Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts

Digital Polyphony Episode Seven

 
The Book of Vivi


“You realize that life goes fast
It's hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn't go down
It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round”
~Lyrics of Do You Realize? By the Flaming Lips.
 
 

~Part Two of Three: Proverbs and Lamentations~


A well-told story is something everyone loves. We love being engrossed and captivated by comedies, dramas with characters we can believe in or identify with. We love the suspense and action, or maybe the honest emotion by the written or spoken word. But storytelling isn’t as simple as just throwing those things into the pot and seeing what comes out. It’s about pacing, structure, timing and knowing the audience watching the movie, reading the book or attending the play.  If it’s something intricate, the dialogue is to have purpose and draw you in, the narrator or director is to keep things moving while not muddling the story with unnecessary subplots and action sequences (see any Michael Bay film as an example of how not to tell a story). Storytelling is meant to be focused and simple, not conflicted and confusing.

Don’t confuse that notion with a simplistic story, though. A story and storytelling are two separate things that merely have a few crossovers – like that silly thing called a plot. A story can take the plot and be complex and deep, emotional and symbolic. It’s up to the storytelling to keep it all straight. When it comes to RPGs, especially Japanese RPGs, few really tell their story well and really for the same reasons Michael Bay can’t tell a good story – the focus is elsewhere: on a series of “ideas” rather than a “plot.” It’s to get that cool action set piece rather than explain or show the purpose of it. Final Fantasy IX, though, goes back to a simpler time of telling a story. No, not to the era of Super Nintendo it’s already gone back to on various other fronts, but to eras even before that.



“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”
 ~ C.S. Lewis

What are Fairy Tales, exactly? Sure, we might hear “Once upon a time…” and “Happily ever after,” but that’s simplifying them. Some might call them “myths for kids.” To an extent, I suppose that’s true as many of the classical myths of Greece, Egypt and Rome were transformed into folklore, such as Robin Hood or Cinderella, with oral tradition and then reshaped into stories of frogs and princesses centuries later on paper. “Fairy Tale” or “Folklore” is really a catch-all term in the same vein as “Myth” and “Religion” – but all are really the same thing, if you think about it. Tales, old and new, simply being told.

But when we think of Fairy Tales, we automatically picture the classic stylings of La Fontaine, The Brothers Grimm, Lewis Carrol, and Hans Christian Anderson. While these stories were adult in nature, we associate them with the retellings that were done to appeal more to children, notably the Disney animated films.  Deep down, though, we know there’s a hidden meaning to it all and a darker side.

In similar fashion, Final Fantasy IX takes an approach that combines certain elements of a Miyazaki film, as he and Sakaguchi have loves of similar themes – notably “earth” and “life” – with the fantastical setting and structure of a classic Fairy Tale. It has knights, princesses, kingdoms, magic, varying species and races hidden away from us vulgar humans –  just as elves, trolls and even hobbits are in their respective stories.


This was something I admired greatly with Final Fantasy IX. It gave me the chance to live and roam within a fairy tale world I had only read or watched. The world’s design leads you to even feel it as though it actually exists. The townships, the histories, the overall layout of everything is done in fine detail. It’s lively, colorful, and organic in tone - Its palette is full of warm colors of reds, tans and yellows that are inviting - supplanting steel and metal with stone and earth, elaborate vehicles with simplistic ones (or domesticated creatures even) and computer technology with pulleys, cogs and steam (more akin to steampunk than anything).  It showcases light in the world and in the story and characters.

But let not the exterior fool you. While Final Fantasy IX presents itself as simplistic, like those Grimm Tales, it’s completely deceptive. Like any good story, it has numerous layers and twists that, for the most part, come slowly and naturally. It keeps its various subplots and side stories in check but never loses focus of its main objective or its main themes.  

