Tag Archives: Analysis

Black Mage on Black Mage Action

Alright, back to the grind! (That’s a bit of gaming humor)

The next scene to analyze is cinematiclly breathtaking but it also plays with the other ideas I’ve been analyzing. But first, let’s take a moment to appreciate the sadness evoked here. If the game designer and the player are both doing their parts, then this should be a pretty traumatic scene. This youtube commenter certainly thinks so:

I cried the first time I saw this scene…I’ve never cried at a game before this, but the characters grew on me. Watching little Vivi take in all this death and carnage is shockingly tragic. – sailoryaoimoon

The music coupled with the slow-motion of the scene create much of the drama and trauma that the player is turned on to. Without being aware, the gamer is analyzing the scene. Why is it so tragic? I would argue it is tragic because it is a Marxist commentary on class among the ranks of the Black Mage. The Black Waltz 3, who is said to be far superior to the normal black mages somewhere in the game text, destroys his kind, his ‘inferiors,’ if you will. This disrespect for the lower class of black mage can be seen as a direct commentary on the class struggle presented in the imaginary world, parallel and complimentary to that seen in the earlier scenes in Alexandria. (One small detail to note, again we see Garnet ‘protected’ by the men, and boys, of the group.)

This is tied directly to the theme of power and its ability to corrupt that is presented in a few scenes beforehand and in the cutscenes to follow. Including this one:

Here we are presented with the binary of good/evil as it is told to us by the narrative. That’s the thing about video games, they’re very polarizing. The Black Waltz is clearly the evil while Vivi is the good. The narration here gives us an easy moral out. If Vivi is good and, therefore, against killing those who are like him as the ‘evil’ Black Waltz does, how can he triumph over evil? Here, he doesn’t have to. The power given to the Black Waltz – which is commented on in game text as ‘maybe too much’ – is his own downfall. The player doesn’t have to soil their hands and wrestle with the idea that, just minutes ago, caused so much grief and trauma to them. It’s rather ingenious. There are two other black Waltzes that the party has defeated, but none of the other Black Waltz massacred their own kind and drew such strong emotions out of the player. It’s almost a cop-out, but here this is necessary for the narration to maintain its potency.

Would it be easy enough to argue that the ‘hero’ had to kill the ‘villain’ to stop the ‘villain’ from killing more – the whole 1 death is better than 1,000’s. But the designers choose, and thus the narration of the story unfolds, in a manner less cliche and more emotionally powerful.


Happy Gaming!


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The Phallus, the Queen, and the Peasant

The fifth cutscene is packed with images to analyze! So, have a look and an analysis!

The first image is that of Alexandria Castle at night with the double moons. Harkening back to the idea of the castle as a symbol of the Patriarchy and a phallus (Read my initial analysis here), the double moons at the base of the sword tower of Alexandria is now, more than ever, a phallic symbol. It could be argued that this is the peak of the power the Patriarchy has over Garnet (as she will be subverting it very shortly). The player will also note the opposite colors of the moons. While blue and red are not exact opposites, the ideas they relay – Red: violence, blood, hate Blue: calmness, purity, justice – are at opposition in the story. It is interesting, then, that these two opposites, a sort of ying and yang, if you will, come together with the sword to form the penis of Patriarchy. There’s a certain dependence upon other circumstances for the Patriarchy to prosper.

Shortly hereafter, we see Puck, a street urchin, and Vivi sneaking into the back of the theater to watch the performance. What isn’t shown is that most of the Kingdom is there. The rooftops are shown to be literally lined with the poor who could not afford a ticket. The contrast between just Puck’s dress and the noble’s seated in front of her is jarring. What’s more, is that the chairs they’re seated in look amazingly ornate. This separation of class is the beginning of a Marxist analysis which runs through out Vivi’s storyline.

And then there is Brahne. The Queen of Alexandria, who is, a bit, um, how do you say this nicely? Homely. But, she is a female of power in the story and it would be in line with a feminist analysis that she does not fall into the ideas of the Patriarchy’s perfect woman. I think we can all agree upon that. However, there’s something, strange about her. A bit androgynous and childlike. She delights in the festivities celebrating her daughter’s birthday more than her daughter. If I were a feminist, I would be apprehensive to claim her as my own so quickly. In fact, through future cutscenes we will find that she is actually operating within the Patriarchy and furthering their ideals.

