Thursday, November 17, 2016

TEXT PLAY: Final Fantasy IX (PlayStation, 2000, Square-Enix): Issue #007: To The Hunt

I used to be something of a hunter in real life until recently.

But real life has a way of changing on a guy, and now I find myself playing video games more, and it's hard to tell if it's good or bad.

As far as this part of the game goes, it's more a murderfest than real-life hunting tends to be, but we'll get to that. The first thing we need to do is get Zidane and Dagger hooked up in the castle. When Zidane gets there, he finds that Dagger is not in the fancy room where she was sent for “safe keeping”, but Steiner is there and worried as hell about her, per usual. Steiner's not going to be much help finding her again, but fortunately, it's no big deal for Zidane. When he goes looking for her, he hears her singing the song from Dali, and it's coming from the restricted upper level of the base.

Since he can't get up there in his normal clothes, he's got to dress up again, this time as a castle guard. Fortunately, there is a sleepy one hanging out in the common area outside the princess's room, so Zidane lures him into the room and horks his uniform so he can get on the lift and go after Dagger, who's up a tower with a telescope. They look around a bit with the scope and talk a bit. The conversation ends when Zidane absentmindedly asks Dagger when she wants to go on an airship cruise with him, seeming to get her confused with one of the other girls he'd been flirting with earlier. After talking her into a date if he wins the main event of the festival, Dagger sings her song again and we see the others going about their business before the big thing. Steiner's defending Queen Brhane from a negative opinion in the weapons shop; Vivi's contemplating his existence as he watches other kids playing with “Royal Action Figures”; and Freya's worrying about the future and the fate of her lost love, a fellow dragoon by the name of Sir Fratley.

While all this is going on, Lindblum's army is getting the town ready for the hunting competition. The first pair of guards we see is tending to a cartload of Fangs, the wolflike creatures we were fighting before. The older of the two seems to get off on the competition; the younger one doesn't quite so much. When the Fangs get out early, one of the guards goes running off to tell the others to get the civilians out of the way and release the rest of the beasts. The first batch we see is mostly the little blue squirrel things called Muus, that we fought before. The next thing we see is what counts for the boss fight of this section, if you can find it. It's a big, bull looking thing called a Zaghnol, and its handlers talk about how it's been bred specifically for this, noting that it's the best one they've yet managed to produce. I'm kind of with the younger fellow who's at least a little weirded out by it, but the breeder makes his living by it, too, so I can see his point as well.

Back in Dagger's VIP quarters, the gang has assembled for the hunt. We're expecting Zidane and Freya to be participating, and it seems that Zidane's gone and signed Vivi up as well. Freya calls him on it, pretty much telling him that it was kind of a dick move on his part, and I'm inclined to agree. There's a person there asking the participants what they want their unique prize to be if they win. Zidane says he'll just take cash; Freya wants an accessory, or an add-on, as the game calls it; and Vivi wants a card. That same person then tells everybody where they'll be starting and explains that there's a twelve-minute time limit. I think that wound up throwing me a bit, because I went in thinking that it was a fifteen minute limit. I still did pretty good, all things considered, but I ran out of time before hooking up with Freya for the battle with the Zaghnol. I usually make it at least there, but not this time. The thing that did work out the way it usually does is that Freya won the competition by just a handful of points. She got 166 to Zidane's 159, I think it was, so the prize was the Coral Ring accessory, which has powers that several party members can learn, including one specific to her.

Now that I think about it, it's a rare thing for me to have Zidane win this, so I really can't speak to the whole “date with Dagger” thing that was set up going into this. I think part of that plays out regardless, but we'll see later.

As the award ceremony progresses in the throne room, a gravely wounded Burmecian soldier shows up to tell of a massive and overwhelming attack on Burmecia, Freya's homeland. Before he expires, the soldier says that most of the ones doing the attacking were mages in hats like Vivi's. This means black mages and that Alexandria is behind the attack. The decision is made to go to Burmecia and check things out. Dagger wants to go along, but the members of the party who know much about fighting are against it because they know how dangerous it really is. Eventually, they realize they're just wasting time arguing over it, and Cid says he'll open the gate below the Mist so the party can go on foot. Because it'll take awhile for the gate to open, Cid suggests they go ahead with the victory feast while they wait.

Of course, Dagger wants so badly to do what she thinks is right that she manages to drug enough of the food that everybody but her and Steiner gets knocked out by some sleeping powder or something. Steiner engages in his usual antics until Dagger explains that she saved some food out especially for him because she'll need him for her plan, and the pair runs off while the others are still out.

When the others come to, they don't know for sure where Dagger and Steiner have gone, so they decide to go ahead with their plan to go to Burmecia by way of a place called Gizamluke Grotto, which means running around below the Mist. We'll have the opportunity to get our fifth party member here, and maybe a Chocobo, too. But we'll save that for next time. Until then, stay safe, keep gaming, have fun, and DFTBA!

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