As expected, I drifted away from Final Fantasy IX on disc two, like I always do, though I partially have a good reason: I moved. Like, physically, from one abode to another. That meant, for a few days or so, my PlayStation 2 was not hooked up to a television, packed away in some box that sat in a family of cluttered boxes, unable to differentiate itself to me. Hands down, that is a solid reason why I stopped playing; however, after hooking everything up, I still didn’t give it my undivided love and attention for over two months, mostly because I got stuck on the Soulcage boss at the Iifa Tree, and I was never seemingly in the mood to grind everyone up three or four levels.
The good news is that I finally showed the Soulcage who is the true boss, thanks to grinding while listening to a podcast and then spamming Bio and summoning Ramuh a few times. Now I can continue on in this fifteen-year-old RPG that I’ve never beaten. If you’re curious, I’m at the beginning of disc three currently, and it’s actually a miracle I made the leap from disc two. I may have talked about this before, but another common reason I often walked away from Final Fantasy IX as a young gaming lad was because my disc two is scratched or damaged internally, which causes the FMV to glitch out and, occasionally, freeze. The clips after you clear away the Mist from the Iifa Tree and Kaju and Garnet’s second mother duke it out certainly skipped and stuttered, but thankfully never locked up.
Anyways, originally, I opened this post with paragraph below, but it’s been in my drafts folder for so long I felt like I needed to explain–more to myself than y’all–why I’ve been so quiet on my quest to beat Final Fantasy IX in 2015.
This might be a bold claim, but I feel pretty safe in my assumptions: the stories told in Final Fantasy IX‘s Active Time Events are more enthralling than the main plot. The even crazier thing? They are entirely miss-able, though I do not suggest you miss any of ’em.
Commonly abbreviated to ATE in the same fashion that Active Time Battle is also referred to as ATB in any roleplaying game forum, Active Time Events is a system that gives the player the ability to view short, optional scenes in Final Fantasy IX that are happening at the same time, either nearby the main cast or elsewhere in the Mist-shrouded world. The system was created by Hiroyuki Ito, the game’s director, and, possibly next to the mechanic where you level up passive and active abilities to earn them permanently, this is my favorite aspect from 2000’s throw-back entry to the Final Fantasy series.
Unlike a number of other RPGs, when you often arrive in a town, the party splits up instead of walking around together in one long line like a bunch of children in school heading out for recess. This makes logical sense in a fantasy world where there is so much to see–Vivi wants to explore, Quina is in search of new cuisine to try, and Steiner must ensure there is no danger for the princess-in-hiding up ahead. So on and so on. You’ll mostly be in control of Zidane, moving from screen to screen, and as you do, ATE will activate, prompting you to view a side story scene by title only. These titles are generally a few words long, but intriguing nonetheless, such as “Do As I Say, Not As I Do,” “Dagger Tries,” and, of course, “No Yummy-Yummies!” Watch the scene and then get back to doing what you were originally doing.
Honestly, I can’t imagine someone playing Final Fantasy IX and not viewing these additional scenes. Sure, a few are goofy and less than vital, like the ones involving Moogles or NPCs you don’t really interact with much, but the majority are staggering in the amount of info and details they reveal. Such as when Dagger tries to learn how to speak like a commoner or Vivi’s quizzical time in the Black Mage Village. Without these moments, the greater impact of the main plotline, which is not all that moving, would be lost.
Final Fantasy IX‘s ATE scenes help reveal more about the game’s story and characters, especially its villains. Another bonus from watching these events unfold is that you’ll occasionally obtain items afterwards or see locations before you visit them. All you have to do is press select, and you’re in. I know I’m going to keep doing it until the credits roll.