Guest Column: Learning About Life and Death From a Little Black Mage

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austin_walker

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Edited By austin_walker
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Heads up, this article speaks openly about major plot details of Final Fantasy IX, VII, and X.

Most people remember Final Fantasy IX for its nostalgic return to the series’ roots. It features many of the character archetypes from the earlier games, like Black Mages and White Mages; it returns to a European-inspired fantasy/steampunk world (there are dwarves) after VII and VIII’s more modern, sci-fi/steampunk aesthetics (people go to space); it references earlier games in the series with remixed songs,repurposed items, and re-imagined characters. But while FFIX may stand out to others for its nostalgic winks at earlier games in the series, for me, it will always stand out for its rumination on and representation of terminal illness.

Of course, FFIX never explicitly mentions diseases of any kind. It does, however, feature two central characters that have artificially shortened lifespans with little to no hope of extension. The game’s secondary protagonist, Vivi, and main antagonist, Kuja, both learn that their lives will end prematurely.

Vivi is a young Black Mage, modeled after Black Mages from earlier games in the FF series. He begins the game as a relative cipher, completely oblivious of who he is and what his purpose in life could be. However, as the game unfolds, he learns that his entire race was created in a factory to be foot soldiers in an escalating war between the three major countries of FFIX’s main continent. Kuja is the arms dealer stoking the fires of war with a constant flow of magical weapons, including the Black Mages. In the most ironic of twists, Kuja was manufactured to be an angel of death on the planet Gaia by an even more powerful being. Both Kuja and Vivi were artificially constructed to be disposable tools of war, and as such they were engineered to die young. Magical planned obsolescence might not perfectly match being diagnosed with a terminal condition, but damn if it isn’t the closest fantasy equivalent.

It’s about halfway through the game when Vivi gets the bad news about his shortened lifespan. After discovering how he was made and what his original purpose in life was, Vivi and the rest of the party stumble upon an entire village full of sentient Black Mages. Up until this point, almost every Black Mage you encounter is a silent killing-machine, unlike the thoughtful and soft-spoken Vivi.

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In the Black Mage village, he finally finds a home full of people like himself after his short lifetime of wandering. However, as so often is the case in life, his newfound joy is soon followed by newfound hardship. At the rear of the village, Vivi finds a cemetery, the only one in the game (though there is also a lone grave in Alexandria). Although FFIX is a game full of bloodshed, the Black Mage Village is the only place where death is depicted without any precipitating violence. The battles in FFIX are all high tragedies filled with war crimes and magical weapons of mass destruction; but, this one small, windswept plot acknowledges the quiet terror of natural death. This cemetery represents a truth that is as simple as it is unsettling: we all die some day.


Video games almost always seem to have a solution to mortality. If the world is dying, you’re healthy. If civilization is under attack, you’re the hero. If you’re sick, there’s a cure -- there’s always a damn cure. Games rarely deal in fragility and inevitability. They’re empowering to a fault. Even when games do display death, they often aggrandize it to the point of absurdity. If a main character has to die, they are snatched away in a huge, symbolic instant like Tidus in Final Fantasy X. If a side character bites the dust, their passing is a rallying cry for the entire plot like Aerith in Final Fantasy VII.

But, as someone who is currently sitting in a hospital room watching his grandfather fight for his life, I’m rarely provided any useful references on what it’s like to be in this situation by video games. They don’t tell me how to comfort someone without healing them. They don’t tell me how to continue my life without missing what could be precious, final moments with a loved one. Video games provide escape, not sustenance. It’s because of these narrative trends that I pay attention whenever a game seriously examines mortality. It’s because of these narrative trends that I still replay Final Fantasy IX.


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At the Black Mage Village’s cemetery, Vivi meets Mr. 56 and Mr. 288, two other Black Mages. Mr. 56 sets the stage for one of the game’s biggest revelations with a chillingly naïve anecdote about how his friend, Mr. 36, just “stopped moving” one day. He ends his story by saying, “He's going to come out [of the ground] again one day, right? When he does, I'm going to wash him off in the pond.”

Mr. 56’s story breaks my heart. The game makes clear that Mr. 56 does not fully grasp what death means. He cannot understand how his friend suddenly passed away, and so he believes this friend can reawaken just as suddenly. And yet, despite his naiveté, it is a beautiful vision. I cannot imagine what it would be like to stand before a friend’s tombstone and think about something as simple as bathing them after they wake up. The game seems to want me to dismiss Mr. 56 for being childish, for not really understanding how death functions. But I can’t bring myself to do that.

