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!v
The Story So Far…
To recap: I'm playing Final Fantasy IX to completion, having failed to play it before its recent PlayStation 4 release. I'm documenting my trip, as well as my accompanying thoughts and feelings on this classic RPG.
When we last broke away from Zidane and his companions, they were travelling to the tree-top town of Cleyra following the decimation of Freya's home town, Burmecia. Cleyra is populated by a splinter group of spiritual Burmecians who practise pacifism. They gladly take in their refugee cousins and Burmecia's king.
Unfortunately, Cleyra's peaceful atmosphere is shattered when Alexandria invades and grabs a precious jewel used in sacred ceremonies. Then Queen Brahne nukes Cleyra for good measure using the power of Odin, one of the Eidolons she extracted from Garnet after capturing her.
Zidane and company travel to Alexandria as stowaways on one of its airships. They find Garnet, who's left teetering between life and death after her Eidolons are extracted. She's resurrected by Beatrix, a General of Brahne who's having second thoughts about serving her mad Queen.
Meanwhile, Steiner and Marcus break out of containment and bump into Zidane's crew. The group is chased by a pack of Bandersnatches—a monster invented by author Lewis Carroll that often shows up as wolf-like foes in Final Fantasy games. However, Final Fantasy IX's take on the creature opts more for a "Satanic shih tzu" look.
Freya, Beatrix, and Steiner hold off the shih tzus while Zidane escapes with Garnet, Vivi, and Quina. Their escape vehicle is a giant bug that loses its mind upon seeing a monster and rapidly propels its human cargo towards a lonely landmass called Pinnacle Rock. Here, Garnet meets the Eidolon Ramuh and regains her power to summon him.
Shortly thereafter, Zidane and Garnet witness an Alexandrian attack on Lindblum. Again, the rogue kingdom employs an Eidolon for the job—specifically, the living hellmouth Atomos. Shudder. By the time the party arrives, Lindblum's already surrendered to Alexandria, but Regent Cid still divulges a few secrets about the madness of Queen Brahne. Most notably, her new accomplice, Kuja, is a weapon-seller from the outer continent.
The party decides to cross the sea, meet Kuja on his home turf, and deliver a well-deserved smack upside his pretty fuchsia head. They're pursued by two goons under Brahne's hire: Lani and Amarant.
Thoughts and Feelings
I've seen comparisons made between General Beatrix and Cecil, Final Fantasy IV's protagonist. Indeed, both are high-ranking military personnel who see the light as their lieges become more and more twisted, but I think Beatrix has a better parallel: General Leo from Final Fantasy VI. Both are supremely powerful warriors who fight alongside the good guys once it becomes clear their Queen / Emperor is insane.
And that's why I'm sitting with my fingertips pressed together, just waiting for Beatrix to bite it. She's too powerful to keep on existing. General Leo's brief turn to the light is, in my opinion, one of the series' biggest teases. It happens at a particularly intense point of the game, exactly when you really need a combat veteran with a non-elemental spell that hits all enemies for massive damage. Similarly, Beatrix's move set is a candy shop stocked with a delightful assortment of deathblows. When I took control of her for those precious few moments, I said "Awesome! There's no way I'm going to be allowed to wreck stuff this badly for an extended period of time."
In my first Final Fantasy IX report, I praised the game's strong start. A good story kindles questions about its characters from the get-go. I was intrigued when I noticed Garnet had access to high-level summons as soon as I "met" her. She's incapable of calling them forth—their MP requirement is far too high at that point in the game—but their mere presence is a very intriguing way of letting me know Garnet isn't an average princess. It's not unheard of for Final Fantasy characters to have access to summons in the opening hours of a journey, but the greyed-out Eidolons dwelling within Garnet include Bahamut, Odin, and Leviathan—end-game summons who often double as important plot points in other games (and probably this one).
Garnet's greyed-out summons are a rare example of a video game telling its story in a manner that's exclusive to the medium. A couple more examples off the top of my head are the Metal Gear Solid games and a semi-obscure mobile title called Device 6. Most games are content with using words, events, and cinemas to tell you about a character—not in-game menus. That's not a bad thing, but it makes me more appreciative for the occasional moments when I can nod approvingly at a game making clever use of its mechanics.
Finally: I also appreciate the River Dance the Burmecians performed to strengthen their protective sandstorm (that didn't work out well). I can't look upon any style of Irish dancing without recalling one of my favorite books, Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. In a fit of patriotism, Frank's mother decides she's going to make him learn Irish dancing. For the next few weeks, Frank pockets the money for the lessons, buys sweets with it, and then makes up nonsense dances to show his parents what he's "learned."
I don't think Freya is faking her part in the dance, but the harp strings did snap when it was all done. I think that's the gods' way of saying "Booo!"