uncle. Does this mean that Cid is the brother to Garnet’s mother or father? Why do all the kingdoms in Final Fantasy IX hate each other if their rulers are all related? What is this, World War I? Things get even more confusing when you meet “Minister Artania,” and Garnet greets him with this hearty welcome:
All right, I will say what everyone is thinking right about now, but won’t. Everyone who is royalty in Final Fantasy IX practices incest. There’s no other way for all of these people to be related to one another unless someone is playing “pass the pudding” with someone they shouldn’t. Otherwise, why does Garnet have over a dozen different uncles, and they all live in Lindblum? This honestly makes no sense unless everyone is secretly an incest baby. So here’s what I’m thinking. Regent Cid killed whoever was next in line for the throne, and is covering that fact up, so he can remain “regent” for as long as he lives.
Speaking of Regent Cid, do the writers and/or translators even know what a “regent” is? The literal meaning of the word “regent” is for someone who has been appointed or elected to administer a country until a notable heir apparent becomes of age. So does this mean that Cid just got appointed regent of Lindblum while also being related to the royal family of Alexandria? Was Cid appointed the regent, and then the person he meant to cover for die while he was regent? How is Cid still able to maintain his position at Lindblum for the entirety of Garnet’s childhood? Then why is Cid the regent of Lindblum, and not his brother Artania? Or did Cid kill however he was acting regent for and is just sitting happily on his perch? SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DO NOT PROVIDE YOUR GAME WITH A CLEAR VILLAIN! I just start making up horrible fan fiction that no one is proud of!
Oh and because “uncle” Cid couldn’t keep it in his pants his wife transformed him into an Oglop. That’s a sense of humor in this game I can get behind:
Part 29: A World Where I Want World Building
I think Lindblum is the most fully realized location in all of Final Fantasy IX. Not only is the location a visual treat to look at, but there are places and people you genuinely want to interact with. Walking down the streets of Lindblum provides the most rewarding human-environmental interactions you will find in the entire game. Every non-player character has a different perspective or line of dialogue to share, and they all feel as real you could expect in a game developed in the 1990s. I was honestly enamored with every nook and cranny that was intractable at Lindblum and felt that exploring the world was a rewarding experience.
I found the art design of Lindblum to be astonishing. The steampunkian design exudes character, and its set pieces work to create a sense of fantasy at every turn. From the airlifts that wiz you to different districts; to the billowing smoke from the buildings in the background; there’s an immense sense of scale at Lindblum that rivals that of Midgar. You really pick up a sense of care and attention to detail as you explore the city’s inner workings. Once again it’s the small touches here and there that elevate the set piece. When visiting the Tantalus Headquarters I interacted with two kids that seem to know Zidane personally. This interaction with minors did NOT cause me to advocate for universal sterilization, and that’s an accomplishment worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize! There are also fun little moments to be seen here. One example involves you watching the highly popular actor Lowell humor his frequent adoring fans as he ducks away to an art studio. Fun moments such as those add life to what could have been yet another lifeless set piece. If there’s one thing that honestly drove me crazy about Final Fantasy VII it would have been the uneven nature of its levels. Certainly, Final Fantasy VII features Midgar, but beyond that the game is filled with a ton of "filler" levels that seem hollow in comparison.
There are five ATEs when you first enter Lindblum, and to be honest, I did not mind them. Exploring Lindblum was a large enough task that moving from one location to the next acted as a buffer between each ATE. It helps that the ATEs in Lindblum worked to foreshadow future scenes we can immediately foresee. My issue with many of the previous ATEs is that you do not understand when you will see the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s not an issue at Lindblum. There’s an ATE wherein the gist is that Garnet feels anxious about the social isolation indicative of her royal status, and this provides her with a clear motivation behind her future actions. Steiner and Vivi both have nice scenes that foreshadow the development of steam technology and the Festival of the Hunt, respectively. See, when I can see the intangible aim of the ATEs I don’t mind them! My issue with the system stems from when its scenes do not result in immediate or clear gains for the player.
