Tag Archives: black mages

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 Airship, Revisited

Perhaps it’s as good a time as any to point out the significance of the airship in Final Fantasy IX.

We’re first introduced to airships with the Prima Vera in the second cutscene (Here’s a link back if you missed that). It’s interesting to note the first appearance of the airship occurs simultaneously with the image of the bird. This is the first correlation of the airship to freedom, though it’s not hard to image a ship as a symbol of freedom. Take the escape from Alexandria and the next few cutscenes, escaping from a small town named Dali and the Black Waltzes, as prime examples of how the airship elicits freedom.

However, we can also see the Machine/Nature binary at work as we are given the juxtaposition of the two forms: a bird and an airship (In the second cutscene). This is even more poignant as the future plot is revealed. Turns out Airships run on this mysterious substance known as mist that coats the continent of Gaia. Only problem is that the mist also creates monsters, including Black Mages. Oh, but wait, there’s more. (SPOILER ALERT, though, to be fair, if you’re watching the cutscenes without playing the game you’re getting spoiled anyway) Anyway, it is later revealed that the mist is created by the Lifa Tree and the mist is actually the souls of the dead.

Let’s put that into perspective for a second. Airship = Freedom. Airship needs mist to work (at the beginning of the game anyway). Mist = souls of the dead. So, Freedom requires death? Did you follow all of that? In order for mankind to achieve air travel through airships there must be death. This implies that the industrialization of the world requires sacrifice. Reading into this allows us to further the strange triple binary of Man/Machine/Nature, all at odds with one another but unarguably connected.

What we see in this cutscene is a furthering of the freedom/airship relationship as the ship is steered away from its original destination, Alexandria, and toward the freedom Garnet has been seeking, her uncle Cid and his city of Lindblum. And the player is left with the image of Black Waltz 3, a commander, if you will, of the Black Mage army that Queen Brahne controls.

I’m going to end the airship post here so as to start a new focus in the next post. But don’t forget about the Airship, it plays a crucial role later on and is something that will constantly be popping up in cutscenes.

So, for now, Happy Gaming!

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