Gaming Inspirations VI: Character Profile: Garnet til Alexandros XVII

Bookmark this link to Support FinalFantasyIX.com by shopping on Amazon!

Gaming Inspirations I: Personal Party Composition
Gaming Inspirations II: Character Profile: Adelbert Steiner
Gaming Inspirations III: Character Profile: Vivi Orunitia
Gaming Inspirations IV: Amarant Coral
Gaming Inspirations V: Interview with Joe Zieja

A huge thanks to chitobein for letting me post this badass picture! You can check out more of their stuff at chitobein.deviantart.com!

Hello, friends, and welcome to the fourth Character Profile of the Gaming Inspirations series!  “Gaming Inspirations” is a series of blog posts that puts into words how gaming has inspired me to shed my anxiety and its negative effects on my life.  Final Fantasy IX has provided incredible amounts of inspiration (probably because it’s the greatest game of all time), so I’m creating a profile for each of the main characters.  Each profile will examine their unique qualities and I will detail how, through physical action, I’m going to help myself lead the life I want to lead by incorporating those qualities.

Today we’re going to talk about the Princess of Alexandria herself, Garnet til Alexandros XVII.

CHARACTER SUMMARY

Here’s the breakdown: Garnet is a classic “damsel in distress” character… for about the first ten minutes.  She’s beautiful, sad, and there are evil thieves trying to kidnap her.  But, when the thieves come to whisk her away… She asks to be kidnapped?

Wut?

Throughout her adventures and experiences in Final Fantasy IX, she grows from a nerdy member of the royalty who doesn’t know how to interact with common folk to a compassionate, fearless leader of her kingdom.

QUALITIES

Book-Smart

In the game, Garnet has a personal tutor who is known as one of the smartest people in the kingdom (correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe he’s the only person to have the title of “Doctor” in the entire game).

He also has a top hat. And glasses. What a nerd.

Under his tutelage (combined with her love of learning), Garnet becomes… pretty damn smart.  At one point, she mentions how she’s read all of Lord Avon’s plays, which seems like a pretty impressive accomplishment for someone to do before they turn 16.

Street-Stupid

Sure, she was raised in a castle and is a super-smart beautiful princess-lady, but you learn pretty darn quick that her royal mannerisms and demeanor are… kind of hard to hide: for example… well, just watch literally any FFIX Let’s Play when the party is in Dali for the first time.  It’s an express train to Cringeville.

Being sheltered her entire life, she never learned how to interact with the common folk, much less blend in with them.  This is a huge challenge in the first disc, though she gets better with time.

HOW TO INCORPORATE THESE QUALITIES INTO YOUR LIFE

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the smartypants…es(?) in my life, it’s that their smartypants…iness didn’t happen overnight, nor did it happen without a good amount of work.

There are two things in the smartypants toolbox, however, that I’ve found make the process a whole lot easier: notes and patience.

Out of everything I’ve learned throughout these posts, one of the biggest has been the importance of note-taking.  I’ve been budgeting my money (because damn, student loans are expensive and I need to plan for them) using an app, You Need A Budget, for about a year now, so I’ve had some experience with “note taking”, in a sense, but now I’m starting to apply it to another part of my life: my diet.  Before I started counting calories, I’d say to myself, “oh, well, you had that venti Pumpkin Spice Latte, so now you can’t eat breakfast.  Or lunch.  Or dinner.  Or anything for the next week”.

I know what you’re thinking. And guess what? It’s the best.

Eventually, I’d get sick of this whole not-eating thing, eat an entire goddamn pizza to my face, and be right back where I was.  I used to think there was something magical about the 209-pound mark that I simply couldn’t pass; I’d struggle to get there, and as soon as I did, I’d slingshot myself back 10 or 15 pounds with a few “cheat nights”.  Now, I’m taking notes: I know what my “budget” of calories is for the day, and it helps me to better inform my decision-making and pace myself when eating throughout the day.  It’s working: when I started the Gaming Inspirations posts, I weighed 218.8 pounds.  This morning, I weighed myself, and I’m 208.1.  Not bad, man.  Even rudimentary calorie-counting has taken me from floundering in the darkness of “hurr durr I can’t lose weight” to slow, steady progress towards my goal weight.  Garnet didn’t just fall into Doctor Tot’s lap a damn book-learned genius: she had to take notes, study those notes, and adjust future actions based on what she learned.

The second thing that Garnet taught me, patience, is a lot harder.  Anyone can take two seconds to write shit down (not to shit-talk note-taking; it’s an integral part of the self-improvement process), but patience is much more of a practiced skill.  A skill that I’m pretty bad at.  But hey, I’m not gonna get better without practice, so practice I shall.

Garnet, when she had to go incognito as Dagger to avoid recognition, sucked at being a “normal Alexandrian”.  She didn’t speak the way they did.  She didn’t act the way they did.  But when Zidane said “hey, Dagger, you probably oughta stop acting so weird and naive and princess-y for a sec”, she listened.  It’s hard as hell to change behavior, no matter who you are, and she underwent a drastic change to achieve her goal of not getting caught.  Sometimes, changes can make you feel… strange.  Uncomfortable.  Not like yourself.  I feel this way a lot when I’m trying to implement the changes I write about in these posts.  Am I someone who counts calories?  Am I someone who stays positive, who speaks up in a group, who is unafraid to try new things?

I’m not yet.  But I’m trying to be.

This is how Dagger, raised in a castle removed from the society she was to rule, learned her compassion for the common folk.  She may have known about the life of the commoner before she ran away, but being forced to live as one, as awkward a transition as it was, gave her a perspective she never would have had as secluded royalty.