Once Mr. 56 raises the question of why Black Mages are dying at an alarming rate, Vivi flees the cemetery terrified, worried about how Mr. 56’s story could pertain to his own life. When he returns later that night, Mr. 288 tells him, "I think our life span is limited... I've suspected this ever since the first one came to a stop. It varies a little, but most of us stop moving one year after production." And with that, the doctor has given his prognosis: Vivi is six months old at the game’s start, which would give him about six months to live. After finally finding the home he so longed for, Vivi is given his probable expiration date. And yet, somehow Vivi doesn’t let his life grind to a halt. The very next day he tells the party that “everyone in the village asked me to see the outside world and tell them about it.” Vivi’s journey continues as though nothing happened. He doesn’t even take a day to regroup.

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After the Black Mage Village, Vivi’s story fades into the background for many of the following acts. That is, until Vivi has to confront his fellow Black Mages’ existential dread. Towards the end of the game, Kuja recruits 99% of the Black Mage Village to his cause by promising to extend their lives in return for their servitude. Of course the main party foils his evil plans and frees the Black Mages; however, when the mages abandon Kuja, their disillusionment is palpable. They were dying, looking for any salvation, any answer, no matter how unlikely. In the midst of their turmoil Vivi asks Zidane, the game’s main character, “Zidane! What am I supposed to tell them!?” He wants his surrogate older brother to tell him the magic words that might comfort his shell-shocked family. Before Zidane can even muster a platitude, Vivi turns and walks towards his family, saying, “All I can do... is just sit with them.”


I remember when my mom was at her sickest.

As her cancer got worse and her chemo got stronger, she would occasionally ask me why God would put her through this a second time. Why did it have to be her and what did she do wrong to deserve her suffering? At the time I was studying the story of Job in one of my high school English classes, so I felt like I might actually have the knowledge she needed. Maybe I had the magic words that would give her peace. I explained to her how God tested Job for seemingly no reason and how Job was ultimately rewarded for maintaining his faith in the face of the worst hardships. I would interpret and reinterpret the story, thinking if I just found the right phrasing she might stop crying. If I just knew what to say, she could sleep with some confidence, maybe find some peace. I thought my will and love might summon some great wisdom. But nothing worked. None of my words made the food stay down.

But through all of this, I lay by my mom’s side clinging as though any day might be my last with her. I stared at her bald head and held her swollen hands. For as little as musings mattered, my physical presence always brightened her day. Just seeing one of the people she was fighting so hard for gave her a little more spirit; it helped her stay awake just a little longer.

All I could do was sit with her.


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I may have learned from it, but Vivi’s statement does not read like sage advice, it reads like resignation. The narration’s use of ellipses and its juxtaposition with Vivi’s previous shouting lends an air of exasperation or overwhelming sadness to his statement. After all, in this moment he is both a patient learning that a potentially revolutionary treatment cannot work and a caregiver comforting his family members after they get their own bad news. But there is something moving about sitting with someone and acknowledging your shared powerlessness in the face of death. In mutual frailty there somehow is strength, however fleeting that strength may be.

It’s a moment that mirrors Vivi’s earlier decision to rejoin the party after first learning of his terminal condition. Whether you’re the patient or someone supporting a patient, hearing a terrible diagnosis can erase days, weeks. The timeframe of your life changes so radically that every decision suddenly has importance. Priorities shift and routines can break down before the physical toll even begins. Although Vivi finds a way to rise above the existential dread that grips his brethren, his resolve is not easily communicable. He cannot force his fellow Black Mages to adopt his optimistic outlook.

Vivi’s story ends during the game’s final cutscene, and to the credit of FFIX’s development team, they don’t shrink from a difficult thing. Vivi never finds some miracle cure for his shortened lifespan. Instead, the game’s ending cinematic is interspersed with what are presumably Vivi’s final thoughts. There is a beautiful simplicity in the handful of sentences he’s allowed, and one bit of narration has always stuck with me: “To keep doing what you set your heart on... It's a very hard thing to do. We were all so courageous...”

Currently my grandfather, my Papa, is struggling with late-stage cancer. I don’t have the heart to accept that he might lose his battle, but my rational mind can’t ignore the signs. Everyday is a struggle for him. Things he once took for granted, like walking up stairs and tasting food, are withering away. Day by day I feel like he might be giving up. And yet, some days he finds the strength to walk over to the dinner table to eat with me and my family. Sometimes he’s just as happy to tell me about his farm in Italy or his mother’s cooking as he’s ever been. And on those days I feel this tremendous sense of pride in my grandfather’s strength. Despite all of the physical and emotional strain he’s under, there are some things that his heart is still set on. Despite the hardships, he keeps on going. Cancer has a way of transforming even the most mundane moments into heroic triumphs, and each one is courageous.

