HAPPY BIRTHDAY FINALFANTASYIX.COM! HERE’S A RANT

For FINALFANTASYIX.COM’S SIXTH BIRTHDAY, I thought I’d put together a nice lil’ post for y’all!  Friend of the blog, Anneke, gave me this idea, and I decided to run with it. It’s all about the identity of each of the main characters, and how there are specific pairings of characters who have opposite ways of deriving their sense of meaning/identity in the context of the group.  Hope you enjoy, and feel free to comment below if you’ve got ideas, too!

HAPPY SIXTH BIRTHDAY FINALFANTASYIX.COM!!!

Garnet vs. Zidane

Princess Garnet is assigned a role at birth; she is the princess of a nation. She is expected to act like a princess, be educated like a princess, and one day take over her mother’s role as queen. Before the events of the game, and specifically before Queen Brahne’s husband died, this appeared to suit her just fine; she only attempted to leave the castle after Brahne began acting strangely, and Garnet felt it necessary to warn her uncle Cid, Regent of Lindblum, of what she had noticed about her mother. Her role was fixed, specific; and had her life not been turned upside down by her mother’s corruption, it very well may have remained that way.

Garnet had to find out who she really was when this role was ripped from her. Even up to the moment that her mother ordered her execution, Garnet was clinging to that role. She was raised as the future queen of Alexandria; everything she had done to that point was to serve that end, and to reach that point someday.

Garnet’s also unique in that her identity changes multiple times throughout the course of the game: from princess, to adventurer, to feeling like a guilt-ridden and powerless burden after her mother’s death, and finally to the queen she always expected to become. (Oh, and less we forget, a badass-af summoner.)

Zidane is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum: he didn’t even know where he was born or where he came from, much less what role he was to play in the world of Final Fantasy IX. He fell in with a band of thieves, and adopted that as his identity. They were kind to him and nurtured him as a child, and that was all Zidane needed to find his identity within the group. They were his found family.

Again, Zidane’s conflict is when the opposite of what he expects happens: not only does he find out where he’s from, but he finds out that he’s had a very specific role to play this entire time: namely, the key player in the destruction of Gaia, his home world. I’ve always been intrigued by how quickly he gives into the idea that he is Gaia’s “angel of death”; one minute he’s a snarky punk, mouthing off to his very creator, and the next he’s in Pandemonium, slumped in a metal-as-hell throne, completely resigned to his fate and willing to dump all his friends? (To be honest, I find this to be one of the weirder, more jarring transitions throughout the game. I wish it were fleshed out a bit more.)

Anyway, Zidane’s identity goes through a bit of a back and forth, but eventually, like Garnet, he realizes the fate that he always had for himself: not having a specific identity tied to his own identity, but realizing his fate through his friends, those he deemed to need help, and his own moral compass. (And by the end of the game it looks like he’s gonna be the king of Alexandria woop woooooooop GET IT ON Y’ALL)

Freya vs. Quina

The second pairing that is interesting to examine is Freya and Quina. Freya traverses the world, searching endlessly for her long-lost lover. She never loses hope, but at the same time, she seems pretty damn miserable throughout her journey. She’s always holding two conflicting feelings in her head: absolute conviction that she’ll find Fratley one day, and gnawing dread that she may never see him again. Every time she just misses him, every time she hears rumors of where he might be, it fuels both of these feelings: he’s right around the corner, and at the same time he’s nowhere to be found. I don’t care how full of conviction or determination you are, that’s gonna get draining after a while, and she’s been at this for years.

We’ll never know how Freya may have felt if she had gone another few years without finding Fratley, but I’d guess she’d never give up the search, slowly be drained of all life and hope, never able to let go of the cognitive dissonance of knowing she’ll find someone who’ll never be found. As Fratley was turned into a husk of his former self from the inside out by losing his memory, Freya would be hollowed from the outside in, hopelessness pressing in on all sides and eventually seeping through. (Jeez, that’s depressing… what happened in the game still sucked for Freya, but it’s a hell of a lot better than this….)

Quina…… Oh, Quina. Every year that goes by, I appreciate Quina more.  S/he really is the best, and it’s her polar opposition to Freya that makes her so.  There’s something romantic about doggedly pursuing your long-lost lover, being tied to someone (or the idea of someone, I suppose) so steadfastly.

Romantic?  Maybe. You know what it’s not?  Fun.

Quina essentially gets kicked out of their marsh by Quale, who tells them to go experience the world.  You might think, “man, Quina, this is a bummer for you. You’ve gotta leave this marsh, the only place you’ve ever called home, and find what’s waiting for you in this big scary world. How are you gonna deal with that?”

You know how Quina deals with it?  By being SUPER AMPED when Quale tells her that there’s better foods than frogs out there. After that, Quina is 100% in. That’s all s/he needed to get pumped, and that’s all s/he needs throughout the entirety of the game.  If a place has dope food, that place rules; if not, that place sucks. Either way, though, it doesn’t color Quina’s entire experience; s/he doesn’t have some overarching hope that she’s striving for, or conflict that she’s struggling against.  Nope, just finding awesome food and eating it. Experiencing experience for experience’s sake, and having a positive outlook on it regardless of how great or terrible it is.

As a serial brooder myself, there’s a lot I could learn from Quina.  I think we could all take a page out of their book.

Eiko vs. Amarant

Tiny, blue-haired girl versus giant, red-haired man; total chatterbox versus the strong, silent type; barely any chin at all versus one of the most intimidating chins on the Playstation. Y’all ain’t gonna find many character pairs in gaming that are more polar opposite than Eiko and Amarant.  The difference we’re gonna focus on today, however, is possibly the most stark of all: the difference between how they handle group dynamics in relation to their identity.