I used to let the fear of failure deter me, but now, I know that I’m going to fail, and I’m okay with it.  The only reason Garnet succeeded in escaping from Alexandria Castle is because she was patient and strove to understand those different from herself.  When she failed, she noted it, she learned from it, and it helped her be better in the future.  Change isn’t instant; it’s a slow grind to get from where you are to where you want to be, but you’re not going to get anywhere if you’re not willing to change, to get a little uncomfortable, to fail once in a while.  Princess Garnet helped show me that it’s worth it to work hard, be patient, and strive for what you really want.

Wow, we’re halfway through, guys!  Sunday’s post will be a recap of where we’ve been, and what’s coming down the pike 🙂

FFIX: Worlds Apart Review, Disc 4

Hello, and welcome to my review/listening guide of the fourth and final disc of Final Fantasy IX: Worlds Apart, the remix album from the sonic wizards over at OverClocked ReMix!

I’ll be going through, track-by-track, and rating them on a 1-5 “Dagger Scale”, along with giving a few thoughts on why I rated them so.  You can listen along on SoundCloud or download the album yourself at ff9.ocremix.org!

Inritus Bellum (The War to Nothingness) [Guardians]
Mikeaudio

dagger fulldagger fulldagger fulldagger fulldagger full

Okay, Trent Reznor, when did you sneak into this album?

In a word: epic.

In three words: epic as fuck.

In… more words: A perfect remix of “Guardians”.  Great build, great sense of… urgency, I guess?  I dunno.  It’s just super badass.

Ghosts (Terra)
LuIzA, Level 99

dagger fulldagger fulldagger full

I really wish I could rate this remix higher – I really like the music, and I think that the lyricism is some of the best on the album (far better than “Memories of Dali”, for example)… but… I didn’t like the singers.  Kind of a dealbreaker.  If I had enjoyed the voices themselves more, then this song would be a four, at the very least.

Ground Zero (Bran Bal, the Soulless Village)
halc

dagger fulldagger fulldagger fulldagger full

There was nothing about this remix that really blew me away.  It seemed relatively conservative, relatively uninspired.  There were no risks taken to really get this remix to “the next level”, as it were, but it was good nonetheless.  I quite enjoyed it.

The Fallen Savior (Pandemonium)
Darangen

dagger fulldagger fulldagger fulldagger fulldagger full

First off, badass name for a Pandemonium remix.  Really shows that the artist knew what was going on in the plot of the game at this point.  Definitely enjoyed how the melody was introduced by some super-badass guitar, and punctuated by a nice drumbeat.  Reminds me of how badass Zidane really is.

You and I (We’re Not Alone) [Not Alone]
Poolside feat. Amanda Appiarius

dagger fulldagger fulldagger full

You know, I really liked this song on its own.  I enjoyed the vocals (they’re probably the best on the album), it had a nice, driving beat, and the lyrics were… acceptable.

All this is rating the song itself, however.  As a remix, it falls flat on its face.

Okay, so: “You’re Not Alone” isn’t a romantic song.  It’s not, like, Dagger going “omg zidane ur zooooo hawt will u date me y/n?”.  It’s an inspirational-as-fuck song during which, at Zidane’s lowest point, his friends refuse to leave him.  He had helped them realize that they all had priceless life experiences, and that they all had something worth living (and, indeed, thriving) for, and now they finally return the favor.  It’s about saving the savior when he can no longer carry the weight of the world on his own.

This remix completely missed that, and that’s unacceptable.  The strength of the song alone brings it up to a 3.  As a remix of one of the marquee songs in FFIX, I’m very disappointed.

Viking Funeral for the Damned (Silver Dragon)
Knight of the Round, Adam Higgins

dagger fulldagger fulldagger fulldagger full

“Silver Dragon” gets the metal mix it richly deserves here.  This isn’t something I’d personally listen to (I find double bass fucking obnoxious (because it is)), but for “Silver Dragon”?  I’ll allow it.  Damn good remix.  The opposite of the remix above, basically: the song isn’t close to my favorite, but it’s damn faithful.

Filtering Through the Memories (Memoria)
sephfire

dagger fulldagger fulldagger fulldagger fulldagger full

Oooooh, here we go.  A fantastic remix for the nostalgically, creepily spacey Memoria theme.  I’m a huge fan of this remix.  When I hear this, though, I know I’m approaching the end, which is an excitingly scary prospect…

Crystalline Tempest (Crystal World)
Archangel

dagger fulldagger fulldagger fulldagger fulldagger full

All right, I’m calling it, it’s official – Archangel is the MVP of this damn album.  He, katethegreat, and umlaut-man all absolutely killed it, but… man.  Archangel knew the tone he wanted to strike in every song, and executed them all to perfection.  Well done, yo.

Arxidopita (The Darkness of Eternity)
SnappleMan, finbeard, norg

dagger fulldagger fulldagger fulldagger fulldagger full

DUDE.  I LOVE how badass people have made Kuja’s themes in this album.  As I’ve said before, I think Kuja is criminally underrated, but this album sonically draws him up to be the badass he really is.  Like, if you’re not intimidated when you listen to this shit, you need to check your amygdala (or whatever the part of the brain that handles intimidation is.  I’m no surgeon, fuck off).  The breakdown in the middle is great – it takes us back to a better time in the game, a less-intense, less-“existence-is-on-the-line” time, as if the artist is trying to escape the reality of the battle themselves.

Zero World (The Final Battle)
Fishy feat. Ludiotic

dagger fulldagger fulldagger fulldagger fulldagger full

FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKTHISSHITWASINCREDIBLE.  I love how the actual FFIX lines were uttered in the beginning and end; so epic.  I’ve always thought of Necron’s voice to be an… “anti-voice”, a sonic nothingness, greater than the deepest silence, cutting through the noise of the world around it… but I don’t blame the mixers for, y’know, not being able to do that.  That’s kinda tough.

FIVE.

EPIC.

DAGGERS.

Prelude to Fantasy (Prelude)
Archangel

dagger fulldagger fulldagger fulldagger fulldagger full

I mean, there’s honestly not much to say – here we are at the end of the album, and who’s here to punctuate it but our man, Archangel.

