Category Archives: playstation 1

The name of the game I could never remember is Swagman

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It’s a weekend afternoon, over at least a decade ago, and I’m in a bookstore. I don’t have anything in particular in mind, but I’m the sort that loves to wander aimlessly in these kinds of spaces, to tilt my head and read titles quietly to myself and touch a few spines, maybe even pull a whole book off the shelf and read the back-cover blurbage. I’m near the café section, where coffee and scones reign supreme, myself eating up a FoxTrot treasury or something like that when a song comes on overhead. It’s soft, safe, reassuring. There’s light guitar strumming and piano–and a man’s voice. I don’t remember any of the words or how the tune ultimately went. I know that I liked it. I have never heard that song again since.

I’ve had this happen a few times in my life. There are tunes or pieces of writing or drawings that live in my brain, fuzzily, right on the fringe of my consciousness, waiting to be rediscovered. I can recall them, but not fully. Clearly, they had an impact on me. Alas, I can only remember limited details about them to the point of frustration. It’s not like now when you have a mini computer in your coat’s pocket and can look up anything you want and create a historical record as a future reminder. I continue to live each day with a quiet hope that all these mysteries will reveal themselves before I buy the farm.

With all that said, there’s been a videogame from my teenager-era past that I know I have been unable to recall–for years. I’ve actively tried looking it up, but unfortunately was unable to figure out its name, even with all that Internet out there. It’s not even a game I regret trading in because I think I only rented it for a few days and didn’t like it very much, but the fact that I can’t confirm what it was confidently is more irritating than anything else.

Right. Okay, try to play along, even if I already spoiled the reveal in this blog’s title. Here’s everything that I knew about the mystery game:

  • It was on the original PlayStation
  • It had a top-down perspective, like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  • Its heroes were children
  • It began in a bedroom

That’s all, folks. Make your guess, and show your work.

Turns out, after clicking around on Grouvee today, which is where I’m working on organizing my unstoppable collection, that game was called Swagman. Uhh. For the longest time, I was convinced it was Okage: Shadow King, but no, especially when you realize that one is an entire console generation later. Anyways, when I saw the name Swagman, it did not immediately ring a bell, but I thought to check nonetheless and dropped it into a Google image search, only to be greeted with screenshots that instantly took hold of me to confirm that, yes, this odd, lesser-known critter from Eidos Interactive in 1997 is the game I played back in high school for a weekend and then never again.

I can’t believe I didn’t remember the specifics of Swagman. Here’s a plot summary: Using a substance called Dreammash to force everyone sleeping in Paradise Falls to suffer from constant nightmares, the Swagman and his army of Night Terrors are planning a deadly takeover. They have also captured and imprisoned the twelve Dreamflight fairies in order to begin a deadly invasion of the real world. That is, unless Zack and his sister Hannah can figure out a way to rescue them and destroy the Swagman for good. Otherwise, it’s nightmares on top of nightmares on top of more nightmares–for infinity.

In terms of gameplay, Swagman is a puzzle adventure thing with some light action and platforming. I guess “mixed bag” would actually be used correctly here. While in the “real world” sections, the game has Zack and Hannah–who both can be controlled–finding items like bugs and/or keys to solve puzzles or unlock certain doors. When in “dream” areas, called Territories and accessed via magical mirrors, the game becomes more action-focused, with you sometimes transforming into a monstrous beast that can spew flames from its mouth. Yup. There’s an on-screen inventory for some of the items you’ve collected, such as the Fantastic Frisbee, Super Sneakers, and Cherry Bombs. Your best weapon against the Swagman’s loyal minions seems to be a flashlight or general avoidance, and because Zack and Hannah share a collective lifebar, there’s danger in taking on too much by yourself.

I honestly don’t remember ever getting out of the real world section, but maybe I did and only have a strong recollection for the opening area. I don’t know. Looking back at it and watching some playthroughs on YouTube, I’m not overly impressed or interested in getting a copy for myself, even as a collector. Again, this wasn’t a lost treasured gem from my past, but rather something pestering me for years. I’m glad the issue is resolved.

Swagman is the game I could never remember, and now I’ll never forget it. Next up–whatever that bookstore store was hopefully.