I have one niggling issue with Lindblum, and it honestly has been an issue universal with every single Final Fantasy game I have played up to this point. Parsing out what parts of the environment are, and are not, useable is an often exhausting affair I am rarely excited for. Part of the issue here stems from the port job of the PC version of Final Fantasy IX. The high-resolution character sprites look all the more out of place whilst you attempt to see which doors lead to gameplay critical stores and workshops. I cannot preface enough how long I took to locate the Synthesis shop in Lindblum. Just rest assured knowing as I type this sentence I am doing so with the fiery rage of a thousand suns. For such a welcoming location would it have killed the developers to give the player a city map, or at least have city guards that could point the player to their intended direction? Again, this wasn’t a big issue, but it was something that still stuck in my craw.
Part 30: I Get The Exposition I Have Been Waiting For… And It Sucks!
Before you inundate me with hate mail, know that overall I love Freya as a character. Freya’s introductory dialogue with Zidane at the bar is fantastic. Not only does she call Zidane out for his bullshit, which should happen more often in the game, but she has a swagger I can respect. She’s also a character that dodged the horrible “cute and frivolous” bullet that seems to have hit every other cast member. Now there’s a gripe associated with Freya that I feel is necessary to point out. Much like every other female cast member, her entire character story is about finding the male soul mate that “completes” her. Her “soul mate” has mysteriously disappeared, and she has been on a long quest to relocate him, but alas to no luck. This… is… a… cop-out. The writers had an otherwise interesting character and for some God forsaken reason pasted a horribly trite “lost love” character arc to her. Couldn’t they have copied and pasted that story arc to any other character? Why can’t the one character that doesn’t exude a twee aesthetic get a novel character arc?
Wait just a GODDAMNED minute… can we talk about how Zidane is a teenager and can enter a bar and drink a beverage there? This game is “T for Teen!” Anyways, it’s time to finally “discover” why Garnet wished to be kidnapped. If you have a bent towards disappointing story revelations, then this scene will be right up your alley! The party has fought through Hell and high waters to get Garnet to Lindblum, and so the player deserves some narrative reward for their efforts. So what does Garnet say is the ultimate reason for subjecting others to such a torturous journey? Why this:
I have spent hours laboring away at this game only to discover that Garnet wanted to leave Alexandria because she fears her mother may “be planning something.” Well no shit, SHE’S A QUEEN! Garnet is practically by her mother’s side around the clock, and she couldn’t take the time to discover what exactly her mother was up to. Boy am I glad she isn’t a Persona character. Wait a minute why the fuck isn’t Garnet mentioning any of the shit we have seen on our journey? Why doesn’t she mention the black mage factory we saw at Dali? How about the Black Waltz assholes we fought during our adventure? Oh wait, it turns out that Cid already knew about Alexandria’s Black Mage army! Because he sure as fuck doesn't treat the news with any semblance of surprise or concern.
Wait, a goddamned minute! Does that mean that Black Mages only exist in this world as blind automatons? Vivi has passed through the streets of Alexandria and Lindblum as a black mage, and everyone seems to know what black mages are. Did Vivi just spend his entire life thinking he was a regular human, but somehow never looked at a mirror? If Cid knew Alexandria was raising an army why doesn’t he inform any of the other kingdoms in the world? That the queen of Alexandria might be on a quest to conquer the entire continent is probably news that would unite the armies of the world to fight under one banner. It’s not like the very next set piece we transition to showcases the brutal massacre of another civilization by the hands of the army of Alexandria.
I did not enjoy this exposition at all! The revelation that Garnet acted on a hunch, and nothing more, is a cop out that does not honor the time I have spent toiling away at this game. It is a revelation that does nothing to progress the story, and unfortunately for Garnet throttles her to irrelevancy for the next TEN HOURS! There was a real opportunity for the game to build upon the social isolation suggested in her earlier ATE, but that does not happen. Second, Garnet still has not shaken away her childlike sensibilities which make it difficult to understand her perspective. I mean this both literally and figuratively. On one hand, I can see that Garnet wishes to prove that she can handle her affairs by herself. That is something I can respect on paper at the very least. What is less commendable is how we do not understand what Garnet is endeavoring to accomplish. So the queen wishes to command an army, but why? Why is it bad the Queen is making Black Mages? Why is the queen making Black Mages? Why am I the viewer on the side of Garnet instead of the Queen? Such an existential crisis should not exist with your viewer, but it is a crisis that Final Fantasy IX is gloriously unaware of.
