#ThrowBackThursday – Final Fantasy IX playthrough part 1

Thursdays are normally reserved for #ThrowBackThursdays, but this week I’m doing it a little different. Usually I play a game for about a week and then write about it or I reminisce about a game like with my Phantasy Star Online article last week. But I’ve decided to change things up a little from this post onward. There will still be a standard #ThrowBackThursday, probably once a month to discuss the Retro Gaming Club game of the month, but, and this was inspired by Angie at Backlog Crusader’s post about Final Fantasy X

And so, I’ve decided that I’m now going to be using most Thursdays to document my play through of Final Fantasy IX.

Why pick IX when all the attention at the moment is on VII, VIII and XIV? Well, I’m playing XIV at the moment anyway, although I’m not upto the most recent expansion yet, hell I’m still at the closing stages of A Realm Reborn and not at the Heavensward content yet. As for VII and VIII, I bounced off the former when I first played it (I’ve played through it since) and it was IX that really got me interested in both the series and the genre, so it seems like the perfect game to return to. I’ve played in the years since, but never documented my play throughs, and in all honesty didnt make it very far before being distracted by something else. Not this time though, I’m intent on finishing what I still regard as my favourite Final Fantasy.

Current Play Time: 3:51
Current Location: World Map outside Evil Forest

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Whats been happening:

We start the game watching a small boat being thrown around in a storm, a young lady in a white hooded cloak is attempting to steer it. We cut to day time outside a large city and we follow an airship into Alexandria. Inside the airship a young boy with a tail descends a ladder and goes through a door, we follow him into a room of darkness. After lighting candles we head straight into a battle with a humanoid with a long dinosaur like neck and head. The group of characters, Zidane, Cinna, Blank and Marcus all attack, although Cinna’s really rather useless. I actually have the Official Strategy Guide from Piggyback (two copies, in fact, although I don’t know why) but I won’t be using it. I do remember though that by using Steal on the beast before us I can steal a Mage Masher, Zidane’s next weapon, although I don’t manage to achieve this before breaking open the mask to reveal a red bearded man who only then unleashes his strength on the party, winning and leaving you all windless, it was a test all along, with the Tartarus Theatre Troupe being put through their paces by their leader, Baku.

In a side room the Troupe reveal that they are heading to Alexandria to perform the popular play “I Want To Be Your Canary”, but thats not their only intention, they also plan to kidnap the Queen of Alexandria’s daughter Princess Garnet Til Alexandros XVII.

Shortly after we head onto the streets of Alexandria and see this city from the eyes of a small boy wearing a striped blue cloak and point hat. As we explore we are introduced to Final Fantasy IX’s main mini-game, a card game called Tetra Master, and through searching through certain locations I’ve now ammassed a very small deck of cards thats just enough to play and win a few games. Shortly after I head to a ticket stand in the centre of town and our character, Vivi, shows the vendor his ticket to see “I Want To Be Your Canary” unfortunately Vivi’s been duped and has a fake ticket, his head sinks as the realisation he wont be able to see the show sinks in and we trot off to look around Alexandria a little more. Why? I do not know, probably because he has nothing else to do.

Anyway we come across a character only known as Rat Boy who’s aware of Vivi’s dissapointment, he tells him that non-nobles tend to watch the play from the rooftops of Alexandria, but he knows a way into the palace and enlists Vivi’s help to get there.

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Now we switch back to watching the play and acting certain scenes out before Zidane and Blank begin to put the plan to kidnap Garnet into play by knocking out two guards, who are later revealed to be from the Knights of Pluto. Blank heads off to cause a distraction, Zidane heads to Garnets quarters to take her prisoner.

Theres a bunch of other stuff happening at this point, the story of the play is progressing, Steiner has to search for his Knights of Pluto (finding the two who have been stripped by Zidane and Blank in the process) and then he gives chase to Zidane and Garnet, not aware of her wishes, with the chase leading them all onto the stage where they are forced to play along with what is happening there to avoid anyone else figuring out whats really going on. Theres a staged battle thats a show for the audience but ultimately Zidane with Vivi and Blanks help take on a traditional Final Fantasy Bomb whilst trying to convince Steiner to look behind him (very Panto) and join them. But the Tarturus is hit and crashes into Evil Forest with Zidane, Garnet, Steiner, Vivi and the crew all thrown out.

Zidane goes in search of Garnet and finds Vivi and Steiner tring to fight off a creature, which eventually escapes with Garnet then comes back to try and take Vivi. You fight it off again but Steiner and Vivi are infected. Zidane is told by Baku that if he wants to find Garnet then he has to leave Tartarus as their concern right now is escaping Evil Forest and Zidane heads off to give Vivi and Steiner the cure to their ailments and begin the search for Garnet, who the group find and recover with help from Blank, who then sacrifices himself as the Forest begins to turn on the group and is Petrified.

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Now, I generally think that Final Fantasy IX has quite a sedate opening, especially compared to Final Fantasy VII’s opening Mako Reactor attack. But all that up there, in less than four hours? Thats a whole lot of action going on and yet we know barely anything about the cast at this point. Garnet is a princess who wants to run away from her royal duties for some reason, Zidane is a thief and an actor who see’s himself as a bit of a ladies man, Steiner is bound by his honour to serve the Queen but is a bit of clumsy leader of a group of men who are equally useless and Vivi does magic. Blank, Marcus, Cinna and Baku have even less character development and we’re briefly introduced to Beatrix (who is General of the Alexandrian soldiers who are far better at their job than the Knights of Pluto, they’re also all female), Zorn and Thorn (who appear to be more than their Court Jester appearances imply) and Queen Brahne.

We’ve barely “played” the game at this point either, its all been action sequences to grab the player by the balls and throw the world and the situation at the them, which I’ve absolutely no problem with, but its at this point I decided to leave the game as it is to begin this particular series. There are some nice early touches though, the newly introduced “Active Time Events” or ATE’s are an excellent touch that fill out the world a bit more, even at this early stage.

So, I’m now outside the Evil Forest, I’ve been given the Moogle Whistle and the World Map at my feet, I know I can’t go far, but I know now that this coming week I’ll actually be playing Final Fantasy IX rather than being a semi-active passenger.

 

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