Final Fantasy IX
Developer : Square
Director : Hiroyuki Ito
Producer : Hironobu Sakaguchi and Shinji Hashimoto
Final fantasy IX is my very first Role Playing Game I played back there. I remembered played it blindly, without knowing anything about strategy or tactics that commonly used in playing RPG, ended up dead many times and stuck when facing Gizamaluke’s Grotto, which I later on use Gameshark to cheat and beat the game shamelessly.
As the story, it begin with Garland, a man from Terra Planet who become the very last hope to save Terra planet and it’s people soul from destruction. By saving means that he want to find new planet, which is Gaia, so souls of Terra people who dying can find life in there. The consequence of this plan of course he must destroy the Gaia, or eliminate the people of Gaia to be precise. Unfortunately it wasn’t easy for him because Gaia had Eidolon, the summoning monster, to defend the planet.
In order to do his ‘Godly’ mission, Garland send his two ‘angel of death’ to make chaos in Gaia, which is Kuja, the main antagonist, and Zidane, the main protagonist in the game. They both are Genome, the races that contain soul of people Terra but lack of emotion and limited age. Kuja created earlier before Zidane, so he somewhat became ‘lesser’ version of Genome than Zidane which Garland acclaim as the perfect version of Genome.
At the beginning, Kuja succeed destroyed summoner village so Gaia can’t fight back with their Eidolon. But later on, he feel insecure about his imperfection due to his flawed body. He became more agitated because he know Garland want replace him with Zidane, who had more perfect body than him. He still insist to rebel his fate to dying as ‘defect’ Genome by fight Garland even he know Zidane is failed to fulfill Garland expectation because Zidane had amnesia when arrive in Gaia. That’s why he start scheming, manipulate Brahne, the queen of Alexandria by became her Arm Dealer so the Queen had an enormous Black Mage troops that created by mist and Dark Matter to summon the Eidolon.
Knowing Brahne plan to start the war, her step-daughter, Garnet til Alexandros XVI escape from the castle to investigate the key person that make Brahne sudden heart changes. Garnet helped by Zidane, Steiner, Vivi, Eiko, Freya, Quina, and Amarant to stop Brahne main plan to attack Burmecia, Cleyra, and Lindbum. They succeed to know that Kuja is the main reason of Brahne became ambitious. They also managed to destroy Iifa tree, which is the ‘Black Mage Main Factory’ that Kuja used to create Black Mage. Unfortunately, they failed to stop the queen.
Brahne use Kuja Arms with greedy heart. She summon Atomos to crushed Lindbum, emerge Black Mage troops to destroy Burmecia, and summon Odin to annihilate Cleyra completely. She make Alexandria the only kingdom that conquer Mist Continent by Kuja arms. She also start to emerge war to Kuja, by summoning Bahamut, to fight Kuja. But Kuja counter it by using Invincible, Terra Ship that can control Bahamut so instead firing him, the King Dragon fire the queen, made her madness stop.
The death of Brahne made Garnet become Queen of Alexandria. But in the night of Garnet coronation, Kuja order Bahamut attack Alexandria, enforce Garnet and Eiko to summon Alexander, the Eidolon that had enormous wing to protect Alexandria from King Dragon’s flare. Alexander managed to stop Bahamut by countering it’s flare, but alas, Invincible strike again to ‘drain’ Alexander. The different is, Invincible not moved because Kuja, but Garland, who initiate the movement because he didn’t want Kuja rebellious become stronger. Garnet shocked because the destruction of her hometown. Her heart heavily crushed because he failed to protect her people as queen, which made her can’t speak in a mean time.
The presence of Garland in Alexandria make Kuja mad. He emerge his troops to outer continent to chase Garland, which guide Zidane and the party to know that outer continent, Shimmering Island to be precise, is the ‘bridge’ between Terra and Gaia. Kuja, Zidane, and the party arrive in Terra and slowly understand Garland plan to ‘replacing’ Terra people’s soul with Gaia people’s soul by secure the use of Gaia Eidolon. It also explained that The mist in Gaia basically came from Terra which channeled from Iifa tree.
Zidane also remember his origin as Genome, one of Garland’s Angel of Death, which made him mental breakdown because of his existencial crisis. Gladly, his friends save him to empower his confidence. Zidane and the party succeed defeat Garland. But at the same time, Kuja becomes enraged (the game use ‘Trance” as it’s term) and go to the depths of Memoria to find the Crystal, the source of Life. His only mission is to ‘reset’ his dying fate as defect creatures by conquer the Crystal. After defeating Kuja in Memoria, Zidane and the party will face the last boss, Necron, which is embodiment of the Death that Kuja afraid of.