It is downright spectacular how unforthcoming this game is regarding providing the audience with a long-term hook. Everyone is attempting to avoid a global conflict, but with little understanding why said global conflict is about to play out. I know the Queen is evil. I can see the writing on the wall that the Queen is evil. So why does the game delay such information for so long? Worse yet, why don’t we have a clear understanding what caused the Queen’s “fall from grace?” WHY?
Part 31: Some Bullshit With Vivi And Garnet
Vivi bought a Kupo Nut… Moogles like Kupo Nuts… I am thrilled that the game used an entire ATE to convey this information! Moogles are the best part of Final Fantasy IX, and there is no sarcasm in that statement!
Then there’s a long and awkward verse between Garnet and Zidane. In order to have this scene, Zidane must first sneak into Garnet’s living quarters… which is “problematic.” This is accomplished by having Zidane knocking out one of the palace guards and stealing their uniform. This sure is a great sign of Lindblum’s military might! Once Zidane ascends the stairs to Garnet’s room he immediately asks everyone around him if they have seen her, and no one finds this to be suspicious at all:
The CGI cutscene, as well as the dialogue between Garnet and Zidane, is well done and works to build my empathy towards each character. There’s a playfulness to both Garnet and Zidane’s words that fits their ages. Zidane’s flirtations this time around seem sincere, and they avoid devolving into sexual harassment. Zidane’s playful joshing around also seems like an honest attempt to get to know Garnet better. Garnet is honest about her insecurities and makes them nakedly transparent to the audience. Garnet has spent much of her life in isolation with most people underestimating her abilities and know-how. Not that I buy into her actions in the latter portions of the game, but I don’t think you are meant to. Instead, the game is trying to develop the sense that this adventure has given Garnet a new sense of purpose, and she wishes to fulfill that purpose. Her new purpose is to prevent the unnecessary loss of life around the world. It’s an idealistic perspective, but naivety has been Garnet’s modus operandi since the beginning of the game.
The montage that occurs while Garnet is singing is a quaint moment in the game. It serves as a seamless transition to the other members. It’s almost like montages and transitions such as these are a more cinematic and viable solution to the ATEs. Oh, and then Zidane can’t keep it in his pants.
Part 32: The Festival Of The Hunt Is A Colossal Waste Of Time!
I still have several issues related to how this game is paced. Now lo-and-behold, the game realized this and wastes my time with more pointless filler! Be honest with me, what was gained from having this scene in the game? Was it we discovered Freya is a tactically sound warrior in combat? Don’t we accomplish that when we enter Gizamaluke’s Grotto or the gates of Burmecia? Was it to provide a transitional action set piece before pivoting the story to Burmecia? If that’s the case then aren't there better ways to transition to a story pivot than playing Final Fantasy IX’s equivalent of the Running of the Bulls?
The mission associated with The Festival of the Hunt is beyond contrived. Once a year warriors from around the world travel to Lindblum to fight random monsters. As you might expect, Zidane and Freya are all signed up to compete in the event, and because Zidane is an asshole he ended up signing Vivi to complete against his will. What an unbelievably likable protagonist. So we are a trio of intrepid warriors about to fight a smattering of monsters as part of a contest, what’s so bad with that? It bears mentioning that these warriors do so in the streets of Lindblum as the denizens of the town watch as these horrible monsters clash and potentially destroy their private property.
I’m not an animal rights activist, but BOY IS THIS SCENE A PRODUCT IF ITS TIME! Here’s all of this innocent fauna being forced to run through the streets of a town they are not familiar with. Oh, and all the humans these animals meet are armed with terrible weapons intended TO KILL THEM! THIS SCENE IS FUCKED! For those that have played this game and are wondering, yes, Freya won The Festival of the Hunt for my playthrough. For those that are not aware, Freya, Zidane, and Vivi each receive a special reward if they place first in the festival. Vivi gets a Tetra Master Card… so fuck that; Zidane receives an inconsequential lump of cash, and finally Freya receives a ring that teaches her a gameplay critical move. To guarantee that Freya would win I went ahead and had Zidane attack himself, thus committing suicide.
