Game Story Case Studies, Season 2: Final Fantasy IX (Part 1)

Links-HomeReviewsArticlesVideosLibraryContact

Welcome to my first episode of season 2 of game story case studies. Today, I will feature the first part of a very in-depth look at a classic RPG, Final Fantasy IX. Since this is a reasonably long game with a lot of dialogue, I will be covering only the content most relevant to the main story. As such, most optional dialogue from NPCs will not be covered in this critique. Since this game is also more visual in its storytelling than in the previous game, some cutscenes that lack dialogue will be covered, as that sort of visual direction could be considered a form of writing.

Additionally, due to the length of the game, I will be mostly covering the story beats between each major save point in each article. I will also cut some articles into multiple pages, depending on how much footage I get in each scene, so that it may be easier to read. Finally, I will also cover some written information that corresponds to the game design of the game, in order to highlight some issues that writing for video games have.

A fun thing about Final Fantasy IX is that there are a lot of nods to previous games in the Final Fantasy series within. I will point out each one as I find them to the best of my knowledge. If you notice some that I missed, let me know in the comments, with a brief explanation.

Of course, since I am covering the entire game, there will be major spoilers here, so if you aren’t ready to find out how this game’s story plays out, then come back to this article after playing Final Fantasy IX. Now let’s get started!

Opening:

FF9Sce1Pt1FF9Sce1Pt2

We start with a scene featuring a boat in the middle of a storm, with a woman on board. Its relevance is unclear at the moment, but can be enough to catch the viewer’s attention. Also, a portion of the game credits are shown throughout this scene, similar to a movie. I believe the company that made this game (Square Enix, known as Squaresoft at the time) wanted to elevate the Final Fantasy game’s appeal to match the quality of movies. This ambition shows in imitating the format of a movie here.

FF9Sce1Pt3FF9Sce1Pt4

At this point, this young woman wakes up from the dream that the visual direction implies she was having. Additionally, she is looking at something out of her window, which I will go on to show right now.

FF9Sce1Pt5FF9Sce1Pt6

She was looking at this airship, a mode of transportation found throughout the Final Fantasy series. The camera cuts to an occupant onboard, a young man with a monkey-like tail. The game moves on to the player controlling this character.

FF9Sce1Pt7FF9Sce1Pt8

So, the game gives you control over this character. Then something interesting happens here:

FF9Sce1Pt9FF9Sce1Pt10

The game lists the full controls, but there is a lot to take in here. It usually is better to teach the player piece by piece how to play each part in the early portions of the game, but this can work here too, even if it is a bit sloppy. Also, the game is not too subtly telling the player what to do if you take too long.

FF9Sce1Pt11 I found this bit of information while wandering in the dark. This is a very thorough description of the airship, and is an optional bit of info. This sort of thing isn’t needed in most types of games, but does add flavor to the setting and world of any work of fiction. Considering that this game has flying ships in a medieval fantasy world, it makes some sense to show that there are some regulations for how this world works.

FF9Sce1Pt12 The player is giving this option to light the candle. There isn’t any point in not lighting it, other than to pick up a few goodies that you can miss if you light the candle too early. Menus like this are crucial in RPGs like Final Fantasy, so it is good to see that it is clear and concise.

FF9Sce1Pt13

And now we have the first character naming menu here. I will go with the default name of Zidane here, for convenience. This occurs right before he says his name for the first time.

FF9Sce1Pt14FF9Sce1Pt15FF9Sce1Pt16FF9Sce1Pt17

Here’s some simple but effective dialogue. We learn these characters’ names, and from the context clues, that a meeting is about to start.

FF9Sce1Pt18FF9Sce1Pt19FF9Sce1Pt20

Suddenly, this character (or possibly monster) appears, as does an explanation of how combat works. The game’s first battle occurs here. Something I think the explanation doesn’t do well is describe the goal of a battle. The player has to defeat the enemy by damaging it with attacks, while avoiding taking enough damage to be knocked out in the process. Thankfully, this battle isn’t too hard as long as the player remembers to attack the enemy enough.

FF9Sce1Pt21FF9Sce1Pt22FF9Sce1Pt23

When the player wins the fight, this character’s costume falls apart and says these things. It appears this wasn’t a real fight, and that they were sparring, or practice fighting this guy.

FF9Sce1Pt24FF9Sce1Pt25FF9Sce1Pt26FF9Sce1Pt27

This must be the boss, he sure has an interesting personality. Now let’s see what this crew is planning.

FF9Sce1Pt28FF9Sce1Pt29FF9Sce1Pt30

Well now, that is an interesting twist! It seems that the player is controlling a band of thieves intending to kidnap a princess! Many stories have the protagonist (or protagonists) save a princess, not steal one away. This twist might catch enough players off guard enough to want to figure out why the main characters want to perform this criminal act. Sometimes leading with a few good mysteries is a good way to keep players (or readers, or viewers, depending on the medium) playing. This might be a turnoff for those hoping to play as the good guys though, but there is much more to this story for those players too, but they will have to stick it out in order to get answers.

FF9Sce1Pt31FF9Sce1Pt32FF9Sce1Pt33FF9Sce1Pt34

Interesting, they are using a play as a distraction as they kidnap Princess Garnet. Let’s see what else they have in store.

FF9Sce1Pt35FF9Sce1Pt36

As expected, the player will be in direct control of the kidnapping. This might not sit well with those who want to be a hero when playing this game, but answers will come in time.

FF9Sce1Pt37FF9Sce1Pt38FF9Sce1Pt39FF9Sce1Pt40FF9Sce1Pt41FF9Sce1Pt42

So the distraction will be these fictional “oglop” creatures. While they have yet to be shown on screen, it is implied that they are small bugs. The story also adds some personality to the character Blank, who doesn’t like oglops. 

The player is then prompted what to say next. If the player chooses “That’s when I kidnap Queen Brahne, right?” you will get a reaction from the crew and then be given that prompt again until you choose the correct prompt, “That’s when I kidnap Princess Garnet, right?” The reaction to the correct prompt is the only one shown here, for brevity.

Go to page 2 to see the next scene:

 

4 thoughts on “Game Story Case Studies, Season 2: Final Fantasy IX (Part 1)

  1. Nice write-up! How Final Fantasy developed the cinematic, film-style side of itself is intriguing; have you read Power-Up by Chris Kohler? It does a lot of commentary on this subject, with Final Fantasy games as an example.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the compliment! I plan on writing about most of the game eventually, so stay tuned. To answer your question, no I have not read that book. I will see if I can find it, as it may help me out with my analysis, and I’m always looking for something new to read.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah I just found it online, and put it on my wishlist. Hopefully I read it soon enough once I finish my current read. I think I will set a reminder to get it to make sure it doesn’t slip through any gaps in memory.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.