I get it. I finally get why so many people consider Final Fantasy IX to be the best of the era. This is a game that did an insane amount of things right.  It looks and sounds great, plays amazingly well and it actually fixed a lot of things people complained about in Final Fantasy VII and VIII.

A lot of the story and talking is optional, so those who don’t feel like going through it on their second play through, or even on their first, can easily skip it. As for myself, I enjoyed every moment of the story, and probably would do so again.

The part I did make use of are the optionally long summoning animations. Apparently, there was a lot of understandable complaining about the long summoning animations in Final Fantasy VII and especially VIII, so Square did what was probably the best solution. The first summoning of an eidolon shows the full length sequence. Future summoning only show the short version, unless the Boost ability is enabled on Dagger/Eiko. In that case, the full sequence is played, but the summon also does more damage. This way, people who are willing to wait through it get rewarded a bit, but most of the time, the extra damage is not needed.

Final Fantasy IX, Ending

It’s a classic happy ending, but it’s a classic game, so it works.

In one of my earlier posts about this play through, I complained about the frequency of random encounters, but over the course of the game, I’ve noticed it really isn’t a huge issue. Most of the time, the encounters are frequent only in areas where your characters could probably use some training. Other than that, I only rarely had trouble with to many encounters.

As I said, the game looks and sounds great. It’s probably one of the best looking games of the era and the soundtrack is something I often listen to as part of my regular playlists. It’ not just about the quality of the graphics, though. It’s design that makes it timeless and provides the atmosphere and charm. Everything just blends and works together perfectly.

Yes, Final Fantasy VII still is my favorite, simply because the story and the setting are probably the most developed (or the most familiar to me personally), but would have to agree that overall, Final Fantasy IX is probably the better game. Any fan of what JRPGs used to be should play this one.

I did it! I finally did it! I beat the strongest enemy in Final Fantasy IX – Ozma. It wasn’t easy, though, and there’s definitely a story to it, so here goes…

Last time, I beat the final area of the game and saw the ending. This was the easy part and I’ve done it with three of my characters being in the high 40s/low 50s. Final Fantasy IX at no point makes you grind, at all. In fact, with the proper items, which were easily obtainable, I could have probably done it in the 30s.

EDIT: Ok, Johnny got me in the comments. As with any JRPG, if you want to do the optional stuff, you’ll grind. To beat the story, though, you can just go through it the regular way. No grinding required.

In any case, while the game was beaten, some of  the goals I’ve set for the game haven’t been accomplished.  I’ve done all the side quests I wanted, but I haven’t gotten all the ultimate equipment, I haven’t learned all the abilities, nor have I beaten the optional boss.  As I previously wrote, I decided to skip the optional boss of Final Fantasy VIII, simply because he seemed not at all interesting, and I haven’t even tried beating the optional bosses of Final Fantasy VII because I’ve actually done it as a kid, so didn’t feel the need to do it again this time.

For this one, I decided to go for it, since it just seemed like a hard battle, not an especially long one, or one that requires a lot of preparation. In fact, I was convinced it was doable right after I beat the game, so I decided to go for it immediately.

Well, not immediately. First, I wanted to learn all the abilities on all of my characters. For that, I needed to do several things. First, I needed to go back to Hades’ synthesis shop and synthesize a Pumice from  the two Pumice Pieces I had. This was costly, but didn’t involve any challenge, since Hades was already beaten. Second, I had to learn the two remaining blue magics for Quina, both of which could be obtained from the “fake” guardians in the final, crystal area of Memoria. This didn’t take to long either.

Final Fantasy IX, Crystal Kraken

The crystal guardians are ugly, to put it bluntly.

Lastly, I had to grind for a bit to learn all the remaining abilities. Luckily, the fake guardians were worth 7 AP each, which adds up to 14 points per battle, when combined with Ability Up. I didn’t time myself, but it probably took me about an hour to learn most of the remaining abilities that way. I got impatient, though, so I decided to go back outside, gathering all the remaining weapons I missed on my way in and make an attempt at Ozma now, thinking 60 000 health can’t be that hard to take away.

