03
Mar
13

So let me get this straight…

We’re going straight into the weeds.  So look out.  I beat Final Fantasy IX for the fourth time and I feel like I’m still just wrapping my brain around the story.  It’s kind of insane that it’s taken me that many play-throughs (I docked the score I gave it in my previous review) but it’s still an interesting story.  So if you’re interested in cutting to the chase of FFIX, or want to check my understanding of it, then go ahead and click through.  In any case, you’ve been warned.

Final Fantasy IX begins on the Mist continent, which is home to three kingdoms and several other smaller city-states:

  • Alexandria, a medieval human kingdom.
  • Lindblum, a regency going through a sort of industrial revolution, utilizing “mist” to power airships.
  • Burmecia, a kingdom of anthropomorphic rats.
  • Treno, a city of nobles.
  • Cleyra, a community of fundamentalist Burmecians who live in a tree protected by a sand storm.

The continent, covered in the aforementioned mist, was at war for much of its history until its inhabitants settled in higher altitudes above the mist.

The Tantalus Company (which the game’s protagonist Zidane Tribal, is a member of) is sent by the Regent of Lindblum to “kidnap” Princess Garnet Til Alexandros XVII of Alexandria (the regent is the Princess’ uncle), sensing that something was wrong there.  Tantalus does this by masquerading as a theater company arriving in Alexandria to perform a famous play.  Garnet is more than willing to leave with them though, as she had planned on escaping on her own.  In the process of escaping, the Tantalus Company, the Princess, a black mage (Vivi), and the Captain of the Pluto Knights (Steiner) become stranded in the Evil Forest, found below Alexandria among the mist.  It’s at this point that the audience sees how the mist spawns many treacherous creatures.

Zidane, Vivi, Garnet, and Steiner escape as a group and arrive in the village of Dali.  Here, the party discovers that black mages are being manufactured from mist and are being shipped to Alexandria.  They are also pursued by the Black Waltz’s, black mages sent to capture the princess and kill all others accompanying her.  Vivi tries to communicate with the other black mages but is completely ignored until a black waltz tries to attack him.  The others attempt to protect him, but are thrown off an airship.

Vivi

The group returns to Lindblum.  It’s here that the Regent conveys his suspicion about Alexandria’s Queen Brahne.  Almost immediately though, a mortally wounded Burmecian messenger arrives with news that Alexandria has attacked Burmecia with an army of black mages.  Steiner and Dagger (Garnet has decided to name herself after the first inanimate object she saw??) part ways with the rest of the group to return to Alexandria to try and appeal to the Queen to stop the attack.  Zidane, Vivi, and a Burmecian named Freya travel to Burmecia to investigate what’s happening and defend the city.

After fighting with many black mages, Zindane and his party find the ruins of Burmecia with Queen Brahne and an weapons dealer named Kuja (who provided her with the black mages) along with a silver dragon at its center.  The Alexandrian general, Beatrix, quickly incapacitates the party and leaves them behind.  Meanwhile, Garnet and Steiner return to Alexandria and are promptly captured.  Brahne seeks to take control of powerful spirits named eidolons that are somehow kept within “Dagger.”  Zidane and the others then travel to Cleyra, where most Burmecian refugees have fled to.  Brahne, Beatrix, and the black mage army arrive soon after, seize a jewel, and then destroy Cleyra by summoning the eidolon Odin, which was extracted from Dagger.  Zidane’s group barely manage to escape and return to Alexandria to find Dagger.

With the help of Tantalus, Steiner, Freya, and Beatrix (who upon seeing that Brahne was hurting Dagger to retrieve eidolons, changed sides), the others were able to escape Alexandria.  Upon their return to Lindblum though, Brahne begins summoning the eidolon Atomos to attack the city.  The destruction is widespread and Alexandria moves to occupy the only other kingdom left on the continent.  As a condition of Lindblum’s surrender, the Regent had to give up a royal jewel.  Regent Cid arranges for Zidane, Dagger, and Vivi to escape to another continent as there are no longer any safe havens on the Mist continent.

