Sunday, October 30, 2016

TEXT PLAY: Final Fantasy IX (PlayStation, 2000, Square-Enix): Issue #005: Stealing the Big Ol' Prize

When we left off last time, Zidane and crew were getting ready to hop aboard the cargo ship, intending to take it to Lindblum, though Steiner had other ideas. His plan was to take it to Alexandria like the good little numbnuts he is at this point in the game. He'd told the others that it was going to Lindblum instead in order to get them aboard.

Turns out that both plans are kind of FUBAR, as the cargo ship is crewed only by four of the Black Mages that were being made in Dali and had been previously brought to life for the purpose. They only operate on their programming, though, and won't respond to anybody talking to them. They apparently gave Steiner what-for when he went to ask for their help and took off for Alexandria as they'd been programmed to. When Zidane finds him on his face on the main deck, Steiner explains that this isn't quite what he'd wanted, but he's OK with it anyway because it was pretty much his plan to begin with. I'm sure I could have gotten some other thoughts from him, but I was kind of in a rush and just went into the wheelhouse instead, having Zidane try to get the pilot's attention first, with no success.

Of course, the Black Mage piloting the ship pretty much stands aside for Zidane when he goes in and takes the wheel. Steiner shows up a moment later, joined by Dagger and Vivi, and begins carrying on about how he doesn't like how Zidane's taking the ship to Lindblum in spite of that being exactly what everyone else wants. As this is going on, we see that the third and final Black Waltz is about to attack the ship.

Between the shipjacking and the arrival of the Waltz, the Black Mages running the ship have begun to act a bit odd. At first, they gather around the wheelhouse for some reason, and then try to defend Vivi when he goes to confront the Waltz on his own. Of course, he blows them all away, which prompts Steiner and Zidane to come to Vivi's aid, after Zidane tells Dagger to take the helm and decide where they're actually going.

This Waltz isn't a particularly hard fight, which is OK, since we don't have a healer. In past playthroughs, I've gotten my ass handed to me here as a result of that, but this time, not so much. Much as I would liked to have tried getting clever and going for all three items the Waltz was carrying, I'm sorta glad I only got the low and mid level ones, because going for the Silver Gauntlets, or whatever they're actually called, has an unfortunate way of going bad on me.

The unusual thing here is that the party wins the fight without killing the Waltz. Instead, we're given a nice cutscene where he manages to get away with serious damage, only to chase after the cargo ship on a little runabout-class airship that Zorn and Thorn, Queen Bhrane's jester goons were using to watch things go down, after tossing the two goons overboard, of course. After a midair magic battle between the Waltz and Vivi, as the two ships pass through the big airship gate to Lindblum, we're supposed to believe that Waltz Number Three is toast when he crashes his ship into the inside of the gate. It's been a good few years since I've played this part of the game or watched an LP, but I kind of doubt that's actually the case.

The good news is that once the party gets to Lindblum, they do intend to stay awhile, because that big air gate is all messed up because of the crash, and getting back to Alexandria, at least by air, isn't going to be an option until it gets fixed. As they approach, there's a bit of a plot hole in the cutscene, as somebody has to explain to Zidane that the City of Lindblum is actually incorporated into the castle itself. One would think he'd know that, considering that he's supposed to be from there. Kind of like me not knowing some basic things about the waterfall that's my hometown's namesake.

This place we've actually docked at is called Lindblum Grand Castle, and it's a much more advanced version of a place familiar to longtime fans of the series like myself: Fabul, or Regent Cid Fabool IX, as we call him this outing. The spelling with the “u” was actually the homeland of the monks and karate fighters in Final Fantasy IV. Rather than just being a fortified city as it was in my all-time favorite video game, Lindblum is built on three levels, all of which will come into play before we're completely done here. The Base Level, build below the Mist, allows access to the world map and what may be the only actual sailing port still operational on what is called the Mist Continent. The Mid Level, where the actual city is, has all the services one might expect in an RPG town and access to the above-the-Mist part of the map. The upper level is where Regent Cid is.

As a man named Minister Artainia guides Dagger and the party to where Cid is, they can run around the castle a bit before hopping on the elevator to the top level. There's a female member of Lindblum's Air Force that Zidane strikes out with in the chamber to the right of the elevator. She tells Zidane that her name's Erin before running off on the guy. I think this was supposed to happen later, though, because Zidane says he's going to go get some food and invites her along, which doesn't go so well. Plus, there's a bit of odd dialog that seems out of place, and it doesn't seem like the sort of bad translation we've seen in the SNES era. But we'll want to remember Erin's name. We'll be seeing her later.

As for where the actual plot goes from here, Artainia takes the party to see Regent Cid, who has been turned into a giant version of an oglop, the buglike things Zidane and his Tantalus friends were going to dump on the audience at the start of the game. At first, the party doesn't believe it, but then Dagger recognizes his mustache, which he somehow still has. Once that's taken care of, the rest of the party is told to disperse so that Cid and Dagger can have a private conference about what's going on.

While the official, for-the-public explanation is that some random, yet highly trained, thief did this to Cid while in the process of kidnapping Cid's wife Hilda and stealing the prototype of an airship that could do its thing without the Mist, the real story is that Hilda herself did it all for some reason. Also of import is that Cid knew that things were getting a little weird in Alexandria and wanted to get Dagger out, which is why he got ahold of his buddy Baku and sent Tantalus in to get her because it's what he'd agreed to with the king of Alexandria before he died.

At the same moment, Zidane's going to a local pub to get a bite to eat. He sees that the special that day is a bowl of soup, so he goes in and tells tells the guy at the counter he'll take it. Turns out, the guy running the place is Zidane's friend Bobo, who is sadly not a gorilla, in this case. Once the greetings are settled, Zidane flirts with a barmaid, who pretty much shoots him down too.

The whole scene gets the attention of another character as well. This time, it's our fifth party member, though she won't be joining us for a bit. This cute young dragoon is an anthropomorphic rat named Freya Cresent. Of course, it's odd that I'd have as much difficulty as I do finding appropriate art to properly prove my point in this case, in light of the fact that there's considerably more of it out there than there is of the last similar character like this I was sorta crushing on, Legend of Mana's Sierra.

Anyway, after Zidane and Freya catch up on old times and talk about how she's here for something called the Festival of the Hunt, we're finally given a chance to save at a room in Lindblum's Inn. Before we can, though, Vivi says he's gonna go looking around on his own just to prove he can.

We'll get to that next time, though, as this has gone on for long enough for now, and I am once again working on this way later than I probably should. See you soon folks, and as always, DFTBA!

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