We start our story with a nine year old kid…

 



“We are lonesome animals. We spend all of our life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say-and to feel- ‘Yes, that is the way it is, or at least that is the way I feel it.’ You’re not as alone as you thought.”
~John Steinbeck


Like any fairy tale kingdom, there is a great celebration and excitement occurring within the monarchy of Alexandria. The theatre troupe, or so they claim, Tantalus, are planning on performing the ever-so-popular play “I Want to Be Your Canary” for the denizens. In reality, though, they are using the play as a cover to kidnap the princess of Alexandria, Princess Garnet. Meanwhile, though, the princess herself is planning something similar. She actually wishes to escape her kingdom and her greedy mother, Queen Brahne. She has longed to leave the castle, always being kept within its stone walls, and feels the play and all the eyes on it will give her the opportunity to sneak out.


And from a child’s eyes, we see it all unfold. A shy, quiet black-mage finds himself in the grand city with dreams of seeing the show. We travel with him as he is introduced to his whimsical world of odd characters, elaborate (sometimes outlandish) structures and cities reaching the skies and a cheesy romance play performed on the back of a rickety airship. Lanterns line the streets, the people are gathering to their seats, and the play is about to begin.

In more ways than one, of course. There’s few videogames with such a well-done introduction to the world, players and concept than the first moments of Final Fantasy IX. Vivi is a representation of us: new, infantile even, wide-eyed (glowing wide-eyed, actually) to this new, never-before-seen world.  The story takes off from this moment, bringing in the main players early and showing their own personalities in merely a few scenes and all comes together (and soon separates again with other characters) better than any other RPG I’ve played.  The only comparison I can make would be that of Chrono Trigger where, like Vivi here, Crono goes off to a festival and we are introduced to he and the main players gracefully and without pressure. You get a sense that these characters and this world is old, weathered and has a history without an assortment of explanations and textbooks. We are eased in. There’s no big action scene, not for a while as action in FFIX is rather subdued to begin with, but concentrates on the atmosphere and people.

The idea of theater and plays is a continuing theme throughout the game. It begins and ends with the performing of a play, even the villain, Kuja, is a representation of a second-rate actor who thinks he should be a leading man. He showcases his love of poetry, monologues and the spotlight not to mention the various references to roles, parts, acts and so forth. To him, the world is a stage and FFIX is the biggest play of all. I half expected Bob Fosse to show up and give him direction and dance tips.

While Part Three of this retrospective will go into this a little more, I do need to mention how balance is also an integral theme. For every action, there’s a reaction, for every shadow, a light. The story itself is about this as well, with Gaia and Terra, two parallel worlds, are becoming imbalanced by the acts of Kuja. There is a constant contrast to everything and it seems everything is dual in nature.  The past often is brought up to explain the present, Vivi is a stark contrast to Kuja – both dealing with the same issues, for that matter Kuja, too is a contrast to Zidane – both created for the same purpose. Love and hate, existence versus nonexistence, life versus death, humor and drama. It’s all a constant battle that, somehow, is able to come through without getting jumbled. I would have to chalk that up to great storytelling.



“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
~Oscar Wilde


The characters of Final Fantasy IX have grown on me over time. While I still discount the likes of Quina and Amarant for feeling unnecessary and tacked-on, then again what Final Fantasy game or RPG doesn’t have such characters, even previous characters I wasn’t fond of have garnered at least some enjoyment out of me.


Princess Garnet, or Dagger as she is often called, at first came across as an a-typical Japanese Role Playing cliché. “Oh no, the princess is in distress, whatever shall we do?” In a game where cliché is embraced, and I understanding as such, it’s a bit of a surprise I would be critical of that. But upon looking deeper into her, I’ve discovered a far more strong-willed and deeper female lead that, while a princess and love-interest, actually takes charge and accomplishes something once faced with the weight of the world on her shoulders. She doesn’t need a man for that and, through much of the game, doesn’t want one.