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While Final Fantasy IX does not sugarcoat the reality of Vivi’s condition, it does grant him some permanence beyond the intangible memories that his friends carry forward. Vivi is the only character in FFIX who(ironically, given his age) has kids. During the game’s final cutscene, Puck, Vivi’s first real friend, runs into a Black Mage that looks identical to Vivi. At first, Puck is startled to see his friend after such a long time. However, the Black Mage replies that he isn’t Vivi he’s “Vivi's son”. He is then followed by six other Vivis through the streets of Alexandria.

This moment seems to be FFIX’s answer to the question, “If we’re all going to die eventually, what’s the point of living?” The game posits that although Vivi doesn’t survive the events of the game, the impact he had on those around him has carried forward. In fact, he made such an impact that someone found a way to create more Black Mages in Vivi’s image. Even in death, the game reinforces the value of Vivi’s relentless optimism and purposeful lifestyle. Although he may have perished, Vivi’s has left behind an entire lineage.

There is a power in carrying forward a legacy so directly. I’m actually the third Gino in my family. Both of my grandfathers share my name. One of them died of cancer before I was born, and the other is fighting it now. It’s hard to think that my life will end any other way. What if my blueprints share that same fatal flaw? However, all of the superstition in the world couldn’t make me change my name. Sometimes I think sharing a name conveys some of the charisma and diligence that my grandfather’s embodied. Or I imagine how my name allows my mother to keep her father in her life everyday. It’s odd being both a symbol of my parent’s love for their fathers, and a unique person in my own right; but, I relish the opportunity to leave my own mark on the name Gino. Maybe someone else will carry it on for me.

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Though I know that this isn’t how things work, I can’t help from feeling like it’s fate that FFIX would resurface right now, at a time when I need it again. I just wish I could share with my Papa the lesson that Vivi’s story taught me. I wish I could convey some way for him to stay optimistic while still staring death in the face. Maybe I still can. After all, my Papa loves when I speak Italian, and in Italian, Vivi means to live.

This article is dedicated to my Mom, my Papa, my Grandpa Gino, my Grandma, my uncle Egidio, and anyone else who’s lives have been touched by cancer. I miss you already Papa.

Gino Grieco is a freelance writer, computer programmer, and Giant Bomb moderator. He's the guy who writes all of those Final Fantasy and Magic the Gathering blogs. He co-hosts the "Deep Listens" podcast which can be found here. You can find him on Twitch, Youtube, Twitter, and some site called Giant Bomb dot com under username ThatPinguino.

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hassun

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#1  Edited By hassun

More GB people on the come-up!

I know I can relate to the premise. Maybe not exactly the same but not that far removed. Being confronted with the limits of mortality can be extremely unpleasant and make very little sense.

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ShadowSwordmaster

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This is a great read.

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moregrammarplz

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I was deeply moved by this piece. Thank you, Mr. Grieco, for writing it and thanks to Giant Bomb for having it on their site.

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soodd

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Great read, you have me here crying in front of my computer, stay strong man!

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enai

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Thank you.

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Steampug

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Holy crap, such a beautiful read. The last line.....

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deactivated-5f90eabee6bba

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Wow really good piece. I always assumed Vivi lived somehow at the end... I guess not...

"...let those who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy, your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead."

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Mento

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#8  Edited By Mento  Moderator

Kudos, man, this was a beautiful article. Reminded me of an emotional story Brandon Stroud wrote a long time ago about Illusion of Gaia and his cousin (which I sadly cannot seem to find). It always amazes me to hear the ways that games (or any media) I've experienced have affected other people very differently, based on what was going on in their lives at the time.

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hi_imdaisy

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This was a lovely read, Gino. Sending good thoughts to you and your Papa!

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AMyggen

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Fantastic article.

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phokal

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#12  Edited By phokal

Great article. I'm glad you were able to get it out after all this time.

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BigBob

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I recently finished Final Fantasy IX, and as a result, this read was particularly fresh to me. I didn't have the same emotional experience as the author did from playing it, but then again, I've never had a close family member or friend suffer from an illness. On the other hand, I do have issues with my father and the way he raised me, and as a result, watching Tidus struggle to recover from the way he was raised as a child hit a chord with me.

