Tuesday Top Ten: Allusions in Final Fantasy IX

We’re still in the middle of our discussion on the Final Fantasy series, and last week we kept that flow going by counting down the top ten summons.  This week, we’ll keep it going by counting down the top ten allusions to previous titles found in Final Fantasy IX.

As we’ll see tomorrow, Final Fantasy IX was four discs’ worth of a love-letter from Squaresoft to the fans.  Every title alluded to others in some fashion or another, but IX was chock-full of examples.  The fans had made Squaresoft the giant it had become, and they knew it.  The over all mentality had started to shift from “pure” innovation for innovation’s sake, to nudging the fan-base and winking.  Just what that shift “meant” and how much effect it had on the series, we’ll get to later.

10. “No Cloud, No Squall…”
Number ten for its blunt-force-trauma obviousness, in the play I Want to be Your Canary that the player sees early in the game, there’s a line spoken by one of the other characters which goes, “No cloud, no squall shall hinder us!”  It’s an obvious reference to the protagonists of the previous two games, but a humorous one.

Interestingly, the script has been written up in its entirety, for the curious.

09. Lord Avon
In-setting author of the aforementioned play Lord Avon is a direct reference to William Shakespeare.  While most today know only the shortened nickname of “The Bard”, originally it was “The Bard of Avon“.

He was born in the town of Stratford, itself situated on the Avon River—hence the original affectionate and respectful nickname.

08. The Buster Sword
The iconic weapon of Cloud Strife, it’s appeared in a crazy number of games, so its appearance in IX isn’t too much of a stretch, until one realizes that its appearance here was one of the first appearances, after Tactics.

Its appearance in IX was somewhat humorous.  If the player had Zidane examine a collection of swords on the wall of an early weapon shop, Zidane would make an off-hand remark about remembering a “guy with spiky hair”, making more than a few players chuckle.

07. Chapels
In the first three titles for the N.E.S., reviving party members was done differently before things like Phoenix Downs and the like became popular game mechanics.  In the first game, chapels were known as “clinics” to help avoid potential religious problems.  In the second, “sanctuaries” each had a statue of a goddess within that would revive a character for free.  In the third, Revive Pools were found in many towns, castles, and so on.

The chapels in Final Fantasy IX offered no such services, but one of the first the player came across in the starting city of Alexandria was very reminiscent of earlier chapels is the first place one can, amongst other things, use a Tent, itself another little nod.

06. Princess Garnet’s White Mage Robe
For long-time fans of the series, seeing Princess Garnet dressed as a White Mage was humorous at the least, though that early in the game many first-time players didn’t fully realize it was just one of scads of references to earlier titles.

As best seen in this image of a pair of Priests from Final Fantasy Tactics, the robe Garnet wore was an obvious nod—but it was also a hint at Garnet’s ultimate role in the game.  She would eventually be one of two characters who would serve in the role of healer and summoner—historically the very job of the White Mage.

05. Trance
Trance, as a game mechanic, was to Final Fantasy IX as Limit Breaks and the like were to other titles—the relevant character becomes super-powerful, can deal incredible damage, and so on.  The IX version is specifically an homage to Terra Branford‘s ability of the same name.  In IX, Trance was a general ability, available to anyone, though VI‘s version was a special ability available only to Terra.

In both versions, the relevant character actually changes appearance, usually becoming a bit more feral-looking and, most interestingly, usually changing color as well, to something between a hot-pink and a magenta.  It’s best seen when comparing Zidane’s Trance form with Terra’s Trance form in Dissidia Final Fantasy, though it can still be seen in her original sprite form.

04. Welcoming March
One of the more blatant homages in the game was when the Tantalus Band played a close version of the Welcoming March from Final Fantasy VII.  As obvious as it was, though, it wasn’t necessarily something every player would immediately recognize.  It required players to remember the theme in the first place, as well as watch the mini-cut-scene of the band playing the “revised” tune in the first place.

That said, it wasn’t uncommon for players to remember the original tune and watch at mini-cut-scene, so many gamers got quite a kick out of it.  Comparing the original and the “revised” version shows quite well just how obvious of a connection it is, since the differences are so small.

03. Garland
It wasn’t until Final Fantasy X-2 that Square-Enix started to really tie games together, but there was a hint of that in IX.  An antagonist from IX shares his name with an antagonist from the very first game, but that’s not the only connection.  The primary one is a comment by another character, saying that, essentially, Garland had tried to take over the world once before.

On the face of it, that doesn’t mean very much, but it’s quite likely—given the other allusions in the game as well as the fact that it’s unlikely the decision to start tying games together was one reached overnight—that it’s a direct tie between the games, perhaps even going so far as to subtly say that the world of IX is the same as the world of the first game.

02. Mary and Jeff
Not really a sub-plot as much as a sub-sub-sub-subsub-plot, the strained romance of Part Time Worker Mary and Jobless Jeff was surprisingly emotional.  The game as a whole didn’t exactly shy away from tugging the old heart-strings, but there was something about Jeff and Mary, who weren’t central—or really related in any appreciable way—to the plot of the game that made them somewhat memorable.

Their story was based on the Tanabata legend, lovers who couldn’t be together but once a year.  Yet you knew that one day they were granted per year was filled with a love unparalleled, much like their video game counterparts.

01. Thief in a Barrel
Number one simply for its relative obscurity, there’s a scene in a village where Steiner, the game’s resident Knight Templar, pokes a barrel and out pops Zidane.  Though a near-definite homage, it’s not one generally “caught” by gamers outside of Japan or otherwise unfamiliar with Japanese toys (or their ported versions).

The idea of a thief popping out of a barrel when a sword is stuck through it references a game known as Kurohige in Japan, though in most English-speaking countries the toy was marketed as Pop-up Pirate!.  It looks to be a fun enough game for kids, if they like the idea of turning a pirate into a human pin-cushion, and makes for a humorous and rather subtle homage.

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That’s all for this week’s Top Ten!  See you tomorrow, when we continue our discussion on Final Fantasy!


2 Responses to “Tuesday Top Ten: Allusions in Final Fantasy IX

  1. Elisa Michelle Says:

    I had no idea there were that many illusions in any Final Fantasy game. It’s amazing. I found #1 really funny, too.

    You should do one for FFX (because I’m a fangirl; don’t judge me, lol).

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