Last time on FFIX Analysis, we started our journey into Burmecia, and caught up with Steiner and Dagger on their way back to Alexandria. Really, not a lot happened beyond establishing that we’re moving into a more dangerous part of the game. In fact, things with Burmecia have been teased/highlighted for a bit, so it seems like it might be time for them to be resolved.
This time we’re going to wrap up Burmecia and get a preview of what else the story has in store. End of Disc one, coming up.
Once the door is opened (and the bell shattered – in fact, why did the bell have to be hidden under the bed? What sort of callous monster wouldn’t check on the soldier in the room? Seems strange), the gang starts up the stairs to Burmecia proper. Freya is worried about what she might find (there haven’t been any survivors so far), but Vivi encourages her to continue on. It’s a shame that this happens in the middle of such an intense moment (it’s been a bit since saving, and it’s pretty clear that something important is just around the bend), cause it makes it easy to miss what a big deal this is. Vivi has gone from total meltdown at the sight of the Black Mages to resolutely marching on to discover the secret of the Black Mages’ origin. This is some pretty impressive character growth, and well worth pointing out.
Additionally, Freya encounters a living soldier, fleeing with his family. Finally, some survivors! In the next area, there are two doors (one on either side, and a set of stairs leading further into Burmecia. This is a pretty typical strategy in dungeon design in random encounter oriented RPGs: make the path forward clear, and the alternatives additional movement beyond that. This has a couple of effects: the player can feel good about getting to choose what to do, and they are forced to balance the benefits of potential items or equipment in exchange for the threat of additional battles. As it turns out, both of these rooms are rather valuable, and visiting them is well worth the fights.
The right leads to a save Moogle (also acts as a shopkeep, items and gear!). As a bonus, Slitzkin shows up and offers to let you buy some items to further fund his travels. He’s a cool dude, and even though I never need 90% of what he sells, I can never resist picking up whatever deal he offers. The left room leads to an armory where a statue holds a spear Freya can use (apparently nothing else in the arsenal seems worthwhile). Once these rooms are visited, it’s on to the next area.
Three doors great you here, none of them clearly a way onwards. The ground floor leads to an injured soldier and his lady, as well as a strangely unstable statue. The gang helps out just in time for the soldier to avoid being crushed, and with the help of yet another surviving soldier, they take off. The first door on the second floor goes nowhere. Really, there’s just nothing worth seeing there (it’s not even a unique room). The last door leads to treasure and onwards, taking the gang to hard to climb statues where Freya and Zidane rush on ahead.
Inside the building, the two spot Queen Brahne and Beatrix, triggering a memory for Freya. At last, we get to see Fratley as he prepares to head off and travel the world. We also get to see him talking about Beatrix being insanely dangerous, which is not the kind of memory we want to review right when we’re clearly about to fight her.
But wait, there’s more! Kuja shows up, and it becomes clear he’s the mastermind behind the Black Mages. He’s very interested in exterminating the Burmecians (“rats”), and appears to be splitting the difference between Kefka and Sephiroth. If you’ve played an RPG before (especially a Final Fantasy), it’s pretty clear that this guy is going to be a big deal going forward.
As they discuss the Burmecians fleeing to Cleyra (a city hidden in a giant sandstorm hurricane in the desert that you pass by on the way to Burmecia from the Grotto), a soldier runs up and wants to fight. Well, until he finds out that the general with the Queen is Beatrix. Then, he wants to leave. Fortunately, Freya and Zidane jump in to help, and Vivi and Quina show up at the same time. Boss fight!
This is an interesting boss: it’s not about winning the fight – it’s about surviving until Beatrix gets bored and ends it. Typical specials (which she passes out far more often than regular attacks) deal out around 600+ damage. I may have been a touch on the low-leveled side at this point (the game is pretty merciful if you just run away a lot, and I’m kind of in a rush to see everywhere rather than fight every monster a dozen times), but this is well over the amount of HP most of my party had. Once the fight ends, the Queen and Beatrix head off, and Kuja takes a look at the gang before he goes. We get a quick fmv cutscene before he heads off, with some very Sephiroth-esque posing and an interesting lack of Quina (though the Qu traveling with you is optional, s/he’s has been with you for a while, so it’s easy to forget s/he isn’t a guaranteed member at this point).
Anyways, Kuja flies off on a dragon, our heroes are defeated, and INSERT DISC 2 (Next time, we’ll do just that).