What more is there to be said about this scene? The Festival of the Hunt is no better or worse than those horrible side quests that western RPGs feature where the entire party comes together and has a party before going on their final adventure. It’s mostly comedic and ultimately provides visual fanservice before things turn dark in the story. To that end, it deserves a pass. However, it is entirely without substance and deprives the story of a real opportunity to come together with a unifying call to action. To that end, it deserves complete condemnation.
Part 33: I’m Sorry But Was Square Secretly Trying To Make An Anime?
I ask that as a legitimate question. All the characters are still walking anime tropes, and the priorities of the story just reek of 90s era anime. What occurs after The Festival of the Hunt is without a doubt one of the game’s most awkward transitions yet. As the characters congratulate Freya a foot soldier from Burmecia, Freya’s homeland, arrives to announce that they are being attacked. The attacking forces helm from Alexandria and it is populated by droves of black mages.
Then the story becomes outright schlock. Regent Cid announces that The Festival of the Hunt has his guards stretched thin, and as a result cannot mobilize his forces for at least a day. So first off that’s a bunch of bullshit. You honestly walk through the streets of Lindblum and see plenty of city guards just hanging out unaware of the untold destruction being inflicted upon Burmecia. On top of that, Regent Cid informs none of his other allies or neighboring city-states of the ensuing destruction. He sits on the information and tells no one... AGAIN!
Luckily it isn’t all doom and gloom. After the party is informed of the situation Garnet immediately volunteers to help the party. The rest of the party quickly points out Garnet’s unreadiness and refuses to allow her to join such a perilous journey. I found this to be a sufficient framing device for Garnet’s future actions. After being put down Garnet has a reason to act irrationally. Providing a context behind otherwise illogical actions at least permits the audience to understand what they were thinking even if they disagree with the results. This is the vicarious storytelling structure I feel this game has been seriously lacking. If there wasn’t any framing why Garnet acted the way she did then her actions would come across as cheap or hollow. Luckily we have such framing, and as a result, have a better understanding as to what the fuck is happening in the story. And that’s about all the nice things I have to say about this scene.
You may wonder what the very next scene entails. Why it involves the cast becoming poisoned by a sleeping potion while feasting at a banquet. As you might expect the one who poisoned the party was Garnet.
ALL RIGHTY THEN! This story can officially go fuck itself! You wasted my goddamned time with a pointless hunting minigame, and now you are pulling off cartoony shit like this! The story is honestly juxtaposing the announcement of an active example of genocide with this… I honestly have no words. What a wonderful idea Garnet, let’s poison the party responsible for rescuing the innocent civilians of Burmecia. Might I add that hundreds, if not thousands, of lives depend on the actions this party? I see from this stunning decision making you got top grades in princess school! I look forward to when you run an entire country!
I honestly feel as if I have laid my cards out in terms of my storytelling framework preferences. As a result, I’m just going to be an asshole armchair reviewer and share what I think should have happened instead of this scene. Now hear me out, but I think Garnet deserves a strong character moment beyond poisoning the entire cast. She’s developing an independent streak to her so why not provide her with an empowering moment? How about at the banquet she defiantly calls out the party for their gluttony or underestimation of her abilities? How about we have the game depict Garnet as something more than your typical naïve altruistic princess? So have her act defiant towards the cast, and when Zidane attempts to talk her down… have Garnet That’s an honest suggestion by the way. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, but I honestly feel like Zidane needs to get the shit slapped out of him. So why not now?
The reason I propose this hypothetical situation is simple. I want to point out how this scene could have been used to develop Garnet within the story. Because of the game not taking advantage of this opportunity, Garnet ends up coming across as horribly naïve, and needy. She leaves the party for her own reasons, and those reasons are not made entirely clear to the audience until much later. You have this vague sense she wishes to “help people,” but this is tenuous at best. If anything it’s yet another example of how some of the characters of Final Fantasy IX are not given their proper due, and how the uneven pacing in the game is jeopardizing the development of its own characters.
