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…
My apologies, adventurers. The Final Fantasy IX report went on a brief hiatus while I "Woo-hoo'd" and "Wa-haa'd" my way through Super Mario Odyssey. I'm ready to hit the dusty roads of Terra again, though.
Missed out on previous Final Fantasy IX reports?
Zidane and company head to the outer continent via Fossil Roo, an underground tunnel that sounds like it's named after a bootleg Winnie the Pooh character. They emerge on a mist-free continent that still has terrible draw distance, and meet some very Scottish dwarves. Lali-ho!
The party makes a detour to a hidden village of Black Mages who, like Vivi, are capable of conscious thought and feelings. Vivi is elated to find others like him, but he becomes less jazzed when he learns his brethren have finite lifespans. After a year or two, they suddenly "stop." That is, they effectively die. Vivi understandably suffers an existential crisis, but he decides to live whatever life he has remaining to its fullest. He starts by re-joining the party and promising to tell his mage pals about the outside world. He's such a little trooper.
We should’ve called this episode “Vivi Passes the Butter.” https://t.co/tcu8fQF0QB— Nadia Oxford (@nadiaoxford) October 28, 2017
Garnet and Zidane get fake-married so they can get permission to go on a fake-pilgrimage to the dwarves' sacred sanctuary, the Iifa Tree (Quina and Vivi also get fake-married for the same reason. Mazel Tov).
On their way to the big tree, the party runs into Eiko, a precocious and spunky little girl with powerful magic (can't have an anime or JRPG with at least one of her species). Eiko lives alone in a shattered Summoners' village that's overrun with more moogles than rats. Here, Garnet learns about her past. She was born a Summoner like Eiko, and, also like Eiko, she had a horn. But she was forced to flee the village with her mother following a massive storm. Garnet's mother died on the trip across the sea, but Garnet survived and was adopted by the King and Queen of Alexandria—after they removed her horn. This explains why her Eidolons were "sealed" within her.
After several minutes worth of character building, revelations, and fake marriages, the party finally makes it to the Iifa Tree. They hope to summon Kuja by turning off its mist-making capabilities. Within the tree's roots, they find a monster called the Soulcage who reveals the tree keeps souls from returning to the earth. The mist—which is basically a miasma of restless souls—is a by-product of that process. The mist also makes people violent and war-hungry, and that malice feeds into a loop that gets more people killed and creates more restless souls.
The party kills the Soulcage and shuts off the mist-maker, but are called back to the Summoners' village before Kuja can return and say "What the hell?". Brahne's hired mercs, Lani and Amarant, steal the village's precious jewel (which isn't unlike the other jewels Alexandria's army has been tearing apart the world to find). Lani attempts to take Eiko hostage, but Amarant turns on his former partner and joins the party.
The party returns to the Iifa Tree and sure enough, Kuja appears. So does Brahne's army. The Queen declares Kuja is no longer useful, and summons Bahamut to take care of him. Kuja turns the tables by summoning Bahamut—but Kuja calls on a huge airship named the Invincible to enslave the dragon king. Bahamut then delivers a Mega Flare directly to Brahne's face, and if you think there ain't no way anyone can survive a Mega Flare to the face, well, you're not wrong.
Brahne washes up onshore with the rest of the party, who got caught in the crossfire of the battle between Kuja and Alexandria. Brahne apologizes for everything she's done to Garnet, then croaks, leaving Garnet as the kingdom's sovereign. Garnet, Steiner, and Beatrix start planning for Garnet to ascend the throne. When it becomes clear Garnet will be assuming Queenly duties and probably won't have any more time for adventuring with the party, Zidane throws a massive sulk and enters a Yu-Gi-Oh tournament (OK, the Final Fantasy IX equivalent thereof) in the town of Treno.
