Last time on Final Fantasy IX Analysis, we ran through Gizamaluke’s Grotto. Confession time, I played the entire area, wrote the entire article, and at the end finally had a feeling that I was spelling Gizamaluke wrong. I was. It was before I posted it, but pretty embarrassing all the same. One of those silly “I thought it was pronounced this way” sort of things that didn’t go away in spite of trying to pay extra attention to the game. At least my subconscious soaked it up.
Anyways, this time, we’re taking a quick sidestep to Dagger and Steiner, then back on to Burmecia. Even at this point the game is bouncing between serious and near-comedic sidestory. On to the realm of eternal rain.
As soon as the master of the Grotto is defeated, we are reminded that we need to hurry to Burmecia, then cut to Steiner with a giant bag. When I was playing this, I was all set to run off to Freya’s homeland, and felt a bit shocked when it cut to comedy travelogue with Dagger and Steiner. The segment isn’t of terrible importance, and throws off the pacing of the trip to Burmecia. Or does it?
When I took my time and thought about it a bit more, it made a lot of sense. There’s no break between the Grotto and Burmecia. We don’t have a town or rest stop that the group is heading to. Up to now, nearly every segment of the game has been a single dungeon and then a break before the next one. Even the quick transition from the Evil Forest training dungeon to the Ice Cave featured a stop and rest with a world map Moogle (and though I didn’t cover it at the time – if you go wander about the world map, there’s a Gate where you can buy items). Without the cut over to the Alexandrians heading home, there would be no pause, no chance to buy items. It’s an odd side step, but very in keeping with the established pacing.
Steiner uses a bag full of pickles to get past the guards (who are actively looking for him and Dagger), then has to get several NPCs out of the way so that Dagger can get out of her hiding bag. This hardly amounts to a sidequest – it’s primarily about running back and forth on a single screen and talking to all of the NPCs (several times, in some cases). Once Dagger is out, the duo reviews their travel plans and boards a cable car. At last, we move back to where the action is.
The strange foursome head out from the Grotto to the world map, bound for the rainy Burmecia. And I really do mean rainy – as an added touch, when you get near it begins to rain on the world map. Upon entering, it’s clear that the city is in ruins – the battle with the Black Mages has done some very serious damage (good thing the Lindblum airship fleet kept them from doing anything bad-oh wait). Upon heading in, you quickly run into Zorn and Thorn. I will say this to their credit – as much as they are obnoxious and could have easily been replaced with a much better non-Kekfa-knock-off, they have some real impact and justify themselves as a threat.
The area is a simple exploration-based romp. The room to the left is the closest to your starting position, encouraging you to check it first. Inside, you find a broken walkway and a treasure chest that’s clearly accessible from a different entry point. All that you’re left with is the door to the right. Through there, you find a room with our first interesting dungeon trap in a while: a mimic. These enemies look like a treasure chest, but cause an automatic encounter and summon helpers to make the fight more difficult. It’s not enough that encounters in general are random – now, without any indication, some treasures are actually fights. It’s a good warning to the player that things are getting a fair bit more serious – the designers are adding some challenge (largely through unfair mechanics, but hey, you can just keep on leveling up if you need to).
Once you navigate the entire area (the upper walkway falls, making the broken walkway into a viable path, leading to another mimic and the item needed to get through), you’re left with only one way to head. But that way lies a fair number of scenes, and is perhaps best left for a fresh entry.
Next time, we continue deeper into Burmecia and see what we can learn about the Black Mage attack. Also, at some point I’m going to make an aside for interesting battle mechanics (status effects and mug, specifically), so look forward to that as well.