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Rating FFIX (SPOILERS NATURALLY AHOY)
You asked, bro.
I think the game presents a deeper Amarant than is commonly noted. I have brought this up in a number of contexts over the years, most recently in a topic earlier this month, but have seen very little response to it, so I don't think anyone is much interested and so don't mean to press it like it's a big deal. Possibly it's the level of detail no one responds to, anyway. Aside from my having spotted (and not to say exclusively spotted) this line of thought, I don't happen to like Amarant more or less than I like the average FF character, I think.
Amarant starts out very pragmatic and rationalistic. He (1) views the world as working along certain intelligible premises. He (2) behaves as he sees is reasonable within these premises. He (3) expects other people to do the same. Finally and as a beginning, he (4) expects predictable, intelligible consequences for acting or not acting along rational lines.
For example, he reckons it is irrational and inefficient for an independent, able-bodied warrior to tie himself strategically to people who are not themselves independent and able-bodied if that warrior intends to survive adventures, take on powerful foes, become more powerful, so on (that's ^1). He will cooperate with Lani, say, whom he can see working efficiently as such, but he will not cooperate or even need to tolerate his allies being otherwise irrational: taking hostages and what (that's ^2 and 3), or, for later allies, risking their lives on poorly designed aircraft or badgering him with childish misunderstandings and presuppositions. When Zidane's capricious and, in Amarant's early view, inefficient inputs lead to even one instance of superior output, Amarant (^4) can't understand it and is thrust into conflict.
There's the thing. Amarant has to be able to understand: he has to be able to understand and certify his own behavior as rational, and he assumes that other people also behave as they see rational. Some folks write him off as only a brooding, callous thug. I submit he is easily one of the most critical and thoughtful members of the cast; a foil parallel to Vivi and Garnet for Zidane, Steiner, Quina who don't or sometimes stop engaging problems intellectually; and he's admirable to me in at least one way. That is, while Amarant won't hesitate to engage an external conflict physically, when he sees a contradiction in his own thinking, even if it infuriates or shames him, he will not disengage it intellectually or stop asking why until he has corrected whatever fault he finds with himself. Though harsh, his commitment to integrity is strong.
So when we meet him, Amarant knows that Zidane frames strangers for his own thefts, goes about with star-crossed princesses and children, fights active hostiles--and spares the same. He expresses how little reasoning he sees in this a number of times after agreeing to assist Zidane for the chance to observe and understand it, and the mystery deepens as Zidane does more seemingly-irrational things, like carrying less independent allies up huge trees instead of preserving his strength and taking care of his enemy on his own, but also taking a team 3/4s up a transforming, besieged castle only to dismiss them because he insists on saving the princess by himself. Amarant's analysis finds no logic and begins to suspect a test would show his own initial ideas sound.
At Ipsen's, it appears Amarant will be content if he has a sound philosophy, where at Madain Sari he seemed to think things more black and white. As he is leaving the mirror room in triumph, he knows that he still doesn't understand Zidane, but he thinks he doesn't have to because he has justified his own way of thinking. He can approve of himself on his own standards and that's what he needs. Shortly, though he is struck by the benefit of having friends most bluntly; he shuts up a bit while redoubling his assessment of how Zidane thinks and of what he should expect from himself.
Demonstrably, Amarant does take the time to sit and think. He shows us some of his conclusions developing at the Fire Shrine. Consider that the Ipsen's incident had to be very personal for Amarant: he has expressed he strongly values being able to take care of himself, being able to adventure efficiently, and doing so reasonably. As he lay at Ipsen's, he has no reason to tell himself he has the first two values, and when Zidane saves his life and he just about died but he still doesn't understand why, he can't tell himself he has the third. It's obvious to everyone he is reflecting on his own past when he tells the Fire Guardian randomly battling in bizarre monster holes for no better reason than to test yourself is foolish. It may be less commonly noted that he is not only showing he realizes he very recently nearly died exactly as the Guardian is about to and with nothing better to say for himself, but also his inquiry perseveres even after his trauma and even while facing monsters at the center of volcanos. Plus, in suggesting his earlier goals were foolish and that he who is not a fool should--while still making sure he can explain himself to himself--use their power to some external benefit, he still expects others to be rational.
