FFIX Analysis Part 20 – Disc Change

Last time on FFIX Analysis we came up to the end of disc 1. The gang made it through Burmecia and encountered a new villain: the oddly dressed Kuja. Seriously, I have no idea what’s happening with that outfit. This fellow is providing Black Mages to Alexandria and watching them murder innocents. Certainly a mad-scientist Hojo meets Sephiroth with a touch of Kefka. In fact I wonder if there’s some phonetic intention with Kefka + Hojo = Kuja. Probably not. Let’s move on.

This will be a shorter one. Just a quick jaunt with Dagger and Steiner, and then perhaps a surprise for next time. We’ll see.

The disc changed is actually something I really miss from Playstion RPGs. There was a tactile and physical activity that directly corresponded to your progress through the game. Sure, it’s a result of overly ambitious cutscenes combined with pre-rendered backgrounds, crisp beautiful music, and tons of locations, enemies, and dialogue. Well, in this case it’s great (that’s not a guarantee for all PSX RPGs). The physical event of changing discs carries a lot of weight with it – similar to seeing a new chapter in a book, moving on to a new book in a series, flipping a cassette or vinyl, it marks a clear change and a solid segregation.

The story design of FF9 reflects the value inherent in a disc change – it builds to a huge conflict, introduces a new villain, and provides some level of answer to the where are the Black Mages coming from question while creating new questions at the same time. It’s the cliffhanger at the end of a movie that part of a trilogy – there’s more going to happen, so get ready. It’s a sensation I miss. Don’t get me wrong, I love digital distribution and not having to keep a bunch of discs lying about to be swapped out for different games (or just different segments of the same game). But there’s a joy in changing a disc – the knowledge that there’s more coming, that I’ve only seen part of the story, that the excitement I’ve felt isn’t yet over (well, maybe excluding Xenogears, but that’s a story for another time) – that I just can’t get from within a game. Sure, it’s just nostalgia rearing it’s head – but there’s a very special feeling that comes from getting up, popping open the system, and switching out discs to keep playing.

Okay, I could go on about the magic of disc changes all day, but that’s not what we’re here for, is it? With the heroes defeated (though certainly not dead – Beatrix leaves any of the members she hadn’t already horribly murdered at one HP when she ends the fight), we change focus back to Dagger and Steiner on their trip to Treno/Alexandria. The odd couple arrive at the Summit Station, which exclusively exists to move passengers between the Lindblum/Summit cart and the Summit/Alexandria cart. It’s actually a rather brilliant piece of engineering (for those of you that are into mechanical engineering and reading every little bit of NPC text). The carts are connected, and use the summit point as a point of leverage. Due to the similar weights, they act as counterbalances, letting them go up and down with minimal effort in exchange for only one being able to reach the top at a time.

At the station Dagger runs into a couple of characters we haven’t seen in a decent while – Cinna and Marcus. After a minor altercation with Steiner, the two get ready to split off on their own journeys. Cinna is returning to Lindblum to meet up with the rest of the Tantalus troupe. Marcus is off to Treno to follow a lead on Supersoft (highlighted in convenient yellow text to let us know it’s serious business). In case you forgot, Blank is still petrified in the Evil Forest (I have taken a damn long time to get here, so it’s okay if you don’t remember), and Cinna and Marcus were in charge of discovering how to save him.

All of this is being related as the characters are talking, loading into the cart, and heading down. This all grinds to a stop when the cart does, thanks to a pointy hatted demon outside. At this point, the gang is just Dagger, Steiner, and a guest visit from Marcus. It’s actually rather nice to have Marcus along – not as much to take damage from Steiner as to steal from the Black Waltz (these folks are just loaded with magical items, and understandably so). The Waltz is in a bad way, so even with the smaller party it’s a short trip to the end of the battle – no special strategies here.

With the Waltz handled, the cart resumes and the gang arrives at the bottom, near Treno. To the left is the gate to Dali – exactly as you saw it the first time if you stopped by while in Dali territory. To the right is the gate to Treno, and a hop out onto the world map. With that transition, we’ll call it quits for this time. Next time, uh, I don’t remember. It’s been a bit since I’ve played through FF9, and I’ve done the first disc more times than any other portion of the game by far (not as unbalanced of my Midgar vs everything else playtime in FF7, but the same general idea). So, next time will be an adventure for both of us, as I find out what disc 2 has in store that’s faded from my memory.

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