Do I even need to tell you that he earned a five?

This is another song, like “You’re Not Alone”, like “Melodies of Life”, that if you fuck it up, that’s some bad news.  Luckily, Archangel was on the job and up to the task, putting together the BEST “Prelude” mix I’ve ever heard.

It’s amazing.  It’s transcendent.  I wept in my office at work.  It was worth it.

Worlds Apart, OverClocked ReMix’s incredible FFIX album, five years in the making, doesn’t go out with a whimper.  It doesn’t go out with a bang.

It goes out… with a Prelude.  As it was always destined to.

Thanks for joining me through the greatest remix album ever to be released.

God, I fucking love Final Fantasy IX.

FFIX: Worlds Apart Review, Disc 3

Hello, and welcome to my review/listening guide of the third disc of Final Fantasy IX: Worlds Apart, the remix album from the sonic wizards over at OverClocked ReMix!

I’ll be going through, track-by-track, and rating them on a 1-5 “Steiner Scale”, along with giving a few thoughts on why I rated them so.  You can listen along on SoundCloud or download the album yourself at ff9.ocremix.org!

A Rose in the Storm (Roses of May)
Natalya Zarraga feat. Seth Tallman

steiner fullsteiner fullsteiner fullsteiner full

Man.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bad “Roses of May” remix (and trust me, I have sought out many).  This mix is no exception – methodical, cathartic, with a nice little breakdown in the middle.  Nice use of harp.  Fuckin’ love harp.

Dig This Fossil (Fossil Roo)
Mazedude

steiner fullsteiner fullsteiner full

Y’know, out of the entire OST, Fossil Roo is one of the few I’m relatively “meh” on (it’s still Uematsu, so it is still, by definition, perfect… but you know what I mean).  This remix is definitely an interesting take, but it doesn’t really have the “wow” factor, nor does it make me look at the original song in a new way.  Still good enough for three Steiners, though.

Rally-ho! (Conde Petit)
Moomba feat. Fishy

steiner fullsteiner fullsteiner fullsteiner full

Dude.  Fishy rules.  I don’t look at the artists before I write these, but color me unsurprised that he (along with Moomba) took this remix and kicked its ass.  I thought I was going to fall asleep in the beginning, but they came back strong with some grade-A remixing starting about a minute in.

Fixations (Before the Altar)
RiverSound

steiner fullsteiner fullsteiner fullsteiner fullsteiner full

LOVED IT.  Made me feel like I was at the (fake?) wedding in Conde Petit.  Great take on a song which, had they fucked it up, I would’ve been quite saddened indeed.  This one tugs at the nostalgic heartstrings.

Blakk Majik (Black Mage Village)
Brandon Strader, Jeff Ball

steiner fullsteiner fullsteiner fullsteiner fullsteiner full

Another song that, while well-executed, doesn’t seem to allow the true tone of the original song to shine through.

OH WAIT WUBUBUUWBUWUWUWUUBUBBIIES

+1 for dubby-wubbies.  They’re used to great effect, adding a layer of quirkiness that would have been lost had they gone with the more-aggressive guitar sound for the whole song.

+1 for having a Wicker Man reference.  WELP, I started this review at a 3, now it’s a 5.  Whoops.

I Am Gonna Stop Eventually (Unforgettable Sorrow)
Brandon Strader

steiner fullsteiner fullsteiner fullsteiner fullsteiner full

Utterly fantastic.  It really packs that “I just realized that I’m going to die one day” emotional punch.  Very sad, as it should be.

Plus, I’m a sucker for solo piano.  Sue me.

I’ll Always Be There (Eiko’s Theme)
Flexstyle

steiner fullsteiner fullsteiner fullsteiner full

Aside from the creepy whispers that sound more serial killer-y than like friendly reassurance, I thought this was a great remix.  Relatively light and bouncy, but with a tone of sadness, just like the character.  Flexstyle did a great job.  Highly recommended.

Iifa, the Super Tree of Death (Iifa, the Ancient Tree of Life)
ch4rl33

steiner fullsteiner fullsteiner fullsteiner fullsteiner full

You can tell that this one’s by ch4rl33 immediately – sounds just like Knight-wit.  And, if you remember my review of that remix, that’s not a bad thing.

ch4rl33 does a great job of keeping the foreboding of the Iifa Tree, while adding his own dubby-wubby, constantly-morphing flavor to the music.  Another ch4rl33 remix, another 5/5 on my board.

Assassimander (Amarant’s Theme)
ch4rl33

steiner fullsteiner fullsteiner fullsteiner full

OH NO, CH4RL33 GOT SOMETHING LESS THAN A FIVE!  GASP!

Don’t get me wrong – Assassimander.  In fact, the more I listen to it, the more it grows on me; hell, it might be a five in my book sometime soon.  I don’t think it carries the same glorious epicene that his previous two offerings provide, however.  It may look like I just give out fives willy-nilly, and sometimes I do, but I can be picky; I expect a lot from ch4rl33 now, and with that comes higher expectations.  Four out of five.

Four Score and Six-Eight (Tetra Master)
djpretzel

steiner fullsteiner fullsteiner full

Speaking of high expectations, I have them for djpretzel.  On a lesser album, perhaps I’d give this a four, but surrounded by the other stellar offerings, “Four Score and Six-Eight” musters no more than a three.  It’s definitely good; it’s definitely worth multiple listens; it’s not as good as many of the other songs on this album.

Miles and Miles Away (Esto Gaza)
XPRTNovice

steiner fullsteiner fullsteiner fullsteiner full

Man.  After my FFVI reviews, if you had told me that XPRTNovice wouldn’t get a 5/5 on this album, I would’ve said you were crazy.  But, hey, here we are.

