Life is connected, one to another... If you trace the root of all life, there exists one source.Garland
The crystal is the origin of life in the universe of Final Fantasy IX. In the early Final Fantasy series's games, crystals embodied the elements that sustained the game worlds, also appearing as somewhat sentient and supernatural, branding the player party as the Warriors of Light. Final Fantasy IX calls back to many aspects of the early series, and the crystal represents the origin and interconnectedness of all life.
The term "crystal" in Final Fantast IX may refer to the planets' individual crystals that reside in their cores and glow in a certain hue individual to each world, or it may refer to the original crystal at the Crystal World. Though the planets' crystals are mainly represented in abstractions, and the Crystal World crystal only appears briefly, the crystal can be seen as one of the main motifs of Final Fantasy IX that ties its theme of life and death together, and appears in its logo art. Crystals as repositories and records of memories has since become a recurring theme in the Final Fantasy multiverse, and as such, the crystal in Final Fantasy IX is also similar to the concept of the lifestream from the Final Fantasy VII series.
Crystals reside at the centers of planets and are the source of all life; life is born from them, and souls return to them upon death. As the memories of living beings accumulate inside the crystals, the planets grow. Eidolons in Gaia are guardian spirits created by the crystal to protect it. Gaia's crystal glows with a blue hue, thus giving this color to its orbiting moon as well.
As revealed in the Final Fantasy 20th Anniversary Ultimania, once a crystal has aged, it returns to the cosmos and becomes the source of a new crystal. The crystal in Crystal World is implied to be the origin of the universe.[note 1]
Outside the large-scale crystals in the planets' cores, smaller jewels also appear, which still seem to represent both the theme of the crystals' ability to hold memories, and their life-giving force, as the jewels can be used as healing items in battle, and used as a means of summoning eidolons, themselves amalgamations of the people's myths and legends.
The people of the ancient planet of Terra had mastered the art of fusing their red-hued crystal with others, allowing them to assimilate other worlds and keep their race thriving even when their current crystal weakened. According to the Final Fantasy IX Ultimania, the Terran people made use of the magical art fusion to preternaturally attain eternal life. They would seek out young planets whose cores had not yet grown and assimilate them, circulating Terra's souls to the new crystal to finish the process.
A crystal at each planet's core governs the cycle of souls, sending out souls to be born as living creatures, and when they die, the memories of the life lived return to the crystal, allowing it to grow and become able to create ever more complex creatures. If the soul circulation were to stop, the memory accumulation ends and the planet begins to decay until the crystal itself is returned to the cosmos along with the planet.
The seeds' decline was not our fault... All vegetation and... vessels...died out... The decay of our Terra...triggered it all... In order to stop the decay, many methods were considered... Ultimately, the best minds of Terra's civilization gathered... Then, a final resuscitation was attempted on the mother continent... Unfortunately, it ended in failure... It was later discovered to have been the catalyst... Subjects were selected... After four tremendous sacrifices, eternal prosperity seemed within reach... Flora and fauna were revived, but...is still in stasis. Final results...are still pending...Oeilvert archives
Terrans wanted eternal life, attempting for their "souls" to never "return", but this went against the order of nature. Terra failed to take over Gaia's crystal as there was already native life on Gaia, young planet though it was. The planet itself warped to the inside of Gaia, some Terran structures ending up on the very world it had tried to take over. Shimmering Island opened as a portal between the two worlds, which appears to work by a large-scale teleportation spell.[note 3] Oeilvert was built as an archive, its displays showing the two planets trying to fuse.
Terrans put their souls in stasis in wait for when the fusion would be complete and they could return in new bodies, with Garland created to oversee the project. A glowing red crystal is embedded in his chest—of what appears to be an android body; the significance of it is not elaborated upon, but it could represent his life force, like that of a heart. Garland moved Terra's magical tree, Iifa, to Gaia to use its roots to stabilize the environment. Thousands of years later, Garland used the Iifa Tree to block Gaian souls from returning to their crystal in the planet's core, halting the planet's soul cycle.
