FFIX Versus Counterfeits – Part 4

Last time on FF9 Versus, we followed the tiny black mage Vivi through Alexandria and up to the square with the ticket booth. Also, our first minigame!

The story so far: The Tantalus thieves are going to kidnap a princess, and Vivi has a ticket to watch it happen.

ff9-018Timed button presses? Sign me up!

Alright, this is Part 2 of character two of the introduction of the game. And we’re already on post four. Seems like I might be doing this wrong. Oh well, lets just keep on keeping on. If we’re lucky, one day we’ll make it to the introductory dungeons and start talking about the game proper.

There’s plenty to investigate in the square with the ticket booth, and a couple of screens beyond that are accessible, but given the positioning of the ticket booth and the additional messages from people in the area talking about tickets for the show, most people aren’t likely to make it too far beyond this square without giving in and going to the ticket booth. Unfortunately for Vivi, it turns out that the all important ticket is a fake, which makes it look like getting to see the show is going to be a bit more difficult.

ff9-019That’s rough, buddy.

I actually thought this was a cute touch. The game starting out with Zidane and the Tantalus odd squad, then transitioning into the friendly Alexandria, sets a nice friendly tone for things so far. The cartoony character models and emotive animations (just look at that poor guy in the screenshot above) are just fantastic, and while it’s still early, they make it clear that this game is going to just be good old fun.

With the bad news that the ticket will be getting you nowhere, it’s time to explore a bit more. As I mentioned before, it’s unlikely that players investigated the areas off to the side prior to checking in with the ticket booth, in which case they’ll now make their way to the alley on the left.

It’s important that I note that the earlier confusion (from the first room with Zidane and the first screen with Vivi) of what to do is gone here. This segment is actually rather brilliantly designed. Should a player choose to go ahead to the left prior to heading to the ticket booth, you’ll eventually come across this sign:

ff9-025For those exploring every facet before the ticker booth, it’s a hint that you should head back this way (which will cause you to run into the cutscene that leads you to the next portion of the game). It’s an interesting contrast to the very linear and directed messages you were given before – it’s a nice open tidbit that can help guide you in the right direction once you discover the problem with the ticket.

After the ticket booth disappointment, but before reaching the Proletariat Patrons Movement sign again, you trigger a small custscene with a man working on a sign, and a rat kid that offers to let you work as his slave in exchange for seeing the show. Once again, you’re faced with a fake choice, but this one far more devious than the last. If you don’t want to work for the rat kid, he runs off. Try as you might, you can’t make your way to the rooftops. You have to come back to the alley screen and agree to his offer in order to progress. The last fake choice added a bit to Zidane’s personality. This one give you the opportunity to feel like you’re choosing to play along. For choices that aren’t really choices, they do a good job of bringing you in and adding to the experience.

Once you follow the rat kid, he leads you straight to a ladder to the rooftops, and one of the game’s most important mechanics: Moogles. These cute little fellows have been a series staple for quite some time, and this marks their biggest role since FF6 let you have one in your party. While they may not join you in your adventures, they function as save points, letting you save your progress and use tents to recover HP and MP of all party members. They introduce another mechanic as well: Mognet. Like so many things in FF9, it adds to the experience of the world. You get to see the letters that Moogles send to one another throughout the lands, giving you an out of party perspective on what’s happening in the world. It’s entirely optional, but a fun little touch.

ff9-021Need to save? Look for these guys.

You know, there seems to be a lot of really positive things to say about the design at this point in the game. The world is doing a good job of coming across as interesting. Vivi is a cute little character, and it’s easy to get into his intro story. It may not be as action packed as FF6 or FF7, but it’s a good way to start a game.

Alright, so we’ve now met a Moogle and joined Rat Kid’s crew. Prior to heading to the rooftops, we get a scene showing us one of my favourite characters in the game: adventurer Moogle Stilzkin. This guy shows up all over the place as the game goes on, and serves as a fun reminder that other people are out and about in the world other than just your party. Sure, everything with him is scripted, but it makes the world feel like a real place where characters are wandering around and doing things rather than just statically sitting in shops and standing in place waiting for you to come to them.

ff9-022Just look at this guy. Ready for anything.

Once you reach the rooftops, you and the rat kid make your way to go see the show. Like every other area so far, if you take your time and poke around (even though there’s a character running on ahead, encouraging you to follow rather than take your time), there are items to be found. Keep this in mind, because the entire game loves tucking items pretty much everywhere. No matter what is happening in the setting, no matter what sort of encouragement there is to move forward (like, say getting all of certain items and reaching a point within 12 hours – but lets save that for later), there’s nearly always rewards to be found if you take the time and look everywhere.

Upon reaching the end of the rooftops, we are treated to another fmv cutscene. This one is kind enough to show off our next playable character: the lovable doof Steiner.

ff9-024I imagine his face looks exactly like this for 90% of the game.

Next time on FFIX Versus: Clank clank clank.

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