If there’s one time in my life that I take a selfie, it’s gonna be with a bitchin’ FFIX shirt on. Thanks to TeeFury for sending me this mega-sweet shirt 😀
I was thinking about the feedback that I got from the Kuja post, and I was amazed by the response; I’m glad I got people to look a little further into the character of Kuja, and see that he wasn’t all pomp and flair, and could actually stand on his own as a great Final Fantasy villain.
That said, I was just talking with a buddy of mine, and we were talking about the end of FFIX. We are both huge IX fans, and the subject turned to the final boss, Necron.
“Yeah, the less said about Necron, the better,” he said. “He was definitely just thrown in there.”
Now, I think this was the first time we had truly disagreed on something FFIX-related.
“Wait, what? What are you talking about?” I sputtered, and we proceeded to have a heated debate about Necron’s purpose for a few minutes.
After these few minutes, my friend said, “y’know, I think this would make a great blog post.”
SO HERE I AM! 😀
Anyway, here goes:
Yeah. Necron. Gets shit on by pretty much everybody, right? You may think he’s one or more of the following: useless; never referenced; no purpose in the game?
Let me begin, like I did with my Kuja post, by saying that I don’t expect to turn you into a huge Necron fan. I’m just trying to give you a bit of my perspective on why I think he’s fantastic. Maybe I’ll even get you thinking that there is a bit more to him than you previously thought. That’d be great.
From what I’ve read, it seems like Necron may be mentioned once or twice throughout the game, but these claims seem shaky at best. My question is, how is one supposed to know of the existence of an entity that exists outside of normal spacetime? This, of course, is kind of a flimsy excuse for making a final boss, but, in Pixar’s “22 Rules of Storytelling“, #19 says “Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.” Again, not saying that this is a great excuse to just throw a final boss into the mix, but this is the perspective with which I look at the final battle.
I’ve read that Necron is “summoned” by Kuja’s hate and fear. I have a different perspective.
Now, here’s what I see in the above gif:
– The main characters disappear. The only time you see that in-game thus far is when someone or something dies.
– The Crystal is no longer behind Kuja.
So, here’s what I’m thinking:
– When Kuja casts Ultima, it destroys the Crystal. The Crystal’s destruction is what prompts Necron to come start kickin’ ass, not just Kuja’s massive amounts of butthurt.
– The heroes were the first people to die after the destruction of the Crystal, which is why they’re in this weird quasi-death-realm thing.
– When Necron is defeated, the crystal is restored due to the “nothingness-vacuum” caused by his absence. Because Necron is the personification of oblivion/nothingness, when he is defeated, he’s gotta be replaced by… something, right?
Huh. Weird. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that Necron made… some sort of sense existing, at least. He’s also a great foil for… well, every protagonist in the game.
These characters have been through hell. Homelands have been laid to waste. Family members, loved ones, and thousands more have been slaughtered, many of which were at the hands of Garnet’s own mother, gone mad with greed. Freya’s lover, Sir Fratley, who she has been searching for for years, has no memory of their past. Eiko’s family was dead or missing. Steiner and Amarant’s most long-standing philosophies, one of blind loyalty to another, and one of blind loyalty to self, that had kept them alive through the most dire of circumstances, are dissolved before their eyes; the same thing happens with Vivi and Zidane, except instead of their philosophies, they face an even more harrowing question: the status of their humanity itself.
I don’t think Necron is a useless, no-purpose final boss. Quite the contrary – I think he’s the linchpin of the game, the story, and the transcendent theme of Final Fantasy IX. Without Necron, the game would cease to have the exact quality which I think makes it the greatest video game in history: the absolute, against-all-odds, blindingly-bright love of life itself that finally answers the great question that each of our protagonists face when they are staring down the seductive peace of utter oblivion: “is life worth the pain it brings?”. Each of the characters above have fan-fucking-tastic reasons to say, “Hey, nothingness sounds pretty great, compared to the shitstorm that I’ve been through!”.
Not one of them does.
After everything they’ve been through, each and every one chooses life.
I think this has a two-pronged effect. If thought of in this manner, the choice shows more starkly than ever before the fortitude of the heroes, as well as making Kuja slightly more sympathetic and less villainous. He’s just scared, guys. He’s been dealt much the same hand as Zidane, and he’s scared. He doesn’t want to die; more importantly, he doesn’t want the fear of death. Who can be blamed for trying to escape fear? Not that Kuja went about it the right way or anything, but still, he was misguided and scared, and I can’t blame him for that.
Maybe Necron could have been referenced more in-game; maybe he should have been somehow hinted at, if only for the player’s knowledge; maybe it’s not an original idea. But Necron is the character who poses, once and for all, this final question to the protagonists of Final Fantasy IX, providing the single most intense experience I have ever felt from a piece of media in my life. I was 11 when I experienced this; it was the first time I had encountered such a question, and Zidane’s response left me in tears.