So Amarant can comprehend and actively apply some of Zidane's notions. In their little talk on the Airship, Amarant tries to get Zidane to explain why he does things. What benefit is Zidane's aim? How does he explain himself? Should Amarant emulate this? As a player, I at first would get frustrated with this scene because none of the options give a reasonable answer. That's exactly what Amarant had to realize: Zidane cannot explain himself. More telling of Amarant than of Zidane, Amarant's first reaction is that this allowance for capricious behavior itself was the cause of Zidane's past advantage: even confirming an element of chaos, he assumes it to work as part of a larger order. Amarant can now explain his pre-Ipsen questions on why Zidane's philosophy has repeatedly appeared illogical--it is--and he is left to answer his post-Ipsen questions, like what does he want to hold himself accountable for and should he embrace Zidane's advantage?
On Terra, Amarant teams up with Eiko on his own initiative in order to possibly help Zidane. Consider the inverted situation from his Madain Sari appearance, as well as his further development having accepted several things: he can voluntarily tolerate irrational people, he can commit to strategic interdependence, he can stick his neck out to help someone he still doesn't really like (as made clear from his encounter with Zidane just earlier). Yet when he does help rescue Zidane, his reaction shows where he is making his stand: he criticizes capriciousness's having risked Zidane's life in needless solo peril in some random castle--an outcome Amarant has specifically decided to avoid--and by damning the hypocrite Amarant shows he is not giving up his idea that people should behave reasonably as judged by their own self-controlled standards.
In what may be the only evidence of any sense of humor whatever, tacit Amarant interrupts Freya to repeatedly ply Zidane with the word 'think': he uses it three time in as many questions, then prompts a conclusion. At BMV, he unhappily identifies with the genomes whom Freya says are just starting their lives for real, asking if people can recover lost time. That's characterization, but his character development continues along this road until after the final boss. Amarant shows he has mastered his research subject by finishing Zidane's sentence, justifying going back for Kuja because it is his nature. Zidane doesn't have the rationalism or the self-monitored consistency Amarant respects, and at present count he is more vulnerable to dying alone in random monster holes for no good reason. Inquiry concludes: Zidane is a fool, but Amarant will still walk all the way to Alexandria to sit with Freya and Quina at a play, and evade the question when Lani asks why.
For the record, I think I've essayed this topic four times now and Amarant isn't worth enough to me that I want to argue this all out again. I am pleased this iteration is a fuller argument than I had on previous occasions (and also it's not so thread-specific I can't reuse it!), and I don't expect to advance it much more. Considering Amarant's talk with Freya at BMV, I just had a thought that if she knew he couldn't remember his past, Amarant might have a special private connection to Fratley for Freya, but that's another story. I reserve quite explicitly that I intend just to relink this same topic if this ever comes up again.
Wow, you have outdone yourself Vir27. Certainly given me a new perspective on Amarant
Very true. Interestingly enough, when you list it like this, I'm seeing Amarant's similarity to Steiner.
On (1), Steiner too initially views the world as working along certain intelligible premises; he sees the world as one of black and white morality in which the 'good guys' uphold the law and the 'bad guys' break it. There are no grey areas, people are either good or bad. Look at his early relationship with Zidane for examples of his worldview- he is actively distrustful of Zidane throughout the entire early game. Because he kidnapped the princess, he is a 'bad guy' that needs to be guarded against. Examples of this are too numerous to mention, but the standout one is accusing Zidane of molesting Garnet while she was unconscious. Thats a pretty big accusation to make with absolutely no proof whatsoever, but in Steiners mind it is not outside the realm of possibilities because to him Zidane had prooved he was a bad person.
(2) He behaves as he sees is reasonable within these premises; Steiner himself follows the law completely and utterly. He sees it as not his role to question the laws content as such; they are laws, coming from 'good' people, and as such should be obeyed.
(3) He expects other people to follow the law pedantically as well. You can see this in his interactions with the Pluto Knights at the beginning of the game, but also in his interactions with Zidane, specially when you compare his relationship with Vivi.
(4) And he expects predictable, intelligible consequences for failing to act in accordance with the 'good guys.' For kidnapping Garnet, Steiner expected Zidane to be executed; even after all his help getting her to Dali. He was having to give serious thought as to whether he should recommend a lesser sentence (I can't remember precisely, but I think it was life imprisonment.) And he willingly drinks what he thinks is poison for failing to protect Garnet.
Throughout the course of the game, Steiner begins to accept that things actually occur in shades of grey. You can see this when he enlists Baku to help find Garnet when she goes missing mid game, and in later comments to Zidane. Couple of things probably helped this transformation; the first quite obviously being the full reveal of Brahne's greed. I would have loved to have seen how Steiner reacted to her death; I cannot remember him saying anything, but it must have played havoc with his emotions.