Final Fantasy’s Light Warriors refuse to leave Cornelia

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First off, I’m not sure which version of Final Fantasy the above screenshot of Cornelia is from. Certainly not the original NES title, nor is it from the one I’m playing via the Final Fantasy Origins compilation, which came out for the PlayStation back in 2002, but I’m playing it on a PlayStation 3 many, many years later. Perplexing, right? It’s a compilation of Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II , and these are re-releases of the remastered versions of the original classics–phew, a mouthful–enhanced to look like Super NES-era graphics, so they feel right at home with their siblings Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy V, and Final Fantasy VI. However, the above shot looks way too crisp and colorful; maybe it is from a PC port or fan re-imagining. If you know, let me know.

Anyways, Final Fantasy. I figured after finally beating Final Fantasy IX in 2016, I should give another one in the series a go. Well, there’s probably no better place to start then at the very beginning, with the game many of its developers believed would be their last project. Cue prerequisite link to Final Fantasy XV gameplay video with boisterous laugh track. Funny enough, I did try to play Final Fantasy once before, and it was on my mega-old Verizon Reality cell phone, the same one that I tried playing The Sims 3 on poorly. Cost me a few bucks, and my time saving the princess and crystals wasn’t all that thrilling. I don’t even think I managed to get the bridge above Cornelia repaired. Yikes.

For those that don’t know, Final Fantasy begins with the appearance of the legendary four Light Warriors, each holding an orb that corresponds to the four elementals; alas, the orbs have lost their shine. At the same time, Princess Sara is kidnapped by the evil knight Garland, and the King of Cornelia asks the Light Warriors to rescue her. After doing just that, the king restores the bridge above Cornelia so that the Light Warriors can continue on their quest. To do what, exactly? I’m not sure. Make their orbs glow again. Talk to people in ALL CAPITALS. Your guess is as good as mine because, with this one, I’m not all that attached to the plot details. I’m here for the turn-based battling, the music.

Actually, before any of that can happen, Final Fantasy begins by asking the player to select the character classes and names of each Light Warrior (the player characters) in their party. Here’s what I went with:

  • Georg – Warrior, currently rocking a rapier and chain mail
  • Vex – Thief, also using a rapier, but lighter leather armor
  • Arwen – White Mage, dressed to the nines in a shirt and wielding a staff
  • Erda – Black Mage, inspired by Arwen and wearing the same gear

It’s a decent group. The first three names are obviously references to things I like–guess away–but I have no idea where Erda came from. The party has two characters that can deal some big damage with weapons, one that is good for healing and providing buffs, and one to cast spells that set everything aflame or bring down lightning bolts from a crystal-clear sky. Also, the title for this blog post isn’t one hundred percent accurate, seeing as how I’ve totally left Cornelia behind and even managed to acquire a ship, which allowed me to find a town full of elves, obviously called Elfheim. I only said what I said at the top because, certainly for the first couple hours, I hung around Cornelia and its outskirts to gain some money and experience points before moving forward into more dangerous territory. Yup, grinding is a thing. Grinding will always be a thing.

I’m happy I’m playing this version of Final Fantasy as it has a few bells and whistles that enhance the overall experience. There’s the enhanced graphics I previously mentioned, remixed soundtracks, full-motion CGI cutscenes, and added content that includes art galleries of Yoshitaka Amano’s illustrations. There’s also a bestiary, which I will always appreciate, that tells you a bit about the monsters you’ve encountered, but I have no idea if it was originally there to begin with. I’ll be moving on to some cave soon, but only after I’ve earned enough cash-money to purchase all the best weapons, pieces of armor, and available magic spells. After all, Erda and friends deserves the finest.

Spyro 2’s guidebook is stuffed full of gems, talismans, and orbs

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Earlier this year, I put the original Spyro the Dragon to bed. This was a game that I had started playing in 2014 and really liked, but moved away from over the years, only returning to it in 2016 with the drive to see its credits roll. Shortly after, I started playing Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage! and vowed to not take the same length of time to beat it. And look, I remained true to my words, even if I maybe never said them out loud here, but whatever. That’s two purple dragon romps down for the count, with a third still waiting in the wings. Soon, Spyro: Year of the Dragon. Very soon.