Lindblum

On their way through a network of caves under the ocean, the group is attacked by a bounty hunter who claims that she’s after the royal jewel that Dagger wears, rather than the princess herself.  Dagger’s safe return is no longer required since her eidolons have been extracted.  After defeating the bounty hunter, the group arrives at the outer continent where they meet a village of dwarves.  When they see Vivi, they ask if he’s visiting the market from the black mage village.  There, the black mages are able to speak and are afraid of humans.  But when they speak to each other they learn that the black mages’ life span is limited to about one year and that at some point they became self aware.  They escaped the Mist continent to live away from the humans that treated them like weapons.

The following day, the group gets word that a silver dragon has been spotted.  They depart and begin travelling northward toward what the dwarves called the “sanctuary” until they stumbled upon a little girl with a horn named Eiko.  She takes the group to the ruins of a village named Madain Sari, where she lives with a group of moogles.  Eiko explains that the sanctuary is actually something called the Iifa tree, which he ancestors had sealed off.  She belonged to the summoner tribe who had the power to summon eidolons.  Eiko’s parents and grandparents had died in the last few years, and the rest of the village and its people had been destroyed by an earlier cataclysm.

Eiko agrees to help the group reach the Iifa tree and break the seal.  The tree is huge, and its roots covered in mist.  They reach the trunk and travel inside below ground.  It glows bright green and they can sense a great deal of life.  A monster called Soulcage attacks them, but first reveals that the Iifa Tree’s roots spread around the world and release the mist.  It explains that the mist is created by the tree, but is the byproduct of a refining process which causes aggressive behavior.  Kuja also uses the mist to create the black mages, but tells the group that if they defeat it (Soulcage) then the mist will stop.   The group sees this as an opportunity to get Kuja’s attention and dispatch Soulcage.

Emerging from the Iifa Tree, Eiko is greeted by a moogle who tells her that someone has stolen a precious item from Madain Sari.  The group returns there to find out more, but Eiko is  quickly kidnapped by the same bounty hunter that attacked the group as they escaped the Mist continent.  The bounty hunter has stolen a jewel from the village (which Eiko was protecting) and demanded Dagger to hand over her jewel in exchange for Eiko’s safe return.  A second bounty hunter intervenes out of objection to the unfair circumstances.  Eiko and the jewel are released, and Zidane fights the second bounty hunter one on one.  Zidane wins, and convinces the bounty hunter to join their group.

The Iifa tree

Dagger comes to the realization that she is actually from Madain Sari (based on early childhood memories) and is also of the summoner tribe, though she doesn’t know how she became a princess or how her horn was removed.  They decide to return to the Iifa tree to confront Kuja when he arrives there.  When he does, so does Brahne and a fleet of attack ships.  The Queen has recognized that Kuja is the only one left who could stop her, and unleashes the eidolon Bahamut.  Kuja escapes, and in turn summons some sort of giant eye in the sky which is able to take control of Bahamut.  The eidolon then turns its attack on to Brahne’s fleet.  Kuja then alludes to his future plans, which take him away from this planet (Gaia) to destroy his enemies.

The Queen has been slain, and Dagger returns to Alexandria to assume the throne.  There are no further leads on Kuja.  The group disbands and prepares for the princess to be crowned queen.  It’s revealed that Dagger and her mother had washed up in a boat near Alexandria.  Brahne’s biological daughter had recently died, and the King decided to adopt Dagger and ordered her horn to be removed.  Dagger’s mother had died in the boat.  Zidane, Eiko, Vivi, Freya, and Amarant, decide to visit Treno, where Zidane will participate in a card contest.

It’s at this point that Kuja re-emerges and attacks Alexandria with Bahamut.  Zidane’s group quickly returns on Regent Cid’s airship where Eiko and Dagger are able to summon the eidolon Alexander with the jewels that they carry.  Alexander is able to defeat Bahamut.  Kuja attempts to use the strange eye ball in the sky to commandeer the eidolon, but another character named Garland is shown to be in control of the ship which controls the eye.  Expressing frustration with Kuja, he instead destroys Alexander rather than allow Kuja to take control of it.

