Fighting Final Fantasy IX - Parts 27-37: Fearing And Loathing The Ebbs And Flows of JRPGs

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Episode Guide

  1. Episode #1 (Parts 1-13)
  2. Episode #2 (Parts 14-26)
  3. Episode #4 (Parts 38-49)

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.

This is why we can't have nice things!
This is why we can't have nice things!

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.

FUCKING EVERYTHING! EVERYTHING IN THIS GAME IS FUCKED
FUCKING EVERYTHING! EVERYTHING IN THIS GAME IS FUCKED

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:

UH, IS EVERYONE RELATED TO EACH OTHER? IS THAT WHAT’S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?!?!
UH, IS EVERYONE RELATED TO EACH OTHER? IS THAT WHAT’S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?!?!

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:

Well shit, why haven't we been using transformation magic like that?
Well shit, why haven't we been using transformation magic like that?

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 mentioned it before, but it bears repeating how well some of the CGI cutscenes have held up.
I mentioned it before, but it bears repeating how well some of the CGI cutscenes have held up.

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.

For once, I finally agree with Final Fantasy IX.
For once, I finally agree with Final Fantasy IX.

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?

Why can’t I ever be happy when playing a Final Fantasy game?
Why can’t I ever be happy when playing a Final Fantasy game?

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:

Game? That’s the best you can do?
Game? That’s the best you can do?

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.

How do you know that?
How do you know that?

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.

Well fuck a duck… I guess Cid dun fucked up!
Well fuck a duck… I guess Cid dun fucked up!

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!

No comment
No comment

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:

NOPE! There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with telling some random bozo where the princess is. No reasons to suspect he might be an assassin!
NOPE! There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with telling some random bozo where the princess is. No reasons to suspect he might be an assassin!

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.

Just as I was warming up to Zidane....
Just as I was warming up to Zidane....

Part 32: The Festival Of The Hunt Is A Colossal Waste Of Time!

All the more reason to let Freya win!
All the more reason to let Freya win!

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.

WHAT IN THE FUCK IS EVEN HAPPENING?
WHAT IN THE FUCK IS EVEN HAPPENING?

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.

Boy Cid, I bet you are real proud that you kept the militarization of Alexandria a secret from your allies….
Boy Cid, I bet you are real proud that you kept the militarization of Alexandria a secret from your allies….

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.

I was not lying. That is EXACTLY what happened.
I was not lying. That is EXACTLY what happened.

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 SLAP THE SHIT OUT OF ZIDANE! 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.

OH AND BY THE WAY! WAR IS BAD! I DID NOT KNOW THIS UNTIL I PLAYED THIS VIDEO GAME!
OH AND BY THE WAY! WAR IS BAD! I DID NOT KNOW THIS UNTIL I PLAYED THIS VIDEO GAME!

Part 34: Adding Bullshit Characters To My Party

And now for something completely different!
And now for something completely different!

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.

Pbtpbtpbtpbtpbtpbtpbt-pfffffffffffffffff...
Pbtpbtpbtpbtpbtpbtpbt-pfffffffffffffffff...

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.

Stop, stop, I confess.
Stop, stop, I confess.

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. I’LL TELL YOU RIGHT NOW I’M NOT WASTING MY PRECIOUS TIME ON THAT BULLSHIT!

Part 35: Then The Story Gets Its Shit Together

FUCK YES! Let’s get this story moving!
FUCK YES! Let’s get this story moving!

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.

I'm glad to meet you too.
I'm glad to meet you too.

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.”

Fuck this asshole!
Fuck this asshole!

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

FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK THIS!
FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK THIS!

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.

I also did not have Steiner sneak a peak on Garnet because I AM NOT A MONSTER!
I also did not have Steiner sneak a peak on Garnet because I AM NOT A MONSTER!

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.”

We are fifteen hours deep and the game is still making this joke.
We are fifteen hours deep and the game is still making this joke.

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.

Then this line of dialogue occurs:

Vivi, have you honestly never wondered who or what you are until now?
Vivi, have you honestly never wondered who or what you are until now?
I don't even remember what I had for dinner last night.
I don't even remember what I had for dinner last night.

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.

I also may have gotten ripped off by this asshole. I gave him money and got some shit.
I also may have gotten ripped off by this asshole. I gave him money and got some shit.

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.

Well Beatrix, nice to meet you too. I like long walks on the beach….
Well Beatrix, nice to meet you too. I like long walks on the beach….

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!

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

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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Okay, I have to ask anyone who has ever played this game a real quick question. Do any of you like Quina?

Nooooope. The only good thing about it is that you get to walk along the path that the Mog teaching the young Mog all the tutorial stuff happens. I tried, several times, to drag it along as a min party member, but even with guides it is a pain in the ass to collect all of the crucial Blue Magic needed to make Quina worth a damn.

This game really does know how to end its discs with a bang.

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Fun! So a few random thoughts...

1) I kinda thought Garnet was doing the thing where she was using 'uncle' as a term of respect, and not that everyone in Lindbulm is related to her.

2) There's not really anyone Cid could've told. There's only three active kingdoms on the continent, Alexandria, Lindbulm, and Burmercia. And Burmerica is such a technological backwater that they probably couldn't have done anything about Alexandria even if they did have advance notice (or even if Alexandria didn't have the black mages). There's also Clerya, but they cut off contact to the outside world; and there's Treno, but I think Treno is part of Alexandria anyway (and if its not, its never given any indication of having a military; or even an effective police force). Lindbulm is the only force capable of opposing Alexandria.

3) I think the point of the Festival of the Hunt is to be a friendly level-check on you; where you still get a good item if you lose. Its pretty easy to get to Lindbulm at point where you are going to be way under-leveled for the next story-required content, and if you lose the festival its a reminder that "hey, maybe you should grind out a few levels."

4) Quina is terrible. Full stop.

5) Pro-tip about Gizamaluke (and many, though not all) of the bosses in this game: if you want to cheese the battle, cast a tent item on them as your very first action. It heals them for 9999 (which doesn't matter, since you've done no damage yet), but also gives them a bunch of bad status effects. Gizamaluke always get silence and blind from doing that, which makes him a complete pushover.

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Call me when you figure out who the actual antagonist is.

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Oh hey, you found the option to change the UI colour!

One thing I notice is how often you refer to something as a joke that I never even considered was meant to be one. Steiner calling Garnet "Princess" out of habit, and then being an ass about everything kinda just seemed like character stuff to me. I'm not sure the game is trying to make you laugh with that stuff, in any case.

The hunting thing in Lindblum is definitely my least favourite thing about the first disc. Call it worldbuilding, it's still a little too much as I don't think any other cultural element gets that much attention or screentime in the entire game-- and there's so little to it. It's also a huge waste of time because nobody ever mentions it again and it's portrayed as overly dangerous and stupid when you wind up having to save children from being mauled.

Quina is Quina. Always hated his/her design, the lack of any character beyond "me eat food, talk like moron, make everyone I meet uncomfortable", and his/her battle abilities/strategy is my least favourite to deal with. The only enjoyable part is when the game reminds you s/he exists, and acknowledges that you definitely forgot about him/her. Multiple times.

The scene transition from "war kill die" to "pickles smell like farts" looks like a pretty hard swing in hindsight. That scene was basically just an extended ATE that showed Steiner and Garnet were actually doing stuff and had a plan to go back to Alexandria and confront Brahne (which we didn't actually know beforehand, so there's your reason for its existence maybe?). It's really weird to think about but I guess even the dark stuff has such a lighter tone surrounding it than your average modern Final Fantasy, that even the hardest of swings was never jarring to me.

