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"Meanwhile, Junior learns the fabulicious ability Ars Arcanum and he receives the ninth installment of Ansem's Report. Maybe we should sit down and read these things, and see what kind of guy this Ansem was? ...Nah, not important."
     -Sam, Kingdom Hearts Part 11

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Final Fantasy IX : Part 1
By Jeanne
Posted 02.13.02
Pg. 1 : 2 : 3
FFVIII was released. People bitched. Square made Final Fantasy VI again to appease their fanboys, and called it Final Fantasy IX. Shame on you, Square, for trying something new even if it wasn't 100% successful. Don't you know it's all about sticking to the same old formula?

It's Tifa...I mean Rinoa...I mean Garnet.

Final Fantasy IX opens just like a movie or TV show, with the opening credits right over the fantastically decadent opening FMV. A small crappy ship, caught in a storm, with big waves, mighty winds, torn sails, the usual. Close-up on the people in the boat. There is a little kid and a woman, both wearing cloaks. Suddenly, we cut to Rinoa. Well, it's not Rinoa, you know why? Because her hair is parted on the other side. Oh, that makes them totally different, Square. Good job.

Super-deformed Rinoa (SDR) rubs her eyes to let us know that she was the one having that scary dream. She's sitting in a big fancy room, wearing a big fancy dress that shows her boobs, because that's what women's dresses must do in Male Video Game Designer Land. The dress is really quite pretty, it just looks uncomfortable, poor girl. Some birds (white, of course) fly by the window and SDR looks out. The metaphor here is that she's the princess, imprisoned by her duties, who wants to be as free as the birds flying outside her window. Get it? Aren't you glad I'm here to explain this stuff to you?

The camera pans up over the castle (see, I was right about the princess thing), and we get a lovely shot of that city from Star Wars Episode I with all the waterfalls. More birds, and then a flying ship. Folks, we have airship. It has a scantily clad mermaid on the front and I'm so excited about all this female partial nudity that I can barely handle it. Or something. The ship is more fantasy/medieval style, and there's no way we can miss that fact with the many close-up camera shots detailing every damn inch of the ship. Okay, we get it, people. It's not Final Fantasy VIII. We. Get. It.

Inside the ship, a young man with a tail slides down a pole. What we are being shown in this scene is "See? A character with non-human characteristics!! IT'S NOT FINAL FANTASY VIII!!!! Except that the chick still has to be hot." Monkey-tail boy enters a room and we switch to regular gameplay mode. I am pleased to report that it still looks good, even better than FFVIII. The game designers didn't get scared enough by the rabid old school fanboys to revert all the way back to sprites, apparently.

In Final Fantasy IX, the characters speak with speech bubbles, rather than in big message blocks. The font is about 8pt, which makes me feel less bad about using small fonts for my navigation on this page.

What we have next is the most pointless opening sequence ever. "Sure is dark.....," Monkey-tail boy says, standing in a pitch black room. "Guess nobody's here yet..." Monkey-tail boy lights a match. There's a candle in the center of the room. I think this is a no-brainer. There's even a prompt that says "Light the candle in the middle of the room!" I go exploring instead, because no game is going to force me to do it's bidding, by crikey! I find money, just for the record. Then I make Monkey-tail boy light the candle. Immediately the game is set in motion. "Who's there!?" someone shrieks from the other room. I quickly have to name Monkey-tail boy so that he can reply. Think, Jeanne, think. "Monkey-tail boy" does not fit, so I name him the default - Zidane. I see we have broken the "weather name" pattern for the main characters. Unless "Zidane" is some tropical storm monsoon thing that I don't know about.

"It's me, Zidane!" yells Zidane. Three guys run out of the other room and they do some weird salute thing. This is so that we know they all know each other. The other guys are Blank, Cinna, and Marcus, and they all wonder where their "boss" is. I hope "boss" is not synonymous with "pimp". Yes, I have this same paranoid fear in every game I start playing. It's some weird neurosis, I'm sure. Suddenly some guy with a big blue dragon head jumps down the stairs and starts roaring. First battle time! (Note: We are still within the "most pointless opening sequence ever")

...Is he telling me to "get some"?

The purpose of this scene is to show us "Look!!! We went back to the "old style" battle music. It sounds just like Final Fantasy VI!!!! NOT FINAL FANTASY VIII!!!!!!!!!!!!" The battle is easy, except that poor Cinna gets his ass kicked. Maybe if he put on a fucking shirt or something. Note also that they all have the "steal" ability. Hm....

Finally, the dragon's head splits open to reveal a guy with big pointy ears. It's their "boss" and I guess he must regularly dress up as a dragon and kick their asses, because no one says anything like "Oh, hey, it's you, boss!". His name is "Baku," which a friend of mine thought was the Japanese word for "fool". Nope, that's "Baka" and don't you fanboys pretend you don't know that. I know you and your little habit of slipping Japanese words into your conversations. Here's another word for you: "chinchin". It means "penis". Although you probably know that one, too. On a more important, related-to-the-game note, we have just reached the end of the most pointless opening scene ever.

The next part actually makes a little bit of sense, at least in terms of where it fits into the game. Baka summons the other four into a meeting. This isn't like the meetings I have at work, because I managed to make it through this scene without falling asleep.

The music turns all sneaky as the five of them gather around a table with a model of a castle on it. Baka exposits, "Tantalus, the infamous band of daring thieves (that's us), is headin' to the Kingdom of Alexandria..." Gee, a band of thieves. How original. Baka holds up a little dark-haired doll with a crown. "Our mission: to kidnap the heir to the throne, Princess Garnet!" I wonder if Princess Garnet is the Rinoa clone we saw earlier. The only good thing in this clichéd subplot is that the heir to the throne is female. At least women's rights have some validity in Alexandria. Make fun of me all you like, but it's annoying as hell to play game after game with weak, stupid females. Makes me want to kick something. Like fanboys' asses.

Blah, blah, blah. Kidnap plan. When their ship docks at Alexandria, Tantalus will be performing "I Want to Be Your Canary," the most popular play in Alexandria. I guess we had to keep the bird imagery going, but damn, what a dorky name for a play. Marcus will play the lead, which Cinna announces, Marcus announces that Blank and Zidane will be the kidnappers, and Blank announces that he will distract the audience from backstage with a bunch of creatures called oglops (which he hates). Okay, so if everyone in the room already knows about the whole plan, why the meeting to explain it? For our benefit, of course. This is what we call "bad exposition". It's like in CSI when the lead forensics guy is always explaining shit about fingerprints to his co-workers, as if they wouldn't already know, just so that the audience (us) isn't completely clueless (no pun intended).

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