Saturday, December 28, 2019

TEXT PLAY: Final Fantasy IX (PlayStation, 2000, Square-Enix): Issue #050: Back to the Gulug, Part One

Since this is a reference to classic Final Fantasy and will likely go at least two parts, and maybe even three, why not make the title a reference to a classic movie franchise from roughly the same era?

As I'm sure I've mentioned a few times over the course of this Text Play, this game is loaded to the gills with references and callbacks to previous games in the series, especially the NES era. The volcano dungeon part of this is a major example of that. The name of the place is Gulug Volcano, which is at least very similar to the name of the volcano dungeon in the very first Final Fantasy game. I'm pretty sure the music here is virtually identical, too, simply uprated from the 8-bit version to the however-many-bit version the PS1 was. Makes sense, since this game came out in 2000.

First, though, we've gotta deal with the “base” I talked about last time. I'm using the quotation marks there because it turns out the place is actually a church or temple or something that's essentially the last stop people make if they want to see the Path of Souls and the Shimmering Island. Or at least that's what the Bishop there tells us, after he gets all snippy about common rabble like us stomping around his sanctuary. I'm capitalizing “Bishop” there because the game does, and I'm not sure if it's the guy's name or his rank, since it can be both a family name and a rank that priests can have, and the people that show up after we visit the shop when we're done with him call him a priest.

It takes both Zidane and Vivi pressing the guy on the matter for him to tell us that yeah, Kuja and his Black Mages came breezing through without giving him so much as a hello on their way to the volcano, wich is the final passage to that whole Path of Souls thing he was talking about. He also notes that one of the Mages did happen to have a little girl over it's shoulder, which we're guessing is Eiko. He also says that pilgramage has been down since Kuja and Company came through. This is kind of a callback to Final Fantasy 8, too, because the timeline here seems a bit wonky to me. It makes me wonder just how long it's been since Kuja and his troops came through. I know my updates to the series have been slow of late, but that's due to IRL, offline stuff. Reflecting on this and previous playthroughs, we were like right there when Kuja's airship landed, and I probably could have gone straight to the temple, called Esto Gaza, had I not decided to screw around and get lost first. I gotta wonder how much game time has passed if there's been not only enough time for word to get out about this place, but for there to have been an impact on tourism with the arrival of the monsters that came with Kuja and his crew.

Another thing that Bishop mentions is that there was an ancient race of mole people that once lived in the volcano back in the day, but I can't remember if that was before or after he lets us go look around a bit. Either way, the mole people are said to have vanished ages ago, after sealing the place off for some reason. I guess it's meant to explain how the caves, potentially the “of Narshe” kind from Final Fantasy 6, are all built up and different from the ones in the FF1 Gulug Volcano.

Once we can look around a little bit, we can talk to people in the shop to the right of where we meet Bishop. The shop has some much needed and long overdue equipment upgrades. The people tell us that Bishop is a good guy in spite of how he conducts himself around outsiders who don't seem to believe, like the party. They also say he sometimes hears voices coming from the Path of Souls. I'd suggest it was Moogles like in FF6, but they're a known quantity in this game, and I'm guessing the other voices are not.

There's a door behind the initial sanctuary area that leads to a viewing terrace where we can have a look at the landscape. I'm not sure what it was we were supposed to see there, but at least it's a nice view. Kind of a testament to 20-year-old graphics, I guess. If I'd had any common sense, I'd have stopped right there and got on with my post then, since there was a Moogle to save with, and I'd been going for about a half hour, which is how often my doctor says I should get up and move for a little while when I do stuff like this. But because I had to be me about this, I spent another twenty minutes or so running around inside the volcano, until I found what I'm hoping is the first save point in there.

In the course of that, I was reminded of that old trope about RPGs in general and Final Fantasy games in general, in that you can start just finding new equipment around in these places once you get past the halfway or two-thirds-way point of the game. Still, I'm kind of glad I spent the gold on this stuff anyway, if only because of the Synth Shop mechanic that allows us to combine items to make new and better ones, which makes it kind of useful to have more than one of many of these pieces of equipment.

There's also a note from a mole person named Slaar saying something about how there's a switch or a lever near a well that we've gotta move if we want to get beyond a certain level. If memory serves, the save point I actually stopped at for now is right near the well in question. We'll get to that next time, though, since this is where I'm stopping for now, on account of there being other things I need to do and I kind of need to start going to bed earlier anyway. With that in mind, until next time, stay safe, have fun, keep gaming, and DFTBA.

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