Stiltzkin is the best moogle because he takes care of his own letters.

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#5 thatpinguino  Moderator

@zombiepie: 1) I think your problem with Garnet's arc, that she's too naive and in over her head, is exactly what the game is trying to convey. Her putting the rest of the party to sleep so that she can talk her mother out of whatever she's doing is a TERRIBLE IDEA, but it only makes sense to her because she's lived a sheltered life away from the cruelties that the rest of the cast have experienced. She literally does not know how much danger she's in and how much trouble she's causing. While Garnet is having a somewhat sleepy journey to Alexandria, the rest of the party is actually witnessing the violence that the Queen is perpetrating. Her naivete and willingness to trust the innate goodness in her mother and others (I mean Zidane is a thief for goodness sake and she just asks him to kidnap her out of nowhere) is a character flaw she is growing to overcome. I think she's visibly demonstrating how far she has to go in terms of maturation. You can't develop a character if they start out flawless.

2) I'm pretty sure the "Uncle" thing for Cid is a term of endearment, not a blood relation thing.

3) Quina's story is pretty terrible, but he/she is one of the most interesting characters from a gameplay perspective. Quina's weapon has a huge damage range which means that he/she can deal by far the highest physical damage of any mage, while still being inconsistent. Quina also has access to the High Tide ability at all times, which allows him/her to trance more frequently than most other characters. That allows Quina to actually rely on his/her trance in a way other characters cannot. Another interesting thing about Quina is that he/she has a bunch of weird, unique passive abilities and Blue Magics that are pretty game changing if used correctly. Quina is profoundly weird, but I think his/her role in combat makes up for it.

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#6  Edited By Zeik

I don't like Quina, but I don't hate her either. She's a competely forgettable and superfluous entity that seems to be there more for mechanical and gameplay reasons than any story justification. In that sense she's a "bad" character, but I've experienced enough legitimately bad characters in JRPGs and other games that I can overlook one merely for being pointless, given that I enjoy the main cast a lot.

When it comes down to it, Zidane, Vivi, Steiner, and Garnet basically are FFIX to me. Everyone else is kinda just filler. (Some, like Freya, bring some meaningful filler, but still filler.)

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I was 11 when this game came out so ye I like Quina , because I thought it was funny then and the nostalgia sticks, it's like everything in IX for me, favourite Final Fantasy, because it is of the memories I have of it. It's also the first one I played

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#8 ZombiePie  Staff

Okay, I have to ask anyone who has ever played this game a real quick question. Do any of you like Quina?

Nooooope. The only good thing about it is that you get to walk along the path that the Mog teaching the young Mog all the tutorial stuff happens. I tried, several times, to drag it along as a min party member, but even with guides it is a pain in the ass to collect all of the crucial Blue Magic needed to make Quina worth a damn.

This game really does know how to end its discs with a bang.

I'm not going to take the time to make Quina usable in combat. Acquiring blue magic is a pain, and I'm already not having that much fun playing the game. The last thing I want to do is make an already sour point worse. The last thing I need to do is take shots of pure lemon juice. I have heard that doing so will mess up your insides.

I swear... it's great that these games know how to end, but I would really appreciate it if someone at Square could figure out how to effectively convey their "rising action." I'm three games deep and these games still have plenty of examples of filler, and not getting their acts together, I mean that literally, in a quick succession. Maybe that's a tradition of the genre or franchise, or maybe I'm just talking out of my ass. I wouldn't know.

@fezrock said:

Fun! So a few random thoughts...

1) I kinda thought Garnet was doing the thing where she was using 'uncle' as a term of respect, and not that everyone in Lindbulm is related to her.

2) There's not really anyone Cid could've told. There's only three active kingdoms on the continent, Alexandria, Lindbulm, and Burmercia. And Burmerica is such a technological backwater that they probably couldn't have done anything about Alexandria even if they did have advance notice (or even if Alexandria didn't have the black mages). There's also Clerya, but they cut off contact to the outside world; and there's Treno, but I think Treno is part of Alexandria anyway (and if its not, its never given any indication of having a military; or even an effective police force). Lindbulm is the only force capable of opposing Alexandria.

3) I think the point of the Festival of the Hunt is to be a friendly level-check on you; where you still get a good item if you lose. Its pretty easy to get to Lindbulm at point where you are going to be way under-leveled for the next story-required content, and if you lose the festival its a reminder that "hey, maybe you should grind out a few levels."

4) Quina is terrible. Full stop.

5) Pro-tip about Gizamaluke (and many, though not all) of the bosses in this game: if you want to cheese the battle, cast a tent item on them as your very first action. It heals them for 9999 (which doesn't matter, since you've done no damage yet), but also gives them a bunch of bad status effects. Gizamaluke always get silence and blind from doing that, which makes him a complete pushover.

  1. Oh, I got you. That must be a translation issue. They must have translated the male equivalent of "oba-chan" or something like it to "uncle." Well then... I guess I am the monster for thinking everyone is an incest baby.
  2. This highlights how empty I find the first continent of Final Fantasy IX. Plus when you add in the fact that two of the cities on the initial continent get wasted, there aren't a ton of opportunities to explore large set pieces which thus far have been the true highlights of Final Fantasy IX, well at least for me. Maybe you all like exploring "Dank Ass Cave #45." The cities and town that you explore provide the best livable moments in the game.
  3. Then just have it be one boss fight. I don't need an entire scene that sucks up two hours of my time that add nothing to the story.
  4. WORD!
  5. Okay story time: I used a "tent" for the first time. I had no idea that "tents" are actual tents that you camp out and sleep in. I thought it was just a weird translation from Square, but NOPE they are literally tents.

Call me when you figure out who the actual antagonist is.

It's Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and then a rejected Bee Gees backup singer. It's not that hard to follow.

@teddie said:

Oh hey, you found the option to change the UI colour!

One thing I notice is how often you refer to something as a joke that I never even considered was meant to be one. Steiner calling Garnet "Princess" out of habit, and then being an ass about everything kinda just seemed like character stuff to me. I'm not sure the game is trying to make you laugh with that stuff, in any case.

The hunting thing in Lindblum is definitely my least favourite thing about the first disc. Call it worldbuilding, it's still a little too much as I don't think any other cultural element gets that much attention or screentime in the entire game-- and there's so little to it. It's also a huge waste of time because nobody ever mentions it again and it's portrayed as overly dangerous and stupid when you wind up having to save children from being mauled.

Quina is Quina. Always hated his/her design, the lack of any character beyond "me eat food, talk like moron, make everyone I meet uncomfortable", and his/her battle abilities/strategy is my least favourite to deal with. The only enjoyable part is when the game reminds you s/he exists, and acknowledges that you definitely forgot about him/her. Multiple times.

The scene transition from "war kill die" to "pickles smell like farts" looks like a pretty hard swing in hindsight. That scene was basically just an extended ATE that showed Steiner and Garnet were actually doing stuff and had a plan to go back to Alexandria and confront Brahne (which we didn't actually know beforehand, so there's your reason for its existence maybe?). It's really weird to think about but I guess even the dark stuff has such a lighter tone surrounding it than your average modern Final Fantasy, that even the hardest of swings was never jarring to me.

Stiltzkin is the best moogle because he takes care of his own letters.