But I also wonder how much Beatrix's experiences could have changed him. Here is a woman who has committed war crimes in the course of following the 'good guys' orders, but defected when she learnt the princess was in danger. According to Steiner's previous black and white morality, she should be classified as a 'bad guy' and not to be trusted. However, Steiner is attracted to her. The game doesn't elaborate on this relationship too much, but to me it seems fascinating. Perhaps one for the fanfic writers then!
So yeah, Amarant and Steiner are actually quite similar then. Congrats, you have officially got me thinking about the game in a new way.
Yes, the twelve legendary weapons. They are weapons. They are legendary. There are even twelve of them.
Yea, I see you understood what I was talking about. You're right Steiner is definitely a "Lawful" character, as they might say in D&D circles. He is probably closer to Lawful Good (not a merciful lawful good) than Amarant is, initially; I'm not sure how they compare at the end. He certainly does prejudge Zidane, as well; I think Steiner's personal judgement is off-base generally speaking, but I personally wouldn't trust Zidane either, in his shoes. I mean, there are quite a few kidnappers in FF, developed to greater and lesser extents, and generally we the player don't give them a significant benefit of the doubt before thrashing them and actively keeping them at arm's length. Well, as a high school teacher, I have regularly been responsible for 16 year old girls and had to countermand their judgements; if anyone attempted to kidnap one of them, let alone for reasons he doesn't even know, "Is he actually an okay guy? Is butt-grabbing, badgering, and manipulating by threatening himself the worst he would do?" would never be salient questions.
You're completely right that Steiner can't eventually make sense of his categorizing people in black and white. Maybe his affection for Beatrix grows out of a lost honor sort of sympathy and is a sign of his graying, like you argue. It would be an interesting angle to explore, as would his relationship with basically anyone else. I mean, we see his initial assessment of Eiko. Does he have a profound deference toward Freya? He must prejudge Amarant, mustn't he? A(nother, if you count Pandemonia,) scene with him and Quina could have been gold.
He knew Brahne personally for 18 years, for almost all of which she was not any kind of maniac. He certainly cut her out of his convictions when Beatrix did. I would assume he still remembered the other 17 years and was being strong for Garnet?
Don't be so quick to say the theme of loneliness didn't develop with Eiko! It's present in almost every scene she's in, and every one of her relationships in the game stems from that facet of her personality. Her entire presence on disk two is related to the theme: for instance, look at how she immediately falls for Zidane, which is understandable on several different levels. Firstly, as far as Eiko knew at the time, she was the only straight human left in the world, with a future doomed to the company of dwarves, moogles and black mages at best, so Zidane is kind of this unexpected "last man on earth" to Eiko when they first meet. And of course he introduces himself by comically saving her life, so that kinda sealed the deal for her. The point being Eiko's "all alone" world view was shattered by meeting Zidane, and so their relationship develops based on Eiko's moving past her years of being alone.
Then there's Dagger, the only other summoner in the whole world. I doubt I need to elaborate on how this turns into a complex "sister" relationship and how loneliness would play a big part in that.
Vivi's related to this too, being one of the only people (both in the group and in the whole world, really) who's close to Eiko in age. The party as she's introduced to it is quite specifically tied to Eiko's being alone, and she probably wouldn't have joined the group had it been, say, Steiner and Freya who came to the Outer Continent. At the very least, her given reasons for joining up (a love interest coupled with a desire to be with a group of people she identified with more than Moogles) wouldn't apply so much.
And as for how this theme in Eiko develops throughout the rest of the game, her title card puts it best: with no reason to feel alone anymore, Eiko can start to develop the many complex social ties her life had been lacking since the death of her Grandpa, and through the third disk we see her relationships with Dagger and Zidane especially grow and change. Having had nobody to share the summoner culture with for most of her life at this point, the Alexander-summoning scenes with her and Dagger have some subtext to them. Not only are they summoning this badass plot-device eidolon to save the day, but Eiko gets to share a part of her culture that up to that point would have died with her, and Dagger gets to learn about a part of herself she knew next to nothing about. Eiko is no longer alone as a summoner and the scenes atop Alexander help to show this.
Then there's the death of her childhood friend Mog/the emergence of the Eidolon Madeen. This is undoubtedly one of the biggest moments in the game for her, and it's easy to miss how important it is for her character development because of all the big plot points immediately after. Eiko loses the one person who, up until that point, was all she had. If Mog had died in Madain Sari, Eiko would be a totally different person, but this scene goes to show that after seeing the world and meeting people who've become dear to her, she's not so alone anymore and she can carry the memory of Mog with her without giving up or breaking down. I think the last point is even more interesting because of the connection between eidolons and memories, but hopefully that's enough elaboration to make my point?