Boy was I wrong. On my first attempt, Ozma outright killed my party with one move – Meteor. On my second attempt, I tried the Auto-Life ability, but all that got me was that after his Meteor, Ozma used Curse to kill my recently revived characters all over again. I tried it another few times, but I didn’t have a chance. Sure, with some luck, I might have been able to do it, but that wouldn’t have felt like an accomplishment then.

I didn’t feel like going back to Memoria, so I trained on Grand Dragons for a bit, until everyone but Dagger learned all of their abilities. This got my main party, now consisting of Zidane, Dagger, Steiner and Freya to their mid 50s. It also maxed out Freya’s Dragon’s Crest ability, so this was now my second character able to reliably do 9999 HP of damage. In case I haven’t mentioned it, the first one was Steiner, with his Shock! ability and he was able to do it ages ago.

By the time Zidane got to the low 70s, leveling on Grand Dragons was really started to get slow, so I decided to take my chances with Yans on Vile Island. These guys are tough, really tough. They are fast as hell and counter every action directed at them with either Float or Snort, regardless of the action hitting or doing damage.  Snort removes the targeted character from battle and if everyone gets snorted out, this means Game Over. In addition to that, their most common attack is Comet, which can do all the way up to 9999 points of damage, determined randomly. Luckily, Comet misses often, but when it hits, it hurts badly. Lastly, they also use an attack which causes the Virus status effect, though that isn’t completely bad, since the experience is never wasted, as long as at least one character is able to receive it.

They have close to 20000 health and they give over 40000 experience each, shared among the party members. Since they attack in groups up to three at a time, this is definitely the best enemy to train on, once you’re able to do it.

Final Fantasy IX – Yan Strategy

The problem was, I didn’t feel I was able to do it. I persisted, though, in spite of the Game Over screens, so I eventually figured out the proper strategy. I put Auto-Regen and Auto-Potion on all of my characters. Chemist wasn’t needed here, because it doesn’t matter how much the used potion heals for. What matters is that there’s an animation during which no one is attacking, but Auto-Regen is doing its thing. Next up, I added Auto-Life on top of that, just to make things a bit easier when a Yan  manages to get an instant kill with Comet. Lastly, I added HP +10/20% and Gamble Defense to cut the chance of an instant kill, Restore HP to add a buffer on top of that and Distraction/Awareness to further nudge things into my favor.

Once I got inside the battle, it all depended on how many Yans I was fighting. With one or two, Zidane had to act first. Soul Blade with a Masamune equipped meant I was able to cast Doom on one of the Yans. This meant that Zidane was out of the battle after this, because the Yan usually retailiates with Float, meaning the next retailation would Snort Zidane out of the battle. After Doom, Steiner and Freya do their thing with Shock! and Dragon’s Crest, killing the second Yan. Throughout all of this, both Yans usually get to act at least once, so there’s a good chance someone will die. If that happens, either they get revived after the fight, or during it, by Dagger or Zidane. Of course, this is only the cause if Auto-Life already got depleted, which rarely happens.

Final Fantasy IX, Ozma Party Setup

The heroic party that got me this achievement.

If the battle is against three Yans, then Dagger acts first, with Odin. Odin is an eidolon with a Death attack. The chance of it directly depends on the number of Ores the party has in their inventory and maxes out at 50% with 99 Ores. This means that with 3 Yans, one or two are usually dead immediately. With that out of the way, the three other characters could do their usual routine with Soul Blade, Shock! and Dragon’s Crest.

The Application

I used this strategy for about 30 minutes, which got Zidane to level 78 and the rest of the group to somewhere around 65. I got confident, so I decided to try my luck with Ozma again and this time, it worked. Ozma started out with Meteor, but the party survived and, thanks to Auto-Potion and Auto-Regen, almost completely recovered before anyone could make another move. After that, Freya and Steiner did their 9999 damage moves, with Dagger throwing a 7000 Ark on top of it. That was 27000 out of 55000 HP gone right there. Ozma then tried using Mini, which got reflected back at him, meaning he wasted a turn. I got a chance to do another Shock!, but Freya didn’t get a chance to act before Ozma’s next move. This one killed both Stiener and Freya, but Auto-Life brought them back and Zidane and Dagger’s Auto-Potion gave them a chance to recover with Auto-Regen.
Finally, Ozma used Curse, which killed Zidane, causing him to come back with Auto-Life, while causing various status effects on the rest of the party. Freya managed to Squeeze in another Dragon’s Crest, with another Ark from Dagger, bringing me to a total of about 53-54000 damage. Then Ozma threw another Curse, casting Stop on anyone but Zidane. That was all I needed, though, because one last pysical hit from Zidane was the final killing blow.