We see her grow, growth being something I think a majority of Final Fantasy IX’s cast does better than some of the previous games, and develop from a person not knowing her identity to finally understanding it. Her story has two main points a) the princess exposed to the world and b) the new woman reborn. The symbolic cutting of her hair as a sign of self-determination is the defining purpose of her and all that she was, and will ever be. She grows up, rather than sits idly by while other characters do what needs done, and the second half of her story is the dealing with actual responsibility rather than going off on what our male lead’s needs are.


This theme is something that each character has to deal with. Zidane confronting his true purpose, Vivi with his as well. Steiner understanding a knight isn’t just a man with a sword, Eiko, living alone and desolate, coming to accept others and Amarant understanding his harsh life doesn’t have to exclude acceptance of others, or their friendship, and even Quina understanding that getting out of the marshes were the best things she could have done. Then you have Freya…but let’s save her for Part Three.

Final Fantasy IX does a good job of having the characters overcome their lack of personal identity by coming together. There’s numerous scenes that involve all of them rather than just a select few. Eiko’s letter to Zidane, and the various scenes that come of it in a classical Comedy or Erros, is one of my personal favorites as it embodies a sense of humor surrounding the often overdone melodrama of love. The ATEs, or Active Time Events, are another way that the story is able to keep everyone together and relevant in the big picture by having smaller stories done with them. Many are also humorous, or give a small insight into the characters’ backstory and personality. While these are completely optional to view, and a few hidden, it’s a smart approach to a quasi-non linear approach to storytelling. As a result, these characters feel more together and a little tighter as a group, keeping them relevant to the player, even the ones that aren’t as important to the overall story.


*Fun Fact: Through many of Garnet’s symbolic name changes, the only name that has any significant meaning is her original name, Sarah, which means “princess.”
**Fun Fact 2: Zidane’s influence is symbolically portrayed in the two changes of Garnet’s development through his dagger, when she names herself after it and when she cuts her hair with it.

 

~Steiner and Shades of Gray~
 

Poor Adelbert Steiner. Not only did his parents name him “Adelbert,” as though they couldn’t pronounce Albert correctly and the nurse wrote it down phonetically, but he has a simplistic view of the world: That everything is black and white and so easily seen as good and evil. He, despite being brave at heart, is so consumed by his own image of chivalry that he usually forget what it really means to be as such to begin with. He’s rude when he tries to be proper, cowardly when he tries to be brave, grouchy when he needs to be nice and clumsy when he tries to be strong – I’m sure 50 pounds of plate armor doesn’t help that last one.

Over time, our grouchy knight learns that the world isn’t always as he thought. Everything he’s known and assumed is turned upside down. The Queen he swore to protect was mad with power, he blinded by his own sworn dedication to realize it. His kingdom destroyed and men under his command scattered. He even finds himself associating with thieves and brigands. His path is very much like Garnet’s, in many respects.

But most of the time he won’t admit to it. He’s scared to face the fact that, in the end, he’s a failure. His last hope of honor is protecting and serving the final remnant, the princess, and there’s no doubt he will do anything it takes to ensure her safety. It’s an effort at redemption and if that means having to associate with the likes of Zidane, Tantalus and so forth, then so be it. As a result of this forced camaraderie, he learns one final lesson, that the world is swathed in gray. He might think “evil” is the degenerates in the slums or thieves in the alleyways, but once the realizations that there is something greater than just sitting on the right side of the Queen and ordering men around, that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, he comes to an understanding.


As mentioned, and is the case with stories, there are characters that
are simply done better and given more time than others. You have your primary characters, and your secondary. I mentioned one, Princess Garnet, but feel much of what I like about  her is played off of how our clunky knight acts and reacts around her. Steiner can come across as a buzzing, self-righteous fly that needs to be swatted, but no matter how many times you bang the swatter he still flicks his wings. He is often cast aside as comedic relief by many and overshadowed by the likes of Kuja, Vivi, Zidane and Garnet.