Part 34: Adding Bullshit Characters To My Party
Okay, I have to ask anyone who has ever played this game a real quick question. Do any of you like Quina? Do any of you honestly like having Quina in your party? Does Quina’s interactions with the world cause you to feel joy? Because I don’t know… Quina is kind of a fucking trash fire of a character. In fact, I would even argue that there are entire scenes in the first and second disc that Quina outright ruins with his/her droll dialogue.
This is a point we will revisit when we reach Conde Petite, but I find the game's use of accents to suggest a level of civilization highly offensive. There are better ways in depicting a character from a primitive culture than Quina. Such a character’s interactions with their surroundings can be played for laughs, but how the game goes about depicting Quina is just wrong. Every ATE involving Quina provides another heavy-handed reminder that Quina loves food… and that’s Quina’s entire character arc. Quina wants to eat food but goes about asking for food in a socially awkward and off-putting manner. That’s the joke, and it is a joke the game repeats a hundred times. There’s no nuance or deeper meaning to Quina’s behavior either. Quina just wants to eat food.
What I object to the most is how often Quina breaks the narrative consistency of the game. There are dire and emotionally gripping moments in the succeeding scenes, and if Quina talks it’s usually an inquiry on where the food is. Quina’s mannerisms should provide the game with a constant supply of levity, but honestly, the game doesn’t demand added levity. All along their journey, the characters have been making wisecracks and jokes as they interact with their surroundings. If all the characters are going to crack wise during the story, then why do we need a purely comic relief character? That is why I honestly believe Quina is redundant.
It does not help that Quina is a Blue Mage that needs to be taught spells by using the “Eat” Command. In this game the “Eat” command allows Quina to devour certain enemies if their HP is at or below 25%. As you might expect, knowing when to cast “Eat” is a nightmare and usually, results in wasted time by the player. To add insult to injury, you do not understand which enemies provide Blue Magic. Would it have killed the game to have Quina carry around a cookbook with suggestions what he/she should eat? Would that have honestly have killed the developers? The result is that trying to make Quina useable in combat is a complete and total nightmare. Also, Quina’s trance move is FUCKING POINTLESS! When in Trance the “Eat” command becomes the “Cook” command and using the “Cook” command allows Quina to swallow enemies when they have 50% or less HP. But this is realistically only going to happen during boss fights. Unfortunately, bosses are immune to the “Cook” command SO FUCK ALL!
Don’t even get me started about catching frogs for Quina.
Part 35: Then The Story Gets Its Shit Together
I feel as if I can properly summarize the final two set pieces of Final Fantasy IX with “then all was forgiven!” Most of my criticisms of the game not having grit or a snappy pace are properly addressed in the next couple of scenes wherein we immerse ourselves in the slaughter at Burmecia. The situation here is dire with a myriad of corpses strewn across the foreground and background. Everywhere the party turns they are accosted by Black Mages which hauntingly chant “KILL!” when they meet you. It is a drastic tonal shift from Qu’s Marsh and Lindblum, but it is one that the game has desperately required.
I have found Final Fantasy IX to be spectacularly one note, and in one fell swoop, it rectified this issue. For a game that has hinted at the depravity of war and the fragility of death, Final Fantasy IX holds no punches. You watch innocent civilians at Burmecia die as they attempt to protect their families and loved ones. This is the humanity that the game has so desperately needed! Ignore the nitpicky complaints from earlier and consider my qualms with Final Fantasy IX structure. Up to this point we genuinely lacked a visual understanding why the Queen of Alexandria was the initial antagonist, and here we finally get it. We understand that not only does Alexandria wish to conquer the continent, but it plans on doing so using a scorched earth policy. The consequences of which are made painfully clear to the player.