Unsurprisingly, the uneasy peace doesn't last for long. Kuja infiltrates Alexandria, hides behind a statue until nightfall (I'm serious), and summons Bahamut to level the kingdom. Bahamut gets in a few good licks before Eiko, spurred on by some ancient instinct, re-unite fragments of a summoning gem that calls up Alexander, the guardian Eidolon of the kingdom. Alexander decimates Bahamut with a hail of holy light, and it is good.
Kuja, impressed, calls upon the Invincible to enslave Alexander as it did Bahamut. An old man aboard the ship says some cryptic things about how he's tired of Kuja's rebellious ways, and he refuses to help. Kuja, now pet-less following the death of Bahamut, goes into hiding.
The destruction of Alexandria leaves Garnet traumatized and unable to speak. There's nothing to be done except wait out the condition. The party knows it must go after Kuja, but it also knows chasing him down will be hard without an airship. Cid asks the party to track down some potions that might turn him human again; as an oglop / bug, he can't work on any of his airships. The party retrieves the potions from the ruins of Alexandria, combines them, and rubs the concoction on Cid, who turns into a frog. The crew decides it's probably best to go after Kuja in a regular boat in the manner of normal human beings. They set sail on Cid's craft, the Blue Narciss.
Thoughts and Feelings
I love the FMV depicting the battle between Bahamut and Alexander. No, you know what, I can't even call it a battle. Alexander just roasts Bahamut, and it's amazing. In most Final Fantasy games, Bahamut is depicted as the high king of dragons and of Eidolons in general—the "Hallowed Father." None are above him, but Alexander smacks him down without effort.
Watch the cut scene. You can pinpoint the exact moment when Bahamut thinks to himself, "Shit. Shit shit shit."
Speaking of Eidolons, Final Fantasy IX does some interesting things with its Summoners. Summoners are typically an all-or-nothing class; though it takes time and several trials, the average Final Fantasy Summoner should eventually be able to call upon every Eidolon from the lowliest Chocobo to the mightiest sea monster. But while Eiko and Garnet are from the same tribe, they each have exclusive Summons. Eiko can learn to call on Fenrir and Phoenix, for example, but Garnet can't. On the flipside, Garnet can learn to summon Shiva and Ifrit, but Eiko's unable. Eiko tells the party that Summoners choose their key Summon when they come of age, so this exclusivity might be a by-product of that rite. Either way, it's a nice way to give the Summoners and their Eidlons a bit of individuality.
Summoners tend to be depicted as reclusive outcasts in Final Fantasy games, and IX's no exception. While I'm not too surprised to learn Garnet shares her origins with Eiko and the other Summoners, I'm still intrigued at how her adoptive mother and father removed the horn that connected her with the Eidolons. Garnet says several times that her mother was a kind and loving woman before Kuja fed her suggestions of war, and in her last moments, we do see Brahne is remorseful for everything she's done. Adopting Garnet and treating her like a daughter was indeed kind, but removing her horn was not—especially since it's suggested Garnet's adoptive father, the King, feared it and what it symbolized. The removal process also hurt Garnet, and even though her memories of her life before her adoption are fuzzy, she can still remember the pain.
I'm not done Final Fantasy IX, obviously, so there might be still-unspoken reasons why the King cut off Garnet's horn. But from my current point of view, its removal works as a metaphor for children who are forcibly separated from their native culture when they're adopted. In Canada, the "Sixties Scoop" was a practice that took aboriginal children from their parents and placed them in white families or in Residential schools, where they were discouraged (or outright forbidden) from celebrating their original language and culture.
The government and participating families were convinced they were doing a kind thing for these "savage" peoples. While I've no doubt some of the families were kind and loving to their adopted children, it doesn't change the fact the kids were forcibly separated from their identities. In many instances, the separation caused PTSD, depression, pain, and identity crises—some of which Garnet deals with through the course of Final Fantasy IX.
I don't know if Square-Enix intended for Garnet's adoption into the Royal Family to mirror events like the Sixties Scoop (because sadly, history has records a-plenty of cultural genocide), but it's been on my mind since learning about Garnet's past.