I found, however, that he has one of the best arcs, that is fully realized from beginning to end, than any character in the series. While his scenes and situations might be in more comparison to Inspector Clouseau, he is no less an honorable, albeit confused, man coming to terms with his failure and attempting all he can with his redemption by accepting that the Queen he served was evil, he helped in that evil and the so-called villains of the world aren’t always the bad guys we’re told about. I loved his incompetence and his eventual turn into a true knight with honor and valor. It’s a wonderful characterization and story for a character that is only fifth on the pecking order of importance.


*Fun Fact: “Adelbert” means “Nobly Bright” in Eastern European names, popular during the middle ages of which Steiner is based on. The surname, “Stiener” is a broad one in Eastern Europe as well, specifically Germany.
**Fun Fact 2: Steiner’s subtle love interest, Beatrix, has a name that has no relevance to her actual character. It often means “joy” or “happy,” perhaps the developers were being ironic as filmmaker Quentin Tarantino was with his Kill Bill films.



~Zidane and Chivalry~
 
 

There is one character that embodies the chivalric knight, though, than many others bother to even attempt. I knew, from the moment he got on his knees to the princess in the opening scenes and promised to help “kidnap” her, that this was a classic, idealistic hero that I had longed missed in the role playing games.

And yes, he has a tail.


Zidane is a protector, a born romantic, a “swing down from the rafters and battle dragons” hero that I actually found myself getting behind. He has a mysterious past, as all Final Fantasy heroes seem to have, but it doesn’t dominate his story and character (not until very late and even then only briefly). He doesn’t sit around and ponder the obvious and constantly question himself, but goes on with life – a lesson he teaches to every one of his friends. As a doer of good deeds and a bit of flirt, it’s an odd combination of traits yet in no way demeans the fact that he simply likable.

For a hero, he’s rather uncouth, but I think some of the best heroes are. Zidane is molded after two of the more uncouth heroes of the series, the thief Locke and the womanizer/rebel Edgar both from Final Fantasy VI. Like those two, though both not the “main” hero, while he may be labeled by others in the end he knows what right and what is wrong. Zidane is able to offer his own personality to the mold as well. His light persona, and perfect timing of his sincerity, is able to uplift and bring together those that are looking for their purpose. Unlike a few other heroes in Final Fantasy where they can be so somber it makes me wonder why anyone would want to even speak with them. Zidane invites friendship, welcomes it and, like any good hero, tries to find the best way to make it all work out in the end no matter what.

But even though I love the notion of this look back to classic heroes, even within the Final Fantasy series would you like to know the real reason I’ve become fond of Zidane?


He smiles.


Think about it, what other main character in the series cracks a smile once in a while? What other hero isn’t riddled with angst, despair and sorrow with their painful past and occasional amnesia, forcing everyone to pity them, instead bring out a positive vibe in himself and those around him with an uplifting demeanor? There are few RPGs to begin with that still try to capture that feeling of, well, happiness. Zidane is drawn in the same vein as many of Gamearts’ heroes from their games such as Lunar and Grandia, or even from the baffling-popular Tales series . Usually, the “light” or “comedic” characters are firmly planted only as supporting roles. The closest the Final Fantasy series ever got was the roving adventurer Bartz.

Maybe it was the change, or even the attempt at change, to make a likable, friendly and sometimes funny and witty protagonist that caused me to enjoy and smile along with him. I ended up admiring Zidane immensely, keeping in mind I hated him the first time I played the game. But I saw him for what he was, a legit hero I could believe would rally the troops, that I could believe would have the girl fall in love with and that I believe, earnestly, gave a damn about each of his companions. The brilliant development and storytelling is able to showcase this time and time again. It’s paced remarkably well, from his gently feeling Garnet up on an airship, to him leaving her because, deep down, he had remorse for his sworn enemy. Maybe it’s small moments like urinating with Vivi, or sharing a drink with Freya in a bar. Or epic battles with Black Mages and dangling off of out-of-control airships. In Zidane I honestly found every encompassment of a hero I could want. For that, I thank him.