“I’m gonna live!”.
I can’t call that useless.
Let’s face it: when you ask someone, “Who’s the most badass Final Fantasy villain of all time?”, you’ll probably get one of two answers: Kefka or, far more likely, Sephiroth. If the person you’re asking is from the Jurassic period, they may say something like Exdeath or Zemus, but most likely, even these geezers will be saying Sephiroth, as they rant about the better days of gaming, back when Pong and Missile Command ruled the arcades, when they listened to Pinball Wizard as they… You get the idea.
This is not a “hate-on-Sephiroth” post. Far from it. I love Sephiroth, and his badassery has shaken hardened gamers to the core since they first heard “One Winged Angel”.
All I’m saying is that Kuja doesn’t get enough credit, and I’m going to outline the reasons why I think that, even if Kuja isn’t the most badass FF villain, he’s definitely the most underratedly-badass FF villain.
Reason #1: He Finishes Off the First Big Baddie that was Ever In the Series
(If you want an explanation for the above image, follow this link and check out a really cool site about localization of video games.)
Garland, if you remember, was the first boss that was encountered in Final Fantasy I. (There are spoilers starting in the next sentence, so if you really don’t want to see spoilers, I’d skip ahead. I’d also get going on playing FFI – it’s well over 20 years old at this point. C’mon.) You defeat him, but he manages to become immortal by creating a crazy time loop and becoming the god, Chaos. In Final Fantasy IX, he even references the events of the first game in the series, saying that he tried to assimilate Terra into Gaia by force five thousand years before, but he failed.
Pretty badass, right?
Kuja didn’t seem to think so as he KICKED HIM OFF A PLATFORM TO THE NOTHINGNESS BELOW.
Granted, Garland had just finished fighting the heroes of the story, so Kuja didn’t exactly kill him in one-on-one combat. Still pretty cool, though.
Reason #2: He’s the only Final Fantasy Villain to Successfully Annihilate a Planet (In the Scope of the Game, at least)
Garland tried to take over the world and failed. Kefka gained powers of a god and shifted the World of Balance into the World of Ruin. Jenova, well, Jenova goes around annihilating planets like it’s her job, but you never see it happen in-game.
Kuja gets pissed off and decides to blow a planet up, and within minutes, it’s gone.
Reason #3: Let’s not Forget, He was this close to Destroying the Entire Fucking Universe (And You Could Even Argue that He Succeeds)
Not impressed yet? Check this out:
See that cool-lookin’ crystal in the center of all that craziness? Yeah, that’s the Origin. You walk through Memoria, get to the Edge of Space, cross the Bridge to the Origin, and it leads… here. The first Memory. The Source of all life. The memories of every living being in the universe, when they die, return here.
Kuja uses Ultima, the most powerful black magic in the world, and blows it up, along with the entire party (I’m not sure if it’s officially true, but I’ve got a theory that the party dies after the Trance Kuja fight, which causes a lot of metaphysical craziness for the rest of the game; I’ll probably write a post about it at some point. Very interesting how they handled that part).
I hear a lot of complaints, saying that Kuja’s super emo with his whole “if I can’t live, neither can anyone else” spiel. I agree with this. You gotta admit, however, that if someone’s powerful enough to almost turn that statement into a reality… That’s pretty badass, regardless of intention.
Reason #4: Anyone Who’s Able to Fool People into Thinking that He’s a Woman for Discs at a Time Deserves a Medal
Another complaint I hear about Kuja is his effeminate, unthreatening appearance. While he certainly doesn’t have the giant-sword, brooding badassery of Sephiroth or the maniacal, creep-inducing psychosis of Kefka, I think that this complaint is more a cultural difference than an absence of a threatening appearance; it just didn’t translate very well into American audiences.
Y’see, there’s this cultural thing in Japan called bishōnen – it’s a cultural aesthetic that “provide[s] a non-traditional outlet for gender relations… it breaks down stereotypes surrounding feminine male characters. These are often depicted with very strong martial arts abilities, sports talent, high intelligence, or… flair”. Wikipedia goes on to add that these bishōnen are normally androgynous in appearance.
Sound like someone you know?
He may not have (apparent) martial arts abilities, but Kuja is an extremely powerful mage, intelligent enough to manipulate a queen into war with peaceful neighboring countries, and flair for days.
Check, check, and check.
While he may not be the normal American flavor of badass, his appearance and his mannerisms shouldn’t take away from the fact that he is, indeed, a pretty scary dude to his enemies.
I love Kuja, man. Such a baller. Great villain. Great badass. Hope this post illuminated some things for you. Feel free to argue with me! Thanks for reading.