I prefer the blue at this point. The gray was just kind of "blah" to me. I refer to those as jokes on account of the time that the game pines for when they happen. The characters are introduced with many of these initial tropes and then they are played up or referred to when the cast enters a new location. That to me is a joke and in this case a lazy and tenuous joke at that. Even if definition feels weak I still stand by the fact that the first disc should have done more to progress the characters forward, and at least introduce the arcs behind each character so we could at least see the light at the end of the tunnel. As it stands you either enjoy their moronic actions or find them incredibly superficial. As you might suspect, I'm in the latter camp but the situation did not need to be this absolute.

It is also worth noting how long the hunting event at Lindblum goes on for, and how little you get out of it. As you mentioned it does little to build up the community in Lindblum because it's never referenced or mentioned again. There's no sense of culture building which I found to be a massive wasted opportunity on the part of the story. If the writers truly wanted to put a cultural event at that point of the story why not use said cultural event to establish a sense of a distinct culture in Lindblum? That way I really understand the differences between Lindblum and Alexandria.

At this point, I feel like I'm yelling at a tornado when it comes to criticizing transitions in Final Fantasy games. Everything you have said about Quina has me really excited, and I agree about Stiltzkin. He has his ducks in a row, and thank GOD for that!

@zombiepie: 1) I think your problem with Garnet's arc, that she's too naive and in over her head, is exactly what the game is trying to convey. Her putting the rest of the party to sleep so that she can talk her mother out of whatever she's doing is a TERRIBLE IDEA, but it only makes sense to her because she's lived a sheltered life away from the cruelties that the rest of the cast have experienced. She literally does not know how much danger she's in and how much trouble she's causing. While Garnet is having a somewhat sleepy journey to Alexandria, the rest of the party is actually witnessing the violence that the Queen is perpetrating. Her naivete and willingness to trust the innate goodness in her mother and others (I mean Zidane is a thief for goodness sake and she just asks him to kidnap her out of nowhere) is a character flaw she is growing to overcome. I think she's visibly demonstrating how far she has to go in terms of maturation. You can't develop a character if they start out flawless.

2) I'm pretty sure the "Uncle" thing for Cid is a term of endearment, not a blood relation thing.

3) Quina's story is pretty terrible, but he/she is one of the most interesting characters from a gameplay perspective. Quina's weapon has a huge damage range which means that he/she can deal by far the highest physical damage of any mage, while still being inconsistent. Quina also has access to the High Tide ability at all times, which allows him/her to trance more frequently than most other characters. That allows Quina to actually rely on his/her trance in a way other characters cannot. Another interesting thing about Quina is that he/she has a bunch of weird, unique passive abilities and Blue Magics that are pretty game changing if used correctly. Quina is profoundly weird, but I think his/her role in combat makes up for it.

That Garnet is constantly naive is only one-half of my criticism of her depiction in the game. My first issue stems from how long they maintain this depiction despite the party's ever changing circumstances. Garnet is provided with multiple opportunities to learn from experiential circumstances to mature and grow as a person. However, this does not happen until the story reaches the point in which it needs for that to happen. The consequence then is two-fold, one Garnet's actions are honestly too disparate to what the main party experiences. Her scenes mimic her defining characteristic in that they are cheery and saccharine. This results in some of the most awkward transitions and juxtapositions in the entire game. My second issue is how uneven Garnet's character development plays out. Garnet's character growth follows that of an exponential graph. For hours she fails to develop beyond her initial tropes and idioms. Then when the game finally decides that it is time to change that it provides all of the character development in the world in about two hours. Then her characterization stops, and you will have to wait for another Garnet specific set piece. This stop and go storytelling is far more herky-jerky than it has any right to be, and to be honest it should be considering how important Garnet is to the story. I'm honestly of the opinion at this point that Garnet should just be the Laguna of Final Fantasy IX. Just give her her own party and have her act entirely independent from everyone else. That way she can stand on her own laurels and develop gradually in a more natural manner.

Everything that you are saying about Quina being "interesting" in combat is true... right up until you recognize how much work you have to put in Quina to make the character usable in combat. All of those moves that you name dropped are negative fun to get in the game. Not positive fun, not zero fun, but NEGATIVE FUN! You have to do the game's homework in order to get anything out of Quina. Then we need to talk about how getting better weapons for Quina involves interacting with the frog minigame... I double dog dare any person to defend the frog catching minigame.

@zeik said:

I don't like Quina, but I don't hate her either. She's a competely forgettable and superfluous entity that seems to be there more for mechanical and gameplay reasons than any story justification. In that sense she's a "bad" character, but I've experienced enough legitimately bad characters in JRPGs and other games that I can overlook one merely for being pointless, given that I enjoy the main cast a lot.

When it comes down to it, Zidane, Vivi, Steiner, and Garnet basically are FFIX to me. Everyone else is kinda just filler. (Some, like Freya, bring some meaningful filler, but still filler.)

Quina is "superfluous" right up until the game starts putting in Quina specific scenes in new environments to remind you that Quina exists, and is indeed a member of your party. Some of these scenes are painless such as when you fish Quina out of the water when cooking with Eiko, to the downright EXCRUCIATING like when Quina transports you to the bottom of Clerya after you find Quina at the sandpit. Oh my God... that last scene... I have some things to say about that last scene.

Zidane, Steiner, and Garnet just feel so flat during the first disc. They are your typical walking anime tropes, and I honestly feel like there are not enough in-game moments to motivate me to get invested in them, or vicariously imagine myself in their shoes. Instead, the game spends its sweet ass time on Vivi, which I appreciated, and providing you with visual eye candy, which I occasionally appreciated.

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@dudeglove said:

Call me when you figure out who the actual antagonist is.

It's Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and then a rejected Bee Gees backup singer. It's not that hard to follow.

Yeah you say that now.

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#10 thatpinguino  Moderator

@thatpinguino said:

@zombiepie: 1) I think your problem with Garnet's arc, that she's too naive and in over her head, is exactly what the game is trying to convey. Her putting the rest of the party to sleep so that she can talk her mother out of whatever she's doing is a TERRIBLE IDEA, but it only makes sense to her because she's lived a sheltered life away from the cruelties that the rest of the cast have experienced. She literally does not know how much danger she's in and how much trouble she's causing. While Garnet is having a somewhat sleepy journey to Alexandria, the rest of the party is actually witnessing the violence that the Queen is perpetrating. Her naivete and willingness to trust the innate goodness in her mother and others (I mean Zidane is a thief for goodness sake and she just asks him to kidnap her out of nowhere) is a character flaw she is growing to overcome. I think she's visibly demonstrating how far she has to go in terms of maturation. You can't develop a character if they start out flawless.

2) I'm pretty sure the "Uncle" thing for Cid is a term of endearment, not a blood relation thing.

3) Quina's story is pretty terrible, but he/she is one of the most interesting characters from a gameplay perspective. Quina's weapon has a huge damage range which means that he/she can deal by far the highest physical damage of any mage, while still being inconsistent. Quina also has access to the High Tide ability at all times, which allows him/her to trance more frequently than most other characters. That allows Quina to actually rely on his/her trance in a way other characters cannot. Another interesting thing about Quina is that he/she has a bunch of weird, unique passive abilities and Blue Magics that are pretty game changing if used correctly. Quina is profoundly weird, but I think his/her role in combat makes up for it.