*Fun Fact: Zidane means “Gypsy” in French, Gypsies often considered to be thieves. So…he’s got that going for him.
**Fun Fact 2: Not once during the course of the game is the purpose of tails on genomes addressed. However the character designers, Shukou Murase and Shin Nagasawa, are notorious Dragon Ball fans and had dreams of working on the series when it was around. They noted how Zidane’s story shared similarities to Goku of Dragon Ball fame, and thus designed the character accordingly. Apparently, Sakaguchi and Itou went with it.


 

“While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.”
~Leonardo da Vinci

Despite all these nice characterizations, stories and themes, there’s one dominant one that encompasses the entire game.

We all know what it is. It’s something that’s been in every RPG, it seems, in some form. A few even base their entire stories around it. But I don’t think as many have as much a message or a purpose to the theme of death than Final Fantasy IX does. Characters might die, villages burn, sacrifices made. But many of those are merely plot points and really don’t hold much significance other than to push the story forward.  I can’t think of another that handles the subject as honestly and effectively, and it’s not even the death of the characters that allows that to happen. Two characters are thrust into similar scenarios, told the same things, yet showcase differing reactions. This is how Final Fantasy IX handles death: with grace.

~Kuja and the Denial of Death~
 
 
 

"The weak lose their freedom to the strong. Such is the way of the strong. And it is the providence of nature that only the strong survive. That is why I needed strength."

While I spoke of Kuja earlier, there is a central theme surrounding him and the entire game as well other than a flamboyant theatre-lover. For much of the game, in between asides and monologues and unlikely elegance, our antagonist gleefully showcases his power of influence, magic and narcissism as he tries to bring the world of Gaia to its knees. He is a combination of our classic villains with a little more-to-do in terms of character development. He feels the world is at his fingertips, wrecking havoc across its face, until he is faced with the one thing we all fear deep down.

“..isn't it hilarious!? I'll die just like the black mages I so despise! I single-handedly brought chaos into Gaia, but in the end, I'm nothing but a worthless doll!"

Our resident Angel of Death finds mortality as an insult, it’s a bitter irony he can’t fathom. He is the most powerful being in existence, practically god-like, bringing war, death, devastation and everything else asked of him. Yet, once told he is mortal and not going to live forever, it’s more than his mind can take. Why do so much, accomplish so much with his ambitious and power, only to simply die off?

The entirety, and best explanation within of his character is based on the philosophies of Ernest Becker, who wrote a book entitled “The Denial of Death.” In it, he discusses how, in the end, we all fear our own mortality but shield ourselves from the fear through society. It’s been noted as a “symbolic defense mechanism.” When it comes to death, we put it as far back into our minds as possible and replace it with, well, anything we can find because facing the end of our existence is sometimes too much to bear.

Man has a dualistic nature, he argues (again, polarity in play) of the physical world and the symbolic world we create ‘heroism’ through attempting immortality through our deeds. By having our names live on by doing something great, in a way we defeat death by living on symbolically even though our physical selves are long gone. It gives us purpose, meaning and, even though we may fear the act of death itself, at least we won’t fear not existing at all.

"I'm gonna die anyway. I won't have to be afraid anymore. But I'm not gonna die alone."

That is basis of Kuja’s entire story arc. He has put the notion of death so far beyond him, assuming himself immortal, that when confronted with it his entire being self-destructs. He no longer cares about anything other than his own name. He has, more or less, become insane. Becker writes that it begins with depression when they are constantly being reminded of their deaths and the end of their own being. Their names won’t live on. Kuja dives deep into this, not wanting to believe his own demise. It then goes to the next stage called insanity:

“Schizophrenia is a step further than depression in which one's causa sui is falling apart, making it impossible to engender sufficient defense mechanisms against their mortality; henceforth, the schizophrenic has to create their own reality or "world" in which they are better heroes.”