Summoning Ark Against Ozma

Ark wan’t the biggest damage dealer, but it tipped the scales.

Final Fantasy IX – 100% Completed

With the optional boss defeated, all the interesting side quests solved, and all the abilities learned, I can now put this game on the 100% completed list. It took a surprisingly small amount of grinding to get to this point, but the game was no less fun because of it. In fact, I’d consider this a strength. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good JRPG grind, but I love it even more when there’s a point to it, without any boring filler.

Now I have to decide what to play next. I’m thinking one of my other JRPGs from the era, perhaps Grandia.  I also have Koudelka, which I never properly played. Heck, I even have Final Fantasy VI, which is another game people consider a classic. Maybe Vagrant Story? Or I might just buy another one from the PSN. Who knows…

The Final Boss, Necron

Since the last time I wrote about Final Fantasy IX, I’ve spent a good hour or two fixing up Mognet Central. This side quest involved a lot of trecking back and forth, delivering letters to various moogles in order to figure out which item I need to fix the Mognet Central mail sorting machine. I had to go to Alexandria first, then to Burmecia, Ipsen’s Castle, Daguerreo and the Qu’s Marsh among other places. Each letter I delivered rewarded me with a kupo nut I promptly delivered to the moogle family at Gizamaluke’s Groto. It wasn’t really worth it, though. Past the first nut I delivered, which got me an Aloha T-Shirt, all I got was a couple of Ether’s and a Phoenix Pinion or two.

Final Mognet Central Letter

The item needed was Superslick, which is some hair gel that Ruby had.

The side quest itself, though, was well worth it, getting me a Protect Ring which, apart from teaching me a bunch of useful abilities, also halves damage from all the elements.

Eventually, I learned all or most of the abilities I could, so I decided to go to Memoria, the final area, just so I could get all the rest of the abilities and items. Killing the Nova Dragon was easy enough and the first part of Memoria wasn’t much of a challenge either.

Once I killed the first two Chaos Guardians, I got to an area where the random encounters involved fighting Behemots and enemies who look like the Materia Keeper from Final Fantasy VII. At this point, I also decided to switch my party up, so the less trained guys could advance a bit to. This was a huge mistake. Both of these enemies did a load of physical damage so several times, my whole party was nearly wiped. Somehow, I managed to survive and, once I gained a few levels and switched to stronger items, the place became easy again.

I kept pushing further, fighting fresh enemies, killing guardians and missing on items which were the only reason I entered the place (sigh) and eventually got to the final area. This is why I like this game! The very final save, which is located right next to the final room, with the final three bosses, has a “teleport back to the entrance” option. Basically, there is no “point of no return” in this game. Even better, once you kill the first of the three final bosses, you still get to exit the room, go to the save and teleport to the outside. Only the final two bosses are tied battles.

In any case, I saved my game and decided to just go for it. Killing Deathguise was easy, while Kuja might have been even easier. The final boss, Necron, provided a bit of a challenge, but I don’t think I was ever in real danger. It just took me a while because he kept killing my characters, so I had to play defensively.

The Final Boss, Necron

Necron is introduced a bit out of the blue, but I didn’t mind.

Eventually, he fell and Final Fantasy IX is now the last Final Fantasy game of the PlayStation era to be completed by me. Did I like it? Yes, absolutely. Is it my favorite? It might actually be. I have to think about it. For now, all I can say is that I’m not done yet. I’ll reload on my final save, learn the Blue Magic from enemies in Memoria I can eat, gather up the rest of the items and then go back outside to max out my characters and kill Ozma.

I forgot to mention, I also killed Hades, which is an optional boss in Memoria. Killing him got me access to his hidden synthesis shop, where I made a Pumice accessory. This one allows Garnet to learn Ark, her final Eidolon. I also made a full stack of Phoenix Pinions, so Eiko’s Phoenix does more damage now.