This remix was quite close, actually – I looooooove smooth jazz, and this shit is smooth as a baby’s bottom wrapped in silk and dipped into a vat of liquid velvet.  Unfortunately, it didn’t have the “wow” factor; it never blew me away.  It worked great with the tone of Esto Gaza, but it’s squarely in the 4/5 range.

When Love Must Be Saved (Broken Spell, Healed Hearts)
Bluelighter

steiner fullsteiner full

It took a few minutes, but this remix came into its own… eventually.  Kinda.  Before the halfway point, this thing was headed straight for Onesville.  Honestly, I was just bored to tears.  It picks up a bit towards the end, however, and earns a bump in my rating.  Nothing special, but okay.

The Final Melody (Melodies of Life)
Jovette Rivera feat. ISAO

steiner fullsteiner fullsteiner fullsteiner fullsteiner full

There are a few things you need to know about me: one, I’ve been looking forward to this album for years; two, the FFIX OST is quite possibly my favorite musical piece of all time; three, if you fuck up a remix of Melodies of Life, there will be hell to pay.

Luckily, Jovette Rivera knocks it out of the park, yo.  5/5.  Listen.  Love.  Listen again.  Love more.  Repeat.

Through Sun-drenched Skies (Aboard the Hilda Garde)
Archangel

steiner fullsteiner fullsteiner fullsteiner fullsteiner full

Dude, Archangel is really fucking good.  The whimsy and glory of the original song is balanced and mirrored perfectly in this remix, while the artist definitely makes it their own.  That dude with all the umlauts in his name from Disc 1 may just have a competition in the MVP discussion for this album.

Bibliotheca ~ Dreamer in the Library (Daguerreo, the Hermit’s Library)
katethegreat19, Chaeley

steiner fullsteiner fullsteiner fullsteiner fullsteiner full

So remember that time (read: those many, many times) I called katethegreat19’s voice gorgeous?  Yeah, well, it is.  And it remains so throughout this song.  The music is perfect for Daguerreo, one of my personal favorite locations in the entire game.  A fuckin’ library city thing built into a mountain?  How fuckin’ cool is that?

Anyway, yeah, five.  A fantastic run of songs to end the third of four discs.

FFIX: Worlds Apart Review/Listening Guide, Disc 2

Oh… Oh shit.  Is this two posts… in two days?!

You bet your ass it is, my adoring fans!

Welcome to my review/listening guide of the first disc of Final Fantasy IX: Worlds Apart, the remix album from the sonic wizards over at OverClocked ReMix!

I’ll be going through, track-by-track, and rating them on a 1-5 “Vivi Scale”, along with giving a few thoughts on why I rated them so.  You can listen along on SoundCloud or download the album yourself at ff9.ocremix.org!

Craic in the Castle Walls (Cid’s Theme)
XPRTNovice

vivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi full

Another strong showing from XPRTNovice.  I interviewed this guy a while back, and I’ve always been impressed by how he can tie in seemingly-disparate styles and songs to make a super-cohesive, great remix.

Late Night Lindblum (Lindblum)
Mattias Häggström Gerdt

vivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi full

Mattias, I am unconvinced that you are not Deadmau5 in disguise.  This song was funkalicious, fun, and had some great builds.  Very, very, very enjoyable.  Everyone listen to this shit.

As Long As We Remember (Garnet’s Theme)
Archangel, Claire Yaxley

vivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi full

This was the only acceptable way to remix Garnet’s theme, and it was perfect.  God, ouch, the feels.  The feels make my cold, deadened heart feel things.  Such goodness.  Loved it.

Zaghnol Comes (Festival of the Hunt)
Sixto Sounds

vivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi full

ZAGHNOL COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMES

Yummy-yummies (Quina’s Theme, Qu’s Marsh)
Mattias Häggström Gerdt

vivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi full

Mattias, you might be the goddamned MVP of this album.  Loving your stuff so far.  Another great song by this umlaut-ridden homie.

The Knight of Woeful Sorrow (Freya’s Theme)
Abadoss, AndyP, Fishy

vivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi full

Yep, I’m giving out 5’s like they’re candy on this disc.  Well, guess what?  I fucking love candy, and I fucking love all these songs.  They’re all really good.  Abadoss and friends, you killed it, well done.

You Don’t Know Me (Unforgettable Silhouette)
katethegreat19

vivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi full

It kinda sounds like she says “Through Ice and Dragon-Fart” at one point, which is kinda funny.  But on the real side, katethegreat19 is a fantastic singer, and I’m super biased – I’m a big fan of… basically everything she’s done.  Her take on Rose of May is incredible.

FIVE.  VIVIS.

Spirits of Gaia (Faerie Battle)
Brandon Strader

vivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi full

Strader, as usual, fucking slays it.  I love the little wooshy-wooshy woo-woo ghosty sounds, and it’s called Spirits of Gaia, and… yeah.  Jesus.  Disc 2 of this album is… one of the best discs of any album.  In general.  Seriously, listen to the entire thing.  It’s incredible.

You know what, I’m just going to tell you now: the next three songs are all five-Vivi songs as well.  So I’m just going to put them up here so you don’t have to keep looking at them:

vivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi full

Terraforming Gaia (Kuja’s Theme)
Gario

Remember that cyber/steampunk Steiner spinoff I mentioned on Disc 1?  Yeah, if Kuja were in that, this would be his theme song, and it would be amazing.  Yep, another 5 Vivis, get over it.

March of Robbers in Treno City (Dark City Treno)
Bluelighter

Encapsulates Treno perfectly.  Just the right balance of goofy pomp, light harp/flute, and bass.

In the Hall of the Gangster King (Tantalus’ Theme)
Verdegrand

I like how faithful this stayed to the original, while still giving it a new, distinct flavor.  A little solo piano action to get your Tantalus on.  Delicious.