Eiko’s last summoner relative, her grandpa, died before the events of the game.  While she’s still got the moogles to look after her, her loneliness is still obvious from the jump.  She starts off bratty and a bit standoffish, but it doesn’t take long before she’s talking everyone’s ear off (especially Zidane’s (who can blame her, Zidane is bae)) and asking to join them on their adventures.  Hell, before you even meet her in-game, if you wait for the character panels to appear at the New Game/Continue menu, you can see her signature phrase:

“I don’t want to be alone anymore.”

This loneliness is consuming her, and the appearance of the party is a social lifeline that she quickly grabs hold of.  She needs the party for one simple reason: she needs human connection.

AMARANT, on the other hand… man, Amarant is weird.  I still have trouble figuring out exactly what he wants with the rest of the party.  Clearly, he’s fascinated by the concept of teamwork, but also appears pretty solidly against it until the very end.  For the first disc or two after he appears, he basically follows the party, complaining and talking about how much teamwork sucks… while also thinking “damn, Zidane is cool as hell” to himself.

Anyway, it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t put any stock in “being part of the team” as being part of his identity.  He’s a proud loner, and is convinced that “my way or the highway” is the way to get results in this world. This view changes over the course of the game, when he sees Zidane use teamwork and connection to accomplish things that’d be impossible on his own, but it seems like Amarant is much more interested in learning how (and why) other people think/act the way they do than he is in learning about how (and why) he thinks and acts.  He appears to have all the meaning/identity he needs just by existing and learning from others, even if he doesn’t necessarily need the group to form an identity for himself.

Steiner vs. Vivi

MY GUYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYS

One of the reasons that Steiner and Vivi work so fucking well together is because of how totally fucking different they are. The way they derive their identity is EXACTLY OPPOSITE and also THE EXACT SAME, and that’s what makes it so AWESOME.

Okay, look, so Steiner is a knight.  Tremendous knight. Best knight. (Trivia, in case you don’t know: he beat Beatrix in a duel once.  He’s THAT good.) He became the best knight because he derived all identity and self-worth out of WORKING HIS ASS OFF TO BE THE BEST KNIGHT.  He had a singular purpose, and every action he took (before the events of the game, through about disc 2) was to further his goal (and cement his identity) as Alexandria’s greatest knight.  His power comes from his steadfast ability to focus on a singular goal, and doggedly pursue it, no matter what.

Now, when the party comes along, and his most-dearly-held views, things he’s known his entire life, are challenged – and eventually shattered, when he finally realizes how crazy Brahne has gone – it completely upends his sense of self.  “If everything I’ve done so far has been in pursuance of this corrupted goal, then what the hell have I been doing? What do I do now?”, etc…… which puts him in the exact same position as Vivi.  Which we will get to now.

Vivi, bless his little Black Mage heart, never had a purpose.  He basically woke up one day in a foreign world, no one to really tell him what to do or how to live (besides Quan, I guess), and was essentially told to figure it out.  He didn’t have the comfort that Steiner’s dogged determination gave him; he didn’t even have the comfort that is given by being an automaton, like the other black mages. He had to start off with a completely blank slate.  He was cursed with a perfect storm of consciousness, and a total lack of direction. He started from the point Steiner got to when Steiner realized that everything he had worked for was corrupted. A state of total confusion.

That said, this state of confusion made him mentally resilient and open to experience.  He potentially has the most depressing story in all of FFIX, and, while he definitely freaks out a few times, he learns how to roll with the punches, examine his experiences, and come up with his own reason for being.  The party doesn’t give him a reason for being like it does for Eiko; like Steiner, his reason is external to himself.  But, though his reason is external, it’s also completely self-derived, and that is what makes him and Steiner so different.  No one’s telling Vivi how to act, how to live; he’s figuring it out as he goes along, which gives him the ability to change his views when contradictory evidence is presented.  This is what makes him so different from Steiner: instead of spending so much time resisting that his views on being are being upended, he simply changes his outlook.

*****

WHEW.  THIS FELT GOOD. Sorry it’s been so long!  Life’s been kinda crazy, but I got the email that finalfantasyix.com is SIX YEARS OLD TODAY, and I felt inspired to blurt out a post! It’s a first draft, and I reserve the right to edit it later, but I wanted to get it out today, beccause birthdays only come along once a year 😀

Happy sixth birthday to finalfantasyix.com!! And a huge thanks to Anneke for the idea for this post 🙂

How’s everybody doing?  How’s life? Agree with my post?  Think it’s dumber’n hell? Comment below and let’s discuss!

Hope to see you soon <3

FFIX Music Video (Made by Yours Truly!)

Hey Y’all, hope your FFIX run-throughs are going well!  Just finished mine recently, and it was just as amazing as I remembered it.  So amazing, in fact, that I was inspired to create a little music video, combining cutscenes from my favorite game with a song from my favorite band, Cloud Cult.  The song is called “Pretty Voice”, and it’s all about Zidane and Dagger’s relationship, so I found it fitting 🙂

Let me know what you think!  Enjoy!

Gaming Inspirations VI: Character Profile: Garnet til Alexandros XVII

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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”.

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 🙂

FFIXBlog Presents: FFIXSwag

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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 😀

Necron: The Really, Truly, Seriously Most Underrated Villain in All of Final Fantasy

Hi Everybody!

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?

Image

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.

kuja ultima
Kuja, right after he casts Ultima.

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… somethingright?

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.