That Garnet is constantly naive is only one-half of my criticism of her depiction in the game. My first issue stems from how long they maintain this depiction despite the party's ever changing circumstances. Garnet is provided with multiple opportunities to learn from experiential circumstances to mature and grow as a person. However, this does not happen until the story reaches the point in which it needs for that to happen. The consequence then is two-fold, one Garnet's actions are honestly too disparate to what the main party experiences. Her scenes mimic her defining characteristic in that they are cheery and saccharine. This results in some of the most awkward transitions and juxtapositions in the entire game. My second issue is how uneven Garnet's character development plays out. Garnet's character growth follows that of an exponential graph. For hours she fails to develop beyond her initial tropes and idioms. Then when the game finally decides that it is time to change that it provides all of the character development in the world in about two hours. Then her characterization stops, and you will have to wait for another Garnet specific set piece. This stop and go storytelling is far more herky-jerky than it has any right to be, and to be honest it should be considering how important Garnet is to the story. I'm honestly of the opinion at this point that Garnet should just be the Laguna of Final Fantasy IX. Just give her her own party and have her act entirely independent from everyone else. That way she can stand on her own laurels and develop gradually in a more natural manner.

Everything that you are saying about Quina being "interesting" in combat is true... right up until you recognize how much work you have to put in Quina to make the character usable in combat. All of those moves that you name dropped are negative fun to get in the game. Not positive fun, not zero fun, but NEGATIVE FUN! You have to do the game's homework in order to get anything out of Quina. Then we need to talk about how getting better weapons for Quina involves interacting with the frog minigame... I double dog dare any person to defend the frog catching minigame.

Garnet's naivete lasts until she returns to Alexandria at the start of disc 2, which means it lasts like 1/4th of the game. I feel like that's the equivalent of complaining about Harry Potter's naivete in books one and two of a 7 book series. These characters are changing slowly and yes, their development accelerates when huge dramatic events occur. That's how most stories work, especially in games.

Also, Garnet IS the Laguna of FFIX for the back half of disc 1 and the start of disc 2. They give her a separate party and have her interact separately from everyone else. You are literally describing how the game plays out.

For the record, you don't need to invest a ton of time into Quina to get any use out of him/her. His/her physical attack is strong enough to make a difference in combat even if he/she has no blue magic. He/she also has some really useful passive abilities like millionaire that can help. If you eat one out of every 4-5 enemies with him'her in the party, you'll get enough abilities by accident to make a difference. His/her development is not as straight forward as the other characters, but it isn't the ordeal you're describing.

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Quarters

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The more I read this, the more I remember why I never finished this game.

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Jesna

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I like Quina from a mechanical perspective, and how fucking weird s/he is in the context of the world, but Quina is certainly the most superfluous character in the game. Probably would have been better as an NPC, honestly.

I think Garnet's actions are justified in that her entire character arc revolves around her naivety and her unwillingness to accept things how they are. She is distressed that people won't take her seriously, which is reasonable as she is quite literally a sheltered princess, but she still clings to this idea that the situation is just a big misunderstanding and everyone can fix things by talking it out. The game makes it clear that this is absolutely not the case. Her arc may happen in fits and starts as you say, but it goes a lot farther than most of the others. She has to come to grips with the reality she has been sheltered from, become self-confident for the correct reasons, deal with her past, and try to understand her place in life. And, this is actually my favorite part, she continually fucks up along the way. Even after she has these big revelatory moments that would wrap things up with a nice little bow in other games.

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  1. This highlights how empty I find the first continent of Final Fantasy IX. Plus when you add in the fact that two of the cities on the initial continent get wasted, there aren't a ton of opportunities to explore large set pieces which thus far have been the true highlights of Final Fantasy IX, well at least for me. Maybe you all like exploring "Dank Ass Cave #45." The cities and town that you explore provide the best livable moments in the game.

Oh man, if you think the Mist Continent is empty I can't imagine how you felt when you saw the rest of them. The western one in particular is so barren. It felt to me like half the world existed solely to make the map feel big enough, and to provide a place to hunt Chocographs.

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beforet

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#14  Edited By beforet

@zombiepie To answer your question: Quina is my child, and I love them. Are they horribly offensive in the way their dialog is written? Likely. I can offer no argument against it. But yet I love them still.

To me, Quina is an anomaly. They exist, in defiance of everything around them. There are situations where Quina should have clearly died, and yet they persist. They exist in all times and places.

I bet you didn't even realize that Quina was with you in Alexandria. When controlling Steiner. Manning the kitchen. Quina is in all places, especially our hearts.

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soimadeanaccount

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It seems like you are falling into the spiral of the game isn't giving the explanation that you want and at the moment that you want it.

You praised Dali and Lindblum ATE because of its foreshadowing and resolution that happens afterward in short order. Whereas any sort of lingering mystery is the game not fulfilling its end of the bargain. This I think however is the (perhaps a possible) strength of longer games. Layering questions on top and putting the player on the path to find out is in its own a hook, rather if FF9 is successful at that is...meh ok I guess.

The fillers and character moments might not be utilized optimally but I think that's potential over the run of the mill "we can't waste any screen time therefore every scene has to be an action scene" mentality. Let suppose the oppose and if we were to remove the fillers then all you have would be scene after scene of a character ever changing since the last time they talk or get any screen time, that might sound appealing, but at the same time I feel like it is also shallow and predictable. Essentially it devolves down into every character gets their one intro, development, and resolution scenes.

The repeated Steiner being facepalm worthy, Garnet being ever naive, while exhausting, is reassuring of who they are. If we only see Vivi tripping and falling once, are we really convince that he is really clumsy? If we see Zidane hitting on Garnet only once is he really this casanova wannabe character?

Quina is a gameplay gimmick, some of his spells are weird and can be insanely useful depending on context, but in a "normal" playthrough you can skip him/her/it.

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#17 ZombiePie  Staff

@thatpinguino: Dude, she's still naive on the second disc. Not only that but the game depicts her as being more of a passive observer rather than the independent spirit that the latter portions of the game want you to believe. Her oscillations are incredibly sudden and abrupt and in some locations like Conde Petite she manages to switch between these two states in the same set piece. There we witness her passively take Zidane's verbal harassment, while also attempting to direct the party towards their goal. I only really find one of those depictions to be "palatable."

When I mention Laguna I am suggesting that I want Garnet to become completely separated from Zidane's party and Garnet is provided her own supporting cast for the rest of the game. Having her tag along with Zidane during the second disc marked some of the worst moments in the entire game. Also, if you really want to establish the idea that she is this independent spirit then how about we have her accomplish something that is consequential to the main plot? Wherein Garnet is the leader of a party that is directly responsible for addressing the immediate concerns of the story.

And when it comes to Quina... WHERE THE FUCK DO I GET MAGIC HAMMER?!?! Billy went on and on about how amazing it was, but I can't find this attack ANYWHERE!

I was 11 when this game came out so ye I like Quina , because I thought it was funny then and the nostalgia sticks, it's like everything in IX for me, favourite Final Fantasy, because it is of the memories I have of it. It's also the first one I played

Then I guess I just made a terrible mistake in having Final Fantasy VIII be the first Final fantasy game I ever played... or maybe it was the right decision. Personally, I do not know if a younger me would have enjoyed Final Fantasy IX. I know that I come across as a curmudgeon from time to time, but the teenaged version of me was way worse. I have already mentioned that in the 90s and early 2000s I was more into science-fiction rather than high fantasy. I even scoffed at the works of George R.R. Martin and Tolkien. I have become more tolerant of the genre as a whole, but the fact still remains that I just do not enjoy traditional fantasy settings.