Ambitious Whispers, Immoral Chants (Wicked Melody, Devil’s Ambition)
Archangel

vivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi full

The five-star run has ended… because this song was worth SIX out of five stars.  Holy hell.  This is easily the best song on the disc, and quite possibly nails it better than any other song on the album (that’s REALLY hard to say, but it’s definitely top-tier).  Drop what you’re doing and listen to it.  Seriously.  Unless you’re holding, like, a baby or something, in which case, please don’t drop it.

Into the Sandstorm (Cleyra’s Trunk)
jnWake, Argle

vivi fullvivi fullvivi full

Into the Sandstorm was… creepy.  It was good.  Had a nice sense of foreboding to it, but I didn’t think it was anything special.  The RIDICULOUS run of INCREDIBLE songs ends here.

Tribe of the Sandy Treehouse (Cleyra Settlement)
katethegreat19

vivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi fullvivi full

Again, my bias shows.  I’ve been listening to this song for years, and I think it’s absolutely gorgeous.  I can’t bring myself to give it any less than five stars.  Love the drums in the background, and, again, katethegreat’s voice is incredible.

Save the Queen (The Wavering Blade)
IanFitC

vivi fullvivi fullvivi full

I don’t feel like this remix went far enough.  It was good, don’t get me wrong, but it never really brought in that tension, that intensity that I’m looking for in a Wavering Blade remix.  It had a nice breakdown, but… yeah.  Maybe it’s because it’s surrounded with stellar mixes all over the disc, but it wasn’t impressive to me.

To Be Forgotten (Eternal Harvest)
Fishy, Chris | Amaterasu

vivi fullvivi fullvivi full

Another song I didn’t particularly care for myself, but I definitely think it was well done.  At about 2:35 it brings in some metally-guitar-stuff that I found completely over-the-top and unnecessary; I would’ve much preferred the acoustic deliciousness from before to continue.

Agree? Disagree?  Comment below and we can talk about this glorious homage to FFIX!

FFIX: Worlds Apart Review/Listening Guide, Disc 1

Hello, and welcome to my review/listening guide of the first disc of Final Fantasy IX: Worlds Apart, the remix album from the sonic wizards over at OverClocked ReMix!

I’ll be going through, track-by-track, and rating them on a 1-5 “Zidane Scale”, along with giving a few thoughts on why I rated them so.  You can listen along on SoundCloud or download the album yourself at ff9.ocremix.org!

Moguo’s Knife Party (Over the Hill)
Benjamin Briggs

zidane fullzidane fullzidane fullzidane fullzidane full

BEAST start to the album.  So funky, with some delicious little ska influences towards the middle…  Guh.  Glorious.  5 ZIDANES.

Sjá, Minn Heim (A Place to Call Home)
M-H

zidane fullzidane fullzidane full

Before I begin, let me mention that I used to be super into hard rock/metal, and these days I’ve come to start feeling the opposite.  However, I enjoyed this remix.  I liked how it’s not super overwhelming with the intense guitar, and stays true to the melody throughout.

Black Mage Master (Vivi’s Theme)
The Dual Dragons

zidane fullzidane full

Oh jeez, more metal.  Again, I actually enjoyed this music, but… it didn’t sound very Vivi to me, y’know?  The tone was all wrong.  Even at his angriest, I don’t see Vivi in the light I felt this song was portraying.  Good music overall, but I think you need to keep the tone of the song, and the character the song is about, in mind when you remix.

Canaries and Hurricanes (Swords of Fury, Behind the Door)
Fishy

zidane fullzidane fullzidane fullzidane full

Remember when I was talking about tone before?  THIS song is perfect for some super-sweet metal guitar, and I think Fishy nailed it.  It’s dramatic.  It’s epic.  It captured the tone, along with being a damn good song in general.

Vamo alla Django (Vamo alla Flamenco)
AndyP, Fishy feat. Dan Bryant

zidane fullzidane fullzidane fullzidane full

Hahaha.  I don’t even know how to begin describing this song, except it was three great guitarists just chillin’ and bangin’ out some Vamo alla Flamenco.  I’m going to contradict myself here, and say, regardless of tone, listen to this one.

Lunar Rebellion (Court Jesters)
IanFitC

zidane fullzidane fullzidane fullzidane fullzidane full

Damn.  Yum.  This song was deliciously creepy, and fit Zorn and Thorn perfectly.  I felt the foreboding.  The faithfulness to the source material earns this baby a sweet 5 Zidanes.

Knight-wit (Steiner’s Theme)
ch4rl33

zidane fullzidane fullzidane fullzidane fullzidane fullzidane full

KNIGHT-WIT IS AMAZING DON’T EVEN WAIT FOR ME TO FINISH THIS SENTENCE LISTEN TO IT NOW SIX ZIDAAAAAAAAAAAAANES ON A 1-5 SCALE

In case you’re still reading, this is so perfect Steiner; plodding, yet the remix makes it super upbeat and danceable.  I’m picturing a cyber/steampunk FFIX spinoff with Steiner as the main character and this as the title music.  Get on it, Squeenix.

Prima Variations (Prima Vista Orchestra)
Calum Bowen

zidane fullzidane fullzidane full

Damn.  This song… definitely had some variation in it.  It was all over the map, but I enjoyed it.  Not a must-listen (who am I kidding, they’re all must-listens; it’s Worlds Apart, for Christ’s sake), but it’s… good.

Doomed Lovers (Tragic Love)
Brandon Strader

zidane fullzidane fullzidane fullzidane full

Another song where the epic power metal is completely appropriate, in my opinion.  Super tragic, super intense.  Loved it.

t.r.e.e. (Danger in the Forest)
Ross Kmet

zidane fullzidane fullzidane fullzidane full

I like the direction that Ross Kmet took this song.  I’m no musician, so I can’t speak to the intricacies of composition, but I thought it sounded good, and it kept that creepy, somewhat dangerous feel that the Evil Forest is supposed to have.