Alexandria is devestated, and Dagger along with Steiner decide to re-unite with the group.  Regent Cid provides the group with a boat.  Kuja had stolen Cid’s airship and black mages were spotted assisting him.  They return to the Black Mage village to learn that Kuja had promised the black mages that he could help extend their lifespan if they cooperated with him.  Though the black mage who stayed behind wished to respect his friends’ wishes, Zidane and Vivi convince him that Kuja is exploiting them.  The black mage then directs the group to Kuja’s desert palace.

Alexander v Bahamut

After entering the palace through quick-sand, the group is quickly imprisoned, and Zidane is forced to choose members of his group to assist Kuja in retrieving a relic from the forgotten continent in exchange for not killing the rest of the group.  The ruins of a place called Oeilvert has an anti-magic barrier which prevents Kuja from entering safely.  Once there, the group finds writings in a language that none of them has seen, though Zidane is able to read it.  They uncover a recording that explains that this place was a record of the civilization of a planet named Terra which had somehow fallen into decline and disappeared.  They retrieved the relic and returned it to Kuja though out of fear for their friends’ safety.

The rest of the group, back in the Desert Palace, are able to escape, but when Zidane’s group returns, Kuja kidnaps Eiko and leaves the palace for a small religious sanctuary named Esto Gaza.  Kuja attempts to extract Eiko’s eidolons inside of Mt. Gulug.  He intends to take control of an Eidolon strong enough to destroy Garland before he is able to finish his plans.  The extraction process fails, but he instead discovers that can enter a “trance” state by harnessing the power of many souls, which will allow him to defeat Garland.

After Kuja leaves, the group finds another woman that Kuja had captured: Cid’s wife.  She is able to explain his plot to the group after returning to Lindblum.  Kuja is from Terra, which is connected to Gaia through a place in the ocean called the Shimmering Island.  It is sealed shut, but a strange castle (half inverted, half right-side up) where the seal could be broken.  They call it Ipsen’s castle (after an explorer who discovered it.)  Zidane and Steiner return to Alexandria to find Dagger, who had gone missing earlier in Lindblum.  They find Dagger at her adoptive mother’s grave where she resolves to protect her Kingdom.  They then rejoin the others and set out to Ipsen’s Castle.

They find four mirrors which are all connected to the seal.  A monster named Taharka attacks them and explains that the seal cannot be broken unless four shrines fall.  They determine that the group must split up into four parties and take control of the four shrines simultaneously.  Once that is complete, they converge on the Shimmering Island to enter Terra.

...

Terra is a completely alien world.  Garland appears briefly to greet the group, then disappears.  Another girl then shows up who looks like Zidane.  The group follows her to a town named Bran Bal.  Zidane continues to follow her while the others wait at an inn.  Dagger remembers that she saw Madain Sari being destroyed, and the same eye that appeared over the Iifa tree to commandeer Bahamut, and had destroyed Alexander, had appeared over and destroyed the summoner tribe.  When Zidane finally meets the girl, she explains that they are soulless genomes that were constructed on Terra.  They are meant to serve as vessels for the souls of the Terrans, which Garland has been tasked with restoring.  Garland is attempting to transform Gaia into Terra, where the Terrans can be revived.  Terra has had to assimilate other planets in the past in order to survive, and Gaia was no different from any other.

The girl elaborated that Garland had already once tried to assimilate Gaia, but it was too soon and he had failed.  In order to take Gaia, Garland had to hijack the cycle of souls there and replace the native souls with those of Terra.  Gaia’s cycle was too strong though.  And many of the strange features found on Gaia were transported from Terra during that first attempt.  While the genomes are soulless, Zidane was given a soul by Garland in order to help carry out his plans.  Kuja had also been a genome, but defied Garland.  The girl’s name is Mikoto, and she sends Zidane to meet Garland.