In any case, it’s time to do some final grinding, before tackling Ozma. Lot’s of “finals” in this article. 😀

I trained on Grand Dragons for a bit, but I got bored soon, so I decided to start checking side quests of my list. In order to do that, I actually had to make my list, so here it is. I’m only listing stuff that gives equipment rewards, etc. I’m not interested in cards, flair key items or anything of the sort.

  • Find all the friendly spirits to weaken the optional boss
  • Beat the optional boss
  • Find all 12 (13) Stellazio coins
  • Fix Mognet Central
  • Get kupo nuts to the Moogle family
  • Answer all the questions of Ragtime Mouse
  • Beat all the monsters in Treno
  • Find all the chocobo treasures
  • Get all the ultimate weapons
  • Upgrade all the special character skills (Frog Drop, Thievery…)
  • Learn all the abilities
  • Get the ultimate gear

As of now, I got all the friendly spirits. I even got lucky with the friendly Yan, what with getting it in my first fight on the island of sheep from hell (TM). I haven’t even tried beating the optional boss, but I’ll guess I’ll have to get around to that soon.

Final Fantasy IX - Friendly Yan

The friendly Yan is by far the cutest critter of the series.

I got all 13 coins, with Sagittarius and Scorpio giving me the most trouble. I remembered where the 13th coin was from my first play through, so that wasn’t an issue. This means I now have my first Robe of Lords.

I’ve found Mognet Central and even got my first letter to deliver, but I haven’t started the deliveries yet. This ties to the Moogle family feeding, since I get a kupo nut for each letter I deliver. I already had one nut, though, so I gave it to the family and got an Aloha Shirt. It’s a useless flair item, so I wont be using it.

I’ve encountered the Ragtime Mouse several times and already failed a few questions, so I’ll need to be really careful from now on. If I remember correctly, if I don’t get enough questions right, I won’t get the final reward, whatever it is. I might go for a guide on this one.

The monsters in Treno were beaten easily. That is, the final monster, a behemoth, was beaten easily by a tranced Zidane. While I was there, I also bought some items on the auction, but the one I needed the most wasn’t there yet. For this, I had to go to Daguerreo and make a guy there tell me he wants a Magical Fingertip. One he told me that, it instantly appeared at the auction so I bought it, with having just enough money for it. I’m serious here. I had 60 000 on me, and I bought the item for around 59 000. I brought it to the guy in Daguerreo, who gave me Excalibur, Steiner’s “ultimate” weapon.

The thing is, it isn’t really ultimate. First of all, it provides less strength than Ragnarok, which I already got somewhere, can’t remember where. Secondly, if you get to the final area of the game in under 12 hours total, you get Excalibur II, which is the true ultimate weapon. Since I’m at 40 hours right now, I don’t think I’ll get there in time.

I also finally managed to dig out (or dive out) Zidane’s Ultimate Weapon, after spending a bunch of Death Peppers. You can see the location on the screenshot (unless I forget to upload it).  Same goes for Dagger’s ultimate weapon, which was hidden in the treasure chest for the Ocean Chocograph.

Final Fantasy IX - Zidane's Ultimate Weapon

You should probably use the small island in the background as a guide.

This brings me to the next point – I got all the chocobo treasures, including all of the Death Pepper ones (or at least I think I got all of them). In addition to Dagger’s ultimate weapon, this means I also have the Tiger Racket which is awesome for both Dagger and Eiko, as well as Freya’s ultimate, the name of which escapes me right now. I think it was Dragon’s Hair or something.

Four or five ultimate weapons are actually in the final area, but before the point of no return, so I’ll probably head there soon to get them. There’s also another optional boss there, Hades, which opens up a special Synthesis shop if I beat him.

Lastly, I wan’t to learn all the abilities on each character and boost their special attacks to the max. Not all of them have these attacks, but what I’m referring to are Zidane’s Thievery, which is maxed out by stealing, Quina’s Frog Drop, for which I need to catch a total of 100 frogs, and Freya’s random skill the name of which I forgot again. I must subconsciously dislike Freya or something. Consciously, I like her and her abilities very much.

Speaking of abilities, most of my characters already have most of theirs. I just need to figure out which ones I’m missing and which items I need to get those.

