The Autumnal Theme Week is upon us, and the request is to talk about your perfect video game world. I pondered for a bit about this. Running through my list of favourite games, remembering any world that really jumped out at me. The one that stood out? Gaia, the world from Final Fantasy IX.
One of the best characteristics, shared with many of the worlds of FF (many of which are actually called Gaia... so creative!), is that the people that populate the land are just so diverse. Sure, you get your mix of monsters and animals, but of the intelligent species, on par with the humans, you get the Burmecians (the rat species), Moogles (the mail delivery koala-like species), Dwarves, and the Qu (jury is still out on whatever the hell they are, or if they’re on par with humans :P).
You first get your start in Gaia on the Mist Continent, the largest and most populated land mass in the world. Just this continent alone is full of complex pasts and culture. Three powerful kingdoms, Alexandira, Lindblum, and Burmecia, co-exist peacefully, after a long history of warring. In an almost utopian fashion, it was technology that was able to bring peace to the lands. You see, Gaia exists in a steampunk time, and it was the invention of the airship (that runs on the mist, the namesake of the Mist Continent) that was able to bring people together... If only it was that easy in real-life, right?
This steampunk fashion lends an incredible design to the world. You have your small towns, farming communities, that operate with wind and water mills. Then you have sprawling cities like Lindblum, not just horizontally, but vertically. Travel is made easy by air cabs, and flying ships.
Lindblum is easily my favourite place in FFIX, and one of my favourite cities of all JRPGs. It’s a wonderful throwback to the steampunk Final Fantasy’s that came before, and the static 3D backgrounds give the city ons of life and vibrancy.
Also, it’s run by a oglop/frog, originally human but hilariously transformed by his wife after she found him flirting with another woman.
The landscape, although blocky and a little low texture being a 17 year old PlayStation game, is still magnificent. Mountain ranges, plains, marshes, cliffs, caverns. Everything you’d see in the remote regions of Earth you can find in full majesty on Gaia. Ice Caverns, islands surrounded by cliffs, desert palaces.
Plus, Gaia has two moons. Suck it, Earth.
I think one of the biggest reasons that I loved Gaia so much was that it was just so ambitious. JRPGs are known for their massive worlds, full of history, but FFIX was a step in a better direction for me. SNES games, although beautiful, were often restricted by cart sizes or sprite sheets. A lot of repeated textures and buildings. Then in the 3D world, your first two entries in FF suffered from their own problems.
FFVII had a massive world, sure, but it also felt empty. That’s not to say FFVIII and FFIX don’t have that same feeling, but it’s explained away a bit better for IX. VII and VIII are futuristic. Powerful weapons and vehicles. You mean to tell me that there is only major city on the entire planet?
Out of all JRPGs, Gaia from Final Fantasy IX has stuck with me the most. It’s got a sense wonder and adventure that I don’t often feel from just location alone.
You’re reading TAY, Kotaku’s community-run blog. TAY is written by and for Kotaku readers like you. We write about games, art, culture and everything in between. Want to write with us? Check out our tutorial here and join in. Or follow us on Twitter @KoTAYku.
Evan Chambers is a fellow video game connoisseur (specializing in the Nintendo variety). He occasionally writes other articles and reviews that you can find here, and sometimes he tries to Twitter, at @EvanChambers.