Final Fantasy is known for one character over all other main protagonists, Cloud Strife. Smash players, Kingdom Hearts fans and gamers in general know the name. What about Zidane Tribal? Zidane is the main protagonist of Final Fantasy 9, a thief who looks out for friends and family, welcoming all those who welcome him. He has little in comparison to Cloud, boasting a tail and two daggers as his choice of weapons. Not only that, but silence is not an option for young Zidane, speaking as much as Barret would. The point is that I need people to stop overlooking one of Final Fantasy’s most creative games, Final Fantasy 9.
Yes, Final Fantasy 7 is fantastic and subjectively the greatest that the series has to offer. Yet, people forget that the series didn’t start with seven and didn’t end with it either. Final Fantasy 9 sees Zidane and his buddies of Tantalus, a group of traveling thieves, off to steal Princess Garnet for their own buck. They go through all the trouble of entering a play to distract the gigantic crowd at a festival, with Zidane and his buddy from Tantalus, Blank, fighting each other with swords for the Queen’s amusement. In this time, it allows them to receive cheers from the roaring crowd and diplomats, eventually stealing the Princess from her home along with other unwelcome guests. Steiner, Princess Garnet’s guard, sneaks on board in pursuit of the princess and her kidnappers. Unfortunately, their ship crashes into a very evil forest, petrifying Blank who sacrificed himself in protection of Zidane from a forest spider. That is just the beginning of Final Fantasy 9!
Throughout the adventure of a group of misfits and outcasts, including the princess, we are greeted by mystical vistas and gigantic creatures of the night. Not only that, but we are introduced to one of gaming’s saddest characters, Vivi Ornitier! When I say saddest, I mean that no character has quite the full circle like Vivi does. He starts off as a quirky, loving character who wants nothing more than to know his worth and learn what life or love are about. What ensues after he meets our party is him finding the truth out about his people, and how he is destined to expire. Not only that, but his adoptive father raised him as a source of food to eat when he got hungry! Vivi has a past of cruelty and a future of shock. His name being a symbol in voodoo black magic, players should only guess about what his future is destined for and where it will take him.
The reason I love Final Fantasy 9 is for the silliness and happiness it invokes along the way, being akin to a children’s story. All children’s stories have darkness lurking in the background and hidden meanings for adults. This iteration is no different, providing players with a loving time of wisdom but a story of sorrow. Zidane is a character who keeps the player guessing and wondering on how he will get out of each situation with his band of misfits and the girl he falls in love with. Princess Garnet, who becomes “Dagger”, is another source of growth in a game all about growing up. Steiner, a father figure, tests his cowardice against the forces of the world to protect the ones he loves. Vivi, a lost soul, looks for meaning in a world that brought him in without it. Freya Crescent, a red mage, looks for the source of what happened to her lover, vowing to never return home without the story behind the mystery. If players aren’t keen on single player Final Fantasy, I highly recommend buying a Final Fantasy XIV account and trying online out. I leave readers with a quote from an underrated chapter of Final Fantasy, and ask those who never have to play Final Fantasy 9.
“I always talked about you, Zidane. How you were a very special person to us, because you taught us all how important life is. You taught me that life doesn’t last forever. That’s why we have to help each other and live life to the fullest. Even if you say goodbye, you’ll always be in our hearts. So, I know we’re not alone anymore.”