FF 35th

22 years ago, Final Fantasy IX's most underrated hero changed the series forever

“To be forgotten is worse than death.”

Square Enix / Yoshitaka Amano

Final Fantasy IX has some of the series’ best characters.

It’s packed with memorable character arcs, most notably Vivi and Zidane’s struggles to understand and accept their own identities.

Square Enix

Square Enix

Of all the characters trying to make sense of their place in the world, the one fighting the hardest to be remembered has largely been forgotten by fans, ironically mirroring her story in FFIX.

Freya Crescent the Dragon Knight

is one of the greatest tragic heroes in all of Final Fantasy, even if her own game doesn’t give her the time she deserves.

Square Enix/Yoshitaka Amano

Square Enix

We meet Freya when she runs into Zidane, who she met before the events of the game. Zidane pretends to forget her name, in what seems to be just a throwaway joke — but it also foreshadows a bleak turn to come.

“There is nothing there for me anymore,”

Freya tells Zidane when he asks if she’ll ever return to Burmecia. Years ago, she left to find her lost love, Sir Fratley, whose trail remains cold. Her home means nothing if she can’t share it with the person she cares about most.

Square Enix

Square Enix

But before long, Freya finds a reason to return. Queen Brahne, one of FFIX’s antagonists, launches an attack on Burmecia, and Freya decides to defend her home without a moment’s hesitation.

When she arrives, Burmecia lies in ruin, overrun with soldiers. Still refusing to retreat, Freya and the party challenge Brahne’s strongest general. They’re defeated, and Freya collapses to the floor of the home she once abandoned as its destroyers escape.

Square Enix

Square Enix

Freya’s story peaks in Cleyra, where the party finds Burmecian refugees once again under attack. As Freya fights to protect them from Brahne’s soldiers, a familiar figure appears

Sir Fratley!

After driving off the invading army, Freya and Fratley are together again. But instead of a victorious end to Freya’s quest, their reunion is the most heartbreaking scene in FFIX.

Square Enix

Fratley has lost his memory, his relationship with Freya forgotten along with his own name. Before Freya even has time to mourn, Fratley leaves again. She chooses to pursue Cleyra’s attackers rather than follow him, only for the city to be destroyed moments later.

Square Enix

Freya’s story so far has been about duty.

Her sworn duty to Burmecia and her self-declared duty to find Sir Fratley drive all of her decisions.

Square Enix

Square Enix

Now, Fratley is gone again, without even Freya’s memory to accompany him. Her home is destroyed, and those who sought refuge in Cleyra killed.

Final Fantasy IX largely ignores Freya from here on, which may be what keeps fans from remembering her as the tragic heroine that she is.

Square Enix

Freya’s story is intertwined with the politics of FFIX’s world, but strip away the setting and look at what’s left. A woman who goes to heroic lengths for love, only to be forgotten. A drifter estranged from her home who now has no place to return to.

Square Enix

Square Enix

A six-foot-tall, spear-wielding rat may not look like the most relatable character, but her struggle to find purpose is all too familiar.

Square Enix

Whether literally or metaphorically, plenty of us know the pain of being forgotten, of not having a place to call home. Freya reflects that familiar sorrow, and shows us a way out of it.

Square Enix

Within moments of her tragic meeting with Fratley, Freya picks herself up and says she’s happy just to know he’s alive. Before the dust has settled over Cleyra, she dedicates herself to avenging it.

For the rest of Final Fantasy IX, Freya remains stalwart in her new quest to stop Brahne, urging Vivi, Zidane, and the others on when their motivation flags or victory seems impossible.

Square Enix

Square Enix

She’s the party’s backbone, the absolute ideal of Final Fantasy’s Dragoons, willing to throw herself into danger to protect others.

Freya’s own hopes are crushed —

so she instead finds solace in lifting up those around her, ensuring that they won’t have to feel the pain she has.

Square Enix

Square Enix

Fratley never recovers his memory. By the end of Final Fantasy IX, he and Freya have reconnected as near-strangers, and Freya once again bravely dives into the unknown to rebuild Burmecia with him.

Freya Crescent is the secret heart of Final Fantasy IX.

She shows us that when your life and your identity have fallen apart, guiding others on their way is a cause worth fighting for.

Square Enix/Yoshitaka Amano
Final Fantasy was released on December 18, 1987, and 35 years later, it remains one of the most beloved franchises in gaming. Inverse's celebration takes a look back at our favorite games, characters, and moments over the years.