Final Fantasy IX Hands-On: Day Two
You've read day one's impressions--see what day two has to offer!
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Spoiler warning: If you don't want to know the events surrounding the end of the first disc and the beginning of the second, you're advised to go look at our screenshots and video footage instead.
After the Primavista is forced into a crash landing, Zidane and company are in the forest. Garnet is nowhere to be found, so Zidane, Vivi, and Steiner form a search party. After fighting several plant monsters, they successfully rescue her and part ways with the Tantalus group. They pass through the Ice Cave and a small town on their way to Lindbulm, where Garnet hopes to seek the help of her father's best friend Cid, who is the King of Lindbulm. Steiner and Garnet part ways with Zidane and Vivi at this point. Zidane and Vivi head their own way and eventually pick up a new party member: Freija. Freija is an old friend of Zidane's, and she leads his party to her home, the Burmecian Kingdom. The Kingdom is then attacked and destroyed by Queen Blane and the armies of Alexandria. After the attack, the party eavesdrops on a conversation between the queen and a mysterious man concerning her plans to invade the rest of the continent. Zidane and company interrupt the conversation and battle a general named Beatrice, whom they defeat easily.
This is where the first disc ends. The second disc starts off slow, but eventually picks up the pace. Steiner and Garnet are caught by Queen Blane, and Garnet's summon powers are taken away. Meanwhile, Zidane and company head off on several different adventures but eventually reach Alexandria and rescue Garnet once again. Not to spoil anything, but you will see some amazing CG sequences when the summon monsters Odin and Atmos appear.
At this point, you've acquired a number of abilities that are helpful in battles. Sometimes you'll have to decide whether or not to equip stronger weapons and armor at the price of not learning abilities gleaned from the less powerful items. One way to always be one step ahead in this game is to constantly steal items from boss enemies. They tend to carry weapons and armor that you can't normally acquire until a later part in the game. By acquiring these items through stealing, you get to learn new abilities from these items at a much earlier time. The battles do get a little tough at certain points, and you need to level up and learn the right abilities to survive.
There are some interesting references made in the game - to Resident Evil, Final Fantasy VII, and even River Dance - which shows that the development staff had fun putting the game together. Although the story is linear and occasionally forces you to be taken along for a ride without knowing what's really going on, there are particular times when you can venture into different areas of the world map. For instance, you can choose to visit a marsh and let another character, Quena, join your party. The card battle, in which you can collect monster cards, also lets you take a break from your main quest. It plays similar to FFVIII, although it is now much easier to understand the concepts involved. The only thing that is a mystery is that there is a series of numbers and letters that somehow indicates how powerful each card is. Mini-events like Mognet are also a slight diversion from the main quest. Mognet is where you receive letters from Moogles and become the courier to send that letter to another Moogle. Moogles also provide save points, allow you to pitch a tent to heal HP/MP, and sometimes sell items as well.
So far, there is no mention of crystals, but summon monsters are finally entering the big picture. We'll see how the rest of the second disc fares.