It is interesting to note, however, that Alexandria has two Captains of the guard – it’s because Alexandria has two guards. The more elite (and the enemy in the beginning of the game) are the female guards led by Beatrix (who doesn’t show up in any of the cutscenes until the last one). Then there is Steiner, the over-mascaraed comedian. Steiner is made a fool of more often than not and it can be interpreted as Alexandria’s attempt to debase the Patriarchy. Steiner is a bumbling buffoon while Beatrix is powerful, sure, and wears an eye patch. She’s such a BAMF!

Lastly, Steiner is a picture of the Patriarchy because he is devoted entirely to ‘protecting’ the princess (who actually needs a lot of protecting throughout the game – as per usual). Even in this cutscene we see how Steiner thinks he knows what’s best (the Patriarchy) and yet it does no good. If you watch as Steiner ‘pulls out his sword’ (all innuendos apply here) in an attempt to make Garnet happy you’ll see it fails miserably. As would be expected in a Kingdom who is trying to subvert the Patriarchy.

Well, that’s all for now,

Happy Gaming!

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Vivi Orunitia!

My all-time favorite Final Fantasy character: Vivi! And this next cutscene is his introduction! Other than that, there’s not much to the cutscene.

The scene does, however, slightly foreshadow future events. When Vivi is immersed in the shadow of the Prima Vista airship, it foreshadows Vivi’s inevitable entanglement with the bandits of the Tantalus. This scene, along with the next one, set up an interesting Marxist analysis for the next few scenes as we are shown the difference between classes in Alexandria.

Cutscene 4 is barely worth commenting on, but I will post it here in case I have missed something and for completionism. If you find something worthwhile, please comment!

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Begin the Beguine

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?

Cutscene 1

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.

Cutscene 2

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,

Happy Gaming!


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Final Fantasy 9?

The first question to answer: Why?

The Final Fantasy series has been around for a long while, and it has a fan base like no other game series. It is an enchanting mix of story telling and game play, excelling at both without losing in either. And FF9 is my personal favorite of the series, so far. I know I’ll get gripe about this “How can you not pick FF7?!” “What about 8?” “Noob!”

But there’s something about this particular game that has me enthralled with it. I don’t know that I can put it in words. The game play is simple but fun, the plot is serious (saving the world business) but the humor and wit present throughout is its perfect counterpoint.

Now, my readers, I suppose you’re wondering how I will analyze FF9 without basically typing up a manuscript of it? Well, it’s elementary, my dear reader. Okay, maybe not elementary, but probably middle school, high school at the latest – I’m going to use YouTube! But don’t worry! You’re not going to have to sit through the 30+ hours of dialogue, all you’ll have to do is watch the short 2-5 minute cutscenes per post. I’ll fill in the pertinent information surrounding it.

Here’s how it’s going to go down: I found a convenient playlist of all of the cutscenes in FF9 on YouTube – Thank you Painful112 of YouTube! Now, if you feel like getting a head start, feel free to head over to Painful112’s channel (linked to his name there) and look for his playlist ‘Final Fantasy IX Cutscenes.’

However, if you haven’t ever played 9 (and you don’t have the 30 hours to invest [though you really should, it’s a great play]) please head over to Wikipedia and read this page. After reading that, it should be fairly simple to keep up with my analysis.

Happy gaming!

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A Brave New World

And it all began with Pong. While that’s not exactly a lie, it isn’t exactly the truth, either. Pong was the first game to be available in the home; it was the start of the home gaming phenomenon, but it was not the first computerized game. Pong was introduced in the 1970s and it revolutionized the way we play. Certainly, it is to be said that the advances in technology are really to be credited for the advancement of gaming, but it was the ingenuity of the creators of Pong in using this technology for amusement that created gaming as we know it in the first place. Especially, the idea of the home gaming console.

This is what ‘gaming’ might be if it weren’t for technology.

However, the gaming industry has come a long way, in a short while, since Pong. While there are only really a handful of game play styles (rpg, fps, etc), there are an innumerable amount of games possible. The same phenomenon occurs with literature; there are only so many genres but the number of books possible is endless. This is, in the video game world, due to different types of animation and graphic styles, different play styles, but mostly – notably the same as literature – different narratives. I don’t care how different the play style is, if a game comes out with the exact same plot and characters as another game, it will fail.

And so, we must begin our analysis somewhere. To start, I’ve chosen one of my favorite childhood games, Final Fantasy IX.

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