Overall, Final Fantasy IX has no shortage of side quests, and most of them are really fun to do.

Again, due to work, Final Fantasy IX has been played extremely sporadically over the last few days, with not much of note happening in the game.

Before I get to the final area and complete the game, I’d like to get the ultimate weapons for all of my characters, possibly gather all the Stellazio (or is it Stelazios?), train up a bit and learn all the abilities. Additionally, I wouldn’t mind killing the optional boss, which I never even saw as a kid, for some reason.

In order to do all that, I need lots of money, which means I need to kill enemies. At first, I thought I could get money by buying the several key items at the Treno auction house and then sell them at a profit to various NPC, but after trying that for a while, I concluded it would be just as fast, or almost just as fast to get the money through fighting, and that way, I also get experience and ability points.

Final Fantasy IX - Moogle Letter

I forgot to take pictures, so here’s a random moogle letter, kupo!

I’m still not using guides, but I think I will become necessary very soon, at least so I can get the ultimate weapons and the stellazios in a reasonable amount of time. I’ve already tried going for Zidane’s ultimate weapon, because I distinctly remembered it’s underwater at the place where the entrance to Terra used to be, but I used several death peppers with Choco and I couldn’t find it. Either I’m missing something, or it needs to be a very specific spot.

What I’m doing now is training on grand dragons around Daguerreo. I’ve equipped my party with Thunder resistance and absorption gear and enabled the Antibody and Auto-Regen abilities, so I don’t even have to heal while killing them. Since their health is pretty low, a single Shock! by Steiner and a regular attack by Zidane are usually enough to take care of them. The only annoyance is the appearance of the black cat enemy, which gives almost no experience at all. Still, at least I get some money, so it’s not a complete waste of time.

I’ve played in extremely short sessions over the past week, so I decided to do another summary instead of spreading it over a bunch of short reports.

Final Fantasy IX, Ipsen's Castle

Ipsen’s Castle reminds me of Castlevania.

Ipsen’s castle was cleared without much difficulty, apart from the mechanic which is only on issue to figure out on your first play through. You see, Ipsen’s Castle handles weapons in a very special way. The weapons each character starts with do the most damage here, and the stronger your weapon gets in the rest of the game, the weaker it is in the castle.

Since I remembered this mechanic very well from my play through as a kid, I kept all of my weapons from the start. In fact, at this point, I’m pretty sure I haven’t sold any piece of equipment yet. The regular route a player usually takes is to gradually pick up all the starter weapons within the castle, but for me, there was very little difficulty right from the start.

So I cleared the castle and found the instructions on how to get to Terra. There were four shrines in Gaia, each protected by a guardian from Terra. I had to split my party into four teams of two and defeat all the guardians at the same time. This was actually completely automatic. I had no control over party division and I only had to fight one battle, against the earth guardian, with Zidane and Quina. Thanks to Auto-Float, the guardian’s strongest attack couldn’t hurt me, so the fight was a breeze.

Final Fantasy IX, Earth Shrine

As usual, Zidane got stuck with Quina.

After this, I took a bit of a detour and decided to get some items and blue magics before going to Terra, since the world will be changing when I come back. I’ve spent maybe an hour or two in total, training, learning blue spells and just exploring the world, before finally going to Terra.

Terra is basically the final area before the final area. There isn’t much to do there, but the story really takes a jump at this point. It’s revealed that Terra was destroyed and now an android made by the Terrans, Garland, wants to basically destroy Gaia to restore Terra. It’s also revealed that Zidane is one of the Genomes, which are basically advanced versions of the Black Mages, created by Garland instead of Kuja. Kuja is one to, but he rebelled and is now trying to defeat Garland and take over.

All of these revelations are followed by a short section where Zidane finally gets to act like a typical Final Fantasy protagonist – overly emotional, depressed and socially inept. It only lasts for a short while, though and then Zidane is back to his old, awesome self. Not to forget, the whole thing is accompanied by one of the best pieces of music in the series – You Are Not Alone.

Final Fantasy IX, You Are Not Alone

You are not alone…

This was then followed by a short trek through a dungeon, where I actually missed a few items because I didn’t feel like backtracking. Finally, I got to the moogle and saved, because three boss battles with no breaks in between followed.