Becker concludes that the only way for the world to be better, and for those that fear death to live peacefully, is to overcome this constant seeking of immortality and embrace that we are all truly going to die. Celebrate life and the world will be better off for it.

This is the exact same theme that surround Vivi, who also suffers from the depressing state but, unlike Kuja, accepts that he is going to die and works to make the world better in the time he has left rather than constantly worrying about extending his years (physically or symbolically- of course this is directly related to the ending where his ‘children’ are his symbolic immortality). Kuja, though, redeems himself.

"...... Then, I finally realized what it means to live...I guess I was too late."

Accepting his own mortality in the end, that he failed to truly live to begin with, unlike Vivi who found his life with his friends because the fear of death was behind him, brings his entire arc to a close. Kuja is one of the more complex, yet clearly defined villains out there. His motivations are explicable, his purpose apparent and his personality engaging, not to mention his actions atrocious and done, often, in front of our characters rather than merely standing around and talking about doing them. Not merely in plot progression as a character, but as an encompassing theme from beginning to end, Kuja is a symbolic birth to death story of a fallen angel that so often goes overlooked.

It could easily be argued that Kuja, in a way, is the driving character of the entire game with all I wrote about him. But there is one other that claims that title, and you’ve probably figured out who that is, and it’s the one that takes the harder, more righteous path.


*Fun Fact: In Hindu Astrology, Kuja means “A Fair Person” and a person born under the sign of Kuja Dosha can only love another person born under that sign, in other words, they can only love themselves.
**Fun Fact 2: The sycophant duo of Zorn and Thorn are based on the characters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Hamlet.

~Vivi and the Acceptance of Death~

Think back to your grade school years (I would say to close your eyes, but then you couldn’t read…). You are nine years old. You just got home from school with your latest math quiz to show your parents. You rush through the door, set your backpack down and look to your mother. She takes you by the hand, sits you down on the couch and says “Sweetheart, you’re going to die.”

"How do you prove that you exist...? Maybe we don't exist..."

Many people forget that Vivi is a child. Perhaps it’s the fact he isn’t a regular human and, instead, a magical being and we assume he’s immune to the concept of years, age and mortality as we humans see them.  The game says otherwise…that Vivi isn’t some mindless doll. He’s just like us. He feels like us. Hates and loves like us and, yes, he lives and dies like us. So is not the same with his aging and life experience? While he isn’t “human” he still only has nine years under his belt, and, unlike most nine=year-olds, has to grasp with the notion he may not see ten.

Vivi is shy, innocent, impressionable and timid. He doesn’t get out much, his trek to Alexandria to see the play seems to be his first time anywhere. He has no friends and no family. He’s probably never seen a building taller than one story or even has any inkling what a Chocobo is other than from the stories his grandfather used to tell him. Vivi is as new to this world as we are.


If you don’t know the story, just know that at some point in the story Vivi, like Kuja, is told he will die, and die soon. He is the Ying to Kuja’s Yang within the story. Others, being manufactured black mages like him, “stop” after one year. Vivi, as a supposed prototype, will live longer, but will stop at some point also. He understand he’s going to die, even if he isn’t sure exactly when. He, like us, won’t see it coming. He isn’t going to die in front of us as a sacrifice, or to let us escape a catastrophe, or to save us from danger. Nor will it be some glorious act of redemption or even a decision he will make. He has no control over it.  Like all of us, it’s going to be inevitable.

The writers’ approach to his death is one-of-a-kind to the genre. It’s realistic. It’s unseen, even in the final portions of the game where it’s obvious that he did die, although it’s ambiguous for the most part. But knowing he lived his life to the fullest makes any death scene of his unnecessary and unneeded. To show it would demean him and the entire message he presents that the game and all the other characters are based on – how you live is more important than how you die. I even think the characters stating he died would be an insult. In comparison, how often do we see someone we know die? It’s not important to see it, it’s important how we deal with it and how we look back to how they lived. We’re meant to celebrate that, as Vivi’s children do, and not worry – just be glad you spent the time you had with him.