Exploda (Battle 1)
Cyril the Wolf, Fishy

zidane fullzidane fullzidane fullzidane fullzidane full

Like the battle music itself, it’s repetitive, epic to a fault, and is ingrained in the mind of anyone who’s played this game.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.  FIVE ZIDANES.

Bossa de Victory (Fanfare)
Calum Bowen

zidane fullzidane fullzidane fullzidane fullzidane full

This was a bold move, and one I didn’t think would work when I first listened.  A minute in, though, I was sold.  Calum Bowen pulled it off.  Well done.  This one gets me groovin’.

The Throes of Death(guise) [Battle 2]
Gario

zidane fullzidane fullzidane fullzidane full

Really interesting how Gario would carry the melody with this slow… weird… tone… thing (again, not a musician), but there was always that frantic shizz goin’ on in the background, a reminder that you’re never safe when you’re listening to this boss music.

Corra! (Run!)
Dr. Manhattan

zidane fullzidane fullzidane full

A perfectly good remix.  It didn’t blow my socks off, and was a liiiiiiiiittle slow and laborious at times for something that’s called “Run!”, but yeah.  It was good.

Memories of Dali (Village of Dali)
Jean Of mArc, Solveig Giffin, Christine MacIsaac

zidane fullzidane fullzidane fullzidane fullzidane full

When I first heard lyrics, I gasped and was ready to ruffle the shit out of my feathers.  “Hurr durr I’m a purist fuck this stupid singing shit SHE PRONOUNCED CHOCOBO WRONG god damn these lyrics suck ass”

And, y’know, the lyrics… weren’t great.  But they told a story.  And the story meshed with the story of Dali, and added a layer of underlying sadness in the music that I had never noticed before.  In the end, I think they added something that, without them, would have been sorely missed.

Birth Under a Blue Light (Zidane’s Theme)
Knight of the Round

zidane full

… Well, there had to be one clunker, right?

It took me 3 listens to even tease out the melody of Zidane’s Theme in this remix.  It was far too heavy-handed, and I just didn’t get it.  If there’s one track to skip on this disc, it’d be this one.  End with the super-sad “Memories of Dali” instead.

FFIX OverClocked ReMix Album, Worlds Apart, Drops Today!

SFKHASOIFDHOAIFNEJVNBSAIUOGVCBLKANGLJKAHHFD YESSSSS CLICK THE IMAGE TO GO TO THE DOWNLOAD PAGE NOW

IT’S OUT!  Five years in the making, Worlds Apart has been released!

Like I did with OCR’s FFVI album, Balance and Ruin, I’m going to do a track-by-track review of this I’m-sure-will-be-amazing album.  This pushes the Gaming Inspirations posts back a bit, but I’m going to continue to do at least 2 posts a week, so it won’t be long ’til I’m babbling about how inspiring and amazing FFIX is!

Gaming Inspirations V: Interview: Joe Zieja (Author, Voiceover Artist, Musician)

See the rest of the Gaming Inspirations posts here!

BONUS POOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOST!

I had the great opportunity to interview one of my biggest inspirations, Joe Zieja, last week.  He’s a professional voiceover artist, a fantastic musician, and just sold his first novel, Mechanical Failure, coming out June 7th, 2016 from Saga Press, the new speculative fiction imprint of Simon and Schuster!  He also composed two remixes for the OverClocked ReMix FFIX album, Worlds Apart, coming out tomorrow, 9/9!

On to the interview:

Joe Zieja.  A self-described “Renaissance man without all the lace and tights”.  Ex-Military.  Author.  Composer.  Voiceover Virtuoso.  Is there anything you don’t do?

Absolutely.  I don’t dance, and I can’t even draw a straight line. My handwriting is atrocious, and I tend to screw up house projects that involve anything complicated. I’ve also played  Ticket to Ride exactly once and scored an 8.  Really.  An 8.

I’ll get to all these points, but let’s start with your military experience: you describe your new book, Mechanical Failure, as a “Space Opera Military Science Fiction” book.  Reading back on some of your blog posts, it seems like your time in the military has heavily influenced your writing.  Could you elaborate on how it’s done so?

I think it’s hard for anyone to say that the military doesn’t influence absolutely everything about your life experience. Not only has it altered my writing, it’s altered my worldview.  More specifically,  I guess you could say it’s enabled me to describe the military culture in a way that is accurate and relevant.

Could you explain what a “Space Opera” is, for those readers who may not know?  (Not me, though.  I definitely know what a “Space Opera” is.  Definitely…)

Sure. There are two broad sub genres that fall under neat science fiction. One of them is hard science fiction and the other is space opera. Hard science fiction relies on existing science and extrapolates upon it to come to a fantastical or speculative conclusion. In many cases hard science fiction focuses on a lot of technical detail that is interesting to people who are interested in science in general. Space opera, on the other hand, really is just about having fun in space. I don’t say that to say that space opera can’t be serious, but that it doesn’t overly focus on the science, and you can get away with a little bit more.  Star Wars, for example is a good example of space opera.  Nobody is sitting there explaining to you that lightsabers are a result of positively charged ions reacting in a vacuum.

You’ve remixed a number of songs over at OverClocked ReMix under the alias XPRTNovice, including tracks on the Final Fantasy VI remix album, Balance and Ruin, and on the upcoming Final Fantasy IX album, Worlds Apart.  Which tracks do you remix on Worlds Apart?  

I have two tracks that I did on that album. One of them is Cid’s theme from Lindblum Castle, and the other is Esto Gaza.

Do you have a specific style?  

Haha that’s funny.  the only thing I can really say that’s consistent about my style is that I generally stick pretty closely to the source.  Nostalgia is a big factor for me. Other than that, I’ve done everything from a Bon Jovi style thing to klezmer to bluegrass.

What can people expect when you’re remixing or composing?

Live instruments. I have a lot at my disposal, and I almost always make them the focus.

Before I say anything about your voice work, I gotta congratulate you – you’re the highest-ranked male voice on Voices.com over the past week, and 15th all-time.  