Good on the game in pontificating upon its depiction of warfare. So many games depict deprave violence without taking the time to stop and think about the consequences of such wanton destruction. Nathan Drake fucked Shambhala, Marcus Fenix scorched acres of the world, and Link murders flora and fauna in quests to stop Ganon. What do those game do to make you consider your actions? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Here we have a game depicting Alexandria’s actions as not just brutal, but as an act of genocide. Eventually, there will be a horrible disconnect between this depiction of Alexandria, and how its soldiers are depicted later in the game. For now it works because the game so desperately needs a clear antagonist to latch onto, but eventually, things will get “messy.”
I hate to say it, but I have more than a couple of issues with Gizamaluke’s Grotto. The Grotto itself is fine in terms of its art design considering it is a grotto. What I have an issue with is the battle with Gizamaluke. Your party composition is disadvantageous for a boss battle at this point. My party comprised: Steiner, Zidane, Freya, and Quina. The issue here is that this party composition direly needs a White Mage. Lacking any traditional healing spells forces the player to become heavily reliant on high MP special abilities found with Freya and Quina, and Lord have mercy on your soul if you haven’t been teaching Quina new abilities. Forcing the player to process a difficult boss battle with these circumstances was a major dick move on the part of the game and its developers. Knowing these limitations, the developers STILL designed Gizamaluke to have multiple character hitting water spells you most likely have no immunities towards. This battle was a slog and did much to pull me out of the game’s otherwise wonderful atmosphere. Admittedly, this battle was not nearly as bad as the scene we end up transitioning to.
Part 36: The Game Ruins Something Beautiful In Order To Provide Slapstick Comedy
Congratulations Final Fantasy IX in understanding “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity.” The ass band will now play a song of farts to celebrate your failure. I understand from my previous two episodes that many of you enjoy Final Fantasy IX’s use of humor. As I have said before, “to each their own.” Now here, I’m sorry but here I must draw a line in the ground. Transitioning from exploring the catacombs of an active war site to watching Steiner smuggle Garnet in a bag of pickles is shit. It is just SHIT! It is an unfortunate reminder that this game really wishes to share its glowing sense of humor with you at every waking moment it can.
For those wondering what I am grousing about the game transitions to a brief scene where we watch Steiner surreptitiously smuggle Garnet through South Gate. This is fine but how the smuggling is carried out is when the issues crop up. First, Garnet is being smuggled in a bag of pickles. Because of this, the game reminds us that people in the world of Final Fantasy IX do not enjoy pickles. What an incredible use of my time.
That you have to perform a questline to rid the street of crowds of people adds an extra contrived element to this horrendous affair. Eventually, you witness a brief aside between Steiner and Garnet which makes no fucking sense when you stop and think about it. Here we witness Steiner complementing Garnet’s magical prowess as being crucial in fulfilling their journey. This is the same Steiner that has repeatedly reminded Garnet that she was in grave danger as she continued to tag along with Zidane. Oh, and despite claiming to adhere to the orders of the princess, Steiner cannot stop himself from calling Garnet “princess.”
I consider this on par with many of Final Fantasy VII’s transitional scenes. Watching Steiner embarrassingly dart away as Garnet dressed rivaled the inanity of visiting the Golden Saucer for the first time in Final Fantasy VII. Again, I’m not against adding levity to a story. What I am opposed to is when games just suddenly throw in a comical scene that breaks up the pace of the previous set piece. What if Garnet and Steiner got caught and were forced into a brief chase sequence? That would have complimented the tone in Gizamaluke’s Grotto by showing all the characters at their lowest point. Parallel storytelling would have worked wonders during this sequence! Depicting both parties as experiencing dire difficulties and have both parties resolve their issues simultaneously would have been a powerful moment for all to enjoy.
I would argue that this scene does not work even if it had been placed during the earlier moments of Final Fantasy IX. Garnet proves nothing and Steiner continues to act like a pompous ass. Honestly, no one comes out of this scene looking better or stronger regardless of where you put it. We gain no newfound respect for Garnet OR Steiner. Instead, we have the game’s laziest attempt to draw from its well yet. All the humor here reeks of familiarity and brings absolutely nothing new to the table. So this scene is without a doubt a waste, but at least things are getting better with the “A-Team!”
