FFIX: My favorite
love story

My favorite love story:


Final Fantasy IX revolves around a war between nations in a medieval fantasy world called Gaia. The story begins with Zidane Tribal, a member of a theater troupe, assigned to kidnap Princess Garnet of Alexandria. To their surprise, Princess Garnet welcomes the abduction as a means of escaping from the clutches of her malevolent mother, Queen Brahne.

 Accompanied by her personal guard Steiner and a black mage named Vivi, they set out on a quest to stop the war that threatens their world. The story expands further to encompass larger themes as the characters learn about their past, confront personal fears, and understand their roles in life. 

This post was originally written in 2018


When I think “Greatest Love Story” I guess I don’t usually think of video games. But that’s where one of the greatest love stories I’ve ever witnessed in a story took place.  As a bonus, it’s also where one of the most fun “supporting character love stories” I’ve ever witnessed took place; and it was the same game: Final Fantasy IX.


Final Fantasy IX has the distinction of also being one of my favorite games of all time, but these love stories are a big reason why.

Released on July 7, 2000, Final Fantasy IX was in my hands no later than July 10. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and play it. I’d been a huge FF fan since FFII (IV) and I’d played every game leading up to it. FFVIII really pulled me out, as I didn’t like the battle system and, to be honest, I almost walked away from FF altogether. What a travesty that would’ve been right before the best one hit the shelves.


But FFIX redeemed my love for the series. First, unlike the two sci-fi games before it, FFIX is set in a pure fantasy world of castles, princesses and thieves.  This immediately pulled me in. But the storytelling is what got me. Every character in FFIX is well developed with a beginning, middle, and end to their story. You actually care about what happens to them. Side characters have quests that develop them as characters, as opposed to just retrieving items. The humor in the game is actually funny instead of annoying. And the mini-games are pure joy: especially the card mini-game.

But let’s get back to why we’re here: The love story. 


Let’s just say that up until this point, Final Fantasy was definitely not known for pulling off good love stories. Final Fantasy II (IV) featured Cecil and Rosa, who were already together at the start of the game. While that’s fantastic and unusual in and of itself – a hero who actually comes home to the same woman without picking up random chicks along the way – it doesn’t make for a great love story and the two are basically forgotten about except at the beginning and the end. Final Fantasy III (IV) hit and Locke and Celes basically just fall for one another. She’s hot. He’s hot. They’re in the same place at the same time. So, clearly, they love one another. As much as I love each character… BORING.


In Final Fantasy VII, we get our first love triangle with Cloud, Aeris, and Tifa. The story is a mess and let’s face it, Aeris is in love with someone else, so how much can Cloud love Tifa if he’s still trying to decide between her or the girl in love with someone other than him who he just met?

Final Fantasy VIII was the first to feature a decent love story. Most people I’ve ever talked to still weren’t impressed with it, but it was a good shot. Squall and Rinoa basically do the love-at-first-sight gig at a ballroom dance, but we still get to see the follow-up. Squall whines and he’s moody and confused, unsure what to do. Rinoa has to pick between her lust with Seifer and real love with someone she can count on. (And let’s not forget the love story of Seifer with… himself). But Squall and Rinoa’s love seems flat. It’s either not developed well or it didn’t translate well in the writing of the game. Either way, it was good at the time, but immediately eclipsed with the launch of FFIX.


There’s just so much depth to it. Video games were finally reaching a point where they could add longer videos and really get you into the feel of what the characters were going through. While other systems did this better later, I would argue all day long that if the same story was released on those later systems, it would only improve this love story and make it even better than it already is, thus negating anything that seems better purely due to having better technology to tell the story. Everything else being equal, this story is light years above every other story in the Final Fantasy universe.

The love story is natural; and compelling. On one side, you have Garnet, a princess who is no damsel in distress. She wants to be kidnapped. She wants out of the castle. She wants to explore, and she refuses to be held down by anyone else’s laws. On the other, you have Zidane, a lowly thief who is used to impressing girls with his charm and witty banter. This girl flirts back, but she doesn’t instantly fall for him. They play off of one another and grow because the other is in their lives. They each have to change in order for their relationship to come alive. Garnet must learn to understand to balance her responsibilities with her personal desires. Zidane has to come to grips with his own feelings and the reality of his situation (no spoilers on that). They may not have experienced love at first sight, but the tale of these two characters closely mirrors some of the best relationships I’ve seen in my life. Only by making one another stronger can they each grow to deserve the other.

It’s a beautiful tale that I can’t completely ruin if you haven’t played the game. But what I can say is that I think a lot of writers should spend 40+ hours playing this game because it is a master class in relationships, fully developing side characters and humor, balanced in a truly badass fantasy story. Experience Zidane and Garnet’s amazing trip together. 


The love story between Steiner and Beatrix is beautiful and one of the best supportive character love stories I’ve ever seen. These two were made for one another. They fall for each other without even knowing the other feels the same way… and it gives rise to one of the most hilarious parts of the game when a love letter causes a lot of problems.

To the makers of Final Fantasy IX, thank you. Thank you for an amazing game, great mini games, an overall story that makes me want to play it again 18 years later (24 now). And, of course, for one of the greatest love stories I’ve ever witnessed. Shakespeare would be proud.


I wrote this blog post in 2018. Six years later, I can tell you this game holds up. Sure, the graphics may not be what you’re used to, but overall, this game is magic. The writing is still far above almost every other game I’ve ever played.

At its heart, the narrative explores profound themes such as existentialism, self-identity, companionship, and the cycles of life and death. The characters are driven to save their world from the encroaching chaos while trying to come to terms with their personal crises, thus finding their own meanings in life. The game ends with an understanding of the true value of friendship, love, the inevitability of mortality, and the enduring spirit of life.

I’ll die loyal to Final Fantasy IX.