Final Fantasy games are well-known for their cutting-edge graphics, and FF9 is no exception. If you’ve been doing your homework, you will have read that FF9 was released in 2000. Some of its peers were Diablo II, Banjo Tooie, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Also notable about FF9 is that it was the last of the FF series to be released on Playstation, as PS2 came out in March of 2000. And it is a 4 CD game. One of the last of its kind as technology advanced and information could be more tightly compacted.
But that’s enough trivia, let’s jump into some analysis, yes?
In the beginning of this opening scene, there is a seeming lack of subject matter. It is a collage of images from the game but, if you pay attention you’ll see the major theme presenting itself for the first time. FF9 employs (like many other FF games) the Machine(Man)/Nature binary. It is through this binary that much of the conflict arises and can be analyzed. The images presented are a yoking of this binary; the viewer/reader/player sees images of both man and nature, one after the other, symbolizing the interconnectedness of the two. To further this idea, there is an overlay of a map. Maps are man-made representations of nature; man’s sense of power comes from imposing our own methods and thoughts on the world around us. The map is just that, it shows man’s ‘mark’ on the world.
Speaking of the world, the names and settings of FF9 are interesting. The world the story begins in is named Gaia, a Grecian goddess of the Earth (More information on her, here). Another world in which you get to play is called Terra, coming from Latin meaning Earth. These allusions, especially that to the Greek goddess, are typical of pieces of art. And while they’re not so obscure as to require a degree or extensive knowledge, they are still allusions which require some sort of outside knowledge.
This scene starts off with a flashback. A small boat on a fearsome ocean in the middle of a storm with two passengers who are fleeing something (it hasn’t been revealed what yet). We’re jarred back into the present to see a young woman in a white gown sitting in front of an open window, crying. She is Garnet – the Princess of Alexandria (another allusion) – and it is her 16th birthday. While to be a true bildungsroman (More info here), for a woman, the age would have to be closer to 10, 16 begs to be analyzed. Not to mention, the story begins on her birthday! If there is a better way to set up a coming of age story, I don’t know how.
But that’s not all. Firstly, the semi-open window. It gives the illusion of freedom to those trapped in a castle. Furthering the binary theme of freedom/oppression are the birds (which aren’t seen in any scenes outside of Alexandria, interestingly enough). We see Garnet’s thirst for freedom as she throws the window wide open and the screen pans out and cuts to more bird imagery. The imagery is continued onto the Prima Vera (another name that’s an allusion), the Tantalus bandit group’s Airship (another Greek allusion here) (Also the player’s first glimpse at an airship) with the winged-mermaid on the front of the ship (I think there’s a specific word for these but it escapes me at the moment). If there was any doubt in the player’s mind that Garnet wanted to be free at this point, the combination of a woman and wings should seal the deal pretty well here. But we are also left with a shot of a door closing – the oppression to the freedom presented so far. It is the opposite of the window opening.
Another idea of note in this clip, if viewed with a feminist slant, is the obvious phallic design of the castle in Alexandria. Not only does it look like a phallus, but it is a symbol of the patriarchy oppressing the freedom of Garnet. The fact that it is a sword is also another jab at the patriarchy. While Queen Brahne is actually the one holding Garnet prisoner, it is interesting to note that Brahne looks much less like an ideal feminine form (as Garnet is portrayed playing into the patriarchy’s ideologies) Brahne has a certain masculine quality to her that clearly identifies her as for the status quo and the patriarchy (as you will see in an upcoming cinematic).
As the next two cutscenes are less content rich, I will stop this post here.
Until next time,