Apparently, I’m really, REALLY overpowered, because none of the battles even made a dent in me. The silver dragon was first and Zidane didn’t even manage to steal all of his items, even though Steiner was the only one attacking. Steiner, thanks to his Ragnarok, is actually doing 9999 points of damage with his Shock skill. There really is no need for anyone else to attack with those numbers. Garland was next and he fell just as fast, followed by Kuja. The fight against Kuja was one of those unwinnable fights JRPGs love to throw at you, but before the “I’m so strong I’m gonna knock all of you out with one move” sequence, he didn’t give me any trouble either.

Final Fantasy IX, Trance Kuja

Kuja just has too much ego.

Finally it was over, I got the airship Invincible and I got back to Gaia, with the Genomes on board. They get dropped off at the black mage village, what with being related and all, and I was now ready to get to the final area and complete the game.

Well, I could do that, or I could get all the ultimate gear, skills, etc.

This weekend, my Internet was down, meaning there was almost nothing productive I could do. Well, there was something productive. We got snowed in, so I’ve spent a couple of hours yesterday and today shoveling snow. Other than that, I was free to game and free to spend hours playing Final Fantasy IX. Since a lot has happened during this “marathon”, I’ll try to keep it short.

The Story

There was some story building in Alexandria, where Kuja attacks and destroys most of the city with Bahamut, in a battle against Alexander, who gets summoned by Eiko and Dagger. These events do psychological damage to Dagger, which causes her to lose her voice for a period on the story. In the process, a new villain is revealed. His name is Garland and he’s working against Kuja, but that definitely doesn’t make him a friend. Not much is revealed about him, though.

Final Fantasy IX, Alexander

This is the coolest version of Alexander ever.

The party escapes to Lindblum, where Cid develops a plan to track down and defeat Kuja. Before that, there’s a realization the black mages are working for Kuja again, so the group decided to go back to their village and see what’s happening. One of the remaining mages there tells them where Kuja’s base of operations is.

We enter the base, but it’s a trap and the group gets captured. Kuja sends Zidane and three other people to an area on the Forgotten Continent to the west, to get an item. The place has an anti-magic barrier so he can’t get it himself.

While one group is getting the item, the rest of the party manages to escape on their own. Zidane and his group returns and everyone faces Kuja, but in the whole mess of it, Zorn and Thorn managed to kidnap Eiko. They take her to the Lost Continent to the northwest and the group follows them to Esto Gaza.

Final Fantasy IX, Gaia and Terra

Oeil Vert was the place for backstory.

From Esto Gaza, they take the route to Mount Gulug, where, just as the group is about to engage with Zorn and Thorn, Mog intervenes and reveals that he’s an eidolon meant to protect Eiko. She saves Eiko and stops the eidolon extraction, but sacrifices herself in the process. Kuja flees, but there’s a positive.

It turns out, Kuja was keeping Cid’s wife prisoner at mount Gulug, so she’s free now. She turns Cid back into a human and is able to tell the group everything about Kuja’s plans. Apparently, there are two worlds. One is Gaia, where everyone is now. The other is Terra and it somehow exists in parallel to Gaia. That’s where Kuja is from. He wants to destroy Gaia and get an incredible amount of power that way, all in order to get rid of Garland.

The plan now is to somehow get to Terra and get more information there. Instructions on how to get there are at a castle on the Forgotten Continent – Ipsen’s Castle.

The Game

Alexandria was mostly storytelling, with a couple of minor side quests mixed in. During the attack, Steiner and Beatrix were kicking some serious but as a team and I definitely loved that part, especially the music, but that was about it. Same goes for Lindblum – lots of interesting story telling, but little actual gameplay.

Before I got to the mage village, I used the ship I now had to train my chocobo more. It took me a couple of hours, but I got him to the point where he was able to climb mountains. Then I got to the mage village and Kuja’s palace, which got finally got me access to the Forgotten Continent. I used my chocobo to explore around for a bit, but eventually entered Oeil Vert and got the item I needed.

The escape part with the other group allowed me to play as Cid for a bit. It was funny, and involved some skill based challenges, as well as a puzzle, but it didn’t take long. The group that was left behind was also behind in levels, so for the first dozen or so random battles, I basically gained levels after every victory.

