Nadia is playing the beloved RPG Final Fantasy IX for the first time, and he's chronicling her journey as she goes! Why not join her? Don't forget to listen to the accompanying oral report on Axe of the Blood God!
The Story So Far…
Welcome to the second installment of Nadia's Big Huge Final Fantasy IX Report. If you didn't read the first installment, I'm dialing your mother and telling on you right now. I might hang up if you go and check out the first part, though.
Some Final Fantasy games are awash in complicated themes and politics, and so far, Final Fantasy IX isn't one of them. That's not a jab; I think the series handles both story flavors well. I enjoy Final Fantasy IV's straightforward Good-versus-Evil plotline as much as I enjoy Final Fantasy XII's political ballet. At any rate, Final Fantasy IX's done a good job keeping my attention.
In the two weeks since I started the Report, I've met Zidane, Vivi, Freya, Quina, Garnet, and Steiner. I've fallen in and out of familiarity with Tantalus, Zidane's former theatre troupe that engages in a little light thievery when it's not performing its world-famous play (which is officially titled "I Want to Be Your Canary," but I automatically rename "Dude, Where's My Canary" whenever the name pops up).
Garnet is a princess from the kingdom of Alexandria, and her mother, Queen Brahne, has become mysteriously warlike. Zidane and his troupe whisk Garnet away to the relative safety of Lindblum Castle at the request of Garnet's uncle, Cid (who's been turned into a bug-person by his scorned wife. Don't cheat on your spouses, kids).
While visiting Lindblum, we learn Freya's kingdom of fellow rat-people, Burmecia, is under attack by an army of Black Mages belonging to Alexandria. Garnet understandably wants to get to the bottom of what her mother is up to, and she's immediately told to shut up and sit down because she's a princess and all that. So Garnet drugs the party during a banquet and takes off for Alexandria on her own with her loyal knight, Steiner in tow (and nagging her the whole way).
She gets there with the help of Zidane's old Tantalus pals, who happen to be going in the same direction to rescue another member of the Troupe. They're captured by the JRPG Juggalos Zorn and Thron as soon as they arrive at the Castle. Garnet tells Zorn and Thron she wants to talk to her mother. They assure her she will—but since Garnet ran off earlier with the unspeakably valuable family pendant, it won't be a friendly conversation.
Meanwhile, Zidane and his friends wake up with a hangover, determine "Well, that happened," and go off to investigate Burmecia. Sure enough, the kingdom's been levelled, and Queen Brahne is responsible—but she's not working alone. She has the aid of her loyal female knight, Beatrix, and a powerful magician named Kuja, whom I'm assuming is Final Fantasy IX's Big Bad Guy. It's a safe bet. The PlayStation era didn't hand out one-minute FMV introductions to just any old schmuck.
Gosh, that thud-thud-clap sample from "We Will Rock You" is bold. It's "Let's lift the opening riff from 'Purple Haze' for 'One Winged Angel'" bold.
Kuja smacks down the party, but instead of finishing them off, he flies away on a very pretty Skarmory. Zidane's party decides to make its way to Cleyra, a hidden tree-town where the King of Burmecia reportedly escaped to. I've been informed I've reached the end of Disc One, but such bookmarks are meaningless in this age of digital downloads. Makes me a little sad, really.
Thoughts and Feelings
I really like Freya. I'm a big fan of Final Fantasy's Dragoon class, even though any Dragoon in any Final Fantasy game has a fifty-fifty chance of sucking. I'm also a big fan of rats. I used to keep fancy rats as pets, and I as a kid I didn't care much about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but I liked Splinter. Rats tend to get a bad rap in fiction—think Cluny the Scourge, Ratigan, and any number of disease vectors that prey on innocent mice in fantasy stories outside of The Rats of NIMH—so I'm 100% on board with having an honor-bound female rat-dragoon in my party.
I don't like seeing female characters (who are usually also Princesses) get told they must stay behind while the party ventures forth because "It's too dangerous" or "You're too soft," or whatever nonsense. It's a boring, highly-overused plot mechanic in all forms of media—JRPGs especially—and the inevitable, also-tired resolution where the female protag proves herself takes its sweet time trundling towards you. There are other ways to kindle conflict with sheltered characters.
Though to give Final Fantasy IX credit, Garnet doesn't simply sneak her way back into Zidane's party once he departs Lindblum. She just drugs everyone and takes off. Moreover, she doesn't try to get the jump on the party by going to Burmecia ahead of them (which is usually what happens in these "I'll show you!" narratives); she opts to go her own way and talk to her mother. I appreciate that. It's also a good way to show us Garnet's grown up a bit: Whereas she was initially interested in getting away from her mother because of the latter's erratic behavior, Garnet takes it upon herself to go back and confront Brahne when it becomes clear the Queen's shift in demeanor is causing atrocities.
Don't forget to listen to the latest episode of Axe of the Blood God! I go into lots more detail about my playthrough and talk about the devil-may-care attitude of the game's hero, Zidane. While I already know he suffers an identity crisis later in the game, I'm muddy about the nature of that crisis (no spoilers!). Last week, a reader / listener pointed out it's not common for Final Fantasy heroes to enter the fray brimming with confidence, only to have their self-image shattered, and that's part of what makes Zidane interesting.
I enjoy seeing characters torn down and built back up. That came out meaner-sounding than I intended, but I suppose it's also the reason the Mount Ordeals quest in Final Fantasy IV is one of my all-time favorites in any RPG, ever. I'm curious to see where Zidane ends up.
Oh, and Quina's great. That's all I've got on that for now. Until next week!