Perhaps the reason you didn't see the theme develop is because you mistook loneliness for apathy, and since Eiko isn't a very apathetic character it didn't seem like loneliness played as big a part? That's an assumption on my part, but don't make the mistake: you don't have to be all moody and quiet like AC Cloud to be a lonely character. A lot of Eiko's outward spunk and attitude is a direct reaction to the years she's spent almost all by herself: she's hesitant to show weakness to others, and her attitude is often a means of masking her true feelings. Look at her and Dagger's Water Shrine scenes or her scene at the end with Cid and Hilda to see how she talks about her real feelings while outwardly showing just childish energy and spirit.
Of course, all of this is just looking at her in terms of loneliness as a character trait. I haven't even mentioned her parallels and foils to Dagger, her intense romantic side, or her vast emotional maturity for a kid. Eiko's also very proud, reasonably intelligent and well-read, and not to mention spirited, and all those traits stem from her backstory and develop as she goes through the game. I could continue to spell it all out for you, but I think it's really enjoyable to make at least a few of those connections yourself. Scenes to really watch out for are her conversations with Tot, anything in Madain Sari, the scenes at the water shrine, summoning Alexander, and the duration that she's kidnapped. Admittedly I could have made a stronger/more articulate argument for her strong character traits and development, but as long as you get the idea then I'm satisfied.
Also, thanks for the analysis of Amarant, Vir! He was probably the only character of the cast I still frequently overlook in terms of development, and almost everything I read about him either ignores him or trashes him as a character that doesn't develop or do much. It's refreshing to see an argument in his favor :)
Yea, thank you for yours, as well :)
MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR ALL MAIN SERIES FINAL FANTASY GAMES
The Void is the representative of nonexistence throughout the Final Fantasy series. I'll admit my quote was not quite accurate. Final Fantasy III with Cloud of Darkness was the first manifestation of a being directly related to, and thus the first true appearance of The Void.
Final Fantasy: Garland, the Fiends, and Chaos have nothing to do with the Void. The only purported claim of a connection is that the time travel is caused due to the existence of the void, but this is from Dissidia, and frankly, not something I consider cannon.
Final Fantasy II: The Emporer wants to control Heaven and Hell. Neither of these are called the Void. However, the Emporer uses monsters born from Hell to begin his invasion. He is using that power to dominate the world. In the end he becomes the kind of that world, a representative of it. If the Void is nonexistence, Hell and Heaven could be said to be realms of it, despite the fact that they are existing. Its not impossible for the void to inhabit worlds, but another thing to say that worlds can inhabit the void. This could very possibly be a connection.
Final Fantasy III: Cloud of Darkness is a being from the Void, who plans to use the power of The Void, in order to bring the entire world to nonexistence. This was the origin of the usage of the Void in Final Fantasy.
Final Fantasy IV: Zeromus says that his hatred will not be stopped until it has consumed all else. While this is not a direct connection it is that same motivation. Manifestations of emotions and feelings surviving the veil of death are also a common trend. Even though Zeromus strikingly connects with Necron, it is not a true representation of the Void.
Final Fantasy V: Exdeath uses the power of the Void to cause mass destruction throughout the world of FFV. When he is defeated his own power consumes him and the Void continues on, as Neo Exdeath with the goal of destroying all existence. A clear connection.
Final Fantasy VI: Kefka by the end of the game is the new God of Magic, similar to The Emporer from Final Fantasy II, he is in complete control. His goal with his power is to destroy everything. While there is no longer a malicious representative force here, Kefka's goal is to destroy existence.
Final Fantasy VII: Something people often forget is Jenova. Jenova's origins come from nowhere. At some point in the distant future Jenova arrives on the planet from Space. Now, if you need a representative of nonexistence for a semi-realworld metaphor, Space is the ultimate choice. Jenova's goal is to destroy the life on planets and the planets themselves. This is remarkably similar to the assimilation process in Final Fantasy IX and a direct reference. This goal of destroying planets and peoples, connected to the fact that Jenova is literally a calamity from Space (a void) is more or less a direct connection to me (remember that a lot of Final Fantasy VII was metaphorical, using real world situations to construct magic).
Final Fantasy VIII: Ultimecia's ultimate goal of creating a time without time, where only she and no one else exists could be seen as a potential void. Her goal is not destruction, but the nonexistence of time causing the nonexistence of life. Voidy enough for me.
So all of these villains to this point have had destruction in mind. Chaos is truly a non-void counterpart, but almost all others have an argument for.
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