Garland's plan was to join the two planets' soul cycles. The initial plan failed as the flows of souls were mismatched: Gaia had a healthy flow, whereas Terra, being a dying world, had hardly a cycle at all, making it impossible for Terra's soul cycle to dominate Gaia's. Garland's plan was to create a world where only Terran souls could circulate. However, even with Gaia's cycle halted, Terra's circulation remained weak.
Time passed while the Iifa Tree slowly withered Gaia's crystal, acting as the "soul divider". Garland built Genomes in the dead world inside Gaia in preparation for the Terran souls in stasis to one day take them over. He ordered Soulcage to direct the rejected Gaian souls back onto the Mist Continent through Iifa's roots where many native Gaian civilizations had blossomed. The rejected souls manifested as Mist, destabilizing the environment, turning wildlife into monsters, and fostering war.
After Lindblum, one of the prominent nations on the Mist Continent, devised a way to use the Mist as a power source, the wars ceased at the advent of the "Airship Revolution". Garland began using Genomes as his "angels of death" to foster war so that the accumulated deaths would expedite the fusion. He deemed his first creation, Kuja, a failure and put a limit on his life to last just long enough for his next project, Zidane, to reach maturation. Kuja kidnapped a four-year-old Zidane and abandoned him on Gaia, where Tantalus Theater Troupe adopted him, and the only thing he recalled of his origins was a blue light; this light was the blue glow of Gaia's crystal, which bathes Terra, paining the resident Genomes. Zidane growing up on Gaia endeared him to his home and adoptive family, and he became a Gaian in spirit.
Gaia's crystal created eidolons as its protectors. Garland ordered Kuja to destroy the summoners' village of Madain Sari, cluing Kuja in to what Garland feared most. Zidane became entangled in Kuja's schemes and joined Garnet and their new friends to travel the world to uncover Kuja's motives and methods. They made their way down the Iifa Tree, discovering it was not tree-like on the inside and seemed endlessly deep. At the bottom they could only see bright green light.[note 4] They met Soulcage, a being familiar with Kuja that declared itself as the source of Mist. They defeated it, halting the dispersal of Mist, but not freeing the trapped crystal itself.
They eventually found their way to Terra, where the resident Genomes and Garland explained to Zidane the plan to assimilate Gaia.
The end and the beginning of the cycle of souls. The light remains Gaia's for now, but when the blue changes to crimson, all will belong to Terra, and its restoration will be complete. That is why I wrapped up the light in the Iifa Tree,[note 5] to prevent the cycle of the judgment of souls on Gaia from inside the planet. Such is the Iifa Tree's true purpose.Garland
Zidane refused to go with the plan, seeing Garland, Kuja and the Terrans as the enemy. Zidane and his friends defeated Garland in battle long enough for Kuja to arrive and finish the job with his new-found powers of Trance. Garland remained as an omnipresent voice and informed Kuja of the limit placed on his life, causing Kuja to go mad and seek omnicide by destroying the origin of life: the crystal. Kuja destroyed Terra, and the Iifa Tree activated and exhausted Mist all across Gaia, and Terran monsters began to roam its continents.
A portal back through time made manifest of memories appeared above the Iifa Tree, and Kuja headed in. Zidane and his friends followed, being met by four chaos monsters along the way. They learned that all life connects via memory, and that they possessed memories from many things from before they were born. They traced the memory of all life to the Crystal World where crystalline versions of the four chaoses appeared. They found Kuja about to destroy the crystal, surprised they had got past the monsters he had created from the crystal's memory.
Isn't it beautiful? It's the original crystal... This is where it all began... The birthplace of all things... Once I destroy it, everything will be gone. Gaia, Terra, the universe, everything...Kuja
Kuja predicted that Terra had begun to assimilate Gaia, and the Iifa Tree would destroy it. Zidane argued that even if Gaia's crystal was assimilated, the planet itself would remain, and they could start over. Kuja tried to kill them, but was defeated, and unleashed an Ultima spell. Zidane and his friends blacked out and awoke on the Hill of Despair where they met Necron, a being whose purpose is to revert the universe to a "zero world" without life and without a crystal to give life, summoned by Kuja's wish to destroy the crystal. Necron argued that a world of nothingness would be free of fear of death, granting the world that all living beings desire. Zidane and his friends defeated Necron to prove their will to live, and the being disappeared, though declaring it will always exist as long as there is life in the universe.