Final Fantasy IX, Desert Palace Boss

The more thoroughly you explore the desert palace, the less “enhancing” the boss can do.

When I finally went after Eiko, I was already familiar with Esto Gaza, because I got there a bit earlier, while treasure hunting with Choco. However, the store had much better items this time, including a staff for Vivi, which taught him the *ga spells (Blizzaga, Firaga, Thundaga). Mount Gulug was tough, but I didn’t stay there long, so I managed to get through it without to many issues.

After I finally got everyone back together, I also got the airship, meaning I now had access to most of the world. I got to Daguerrero, which is a sort of a “bonus” city of this game. It contains some puzzles and high level shops, so I made use of that. I also tried to train on the grand dragons in an area nearby, but, although I get a lot of experience, I don’t think the difficulty makes it worth it.

I decided to complete the rest of the chocobo treasure hunting side quest, so the next several hours were devoted to that. I upgraded chocobo all the way and got all the chocograph treasures apart from the one in the middle of the ocean. I hope I’ll stumble into that one eventually, but for now, it seems ridiculously hard to find. In any case, I got some nice items from all of that, as well as access to the optional boss of this game. I won’t even try to defeat him at this point.

Final Fantasy IX, Chocobo's Air Garden

Besides digging for treasure, you can also fight a difficult optional boss at the Air Garden.

From my first play through, I remembered there was something important at one of the islands in the center of the map, but I immediately regretted going there. The only enemies there are some extremely dangerous sheep. I’m sure the rewards for beating them are great, but for now, I don’t stand a chance.

In any case, that was about all I did during these two days. It’s a lot, but there’s still a long way to go. For now, I need to go to Ipsen’s Castle.

I had to fight a boss before I left the mountain path. Thanks to me having two healers, the fight was easy, but it took a while, especially since my only dealer of larger amounts of damage was busy stealing. I eventually ended up resorting to Vivi’s magic and Dagger’s Ramuh in order to kill it. Even with the long time it took, Zidane didn’t manage to steal everything from the boss. I’m starting to remember why the stealing mechanic sometimes annoyed me on the first play through.

Final Fantasy IX, Mountain Path Boss

Eiko starts out with Auto-Regen.

The Iifa Tree was accessible from an alternative route in the Mountain Path, so I went there and finally reached the tree itself. The route through it was long, and it was soon obvious that the tree is what generates the mist on the Mist Continent. Eventually, I got to the bottom and was soon attacked by a boss.I finally got to Madain Sari, where the story advanced a lot. To put it short, it turned out Eiko was an orphan, living with just her moogle friends there. Dagger also realizes that she must be from Madain Sari to, because she has vague memories of the place. Eventually, the story focuses on the Iifa Tree again, and Eiko agrees to guide he party to it.

I guess an undead boss appears at least once in most Final Fantasy games. Soulcage was one of these bosses. For a moment, I thought about killing him the legitimate way, but after I’ve seen how much damage it does, I promptly used on elixir on it.

Final Fantasy IX, Soulcage

Soulcage is really tough, unless you use an elixir on him.

As you can probably tell, this game is a lot more focused on storytelling and I’d even say it treats battles and dungeons more as filler than anything else. In most JRPG’s, I’d have a problem with this, but somehow, the game manages to keep all the talking and storytelling fun and interesting. I’m really starting to see why a lot of people considers Final Fantasy IX the best one in the franchise.The boss was gone and the tree stopped producing mist, but there wasn’t much time to be happy about it, because Kuja flew in on his silver dragon. Brahne and her fleet followed, so there was a huge battle scene, in which Brahne got killed. Eventually, the screen went black, and the story shifted to a short time later, with everyone back in Alexandria.

Once out of the Fossil Roo, I didn’t really have a direction to go to. However, the only place I could really go to was Conde Petie. Conde Petie is a town of dwarves, which is basically just rest stop between several important game locations.

Final Fantasy IX, Conde Petie

It’s been a long time since dwarves appeared in a Final Fantasy game. There’s a whole village of them in Conde Petie.

