Moogles are ubiquitous in Final Fantasy XI, and while they're a bit rarer in Final Fantasy XIV they're still not a secret. This is understandable -- after all, the small little critters are part of the glue that holds the series together conceptually. So it's odd that when you get right down to it, they're only peripherally involved with the settings of the games they appear in. Despite the ubiquity of the moogles, it's debatable whether some of them are even there.
But before I defend that, a bit of backstory.
Moogles first showed up in Final Fantasy III, acting as hangers-on for one of the game's ten or twelve different mystical geezers. (As an aside, if you only know the game through the DS port, you have a very different picture of the game as a whole than those of us who played the game muddling through incomprehensibility.) The next time they showed up, they were a bizarre telepathic commune in Final Fantasy V, and then they were infesting the caves beneath Narshe in Final Fantasy VI. In Final Fantasy IX, they ran the postal service and the save points; in Final Fantasy XII and other Ivalice-based games, they're just another race, albeit a rather small and quirky one. They've appeared in more games, but usually as mythological creatures or background illustrations rather than sentient creatures.
Outside of Ivalice, though, they've gotten more air time in Final Fantasy XI than anywhere else. Your moogle manages your inventory, your job changes, your furniture, and even your mail delivery. And moogles as a whole seem to run the entire meta-service of holiday events for the game, with event moogles hovering about dispensing the relevant paraphernalia so that you can catch fish or grab clams or whatever. FFXIV's moogles, meanwhile, are essentially the personification of natural spirits -- they're the ones that communicate a lot of what's going on to the player, sparing you several scenes of your character concentrating and then understanding.
You'll note a theme. In every game in which they appear, moogles break the rules somehow. They're powerful -- that much is a given -- but they aren't actually interested or concerned with the affairs of the world for the most part. In FFVI, the moogles first show up when you need several parties to clear an event but don't yet have sufficient party members. In FFIX, they handled the horribly meta aspects of the game, especially the issue of what exactly a "save point" constitutes. Even the moogles in Ivalice have a very meta-game function, since Montblanc repeatedly serves as your introduction to game mechanics and important elements of the story that you wouldn't have otherwise.
In FFXIV, this is compounded. The one area where moogles show up consistently is Gridania -- the city where the largest amount of the storyline revolves around things that the player can't really see or interact with. Moogles provide a mouthpiece so that you can simply be told what's going on with the spirits, which is useful, functional, and also breaking all of the game's rules about how communing with the spirits is supposed to work.
But in FFXI, it's even more pronounced. The moogles are there doing all sorts of game-breaking things. A Moogle Kupo d'Etat, ostensibly about the society of the moogles, is really a pastiche of jokes and cliches. (This, I will note, is exactly what it is aiming to be. It's affectionate parody that blurs the lines, and I'm not criticizing it for that... but it is parody.) Otherwise, they house you and serve you for no charge, they provide you with things and rewards for minimal investment...
Moogles aren't there.
Moogles are the developers providing you with functions that, quite frankly, make no sense within the game world. You can fudge some stuff like returning to points of energy or aetheryte when you die, but changing classes in FFXI doesn't make any sense. It's a purely mechanical system. Likewise, all of the elemental communication in FFXIV is purely non-mechanical. Short of adding a Dance Dance Revolution minigame or something similar, it would be tedious at best and pointless at worst.
So the moogles arrive. The moogles provide an incredibly powerful race that uses its power for incomprehensible ends because it doesn't need to concern itself with the things that adventurers do. It smoothes the rough edges on the setting and the game mechanics so that players can spend less time worrying about that and more time actually doing things. They're an explanation and a smoothing mechanism for places where the games need them.
Or maybe they're the only real part of the game world, and the various parts of the series have all been the dreams of various moogles. Just for kicks, let's say the moogles from Secret of Mana.
Liked this? Hated it? Let me know either way in the comments or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I'm taking on the first three physical classes in FFXI based on the criteria from last week.
From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.