Part 37: Why Does Every Single Final Fantasy Game Have Its First Disc End Well?
Boy howdy, do things really “pop off” with our main party! Upon reaching the gate to Burmecia the party affirms their faith and support in Freya. After offing a few Black Mages there’s a powerful moment between Freya, Zidane, and Vivi. Here Freya expresses hesitation in exploring her former home as it lies in ruin. To comfort Freya the remaining party comes clean with their own vulnerabilities, especially Vivi. This scene resonated with me more than any prior moment in Final Fantasy IX. When left in terrible circumstances we witness the cast helping each other out of their depressive episodes. They behave in a way that is more human than what I see in games that are created today. The sincerity of their words is oftentimes more empathetic than that of actual human beings. Rather than demand action they come together as a team and recognize that they are in this together.
Wow, is this game recognizing that the answers to life’s eternal questions may drive us into an even greater abyss than not knowing them at all? That’s… eye-catching to say the least. Not only does it establish Final Fantasy IX as having a sense of gray moralities, but it firmly establishes a strong relationship between Freya and Vivi. The game builds their companionship without having either character say the word “thanks,” and that is a monumental accomplishment I wish all video games attempted. The tone of the game at Burmecia is surprisingly consistent, and the art direction endeavors to support this. The drizzly weather of Burmecia establishes a sense of dread as the party draws near the king’s palace. On your journey, you manage to save a man from a falling statue. It’s a friendly reminder that the world that you are in is populated by believable characters, and this makes the succeeding scenes all the more tragic.
Eventually, the party reaches Queen Brahne who is accompanied by an entourage. The first person accompanying Brahne is her general, Beatrix. A brief cutscene fills us in that Beatrix is the assumed murderer of Freya’s former lover, Sir Fratley. It's an admittedly tragic story, but one that I find problematic. As I mentioned before, I find it sappy how the warrior knight Freya boils down to ensuring that she gets the man of her dreams. She honestly deserves so much better considering that everyone else does. The Queen is also accompanied by an exquisitely dressed gentleman eventually revealed to be “Kuja.” Kuja is the creator of the Black Mages that have proven to be effective in leveling the city of Burmecia. Our villainous stable surmises that the King of Burmecia has most likely fled to the neighboring kingdom of Cleyra and that is to be their next target. Not about to let that happen our party jumps to the rescue, only to be immediately put into their place by Beatrix.
Our party gets their asses handed to themselves. Beatrix is nigh impossible to make a dent on, and after a certain number of turns, our party is defeated. A forced loss at this point is a welcomed change of pace. So far the game has been technically easy, and with no truly meddlesome encounters to speak of. It also helps how cinematic the final encounter at Burmecia is. After slashing our entire party to bits the Queen and her entourage depart. Kuja, for example, struts as he disembarks on a white dragon!
Part 38: Okay FINE... There Might Actually Be SOMETHING Behind This Game Worth Exploring!
GODDAMN! That right there is something I can get behind! It took this game long enough before deciding to provide the story some grit, but at least it is finally here! Final Fantasy IX reminds me of that asshole friend we all have that invites you to dinner parties and asks you “bring your appetite.” As a result, you skip a meal and arrive at his posh abode hungry and ready to chow down. Unfortunately, when you enter his home, you discover that there are bottles of wine opened, but only some blocks of moldy cheese and crackers to munch on. To add insult to injury he takes FOREVER to cook the food he was so arrogantly impressed to show you. That motherfucker saw two episodes of “America's Test Kitchen” and postures as if he’s an expert on “Sous-vide” cooking. WHAT AN ASSHOLE!
Then you eat the food and it’s superb and you completely forget all about what you were complaining about earlier. Yeah... that’s oddly similar to how I feel about Final Fantasy IX right about now. All of the game's "sins" at this point are largely forgettable if it can at least conclude its shenanigans on a strong note as it does here. Certainly, I would still argue that there are better means to reach this end, but to each their own. The ending is a pleasant surprise that finally provides the cast a raison d'être. For now, let's end this episode on this high note.
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