Anyway, before I got to the village, I decided to spend some time learning new blue magic with Quina. I got a few new spells, but nothing really important. I also summoned Choco at the local tracks and used him to open up a Chocograph treasure chest. I’ve spent quite a sum of money to buy fresh gear at Conde Petie, so I also used the opportunity to get my cash supply back up, since I knew the mage village has an amazing synthesis shop. With all of that, my four characters got to around level 25.The first one was the village of the black mages. You get there by stumbling into a black mage who has been trading with the dwarves. He runs away, showing he’s extremely afraid of humans, but the dwarves point you in the right direction – “deep in the forest, where the owls don’t fly”, or something like that. I’m not sure if this is a reference to the Final Fantasy VIII rebel password or if I’m just reading to much into it.

Final Fantasy IX, Ramuh

Ramuh was very useful during training, since Zidane was the only physical damage dealer.

Anyway, after that, the game took me back to Conde Petie, where I found out someone’s been stealing the dwarves’ food, and a hint of a new character is shown. This subplot got a bit postponed, though, due to a new problem arising.I finally got to the village, where some storytelling happens. It’s revealed that some of the black mages sometimes gain sentience, which is how that group wound up on this continent. It’s also revealed that they have an extremely limited lifespan, with most of them simply “stopping” after about a year of activity. No one ever explicitly states that the same applies to Vivi, but there’s no reason not to think that, since he’s a black mage to.

The only way to get to “The Sanctuary” on the other side of the mountains is through Conde Petie. However, the dwarves only let through people who are on a kind of honeymoon. This makes for a nice, comical moment, but also leaves room for Zidane and Dagger’s relationship to grow a bit. Overall, Final Fantasy IX handles these things in a much more lighthearted manner, compared to the other two games on the PlayStation.

Final Fantasy IX, Wedding

Dagger was really eager to “get hitched”.

While running, she ends up stuck on a cliff, her faithful friend Mog ditches her and Zidane ends up saving her. This starts another funny subplot, where this six years old ends up having a crush on Zidane. Quina chases Mog, so Eiko replaces him/her as a group member. At this point, though it’s still unclear what Quina’s gender is, most of the characters in the game refer to it as “him”, so I will to, from now on.The ceremony is quick, and it’s time to get through the city, but not before I encountered the infamous food thief. The thief turns out to be Eiko Caroll, the new playable character. She’s a summoner, which means she uses White Magic and Summoning, just like Dagger. However, she learns her spells in a different order and her eidolons are different to.

Final Fantasy IX, Meeting Eiko

Mog ditching Eiko is a recurring joke.

Eiko invites the group to her home in Madain Sari, but I still had a ways to get there. The area I was in was yet to be explored and a boss was waiting for me. Before that, though, thanks to the PSP’s pause function, I was able to end my session here


I got to the Marsh and met up with Quina again. It turns out she backtracked all the way to here from Cleyra, all on her own. She rejoined the party and helped me find the entrance to the tunnel I’ve been looking for.

Final Fantasy IX, Chase Boss

I’m not sure if this boss is beatable, but I haven’t really tried anything other than running.

The tunnels involved some track switching puzzles. The location was full of untamed gargants, which I could lure with flowers and ride from one area to the other. In order to make them go in the right direction, I needed to pull various switches, which changed the track layout. Some switches led me to dead ends containing treasure, but I’m absolutely sure I didn’t get all of them before I got out.Soon after I entered, I started getting chased by some weird machine. I’m not sure if I could’ve killed it, but after a few chases, it fell down a hole and that was it. In the room after that, though, I met Lani. She and some red haired guy got hired by Brahne to get Dagger’s pendant back, so I had to fight her. Again, the fight wasn’t to difficult and I used the standard tactic. Zidane was stealing, Dagger was healing and the other two, Vivi and Quina in this case, did the damage. The fight was over soon and Lani ran away. I went into the tunnels.

Final Fantasy IX, Fossil Roo Exit

Light at the end of the tunnel.

In the central room, I also met Stilzkin, the traveling moogle, who got his usual tree random items for sale, which I bought. One of the rooms also had a treasure hunter which let me dig for items in exchange for a potion, but I didn’t bother with it. Eventually, I found the exit and I was outside, at the Outer Continent.