After defeating Necron, Zidane and the party back to Terra where the mist starting engulf and uncontrollable. The party, along with Tartarus, Alexandrian troops, Lindbum Soldier, and Burmecian Dragon Knight start to run from Terra along with the remaining Genomes in there. But Zidane stay still to help Kuja who dying in there. One year later, after the restoration of many destruction that happen in mist Continent in Gaia, Zidane come back safely to Alexandria to meet his lover, Garnet, and his friend. Happy ending as always.
The setting and the music in Final Fantasy IX is very atmospheric with it’s ‘fantasy’, of course, which make you easily immerse with the world that presented in the game. Many races, and it’s each own quirky, made the setting interesting in someway. The basic story is solid, however, there’s some of my nitpicking in this series :
- I don’t understand why Garland seems to be hold himself even his mission to conquer Gaia is very important. He know Kuja rebel to him and Zidane fail to fulfill his mission but he seems not care about it. I mean, he had fully control of Invincible who can conquer Eidolon easily from it’s summoner (example : Kuja used it to control Bahamut when Brahne want kill him by using Bahamut). It feels so weird to me when he used the Invincible only to control Alexander. Invincible is overpowered device that can flip every protagonist hope to fight back, which is strange if Garland must send his two ‘Angel of Death’ because Invincible can do all the work. Even Kuja can’t fight back when Garland take over Invincible. It was unfortunate that Garland, who I presume the main antagonist, become weaker, and nicer, forcefully by the plot without redeeming execution so Zidane and Kuja can get their own stage in the story later on.
- The story oftentimes tell about how people had value to survive despite their’s limitation. Kuja and Vivi is the primary character who moved by this premises. They both feel insecure about their existence who destined to destroyed or controlled by their ‘master’ in their lifetime. Kuja is the one who resist about it an try to achieve the perfection in himself, while Vivi accept his destiny and try to made value in his short life. Very interesting to take, even I consider Vivi is more interesting main protagonist rather than Zidane, which had me disconnected when Zidane lead the journey because he didn’t had same problem like Vivi. I feel he just there as the charming guy who can solve it all the problem that Kuja make and give Vivi nice pat to get rid his friend’s sorrow. Yes, Zidane had mental breakdown when he realize that he created by Garland to destroy Gaia, but why though? He had amnesia about it and feel nothing before Garland told him about it. I guess it’s happen just for the sake of the drama, to show that Zidane is vulnerable.
- There’s a sub-plot in each character when the main plot goes on (self choice themes by Garnet and Steiner when they escaped castle is one of the example) which I considered is pretty good to make character develops or at least introspect with their choice. Too bad this sub-plot somehow drifted away by when the main plot strikes. When Garland strikes, most of character, except Zidane, is just a merely Kuja’s victim of war with a very little emotional relationship between them, which made our investment to each character is irrelevant.
- From first to third part, the story feel so atmospheric with it’s fantasy, like races quirk, Zidane’s flirt behaviour to Garnet, Quina desire for only food in his/her live and often times feels comedic (Cid become ogloph and frog is the example). Of course there’s big scene happen when Eidolon start destroy the city which made the tension feel real, but then it somehow passed by because it’s directing to fantasy atmospheric and comedic again later on, except when Garland appears.
- In the last part of the story, Genome who still live in Terra migrated to Gaia before Terra itself destroyed after Garland defeated. Later on, it explained that most Genome try to live together with people in Terra. If that can be happen, why Garland bother to destroy Gaia then? The main problem that Garland had to save his own people is his people soul cannot be lived if there’s still people in Gaia. But after Zidane migrated the Terra people to Gaia, that problem seems disappear without any reason.
Despite of my own nitpicking, Final Fantasy IX still enjoyable and playable. In story perspective, most of the time it tries to solid to it’s themes, which sometimes missed but it tends blinded by player. In game play perspective, I enjoy the unique of each character skill and ability binding, but the Trance system too rigid that you can’t depend on it when boss battle (I still prefer Limit break system from FF VII and FF VIII). The character design is cute and funny which appeal to mainstream player, even to the kids, but the side effect of this is made the story feels too childish and tend not to take it seriously.