FFIX Analysis Part 17 – The Grotto

Last time on FF9 Analysis we wrapped up Lindblum and took a look at the surrounding areas (namely the Qu Swamp and the Chocobo Forest). We discovered some minigames and put off finally advancing things by entering into Gizmaluke’s Grotto.

The fun is over, and it’s time for the story to march on once again. This time, we’ll make it through the Grotto and meet Master Gizamaluke. It’s a short dungeon, but with a lot of personality (that seems to be a common thread in this game).

Upon reaching the entrance from the world map, before we even enter into the Grotto proper we find two defeated Burmecian soldiers. Apparently the report of the attack was right on the money (though it seems like things should have been destroyed a little longer for how long we took to show up). From here it’s a quick (but hauntingly beautiful) dungeon.

Inside is a nearly dead soldier that gives us a Gizamaluke Bell. The bell makes the bell on the door ring, but shatters after being used. I can only imagine what it’s like to get around there when it’s not just four plucky adventurers making their way through a dungeon. Bell makers in the Grotto and Burmecia must be very well off.

Upon entering things proper (rather than the small front entryway that is the first screen of the dungeon), we’re treated to a cutscene of Black Mages attacking a soldier, and Zorn and Thorn show up. Ever the comedic (but not actually funny) recurring villains, they don’t recall who Zidane is, but send the Black Mages to kill the gang.

For Quina users, this is an interesting fight – unlike most other monsters, the Black Mages cannot be eaten. It’s not just that there is no power to learn – Quina refuses to eat them. Not surprising, given what they are, but worth mentioning as it’s another nice story meets gameplay touch.

Upon defeating the initial group, Zorn and Thorn run for it. You’re able to head further into the room, and in addition to the random encounters, there’s a wandering Black Mage that triggers another fight. It might seem like a good idea to avoid them, but winning the battle grants another Gizamaluke Bell, allowing further progress. You have three doors to choose from – two lead to the same room and progress, one leads to an item and another Bell. It’s not clear where the middle and right door go, so there’s no indication if you should choose one of them (as it is, neither one prevents you from getting anything). Once you grab the item, the Bell, and continue on, you come to a Moogle and a huge bell.

It turns out that the Moogle and her poor husband were just wrapping up their wedding when the Black Mages attacked. The husband is trapped under the bell, but thanks to the Kupo Nut Vivi picked up in an ATE back in Lindblum, he’s able to flip the bell and escape. The Moogles flee to another room, giving you a safe save room to visit before progressing.

The save room has a vine leading up to the world map, and some particularly brutal encounters. As in, a Grand Dragon that deals damage well into the thousands (and you’re likely in the 500HP area at the moment). The Moogles do warn you that it’s not safe outside (versus inside where Black Mages are murdering people), but failure to heed their warning or save can result in a very unpleasant surprise.

On the way out of the save room the Moogle gives you the Holy Bell, which makes it possible to enter Gizamaluke’s lair. I’m still not sure what the deal is with all the one time use bell-locks, but hey, it’s not my grotto. Enter into the lair, and it’s a boss fight against a mad Gizamaluke (after the fight, Freya mentions how odd it is that Master Gizamaluke attacked, but I’m not sure that it will ever be explained beyond “we needed a boss fight for the dungeon”).

The boss fight isn’t terribly difficult or noteworthy. Gizamaluke uses the Water spell a lot, and if you have Mighty Guard Blue Magic and enough MP to use it, the damage reduction makes the fight far more survivable. All in all, the battle has a feeling of a major turning point. We’ve gone from a Festival and minigames to a brutal grotto filled with dead soldiers and a brutal boss fight. It’s easy to expect some crazy happenings from here, but that will need to wait for part 18.

A quick note about screen shots: I do intend to come back through and add screen shots to these entries at a later date. The method for typing up these analysis entries doesn’t allow for including my screen caps, but I have certainly been getting lots of shots as I go through. Don’t worry, there are pictures, and some day they’ll be here… just not today.

Next time: I hope you didn’t forget about Dagger and Steiner.

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