That and Medieval history was my least favorite historical era to study next to the Warring States era of Chinese history. So... many... countries... and... names... to... memorize.

@jesna said:

I like Quina from a mechanical perspective, and how fucking weird s/he is in the context of the world, but Quina is certainly the most superfluous character in the game. Probably would have been better as an NPC, honestly.

I think Garnet's actions are justified in that her entire character arc revolves around her naivety and her unwillingness to accept things how they are. She is distressed that people won't take her seriously, which is reasonable as she is quite literally a sheltered princess, but she still clings to this idea that the situation is just a big misunderstanding and everyone can fix things by talking it out. The game makes it clear that this is absolutely not the case. Her arc may happen in fits and starts as you say, but it goes a lot farther than most of the others. She has to come to grips with the reality she has been sheltered from, become self-confident for the correct reasons, deal with her past, and try to understand her place in life. And, this is actually my favorite part, she continually fucks up along the way. Even after she has these big revelatory moments that would wrap things up with a nice little bow in other games.

Can someone just give me a list of attacks that are worth learning? I honestly do not want to put that much time into doing this the "old fashion way."

As seen in my earlier comment directed at penguin, my objections extend beyond Garnet just being naive. It's the fact that she does not learn from her mistakes and world experiences, and as such we watch her attempt the same thing over and over again. That is narrative breaking for me. Why in the world do the characters continue to blindly allow Garnet to subject them to her nonsense? I cannot even begin to number the times in which I have blurted "Well that worked perfectly the first time," when playing this game. The other major issue is simply the fact that the game quickly transitions her between sub-leader, to passive party member in the same scene.

Then there are all of Zidane's comments and remarks directed toward Garnet at Conde Petite... I'm not okay with that. She should not be taking the amount of verbal abuse that gets directed towards her way as often she does.

@zombiepie said:
  1. This highlights how empty I find the first continent of Final Fantasy IX. Plus when you add in the fact that two of the cities on the initial continent get wasted, there aren't a ton of opportunities to explore large set pieces which thus far have been the true highlights of Final Fantasy IX, well at least for me. Maybe you all like exploring "Dank Ass Cave #45." The cities and town that you explore provide the best livable moments in the game.

Oh man, if you think the Mist Continent is empty I can't imagine how you felt when you saw the rest of them. The western one in particular is so barren. It felt to me like half the world existed solely to make the map feel big enough, and to provide a place to hunt Chocographs.

MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN! Getting Chocographs are such a bummer! Why am I doing this again? WHY ARE THERE SO MANY FUCKING PEPPERS! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

So much of the overworld feels barren and artificially padded out. So am I supposed to feel this great sense of wonderment as I look at blurry background pixels? There better be some awesome bad-ass sword that I get out of this! Because the actual photos are TERRIBLE! There are so small and sometimes it is a PAIN to try and figure out what they are trying to show you.

Is there a zoom button that I'm not aware of?

@beforet said:

@zombiepie To answer your question: Quina is my child, and I love them. Are they horribly offensive in the way their dialog is written? Likely. I can offer no argument against it. But yet I love them still.

To me, Quina is an anomaly. They exist, in defiance of everything around them. There are situations where Quina should have clearly died, and yet they persist. They exist in all times and places.

I bet you didn't even realize that Quina was with you in Alexandria. When controlling Steiner. Manning the kitchen. Quina is in all places, especially our hearts.

So when you say that you like the Quina are also willing to defend any of Quina's side quests? Because I think I'm done hunting for frogs. I'll get the blue magic once I have a better idea as to what magic spells are and are not worthy of my time. Also, I have said it before, and I will say it again: Quina ruins entire scenes. There are set pieces where Quina's brazen lack of social skills adds unnecessary humor to dower and downbeat moments that should stay as such. EVEN CAIT SITH KNEW NOT TO FUCK UP AERIS'S DEATH SCENE!

It's good to know that Quina is a cockroach.

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deactivated-5c295850623f7

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I was always rolling with Quina, Freya and Steiner because the absurdity of this group of freaks was a nice respite from the dull storyline. Quina particularly broke the game immersion for me in a way that I kind of appreciated.

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IBurningStar

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I can assure you that no one likes Quina. If we ranked all of the playable characters from every Final Fantasy ever released Quina would be near the bottom of that list. Luckily Quina tends to leave the party for large gaps of time, so if you try you can avoid having to endure him/her for very long.

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#20 thatpinguino  Moderator

@zombiepie: You can get magic hammer from eating a goblin or a magic goblin on the overworld of the outer continent (the unforested areas around the Black Mage village). Some of the good Quina spells are:

White Wind (a spell that heals everyone): you can get that from Zus in Clyra's trunk and a few other birds

Angel Snack (a spell that causes the whole party to use a remedy without taking a turn): you can get this by eating the weird flat dragons that are in Burmecia and the grassy areas outside Lindblum

Level 5 Death (this kills all enemies whose level is a multiple of 5): you can get this by eating a whale zombie on the beaches of the outer continent. Level 5 death is amazing for one section of the game where your party gets split.

Twister, Earthquake, and Aqualung (these are the only spells that do earth and wind damage plus a stong water spell): I forget what you have to eat for these, but they are strong spells.

Frog Drop (this does damage to a single enemy equal to Quina's level x the number of frogs you've caught in the frog mini game): If you're going to do the frog mini game, this is the payoff. It can routinely hit for 9999 for a very low MP cost. You get this by eating Gargan Toads in Quina's home marsh.

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beforet

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@zombiepie: Frog Catching is bullshit, it's only worthwhile rewards is their best weapon that you can get in like 4 other places, and boosting the damage of Frog Drop. And you need to eat like 200 frogs to get Frog Drop to deal max damage so fuck that.

Fun facts: Quina's physical damage has a much higher degree of randomness than any other character's. So on turn they can deal 50, the next they can deal 500. Better weapons improve the range, but it's still RNG based.

I love Quina.

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#22 ZombiePie  Staff

@beforet@hassun@thatpinguino@teddie@jesna@zeik@amiga1200@soimadeanaccount@drdarkstryfe@shindig@robbparris@azulot@spaceinsomniac@jasonr86@geraltitude@onemanarmyy@encephalon@mikachops@fezrock@mento

OKAY THEN! WE NEED TO TALK!LIKE RIGHT! NOW I DEMAND THIS BECAUSE I NEED PROFESSIONAL HELP FROM FINAL FANTASY PROFESSIONAL! CALLING "DOCTOR FINAL FANTASY!"

Well then... I started playing Disc Three of Final Fantasy IX. Stuff happened... lot's of stuff, and as I run the effectiveness of the ellipsis as a rhetorical technique into the ground I'll just leave it at that. Actually, how about I say something incredibly controversial.

I THINK THE FIRST HALF OF THIS GAME IS BAD and it is so damn so in comparison to the second half of the game... BUT ITS SECOND HALF IS GOOD! So I think I only "like" half of this game, and I have no idea how to judge this game objectively anymore. As you can see rather plainly, I hate the game's slow and methodical start especially when it delves into my traditional fantasy tropes. There's an incredible amount of filler and fluff that I found downright disgusting it the first fifteen or so hours. It was world building for the sake of it, nothing more, nothing less.

Then it stops doing that twenty minutes deep. Now here I am with no idea what to make of this game anymore. Did the writers really just have me wade through twenty hours of inane fluff in order for the game's pivot to really resonate? Or did they really want me to immerse myself in the minutiae of this game world for the sake of it? I don't know... I just don't know anymore.