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Zeik

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Probably my favorite guest column so far, and not just because of my unabashed love of FFIX. (And Vivi.)

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Seinenfeld

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Thanks Gino, this is beautiful and you should be proud of writing it. My grandfather is also in a bad way and has suffered from cancer previously, so this was more relatable than I would ever expect an article about video games to be. Final Fantasy IX also happens to be my favourite game, thanks in no small part to Vivi's tale. The game is obssessed with life, death and meaning, and it probably doesn't get enough credit for being able to balance general lightheartedness with serious ruminations on the hardships of life and overcoming our own shortcomings, histories, and mortality.

GUYS PLAY FINAL FANTASY IX IT'S VERY GOOD.

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todomachi

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Thank you for sharing with us.

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Seeric

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Great article and I also have always really liked the theme Final Fantasy IX has of 'giving meaning to one's life'. Vivi's role in the game is probably the one which most strongly reflects the theme, but I also appreciate how even the main villains stick to the theme.

It's heavily implied in a few spots that Queen Brahne's destructive grab for power is her attempt to fill the void left by the death of her husband and all Kuja did was encourage her to go down that path (and it would have been so easy to simply write it off as her 'being under a spell). As for Kuja, the only way he is able to give value to his life is to compare it against the lives of others so he spends a good chunk of the game hoarding power, but when he is given the same verdict as Vivi (he has a prototype with a significantly reduced lifespan) the only way he can find to give his life value is to literally burn everything to the ground since his life must have the most value if it is the only one left at the end.

As much as people complain about the final boss, Necron, coming out of nowhere, I think it's the perfect antithesis to the theme. Necron is a big, meaningless reset button whose sole purpose isn't exactly to destroy the world, but to undo all life and therefore deprive the world of meaning.

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Gaff

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Well, that was a rough and beautiful read. My sympathies to you, your family and everyone who has to deal with terminal illness.

And I feel guilty for doing this, but... Please consider donating to your local cancer foundation, or any charity that deals with terminal illnesses.

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Maluvin

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Great piece of writing. Really glad you wrote this because Vivi is such a great character who is criminally overlooked in the history of Final Fantasy. In a series noted for its excess, Vivi's story felt compelling in a very grounded way and the reality of his situation has really stuck with me over the years for exactly the reasons you pointed out.

Games through mechanics and story plot often touch on death but so often it's from the perspective of survivors (or killers) but it's rare we see a story that gives much attention to the dying themselves.It's something that more games should have the courage to deal with properly.

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Jovanny23

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beautiful

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batalskar

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I lost my mother to cancer 2 years ago. It is the hardest thing in the world to deal with, but I am glad u found something to ease your mind. Best read GB.com has had in a while, thank you.

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thatpinguino

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#22 thatpinguino  Staff

@batalskar: I'm sorry for your loss.

@seeric: The more I think about Necron, the more I see him as an embodiment of nihilism.Thus, by defeating him your party radically asserts that life has some sort of higher purpose. Zidane practically says as much.

I especially enjoy that the whole cast, even the comic relief characters, manage to find a purpose for their lives beyond saving the world. Somehow the save the world plot doesn't overcome the game's more personal storytelling.

@seinenfeld: Everyone should play FFIX. Hear that @zombiepie!?

@phokal: So am I. I actually started thinking of seriously writing something on Vivi four years ago when I was working on my GB blog on Kuja (don't judge me too harshly, I didn't edit as diligently back then). When I looked back at that piece I noticed that I effectively pitched this one in the comments.

@soodd: This article had a 100% cry rate among my family members during the editing process. I'm glad it resonated with you!

@mento: Do you remember what site it was on?

@moregrammarplz: No one has ever called me Mr. Grieco before, but I'll take it!

@hi_imdaisy: Thank you for the well wishes!

@gorkamorkaorka:Thank you for that line. Where is it from?

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Mento

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#23 Mento  Moderator

@thatpinguino: On Progressive Boink, back in the day. The whole site disappeared one day and then reappeared as a section of Vox Media's SB Nation, with most of its articles gone.

Stroud's currently off making a career out of being the biggest wrestling mark that ever lived (he's even on an episode of the Powerbombcast), but it appears he published it on a different site at some point. I hope he doesn't mind that I highlighted some really old writing of his. I still think about it occasionally.

