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 🙂
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.
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?
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.
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).
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.
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 QUALITIESINTO 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.
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.