Like SERIOUSLY! This third disc is NOTHING like the first two! What is even happening anymore?

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@zombiepie: I mean, I always found the story's twists and turns to have more impact because I had been so thoroughly charmed by the world and characters during the slower bits. Maybe they managed to get to you subconsciously? Most people seem to prefer the first half to the second, but perhaps the build up took longer to catch up to your tastes? Regardless, I'm very glad to hear you are (legitimately) enjoying yourself playing a Final Fantasy game for once. It should probably be noted that the 4th disc is by far the shortest, for whatever that's worth.

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#24  Edited By Zeik

@zombiepie: Not really sure what the question is necessarily, but to me the only thing that truly matters is how you feel about the game as a whole when you are done with a game. Every game has highs and lows, but if you leave a game with a positive impression they must have done something right. Right? (I say this hesitantly knowing that the ending could potentially leave a sour taste depending on how you react to certain things and I wouldn't want to imply that negates everything else.)

Anyway, as for FFIX itself, I don't really have a problem with the early parts of that game, so you can take what I say with a grain of salt. I don't really mind a degree of aimlessness and world building for sake of world building if it pays off later. Often that is what increases my investment in the world and characters later. I think too often people try to compare video game storytelling directly to books and movies, but what draws me to video games, and RPGs in particular, is that you are allowed to spend so much time simply existing in a world and slowly absorbing it. That can result in a slow simmer and maybe uneven pacing, but in the long run it allows you to connect with that world and characters in a way no other genre can.

Maybe you need to reasess what truly matters in the early parts of a JRPG? Or maybe you just need to not make a big deal out of it and accept the simple fact that you like only like half the game. In which case you should simply ask yourself whether you like the second half more than you dislike the first. All else fails, boil everything down to cold hard math.

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JasonR86

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@zombiepie:

It's been a really long time since I played it. From I remember, which was back when the game was new, the opening was slow but I enjoyed it because it allowed for world building. Then with the world set, characters set, and all the pieces in place the second half's moments could be more effective. By the end, I was left thinking that it was as good as Final Fantasy 7 (my very first Final Fantasy game so keep that in mind) and a billion times better than Final Fantasy 8. The other thing to keep in mind is that I've never cared about the pace of something as long as I felt it worked and in the case of FF9, when I played it, the pacing never bothered me.

I guess what I would do in your position is suss out for sure what it is about the second half I like so much and does any of that enjoyment owe itself to what happened in the first half of the game. For example, the movie Valhalla Rising, a movie with a glacial pace that I adore, has next to no violence in it, or really next to no anything which is the point and is awesome, until the final third of the movie. Then all hell breaks loose in small snippets over about 20 minutes. The payoff was that the violence was short, brutal, and totally different from everything that came before it making it even more visceral. So does your experience of the second half of game the result of your experience of the first half, even to some small degree?

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deactivated-5c295850623f7

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@zombiepie: I dunno, you might be overthinking it a little? The first half-ish I feel is nice in a "Ahh, I could wander around and just look at the nice character designs and environments and be content" sort of way. It almost has a slice-of-life bent to it which I was indifferent to at the time, but now that my tastes have changed I really really like (to the point where playthroughs end after about 15 hours because the story is kind of whatever and the best environments are found there anyway).

Mileage obviously varies on these things, but the enjoyment I get from 9 is purely aesthetic, whereas you might be approaching it from a "videogames should be a rollercoaster so this is bad" kind of position? ~Which is ok too~

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Shindig

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@zombiepie I'll be honest, I tore through the first two discs last time I played it. I guess there's less external pressure going on and you've only really got Vivi's stuff and the Beatrix fights to wake you up.

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#28  Edited By ShadyPingu

@zombiepie: Disc 3 is definitely where the game shows its hand, though given your experience with FFVIII, you should've been expecting a swerve at around this time. I don't agree that this part of FFIX is BETTER -- in my opinion, "Disc 3" is roughly the point where, story wise, most FF games come spinning apart. But yeah, it's certainly different.

I don't know how far you are into Disc 3 as of this post, but... buckle up, motherfucker! The places this game goes by the end of this disc is Time Compression levels of crazy.

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Hmm. The "schlockiness" of the story doesn't bother me, and neither do the more silly or comic parts of it. It's a fairy tale story.

I like all of the discs, and I think that all of the characters have nice arks, and disc 1 is pretty good at establishing the main players.

So yeah, the story has some weak parts here and there, but the whole thing is really enjoyable to me.

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@zombiepie: So I won't be able to articulate this well, but JRPGs by nature need a lot of content to justify their gameplay systems (so stuff like, pacing the distribution of abilities so the player isn't overwhelmed by them, and then giving you enough content to use those abilities, learn how they work, and eventually formulate strategies with them). Because of that, they have to work their stories around that which generally leads to padding, pacing issues, lack of narrative etc..

Obviously some games handle it better than others, and I think FFIX does a decent job of it by setting up the world and characters so (like others before me mentioned) the twists and revelations in the later game have enough context to actually have meaning.

I think whether the first half of this game resonates with someone is going to be entirely personal. I commented in one of Pinguino's threads about this, but essentially I think worldbuilding is hugely important in a game like FFIX where you're going to be interacting with it for so long, because you need to connect with the world the same way you would with characters in a movie. If the setting doesn't feel alive, then you don't want to explore it and you don't want to engage with it, which is why I'm not opposed to how long this game spends setting up its world. I think I'm on my 4th playthrough of this game now, and I'm still finding new NPC stories that run throughout the game. I enjoy being in the world, and I enjoy the characters (and not just the story important ones), so going through the slower part of the game is naturally an enjoyable experience for me.

Directly counter to this is FFXIII, which has an immediate call to action, but then spends zero time setting up any of its major conflicts, factions, locales, or even explaining what commonly used terms mean, instead relegating 90% of its story to unlockable codex entries that are a hundred times more interesting than anything shown in the cutscenes. It spends so little time setting anything up or informing the player of anything that I never connected with it, and it was a miserable experience. Can't wait for you to play that one, by the way :)

If I had to guess why they made the later part of FFIX so much stronger from a narrative standpoint, I'd say it's because they really wanted that stuff to hit, and so they "sacrificed" the earlier parts of the story so they could present it the way they did while maintaining the balance/structure of the gameplay. Developers are still trying to solve the problem of longform storytelling in games. FFIX's story choices were just another imperfect solution in a long line of them.

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Like SERIOUSLY! This third disc is NOTHING like the first two! What is even happening anymore?

All I remember from the first two discs is that next to nothing carries over into the third, and that they wrote themselves into a bad hole.

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#32  Edited By hassun

@zombiepie: Don't worry you will be quite disappointed a bit at the end.

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@zombiepie: In a nutshell?

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I always viewed the first two discs as this group of people just getting by and thinking they were playing hero. They think they know who the antagonist is, what their motivations are, and how to stop them. The battle at the tree threw everything they thought they know about the world on its head, and the group was forced to grow the fuck up.

I think my favorite scene in this whole game is when Zidane saves Garnet and Eiko from the castle, and as they are swinging away, Eiko is PISSED THE FUCK OFF at Zidane holding Dagger.

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soimadeanaccount

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Welcome to the world of JRPGs, where the highs could be very good, but the lows make you want to pull your hair out and goes wtf is this shit!? This is why it is such a difficult genre to understand and difficult to judge.