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Deathpooky

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#24  Edited By Deathpooky

Amazing piece. While I have soft spots for Steiner, Beatrix, and some of the other FFIX characters, Vivi's tale always stuck with me. Especially given the clever way they attach it to a cipher character that in the run-up to the game's release just felt like a fun piece of nostalgia calling back to the NES days. For a kid who still felt himself immortal and invincible, it was a sobering exploration of mortality, moreso than the comic book versions of death you've noted that typically are found in games. And your recounting of it in terms of close family you've lost gives it more power than I experienced the times I've played it.

The only disagreement I'd have is that the ending of Vivi's kids felt a little unearned, or at the least an unexplained, artificially happier ending. Vivi facing his impending mortality, continuing on the journey to save and help others, and comforting his likewise-terminal friends are all the real-world impacts of his life and his character that felt truer to me. Alongside his rapid growth into adulthood from his naive beginnings, while still maintaining his optimism, hope, and a sense of rightness. It's that kind of reaction I'd hope I could have to facing that kind of fate.

But I do like your interpretation of the ending better in terms of a direct carrying on of his legacy, as opposed to an indirect one. It felt contrived when I first played it, but reflecting back on it as someone now with kids it does ring true in terms of the story they were trying to tell.

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Wikmalm

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This was an amazing read. Thank you.

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Novis

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THanks for the article. Brings back memories of my mom. Also, Final Fantasy 9 is a great game. It's the only FF game that I've beaten!

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greenmac

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Thank you for sharing this with us.

IX is my favorite of these games -- I first played it during a terrible time in my life, and it allowed me just enough respite to not go completely off the edge.

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soimadeanaccount

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Funny I was just thinking about FF9 while stuck in traffic today.

It was a fine game, I only have a few issues with it (the final boss, the relationship of Zidane, Kuja, and Garland felt like a rug was pulled under me), but somehow it never quite made a huge impact for me despite many solid strength, and yes Vivi's role and story story is definitely a high point of the game.

I remember back in the days there was discussion about rather the scrolling text at the ending was from Vivi or Garnet, I think people were trying to get the Japanese version and comb through it looking for gender dependent words of phrases...I never figured how that ended up. Rather Vivi actually died was another debate people had, but I thought it was pretty obvious he did.

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Ozzie

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An amazing article, thank you for sharing it.

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zorak

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Great read, thank you.

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Time_Muffin

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love the title

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dwerkmd

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;_;

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Mistzero

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#33  Edited By Mistzero

Really loved Vivi, he totally stole the show when it comes to character that you really care about; one of the many reason FFIX is my favorite FF. The way he deals with death was much the same way people would deal with it. Sometimes all you can do to provide any strength is just sit with them. Great read, thank you!

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audioBusting

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Thank you for the article... I've never played Final Fantasy IX before, but maybe I should!

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Macka1080

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Thank you so much for sharing this, Gino. The challenges of supporting someone terminally ill often take a backseat to the person at the centre of it - understandably so. But it can be tough for friends and family too. That search for a cure or the magic words is so tempting, even when we know it's futile. To just be there for someone, as you pointed out, can be the best support you can provide.

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bootaide

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I haven't posted on Giant Bomb much but I wanted to take the time to say thanks for writing this Geno. FFIX is, like many others here, my favorite video game and it means more to me than I can sometimes put into words. Every time I go back to it I feel like it has something else to teach me, and Vivi and Zidane are characters that have both influenced me greatly and that I go back to when I'm struggling. Personally I'm going to be unable to replay FFIX without thinking about this piece now; it was wonderful and I'm glad you shared it.

I'm sorry things are rough right now, for you and for everyone here and for myself, but things will get better.

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shadowself

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#38  Edited By shadowself

This was a great read, thanks for sharing your story.

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SilversunZer0

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Thanks for sharing Geno, great piece.

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Slag

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Wonderful piece @thatpinguino .

And that last line, utterly amazing. Almost seems like FFIX and you were just meant to be. Although I wish it wasn't for this reason.

I wish I had something profound to offer, but I don't. It's just awful and cruel to see the people you love the most slowly taken apart like that. Life just isn't fair when it comes to suffering like this. I wish I didn't have an idea of what you've gone through and must be going through. Part of the reason I started coming to Giant Bomb in the first place and kept coming back throughout the years was to have something to do when I was spending nights in the care facility for a terminal loved one that only stopped earlier this year. It never felt like anything I did made a difference no matter what I tried, but it felt even worse to not be there. It's a powerlessness unlike any other I've ever known and it just wears on you. I just hate the whole thing.