"I don't think I really understand what it means to live or to die. Where do we come from...? Do we go back there when we die...? If that's what it means to live... I wonder where I came from... Where will I end up when I die...? Why am I shaking? What is it I'm feeling...?"

You've probably noticed the title of this little retrospective into Final Fantasy IX - "The Book of Vivi." I named it as such for a number of reasons. Yes, there's an obvious comparison of Vivi to a Christ-like figure and martyr, almost biblical in a sense (hence the names of each Part) but it's not because he's sacrificial or even Holy. It's because within Vivi there is a message that crosses all within the game, character, story and so on, which is sometimes rare for an RPG character, and also crosses over to us, game aside. Vivi is an embodiment of the willingness of all of us to better ourselves and live life to its fullest. He's a character that has an actual meaning to being created for us to be a part of. He's not a fancy, sword-wielding athletic hero, he seems to rise above what we typically view as a hero, as an RPG character, and really as a character in stories in general.

Vivi is one of the most beautifully done role playing characters I’ve had the joy of seeing, playing and interacting with. With a sadness that surrounds him and a subtle nuance to his personality not dissimilar to Terra from Final Fantasy VI, he is quite the tragic fellow. His story is the heart of the entire game. I can look to other characters and note drops in their tales, mish-mashing in their pacing, disappearances in the narrative itself, yet Vivi is always there, always relevant. Impressive considering he’s not considered the “main hero.” Very few characters can achieve that, yet those that do are always my favorites in how they’re handled.

Vivi is a commentary (as well as Kuja as a contrast) of the human condition and really how fragile we all are when it comes to facing our own mortality. Vivi is meant to set the example that we all wish we could follow. I sometimes wonder if the simplistic world view through a child’s eyes is how we all should attempt to see things. There’s much in the story that implies it: beginning and ending with Vivi, the Fairy Tale nature of it all, and maybe that is another message about death the writers wanted to send. Even if they didn’t intend it, though, I know I received it.

As he fades slowly from the story, with no grand exit or final wave, he simply narrates the final moments of the game, likely a letter he wrote knowing he would die. Although some feel he didn’t, from a writing thematic standpoint, the tone of the dialogue, it’s purely him speaking – plus it fits in with ending the story to allow the balance to come through. I could sense his absence and feel the emptiness he left to the world he no longer resides in. When you feel such a loss, and realize that a fictional person is finitely gone and actually miss them, that is a testament to a great character.

*Fun Fact: Vivi means “To Live” or “alive” in Latin.
**Fun Fact 2: Vivi reminds me Wall-E, who is based off of Johnny 5 from Short Circuit. Short Circuit was written by Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson who also wrote Tremors starring Kevin Bacon.
***Fun Fact 2 ½: Short Circuit also starred Steve Guttenberg.
****Fun Fact 3: The Final Fantasy IX website still exists from Square. No surprise, but Vivi is the centerpiece.



While there have been better casts in stories and the themes nothing new, it’s more the presentation than anything and the effective use of visuals, music and storytelling that allow a more poignant impression. As I’ve stated before, Final Fantasy IX is a finely polished RPG and there is a lot to really like about it. I enjoy the complexities and stances on its themes and story, but appreciate the storytelling and directing moreso. The main characters, too, are seen all the way through and have purpose to their being in the story rather than not staying relevant to our plot. The design of the world is, to me, indicative of everything I dream of when I want to get lost in a fantasy.

Yet, nothing is perfect. In our final installment, we’ll take a look back at what Final Fantasy IX did wrong, it’s tribulations and criticisms, how it compares to a few other games I put up there alongside it, and one last look at what is the last classic Final Fantasy game we’ll ever see and its strange newfound popularity that’s risen in the past few years.

Coming Soon:
~Part Three of Three: Revelations~
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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