Thanks!

How long have you been doing voice work?

It kind of depends.  when I was a kid at the Air Force Academy I would be official Academy announcer for football games and parades and all sorts of other events, so I’ve been doing something like voice over for a while. If you really mean voice over work like I’m doing it today, I really only been doing it for the last two and a half years.

On your blog, you’ve mentioned that voice work is “the big moneymaker” for you, and that it’s basically your job at this point.  

yep. After I got out of the military in 2012, I worked for the government for a little while. But by time the end of 2014 rolled around, I was ready to quit everything and be a full time voice over artist, which I am now.

What are the biggest pros and cons of being self-employed?

While the military has its exciting moments, it really is basically a desk job for most of the time. It was the same thing with the government. I absolutely love not having a boss, not having set hours, being able to work from home, and being responsible for my own success without having to cater to some arbitrarily organized corporate or military promotion ladder.  I get to express myself creatively every day of my life, which is a privilege that not many people can say they enjoy. As far as the downsides, sometimes it’s a little hard to keep organized, and to keep boundaries on my work time versus my free time.  and now of course I have to pay for my own health insurance and worry about my own retirement if there is such a thing.

It’s clear that you do a ton of creating in many different ways – how do you manage the time between writing, composing, voice work, and… y’know, everything else you do on a day-to-day basis?  

I don’t have a very structured organization for how I split the time between all of that. Basically I know that being a voice over artist is what’s making most of my money at this point in time, so that’s what gets my priorities.  After that comes writing, because I have a book contract and I have deadlines to worry about now.  Lastly unfortunately comes music, because all the way to make money with it from time to time, sometimes I need to just put it aside and focus on the things that let me put food on the table.

What does a day in the life look like for Joe Zieja?

The timing changes every day, but I generally do about four to five hours of voice work. That can be anything from actual microphone time to managing my business to talking to agents and managers. I try to write for about an hour or two every day, but I don’t always get there. I hang out with my daughter and my wife and try to relax as well as get some physical activity in.  The blank spots I fill in with reading or playing video games or playing an instrument.

This interview is a part of my “Gaming Inspirations” series – do you play many video games?  I can’t see where you’d have the time!

I’d be a pretty poor excuse for a nerd if I didn’t play any video games!  I get a couple of hours a week in nowadays, but when I was younger I could binge with the best of them.

Do you find games inspiring?  If so, which ones, and how?

If there’s one common theme in my life, it’s that I love a good story. In order for a video game to inspire me, it has to be very story focused. I generally don’t like to play games that don’t have stories, or don’t focus on them, or don’t have an end like MMOs.  I really loved watching video games develop into a fantastic storytelling mechanism from its roots.  I just finished playing The Last of Us a few weeks ago, & I haven’t played a game in a long time like that that made me put down the controller and stare at the screen in disbelief at what I had just experienced.

What inspires you to create?

What inspires you to breathe? after a while, if I don’t create, I start to feel hypoxic.

What do you do when you don’t feel like creating?  You must feel uninspired, or just feel like being lazy and vegging out, at times – do you have any techniques to help you stay motivated?

My real trick to staying motivated and active is having so many things to cycle through. If I’m feeling particularly uninspired by the novel and writing, I go write some music for a couple of hours. Or I’ll go do some character work for voice acting. Or I’ll go employ creative movement as a parkour practitioner.

What’s one specific action that people could take, right now, to get closer to:

Selling their first book?

Write it. you’d be surprised how many people I talk to who have been writing chapter one of their novel for the past 10 years. Finish the damn thing.

Contributing to their first album?

This may sound redundant, but start writing music. If you don’t write music, you’re never going to get on an album. If you’ve never written music before, start getting educated. Do something ridiculously basic and celebrate because to you it’s something new. Then keep doing new things.

Becoming a kickass voice actor?

People think there’s some kind of magic that has to happen with the voice that God gave you, but I’m not so sure about that. I have well over 15,000 auditions behind me. Yes that’s 15,000.  In between that, I’ve managed my business so that clients come back to me so I don’t have to audition anymore. And when I’m not doing that, I’m taking classes and workshops from the most experienced people I can find. They always say that if you’re the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.

Since this is FinalFantasyIX.com, after all, a few FFIX-specific questions:

Who’s your favorite character?

Freya, maybe.  Aside from Final Fantasy X-2, when girls got different powers by changing into different skimpy outfits, I always thought Final Fantasy had a great edge on the strong female character front. Freya has a great backstory and a great attitude. More importantly, she’s not Steiner, who I hate.

What do you enjoy most about the game?

I think I’d have to choose Vivi’s story. The whole idea of artificial beings and their humanity or lack thereof may be kind of an overused theme, but there’s a reason for it. We haven’t really figured it out yet, primarily because we haven’t gotten technology far enough to force us to do so.

Do you find FFIX inspiring?  If so, how?

If I’m being completely honest, Final Fantasy IX wasn’t my favorite FF by any stretch. While FF8 was a little teenage-angsty, FF9 was on the childish side in multiple ways for me. There are definitely gems in there, though – I love Vivi’s arc, particularly, like I just said.

Thanks so much to Joe for allowing me to interview him – it was a great experience to be able to talk with one of my biggest creative inspirations!  Follow Joe on Twitter @JoeZieja, his musical alias XPRTNovice @XPRTNovice, and give him a like on Facebook.  Keep an eye out for his new book, Mechanical Failure, published by Saga Press!

OH AND HERE’S A LINK TO THE NEXT CHARACTER PROFILE

Gaming Inspirations IV: Character Profile: Amarant Coral

Bookmark this link to Support FinalFantasyIX.com by shopping on Amazon!

Gaming Inspirations I: Personal Party Composition
Gaming Inspirations II: Character Profile: Adelbert Steiner
Gaming Inspirations III: Character Profile: Vivi Orunitia

The badass is strong in this one. Many thanks to sarrus (http://sarrus.deviantart.com/) for allowing me to use his picture!