You are just going to have to decide for yourself if the good overweight the bad, or the other way around, or you are just going to have to take an average, but with the understanding that there are ups and downs. For a game that lasts for such long hours there are bound to be some high points (hopefully), and low points. Sometimes you need that low to contrast. When everything seems happy go lucky or hovering between cool and lukewarm, then it decides to gets all up in your face in the craziest way possible might be just what it needs to grab you. It doesn't work all the time, there are games out there that fall completely flat, and how effective its effects are varies player to player.

As for spending time for world building, it is pretty much the crux of most RPGs. RPGs of today pretty much double down on it, and Western RPGs especially love to spend their time world building along with lore that overshadows the game, and people eats it up like in The Elder Scroll series. Mass Effect series probably spend the entire first game world building and I suspect those who puts ME1 as their favorite are very much into that world building aspect over the latter ME2's characters story, and ME3's conclusion to the conflict.

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Fezrock

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Funny. I felt the exact opposite. I loved the first two discs and was pretty disappointed by the third (and fourth, such as it is). Disc 3 starts off great, no question, but around the time you leave the Mist continent again things kinda crash down for me except for a couple scattered set pieces that are fun.

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ZombiePie

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#36 ZombiePie  Staff
@jesna said:

@zombiepie: I mean, I always found the story's twists and turns to have more impact because I had been so thoroughly charmed by the world and characters during the slower bits. Maybe they managed to get to you subconsciously? Most people seem to prefer the first half to the second, but perhaps the build up took longer to catch up to your tastes? Regardless, I'm very glad to hear you are (legitimately) enjoying yourself playing a Final Fantasy game for once. It should probably be noted that the 4th disc is by far the shortest, for whatever that's worth.

It has honestly been one of the hardest swings I have ever emotionally felt about a video game my entire life. Never before have I switched opinions about a game this late into it. I don't know if I should champion the game for so heavily inverting my expectations, or decry it for scrapping practically everything it created in the first half of the game. I know that's histrionics, but the point still partially stands.

@zeik said:

Maybe you need to reasess what truly matters in the early parts of a JRPG? Or maybe you just need to not make a big deal out of it and accept the simple fact that you like only like half the game. In which case you should simply ask yourself whether you like the second half more than you dislike the first. All else fails, boil everything down to cold hard math.

I would argue the opposite. If the game honestly wanted to go in the direction it ends up going in its second half it should have just started with that tone and mood. What harm is there in just telling a simple tale of self-actualization? Why did I have to wallow through hours of inane fantasy fair before getting to the main course? Those aren't heavy expectations for a game. I honestly feel as if the opportunity cost to Final Fantasy IX is one of its most damning aspects. It's wonky economy of action also does not do the game any favors as well. There are real pressing issues that plague this game that I feel need to mentioned before recommending it to anyone. Finally, I would also argue that the perspective that I endeavor to provide is not the traditional perspective of someone who has extensive experience with JRPGs, and that is part of the appeal with my blogs.

@jasonr86 said:

I guess what I would do in your position is suss out for sure what it is about the second half I like so much and does any of that enjoyment owe itself to what happened in the first half of the game. For example, the movie Valhalla Rising, a movie with a glacial pace that I adore, has next to no violence in it, or really next to no anything which is the point and is awesome, until the final third of the movie. Then all hell breaks loose in small snippets over about 20 minutes. The payoff was that the violence was short, brutal, and totally different from everything that came before it making it even more visceral. So does your experience of the second half of game the result of your experience of the first half, even to some small degree?

Oh, I love Valhalla Rising so damn much. Part V and Part VI of that film is just a masterpiece. However, I would argue that the issue is not the fact that Final Fantasy IX has a slow and deliberate story. It just decides halfway in the game to finally get its shit together and throw all of the plot twists it has been holding back all along all at once. It's a dizzying affair, and one that I feel is far from optimal, but at least it does something. How much of this excusable, and how much of this is a case of "throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks?" I don't think the people who wrote this even know the answer to that question.

@zombiepie: Disc 3 is definitely where the game shows its hand, though given your experience with FFVIII, you should've been expecting a swerve at around this time. I don't agree that this part of FFIX is BETTER -- in my opinion, "Disc 3" is roughly the point where, story wise, most FF games come spinning apart. But yeah, it's certainly different.

I don't know how far you are into Disc 3 as of this post, but... buckle up, motherfucker! The places this game goes by the end of this disc is Time Compression levels of crazy.

The swerve in Final Fantasy VIII almost killed me. I honestly almost died. Final Fantasy IX does not pull the rug from underneath your feet. That said, it sure as HELL is not entirely coherent or done in a manner that 90% of all stories do. BUT GODDAMN IS IT SOMETHING!

@teddie said:

If I had to guess why they made the later part of FFIX so much stronger from a narrative standpoint, I'd say it's because they really wanted that stuff to hit, and so they "sacrificed" the earlier parts of the story so they could present it the way they did while maintaining the balance/structure of the gameplay. Developers are still trying to solve the problem of longform storytelling in games. FFIX's story choices were just another imperfect solution in a long line of them.

But again this raises my earlier point if this is the best course of action. So much happens in such little time that it is almost a task just to process all of the information that the game is throwing at you. You have all of the major character arcs resolved in record time, AND the major story pivot in the game on the same disc. Not only that, but the story introduces a deluge of new villains and antagonists to the story which are offed in record speed. I would even argue that the game re-introduces an entirely new "call to action," and starts the entire Hero's Journey all over again. That's what took me aback the most.

I always viewed the first two discs as this group of people just getting by and thinking they were playing hero. They think they know who the antagonist is, what their motivations are, and how to stop them. The battle at the tree threw everything they thought they know about the world on its head, and the group was forced to grow the fuck up.

I think my favorite scene in this whole game is when Zidane saves Garnet and Eiko from the castle, and as they are swinging away, Eiko is PISSED THE FUCK OFF at Zidane holding Dagger.

Can we also talk about how half of the character arcs are resolved in the most unsatisfying manner possible? Freya deserves better. Like for pitty sake. She deserves so much better. Then there's the fact that Vivi is the best character in the game, and everyone else pales in comparison to him. Honestly, why doesn't the game just have him be the protagonist?

Welcome to the world of JRPGs, where the highs could be very good, but the lows make you want to pull your hair out and goes wtf is this shit!? This is why it is such a difficult genre to understand and difficult to judge.

You are just going to have to decide for yourself if the good overweight the bad, or the other way around, or you are just going to have to take an average, but with the understanding that there are ups and downs. For a game that lasts for such long hours there are bound to be some high points (hopefully), and low points. Sometimes you need that low to contrast. When everything seems happy go lucky or hovering between cool and lukewarm, then it decides to gets all up in your face in the craziest way possible might be just what it needs to grab you. It doesn't work all the time, there are games out there that fall completely flat, and how effective its effects are varies player to player.

As for spending time for world building, it is pretty much the crux of most RPGs. RPGs of today pretty much double down on it, and Western RPGs especially love to spend their time world building along with lore that overshadows the game, and people eats it up like in The Elder Scroll series. Mass Effect series probably spend the entire first game world building and I suspect those who puts ME1 as their favorite are very much into that world building aspect over the latter ME2's characters story, and ME3's conclusion to the conflict.

My interpretation is to still expect clear and cohesive scaffolds out of the narratives that I subject myself to. Unless you are David Cronenberg or Werner Herzog, you really shouldn't try to mess around with the standard storytelling formula. I would also agrue that the actual world of Final fantasy IX isn't THAT interesting to learn about. The overworld is vastly empty, and few of the locations really feel worth exploring. Certainly there's a variety to the locations, and that's the games best attribute in tersm of its art design, but it comes across as standard fantasy fare for the most part. Well... until the third disc that is.