The dying Kuja teleported Zidane and his friends to outside of the Iifa Tree. Memoria disappeared and the Iifa Tree began a violent reaction as Kuja had predicted, but it did not destroy the planet, and Zidane and his friends returned to lead their individual lives. The outcome of the Terra and Gaia fusion was left ambiguous, but in the game's closing scenes the red and the blue moons collide and explode to reveal a shimmering crystal that becomes the game's logo, which could represent a successful fusion. However, the planet did not "become" Terra, and the Genomes never became soul vessels, instead left to live their lives as individuals on their own accord.[note 6]
The four parts of Alexander's summoning gem appear as key items, which the player holds in their inventory as part of the story, but they can't be directly used for anything.
Various types of jewels can be equipped as Add-ons, which grant the user special abilities, particularly for Dagger and Eiko, who can learn summon magic from them. Eiko can also alter the effect of her Carbuncle eidolon by equipping different gems as add-ons. The jewels can be used in battle to restore HP, though this is not recommended, as some jewels are of limited quantities, and the more of a certain jewel the player has in their inventory, the stronger the associated eidolon's full summoning animation attack is in battle.
In the Dissidia series on the PlayStation Portable, Zidane's crystal that holds a part of Cosmos's power looks like the crystal in the Final Fantasy IX logo. Crystal World also appears as a stage for battle, and the crystal from Final Fantasy IX appears there as a background element.
Behind the scenes
Depictions of crystals
Neither Gaia's nor Terra's crystal is explicitly shown in the game. At the bottom of the Iifa Tree, the party peers down and comments it is too bright below to see any detail; this is presumed to be the crystal of Gaia. Concept art exists for Iifa Tree constricting Gaia's crystal. There is also a large red orb atop Pandemonium in Terra whose significance is not elaborated upon. It acts as a prominent background element for the battles against Garland and for Kuja's destroying of Terra. The orb atop Pandemonium does not glow like the planets' crystals are said to do. The crystal in Garland's chest glows red, and after being dropped from the top of Pandemonium, transcends death and remain as a bodiless voice.
Terra's crystal glows red, while Gaia's crystal glows blue. Because Gaia's crystal is stronger, the world inside Gaia has a blue hue. In the real world, aging stars glow red, whereas new stars glow blue, which may have inspired the colors. In Crystal World, a red and a blue stream of light encircle the crystal that hovers above a platform.
Alexandria Castle has a colossal crystal tower in the middle that looks somewhat like the blade of a sword.
Crystals also appear as a means of summoning eidolons. The four "jewels" that Queen Brahne of Alexandria seeks are fragments of a gemstone broken apart 500 years prior. If the four jewels are brought together in Alexandria Castle, Alexander can be summoned. This echoes Final Fantasy IV, as Alexander resembles the Giant of Babil, which was also summoned by a gathering of crystals. Ark, meanwhile, appears to be an eidolon associated with Terra and Oeilvert, though eidolons are said to be manifestations of the crystal, and Terra's was too weak to manifest them.
Game logo art
The game's logo art is by Yoshitaka Amano, and depicts the crystal that appears in the Crystal World in a golden hue. In the end of the credits, the blue and red moons of Gaia and Terra are shown colliding, and from the explosion emerges a shimmering crystal that transforms into the logo of the game.
The limited edition Battle of Destiny statue released in March 2020 depicts Zidane with Trance Kuja in Crystal World with the crystal. The central ring features a LED system with moving lights as if it were spinning around the crystal.
- The party reaches the crystal that Garland calls the single source of life by traveling back in time until they can go no further through Memoria. They pass through a vast expanse of nothingness, which may represent the time before Gaia existed, to reach the Crystal World.
- The "selected subjects" may mean the planets that Terra chose to fuse with. "Four tremendous sacrifices" may mean that Terra fused with four other planets before attempting to fuse with Gaia. "Final results still pending" refers to Terrans ultimately being unable to fully restore their world, but have not given up on making a full return.
