The Let's Play Archive

Final Fantasy IX

by Mega64

Part 106: Dramatis Personae: Zidane/Vivi/Steiner/Garnet

Let's try this again.

Hey everybody, this will be the first of a series of posts where I out about this amazing game. Since it owes so much to Shakespeare, we'll be starting the series off with a look at our dramatis personae. This will be a look at the characters as they start the game. Later posts will discuss their character arcs as they emerge. (P.S. I apologize for not having the artistic skill to create a cool banner; I also couldn't figure out how to upscale the size of things like "Dramatis Personae").

So, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen:

Dramatis Personae

Age: 16
Role: Physical attacker, stealing, some debuffing (with Soul Blade/Annoy)
Skillset: Steal, Skill (Yes, Zidane's personal command is called Skill; it has various utility abilities like Flee to escape battle or Detect to scan enemy steal-ables)
Trance: Dyne Commands

Zidane's Starting Stats:

HP: 105
MP: 36
Speed: 23
Strength: 21
Magic: 18
Spirit: 23

"A womanizing thief seeking fulfillment and adventure."

Our roguish protagonist, Zidane is a member of the Tantalus Theater Troupe and more or less the adopted son of the troupe's leader, Baku. Zidane is an unabashed skirtchaser and in the early game something of a dick, if a funny one. Zidane unquestionably falls into the realm of a Guile Hero and in a game heavily drawing from Shakespeare, is the character that most draws attention to the presence of Shakespearean themes and tropes. Zidane begins the game on a mission to kidnap Princess Garnet, only to have his heart stolen instead.

Mechanically, Zidane has a slight emphasis on speed and no real weaknesses. His skillset is versatile but situational (except for Flee, which is always useful) and tends to focus on aspects of combat that other character's don't like running away and applying status effects. In short, he's a rogue character.

Character Trivia: An arguably more accurate translation of Zidane's name is "Gitan", French for "gypsy".

Age: 9
Role: Magical attacker
Skillset: Black Magic, Focus (raises magic power for the battle)
Trance: Double Black

Vivi's Starting Stats:

HP: 60
MP: 48
Speed: 16
Strength: 12
Magic: 24
Spirit: 19

"A young black mage struggling to understand the meaning of existence."

The deuteragonist of the game, Vivi is a thoughtful, shy, inquisitive young black mage who, like Zidane, doesn't know where he comes from or who he is supposed to become. Where Zidane projects his anxiety outward with his attention-seeking, flashy behavior, Vivi directs his emotions inward and is fairly self-contained in the early parts of the game. Vivi also serves as a counterpoint to Zidane's forward-looking journey of self-discovery by focusing more on his mysterious past and origin. Vivi begins the game in the humblest way possible: he wants to see Tantalus's performance of I Want to Be Your Canary.

Mechanically, Vivi's role should be clear to anyone who has ever played a Final Fantasy game. Cast the spells that make the people fall down. Rinse. Repeat. Vivi is the character most capable of taking advantage of elemental weaknesses, and the only party member able to inflict non-elemental magical damage with any kind of ease or regularity.

Character Trivia: Vivi is one of, if not the, youngest playable Final Fantasy characters, and one of the youngest playable characters is video games generally.

Age: 33
Role: Physical Attacker, secondary Elemental Attacker, Tank
Skillset: Sword Arts (including Break skills), Sword Magic (only usable with Vivi in the party; adds elemental damage to Steiner's attacks)
Trance: Chivalry (doesn't actually have a name in the game; when under effect of Trance, Steiner's physical damage triples)

Steiner's Starting Stats:

HP: 120
MP: 24
Speed: 18
Strength: 24
Magic: 12
Spirit: 21

"A devoted knight questioning the bounds of his duty."

Orphaned at the close of the Alexandria-Lindblum-Burmecia War, Adelbert "Rusty" Steiner threw himself into his quest to become a knight. He succeeded, and at the start of the game is the inflexible, humorless captain of the Knights of Pluto, a privilege which he won after defeating Beatrix in a duel through sheer luck. As one of the few men in the overwhelmingly female Alexandrian military, Steiner handles the discomfort of his role and status by following his orders to the letter. He and Beatrix have a tense relationship and are often forced to work together seeing to the protection of the princess. He opens the game in pursuit of the blackguards who have kidnapped Garnet.

Mechanically, Steiner is as straightforward as it gets: hit things with your sword and tank hits for squishier party members. Because of the wonky way his Break skills work, unlike Auron from FFX, for example, most of the time you're better off just attacking. With Vivi in the party, Steiner gains access to Sword Magic, which imbues his attacks with various elemental buffs.

Character Trivia: In the Japanese version, Steiner speaks with a very archaic dialect. Also, at 33, Steiner is one of the few playable Final Fantasy characters older than 30 but younger than 50.

Age: 16
Role: Healing, Needing Rescue
Skillset: White Magic

Dagger's Starting Stats:

HP: 70
MP: 46
Speed: 21
Strength: 14
Magic: 23
Spirit: 17

"A princess concerned for her kingdom's welfare."

Garnet Til Alexandros XVII, or Dagger, is the female protagonist of the game and Alexandria's naive, theater- and book-loving princess. Garnet starts in the game in the role of Peach but quickly demonstrates an iron will and a firm stance against Zidane's bullshit. Dagger is characterized by an almost total lack of experience with the outside world and the conviction that royalty has a duty to do well by their people, a rarity in Final Fantasy games.

Mechanically, Dagger is your classic white mage in the early game. Low HP and above-average MP mean she is firmly a heal-bot in your early fights, but gradually gains better abilities to buff up your party.

Character Trivia: Her name, Garnet, matches her birth month of January.