I hope you do have a chance to talk with your papa about FFIX, or at least this article if you haven't already. While he may not be receptive to the power of the game's story, I'd have to think he'd be comforted and proud to know his grandson is so thoughtful and respected. If nothing else, you might be comforted by the knowledge you tried. In my experience there isn't much worse than the regret of not trying or expressing your feelings when you can.

My thoughts are with you and your family. Take care of yourself.

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Robaota

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Goodness this was quite the read, thanks Gino.

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rkk667

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I love how this is composed. Thank you.

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#43  Edited By Rahf

@audiobusting: These poignant moments are nustled between a classic JRPG and a voiceless anime. Just a heads-up.

*Edit* I had forgotten all about FFIX, but I remember Vivi's predicament. Man, it does hit harder when you're a grown-up.

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#45 jadegl  Moderator

Thanks very much for writing this, it's beautiful. I find myself not really being able to articulate anything more substantive than that.

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Always love reading your stuff @thatpinguino, a spectacular piece, and I haven't even played FFIX before.

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Thanks for the excellent article Gino. Very touching read, makes me realize how much I missed playing that game a young age.

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#48  Edited By thatpinguino  Staff

@audiobusting: You should play FFIX!

Amazing piece. While I have soft spots for Steiner, Beatrix, and some of the other FFIX characters, Vivi's tale always stuck with me. Especially given the clever way they attach it to a cipher character that in the run-up to the game's release just felt like a fun piece of nostalgia calling back to the NES days. For a kid who still felt himself immortal and invincible, it was a sobering exploration of mortality, moreso than the comic book versions of death you've noted that typically are found in games. And your recounting of it in terms of close family you've lost gives it more power than I experienced the times I've played it.

The only disagreement I'd have is that the ending of Vivi's kids felt a little unearned, or at the least an unexplained, artificially happier ending. Vivi facing his impending mortality, continuing on the journey to save and help others, and comforting his likewise-terminal friends are all the real-world impacts of his life and his character that felt truer to me. Alongside his rapid growth into adulthood from his naive beginnings, while still maintaining his optimism, hope, and a sense of rightness. It's that kind of reaction I'd hope I could have to facing that kind of fate.

But I do like your interpretation of the ending better in terms of a direct carrying on of his legacy, as opposed to an indirect one. It felt contrived when I first played it, but reflecting back on it as someone now with kids it does ring true in terms of the story they were trying to tell.

For a long time I shared your perspective on Vivi's "kids". I though the emotional impact he had on his friends and the lasting effect he had on the world was enough of a legcy for Vivi. He didn't need to have kids tacked on. However, now I see that last scene as resulting directly from the impact he had on his friends. Black Mages don't have kids biologically, to create Black Mages in Vivi's image someone had to turn the Black Mage factory back on in Dali and they somehow had to find mist in a world where the Iifa tree is dead. It reads to me like a labor of love on the part of one of the people he touched, and in that way it is as much an extension of Vivi into another generation as it is an act of grief on the part of one of his friends. When I started looking at it that way, the ending took on a slightly different meaning.

Then again, it only started to work for me when I started thinking about what I was going to name my kids when I have some.

@slag said:

Wonderful piece @thatpinguino .

And that last line, utterly amazing. Almost seems like FFIX and you were just meant to be. Although I wish it wasn't for this reason.

I wish I had something profound to offer, but I don't. It's just awful and cruel to see the people you love the most slowly taken apart like that. Life just isn't fair when it comes to suffering like this. I wish I didn't have an idea of what you've gone through and must be going through. Part of the reason I started coming to Giant Bomb in the first place and kept coming back throughout the years was to have something to do when I was spending nights in the care facility for a terminal loved one that only stopped earlier this year. It never felt like anything I did made a difference no matter what I tried, but it felt even worse to not be there. It's a powerlessness unlike any other I've ever known and it just wears on you. I just hate the whole thing.

I hope you do have a chance to talk with your papa about FFIX, or at least this article if you haven't already. While he may not be receptive to the power of the game's story, I'd have to think he'd be comforted and proud to know his grandson is so thoughtful and respected. If nothing else, you might be comforted by the knowledge you tried. In my experience there isn't much worse than the regret of not trying or expressing your feelings when you can.

My thoughts are with you and your family. Take care of yourself.

I'm sorry for your loss.

I was fortunately able to read an earlier version of this piece to him the day before he passed. I don't know if he heard it, but I hope he felt it. At the least, I let him know I was working on a thing about him while he was still mostly able-bodied.

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Wonderful, well written, and poignant. Thanks.

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Finis

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Great post, moving.

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