- The Shimmering Island portal looks similar to Kuja's teleportation magic that he uses in Desert Palace, and also to warp the party out of the final battle.
- The light Zidane and friends observe at the bottom of the Iifa Tree is likely the glow of Gaia's crystal, even though Gaia's glow is usually depicted as blue. The crystal is not shown, but a concept art exists showing it in the grasp of the Iifa Tree.
- Garland saying he "wrapped up the light in the Iifa Tree" refers to him trapping Gaia's crystal, never depicted on-screen.
- Though no Genomes appear in the "some time later" epilogue, Mikoto previously commented on the Genomes having to learn to live for themselves, thankful that Kuja had shown Genomes could be more than empty vessels.
- Final Fantasy IX, Garland: "Do not limit memory to just one individual's experiences from birth. That is only the surface. Every life born into this world, whether natural or artificial, requires a parent. And that parent also requires a parent. Life is connected, one to another... If you trace the root of all life, there exists one source. The same can be said for memory. All life constitutes an intelligence that holds memory beyond experience. Memory is not isolated within individuals. It is an accumulation of generations of memories that continues to evolve. You can say that memory and evolution go hand in hand. [..] ...A presence that presides over all life and memories. The crystal...
- Final Fantasy IX Ultimania p.042
- Glenn, The Twilight Mexican (24 January, 2010). Translations from the FF 20th Anniversary Ultimania — Sources of Power in FF. The Lifestream. Archived from the original on 5 July, 2021.
- Final Fantasy IX, Secret Eidolon Wall inscriptions
- Final Fantasy IX Ultimania World Establishment (development materials) p. 040
- Final Fantasy IX, Garland: "Five thousand years ago, Terra, already an old planet, sought to assimilate Gaia. Terra needed to merge with a younger planet to survive. However, there was already life on Gaia.
- Final Fantasy IX, Garland: "Terra reached the peak of its prosperity at this time. The people believed that their future was secure. Ultimately, that very hubris led to Terra's demise. Thus, I was created to deal with our plights..."
- Final Fantasy IX Ultimania official timeline
- Final Fantasy IX, Garland: "Life on Terra was coming to an end... We had no choice but to proceed with the fusion, which tragically destroyed Terra's native civilizations. Terra was too old to assimilate everything. Thus, I created the Iifa Tree to regulate the flow of souls back to Terra."
- Final Fantasy IX, Garland: "Even now, the Iifa Tree blocks the flow of Gaia's souls, while it lets those of Terra flow freely."
- Final Fantasy IX, Garland: "You saw the Iifa Tree and the Mist it emits. The role of the Iifa Tree is that of Soul Divider. The Mist you see comprises the stagnant souls of Gaia...
- Final Fantasy IX, Genome in Bran Bal: "When the blue light becomes red... That is when souls will enter our bodies."
- Final Fantasy IX, Soulcage: "I contaminate the other continents with Mist to stimulate the fighting instinct. This, in turn, leads to war among the leaders of nations, and then to the fall of civilization."
- Final Fantasy IX, Garland: "Do you think a defect like you could last forever...? I built you to last only until the worthy Genome, Zidane, grew."
- Final Fantasy IX, Garland: "Twelve years ago, I lost one of my most prized Genomes. I created him and sent him to Gaia to disrupt the cycle of souls there." Zidane is 16 years old in Final Fantasy IX.
- Final Fantasy IX, Genome in Bran Bal: "Gaia's blue light causes pain to those of us who were created by the civilization of Terra."
- Final Fantasy IX, Garland: "I feared Gaia's eidolons more than anything... However, I decided to deal with them before they became a major problem."
- Final Fantasy IX, Kuja: "I'm surprised you beat the 4 Chaoses that I created from the crystal's memory."
- Final Fantasy IX, Necron:"I exist for one purpose... To return everything back to the zero world, where there is no life and no crystal to give life. In a world of nothing, fear does not exist. This is the world that all life desires. [...] One day, you will choose destruction over existence, as Kuja did. When he sought to destroy the crystal, the purpose of life ended."
- Final Fantasy IX, Necron: "I am eternal... ...as long as there is life and death..."