Also I'm going to warn everyone right now that episode three of this blog series features me at my peak asshole nitpicky nature. I'm going to hit this game hard, and I'm going to keep hitting. I would even argue that the next episode features me at my most malicious, and in hindsight I'm not entirely sure what to make of it now. I would argue that there's still a value to many of the criticisms shared on the episode, but they have been tempered as time has gone by.

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soimadeanaccount

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#37  Edited By soimadeanaccount

The thing is FF9 didn't really do anything different and the sudden switch in tone and a rushed call to action is actually not unusual as far as animu/video game story goes. It isn't good, but it isn't unusual within its medium either. Animu series shifting its tone at precisely episode 12-13, exactly the half way point of a 24-26 series, for a time was nearly universal. You should go watch (or avoid at all cost) or read some synopsis of some Japanese and especially Korean drama, first half or 2/3 would be all weird and slapsticky then by the last half to 1/3 you found out everyone has cancer, or are involve in some kidnapping/murder coverup, or are trying to stop some international terrorism plot. I shit you not. College was a weird time. They were totally right when they said you get to see and experience new things.

But back to the game at hand, I don't know if they were actually timing this shift in tone and speed purposely or were they simply going down the usual development hell of needing to wrap things up right the fuck now.

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I feel like I'm in a complete minority here, but I think disc 1 of FFIX is the most perfectly executed introduction to a FF's world and characters, especially using the backdrop of the play in tandem to the kidnapping ploy of the princess, and the way it sets up its core cast of characters. There is literally nothing I didn't like about disc 1-it's sudden turn from cheerful throwback to classic FF games, to this heavy story of genocide and destruction. It's disc 2 where I think the game takes turn for the weird-the entire first half of disc 2 just feels like a giant side step or detour for the plot. Thankfully it gets back on track with disc 3 and all the other crazy shit that gets introduced that people have mentioned on this page. I kind of get a lot of the complaints here (especially towards the mini games-although to be honest I think nearly 90% of FF mini games and side quests are god awful) but I do think FFIX feels like the most cohesive and polished in terms of art style, production value and pacing from the FF games of the PS1 era, even if some of the late game stuff does come out of left field.

One thing I'll agree is that the villains suck, specifically Kuja and the queen.

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@zombiepie I think Vivi being the protagonist would ruin it. He works so well because Zidane acts as a surrogate for the player. You get to be the guy that helps this small child along his very adult inner journey and cheers him up when he's down, and you get to experience the full range of emotions that Zidane feels watching said journey.

Wait, is this not part 3 of the blog series? If so, maybe I'll skip the next one and wait for the blog with the emotional swing back to enjoying yourself. My heart can only take so much nitpicking with regards to this particular game. And if you go and shit all over Suikoden II I might tear up a bit.

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#40 ZombiePie  Staff

@fezrock said:

Funny. I felt the exact opposite. I loved the first two discs and was pretty disappointed by the third (and fourth, such as it is). Disc 3 starts off great, no question, but around the time you leave the Mist continent again things kinda crash down for me except for a couple scattered set pieces that are fun.

I am slowly but surely starting to feel that my disdain for high fantasy may be the reason for my turn around on the game. Also, as an amateur writer, I find the risks that the game takes on the third disc to be respectable, even when some of its risks turn out to be failures. The story was crafted with an honest desire to entertain and shock the audience. Craft and care were put into every scene, and that love is nakedly apparent to me.

The thing is FF9 didn't really do anything different and the sudden switch in tone and a rushed call to action is actually not unusual as far as animu/video game story goes. It isn't good, but it isn't unusual within its medium either. Animu series shifting its tone at precisely episode 12-13, exactly the half way point of a 24-26 series, for a time was nearly universal. You should go watch (or avoid at all cost) or read some synopsis of some Japanese and especially Korean drama, first half or 2/3 would be all weird and slapsticky then by the last half to 1/3 you found out everyone has cancer, or are involve in some kidnapping/murder coverup, or are trying to stop some international terrorism plot. I shit you not. College was a weird time. They were totally right when they said you get to see and experience new things.

But back to the game at hand, I don't know if they were actually timing this shift in tone and speed purposely or were they simply going down the usual development hell of needing to wrap things up right the fuck now.

I have seen anime live by the episode 12 pivot, and I have seen anime die by the episode 12 pivot. Like Kill la Kill, fuck that show. Looking back on it Final Fantasy IX does borrow some pacing strategies reminiscent of anime. While I understand the thought process in doing so the end result is still the same for me. The game spends an inordinate amount of time on exposition even as we enter the halfway point of the game. Like honestly why did the game wait until the VERY END of disc two to introduce Amarant? He's introduced way too late! It's amost as if I don't want to learn more about him because of my time becoming incredibly precious.

@drilbey said:

I feel like I'm in a complete minority here, but I think disc 1 of FFIX is the most perfectly executed introduction to a FF's world and characters, especially using the backdrop of the play in tandem to the kidnapping ploy of the princess, and the way it sets up its core cast of characters. There is literally nothing I didn't like about disc 1-it's sudden turn from cheerful throwback to classic FF games, to this heavy story of genocide and destruction. It's disc 2 where I think the game takes turn for the weird-the entire first half of disc 2 just feels like a giant side step or detour for the plot. Thankfully it gets back on track with disc 3 and all the other crazy shit that gets introduced that people have mentioned on this page. I kind of get a lot of the complaints here (especially towards the mini games-although to be honest I think nearly 90% of FF mini games and side quests are god awful) but I do think FFIX feels like the most cohesive and polished in terms of art style, production value and pacing from the FF games of the PS1 era, even if some of the late game stuff does come out of left field.

One thing I'll agree is that the villains suck, specifically Kuja and the queen.

Again, part of my distaste stems from a lack of enjoying the character's initial character tropes and the other half stems from the initial settings. The characters are initially barren and stale. While I don't think the game's pivot is entirely successful for everyone, fuck that dating bullshit with Steiner, I welcomed the story doing SOMETHING new with the characters. If the game just continued to have the characters behave and act as they did in the introduction their paper thin characterization would have worn my patience down, and I think the same would apply to most players. I agree with your points about cohesion and art style. The game is able to create a "livable" world that I can imagine living viacriously in.

Also, I'm serious, fuck the date scene with Steiner. That scene is terrible.

@jesna said:

@zombiepie I think Vivi being the protagonist would ruin it. He works so well because Zidane acts as a surrogate for the player. You get to be the guy that helps this small child along his very adult inner journey and cheers him up when he's down, and you get to experience the full range of emotions that Zidane feels watching said journey.

Wait, is this not part 3 of the blog series? If so, maybe I'll skip the next one and wait for the blog with the emotional swing back to enjoying yourself. My heart can only take so much nitpicking with regards to this particular game. And if you go and shit all over Suikoden II I might tear up a bit.

So how about pacing the characters differently where the game doesn't front load Vivi's characterization on the first disc, and instead use that pacing scaffold on Garnet or Zidane? What I object to is how much more characterization Vivi gets in comparision to other major characters in the story. The cast is incredibly inconsistent, and I feel that is one of the game's weaknesses.

Also, Part 4 was delayed because it was parent-teacher conference week for me. It's the slog that I always dread.

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#41  Edited By hassun
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