Hello, friends, and welcome to the third Character Profile of the Gaming Inspirations series!  “Gaming Inspirations” is a series of blog posts that puts into words how gaming has inspired me to shed my anxiety and its negative effects on my life.  Final Fantasy IX has provided incredible amounts of inspiration (probably because it’s the greatest game of all time), so I’m creating a profile for each of the main characters.  Each profile will examine their unique qualities and I will detail how, through physical action, I’m going to help myself lead the life I want to lead by incorporating those qualities.  Today’s profile is about everyone’s favorite ginger dreadhead, Amarant Coral.

CHARACTER SUMMARY

Like Steiner, when I first met Amarant in-game, I thought he was quite dickish indeed: some brooding guy, arms always crossed, and a chin I thought was his nose for years (this doesn’t make anybody dickish per se, but it kind of looks phallic, so I guess it counts?).

Note: Looking back on it, it’s so clear that it’s his chin.  Like, “how could I possibly fuck that up” clear.  But, I did.  HD didn’t exist.  I was ten.  I’m over it.

Anyway, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with him, because my 10-year-old self soon found out that OH MY GOD HE FIGHTS WITH CLAWS.  FUCKING WOLVERINE IN FFIX FORM.  OH, AND HE CAN REPLENISH BOTH HP AND MP?  JESUS HOW DOES THIS GUY RULE SO HARD

BERZERKERBARAHAAAIII’MLIKEAMARANTAGFHADOIUHFAGH

I digress.  He does brood.  He does have a weird dick-nose-chin-beard.  And I love him.  Here’s why:

QUALITIES

Individualistic

Amarant: Hey, Zidane.  I work alone.  Always have, always will.

In case you hadn’t noticed (or if you haven’t played the game, in which case, why are you reading this?!  Buy it.  Now.), Amarant doesn’t tend to play well with others.  When he does decide to team up, he’s not afraid to let them know when he disagrees with their methods: the scene in Madain Sari when he calls Lani a “scumbag” for taking a hostage comes to mind.

Honorable

This is likely my favorite quality I’ve noticed in Amarant: even though he’s a loner and about as agreeable as a snapping turtle with a skin rash, he has an honor code, and he sticks with it.  When he is defeated by Zidane, he joins the party, even though it’s something he may not normally have done; he doesn’t expect mercy, but when he receives it, he’s willing to repay that kindness.

Skeptical

Amarant: The only dependable thing about the future is uncertainty.

Amarant joins the party not only to repay the kindness of mercy that Zidane granted him, but also because he’s puzzled: how did this person who is so reliant on others beat an experienced loner like himself?   Amarant’s whole worldview, one of self-reliance and of seeing dependence as weakness, is turned upside-down.  He realizes that he still has more to learn about individuality, teamwork, and strength, and he follows Zidane to help him find the answers he seeks.

HOW TO INCORPORATE THESE QUALITIES INTO YOUR LIFE

Ever since a singularly horrific experience giving a presentation in college, I’ve had intense stage fright.  Working in groups, speaking up during meetings at my job, etc. have proven to be a supreme challenge.  I always feel like if I speak up, I’m going to get laughed at, shut down, or otherwise silenced in a humiliating fashion.

Now, I’m trying to use Amarant’s inspiration to help me get over that fear.  I’ve got opinions; I’ve got values that I deem important and I try to adhere to; I’ve got unique thoughts and ideas that I think could be useful for others to know.  I need to follow Amarant’s example, realize that these opinions, questions, and ideas are valid, and voice them.

At the end of the day, I’m inspired by Amarant due to his confidence in himself, and his unwavering ability to voice his opinions, no matter how unpopular they may be, even at the risk of ridicule.  Honestly, most of the time, I think my ideas are pretty damn good, and it’d be helpful for myself and for those around me to voice them.  Everyone’s gotta put their foot in their mouth at some point during their lives; don’t do it to yourself just because you’re afraid to speak.

Even if you’re not afraid of public speaking like I am, you can use Amarant’s inspiration in any situation where you feel silenced for an idea you have or a way you feel.  Next time you’re afraid to voice an opinion, to let someone else know how you really feel… let them know.  The result probably won’t be as bad as you fear it will be.

This “being confident in yourself and sticking to your guns” stuff is all well and good, but the critical element separating the strong, independent human and the stubborn, ignorant douchebag is a healthy dose of skepticism.  Amarant was puzzled by his defeat at the hands of Zidane, and he joined the party to find out how this teamwork-oriented dude was able to defeat the power of his individualism.  This is how we know that Amarant is a part of the “strong, independent human” camp: when something crops up that challenges his beliefs, he questions and examines it instead of denying it outright.

I don’t even need to add a joke here.

People think that “values” are immutable and eternal; they’re not.  At the core of every healthy set of values is the ability to change them as circumstances change.  So, while you’re out there being super-awesome-and-confident-in-yourself thanks to Amarant’s inspiration, remember that the person who changed him most was the one who made him question his beliefs.

Thanks for reading, everybody!  The upcoming Thursday post is going to be a recap of what we’ve talked about so far, and how our internal FFIX party is shaping up!  Plus, I’ll have a SUPER SPECIAL BONUS GAMING INSPIRATIONS POST out before then, so be on the lookout!  🙂

Gaming Inspirations: Back on Sunday!

Hey y’all,

Sorry – I won’t be able to get a post up in time today.  This week has been crazy busy: visiting friends, work get-togethers, and my girlfriend finally watching Hunter x Hunter with me have taken their toll on my time.  I’m about 30% done the next post, and I could rush for the next hour or two and throw it up there, but I pride myself in making something quality and worth reading, so I’m going to miss today and put up a really nice one on Sunday.  I’ve also got a BONUS POST that I’ll be putting up next week sometime as recompense 😉

See ya Sunday, y’all!