Garland continued to explain Zidane’s past.  Kuja had been created to disrupt the cycle of souls on Gaia.  The Iifa tree originated from Terra, and was used to filter Gaian souls out of the cycle and inject Terran souls instead.  The mist found on Gaia is a by-product of that process.  Kuja was sent to expedite the process by bringing war and death to Gaians.  Kuja was strong-willed though, and sought to control his own life. He defied Garland who decided that Kuja must be replaced.  Garland reveals that Zidane was meant to replace Kuja as an angel of death on Gaia.  Zidane is shocked and also vows to defy Garland.  Before he can do anything though, Garland “removes” Zidane’s soul and transforms him back into a genome.

Zidane’s friends return to save him, but he rejects their assistance, distraught to know that he was created to be their enemy.  The group points out to him that they are strong too and have protected him at the same time that he protected them.  Zidane believed again that he could help to save Terra and rejoined the party.  They confront Garland who reiterates that his mission is to restore Terra when there is no more life or death, but he is defeated.  Kuja appears and assumes his “trance” state, then kicks Garland off a ledge.  Kuja attacks the group and incapacitates them.  Garland’s voice returns and tells Kuja that the genomes also have a pre-determined life span, and that his was almost over.  Kuja flies into a rage and destroys Terra.  He sets his sights on Gaia’s crystal, the very heart of the planet and soul cycle.  Zidane’s party barely escapes with the genomes on the Invincible (the ship used to destroy the summoner tribe.)

Memoria

The party leaves the genomes at the black mage village and prepare to go after Kuja for the last time.  The mist has returned to Gaia as well now.  Using the Invincible, Zidane and the others travel back to the Iifa tree, where a portal has opened.  From it, hundreds of silver dragons attack.  The combined airship fleets of Alexandria and Lindblum converge to fend them off though and clear a path for the Invincible.  Once through, the group enters “Memoria”.  It does not seem to be a place in Gaia or Terra, but another world comprised entirely of memories.  Garland’s voice returns to explain this and that all life shares a common ancestral memory which can be traced back to the crystal.  Many surreal locations emerge in Memoria; some of them unique to individual party members and others that are known to all of them.

They arrive at the crystal and find Kuja.  The final battle commences as Kuja realizes his time is running out.  As Kuja is weakened, he casts the spell “ultima” and destroys the crystal and incapacitates the party.  Awakening after the devastation, another being has appeared.  It states that the events that have unfolded on Gaia and Terra have proven that all life seeks death and wishes to perish.  This being sought to cast the world into oblivion, or the “zero world” as it puts it.  The actual final battle takes place against Necron after half of Zidane’s party offers their energy to the other half in order to revive them.  Zidane exclaims that their memory will continue to live on through others.

When Necron is defeated, Kuja teleports the party back to Gaia.  Kuja is left at the base of the Iifa tree, but Zidane returns for him, sending the others to escape with Regent Cid on an airship.  When Zidane reunites with Kuja, he takes responsibility for what he has done, and Zidane assures him that he empathizes with him and wants to make sure he’s not alone.  The Iifa tree convulses and traps them both inside.

The final battle

The game’s ending shows Mikoto walking along the Iifa tree:

Kuja… What you did was wrong… But you gave us all one thing… Hope…

We were all created for the wrong reason, but you alone defied our fate.  We don not want to forget this.  We want your memory to live on forever. …to remind us that we were not created for the wrong reason – that our life has meaning.

The epilogue then shows the party members returning to Alexandria some time in the future for the theater ship to put on the same play that was staged at the beginning of the game, as well as some of their final thoughts about Zidane’s impact on them.  As the play unfold’s, the shrouded character Marcus is revealed to be Zidane.  He was somehow able to escape the Iifa tree and survive.


I’ve tried to condense that as much as possible.  Some portions still don’t make sense to me.  For instance, Kuja still insists that if he loses then the Iifa tree will still continue to try to assimilate Gaia.  And while the final nihilistic boss makes sense in a thematic way, he seems to come out of nowhere.  I felt like there were a lot of interesting ideas and characters in the game, but it was so clumsily executed that following it is to fight without it throughout.  If you’ve played FFIX and have some thoughts about the story, or things that I may have missed, please share them in the comments.

And in case you still haven’t had enough…

FFIX Walkthrough on Youtube

FFIX on Wikia

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