Thanks to Scott Baird of ScreentRants.com for the inspiration!
9. ZIDANE’S OVERLY DARK BACKSTORY
Zidane Tribal was created to be a contrast to the moody protagonists who preceded him. Cloud Strife and Squall Leonhart earned hatedoms over their perceived “emo-ness” which Squaresoft wanted to avoid with a new protagonist who was happy and outgoing.
The game tries to add some unnecessary layers of grimness to Zidane’s backstory, by revealing that he is an artificial life form that was designed to wipe out all life on the planet.
The problem with giving Zidane this backstory is that it overlaps with Vivi’s story.
Vivi’s story focuses on being an artificial being who is trying to find his own place in the world, which is thus overshadowed by Zidane’s story.
Vivi’s story of accepting death and living his short life to its fullest is far better told than Zidane’s, which comes out of nowhere and doesn’t really add anything to the story.
To get rid of Zidane’s overly dark backstory would be to get rid of his character altogether. While Zidane’s a fairly happy-go-lucky character, it’s established that he
harbors insecurities about his past and concealed loneliness. While usually cheerful, Zidane sometimes gets depressed, lonely, and questions why he should exist. Though he values friendship he tries to keep his problems to himself and fight them alone.
This is a central part of his personality, with makes him as a character so interesting. He can’t keep it in for long, and it explodes into a crisis during his stay in Pandemonium once he finds out he’s a Genome.
Drained by Garland’s revelations, Zidane confronts him. Garland explains Zidane is to be his “Angel of Death” to deprive Gaia of its souls so Terra can assimilate it, but Zidane refuses to play any part in this plot. Garland attempts to remove Zidane’s soul and make him into a regular Genome, and when Zidane wakes up in Pandemonium’s depths he falls into despair, believing everything he knew was a lie and that his only purpose is to assist in Gaia’s destruction.
Before reaching Terra, Zidane really wasn’t sure of who he was. So he recreated himself as the character we all know. But the information was too much for him to handle. He falls into a temporary sort of despair as a result.
This revelation gives a backdrop to one of the most powerful battle sequences and songs in the entire game. It also provides a message incorporating the themes of the game.
When his friends come to his aid, Zidane shuns them. Remembering the times he helped her find the strength to carry on, Garnet pleads with him to let his friends believe in him as he believed in them. Zidane realizes he has the power to determine his own purpose in life: protecting everyone he cares for.
So I disagree with Scott. This scene was much less about adding “unnecessary layers of grimness”. It’s much more about illustrating the nature of friendship and controlling your own destiny. Zidane realizes he isn’t alone. He proceeds to create an existence according to who he is instead of what he’s afraid of. And thankfully, his friends were able to help him through it.
Does it overlap with Vivi’s story? More so complements it. And while Vivi’s story is more memorable to most, Zidane’s story adds to the themes of Final Fantasy IX.