Let’s see. After saving the world and many elderly dragons from Gnasty Gnorc in his last adventure, Spyro and his friend Sparx decide to take a vacation to the lovely, picturesque Dragon Shores. Unfortunately, while there, they are sucked into a magical vortex that takes them to a realm called Avalar. All three of Avalar’s worlds are in danger of falling under the power of a Napoleon-like dictator named Ripto. In order to save these worlds from destruction and tyranny, Spyro must travel to and fro, helping out who he can while also collecting a number of things: gems, talismans, and orbs. I emphasized the last one on purpose, with more to say later in this post.

For good and for bad, not a lot has changed since Spyro’s last outing. Which, in terms of narrative, wasn’t that long ago. When it comes to development, there was only about a year between the release of the first game and the second. Anyways, you’re still charging enemies, breathing fire, jumping, gliding, and collecting butterflies to power up Sparx and stay alive. A couple new moves have been added to the little dragon’s arsenal, such as being able to swim underwater, using ladders to climb higher up, and an overhead smash stomp that I think I only used once or twice for a story reason and never again. There are hub worlds, which contain gems and orbs to find, and then within these hubs are warp gates to individual levels that will hand out talismans as a reward for finishing its main through-line. Story progression is gated by a specific number of these things, so it is in your best interest to get as many as you can…as soon as you can.

Alas, I really hit a wall between the third world of Winter Tundra and the final boss fight against Ripto. I needed 40 orbs to move on and was only somewhere around 25 at the time. This meant I had to go back, multiple times, to levels I had already completed and find the extra challenges to do to earn an orb. Generally, these challenges are towards the end of each level, which means a lot of replaying, something I already do excessively in them numerous LEGO videogames. I found that some of the orb challenges rated five stars were easy peasy and others rated two or three stars to be impossible. Some of that has to do with controlling the camera or Spyro, as moving him with both speed and skill is not easily doable; I preferred the slower challenges, like herding cows into a fenced off area, instead of chasing after thieves or playing a lackluster minigame of hockey.

I hope I’m not seeing a pattern when it comes to these final boss fights. The one against Gnasty Gnorc was long, frustrating, and had the nasty sting of having you redo the entire thing if you messed up once. Yeah, yeah…gaming in this generation is spoiled by lots of checkpoints and saves and magical power-ups to get us through the tough parts, but it really felt like the main chunk of the game sat at a difficulty level of 3 and then the last fight was cranked up to 11…just because. Well, it’s all that again with the final stand against Ripto, which is broken into three sections. Two are on the ground, easy enough if you keep dodging and picking up sheep for health, and the last has Spyro flying above a pit of lava, dodging incoming homing missiles while also trying to dish out his own damage. It definitely took me more than five tries to put Ripto in his place.

Spoiler alert: there are no plans to collect the remainder of orbs (15 left) to open up whatever is hidden behind that sealed door at Dragon Shores. There will never be a plan. If anything, I hope to start Spyro: Year of the Dragon soon, though that may be a more likely candidate for 2017 under the assumption that there are even more things to collect in that one. Mmm. I’ll also freely admit that I’m now much more curious about how things went for Spyro on the PlayStation 2 when Insomniac Games handed the reigns over to another developer and moved on to the Ratchet & Clank series.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with my favorite code for Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage!, which is my favorite hidden code from every game ever, no matter what the genre – Big Head Mode! Pause the game, and then enter Up, Up, Up, Up, R1, R1, R1, R1, Circle. You are very welcome.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #70 – Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage!

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Vacation ruined
Dictator Ripto, must stop
Collect all them orbs

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

Final Fantasy IX: the sweetest joy and the wildest woe

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Well, here we are. It’s autumn 2016 and raining leaves everywhere, and I’ve now seen Final Fantasy IX to its conclusion. Well, in reality, that was a couple months back when it wasn’t as chilly in the morning and all shades of red, orange, and yellow because I’m slow to write these days.

I think it is officially the…third game in the ironically long-lasting series to get crossed off for the history books. The two others include Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy XII. I have also watched–Maker, forgive me–Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within more than once, so perhaps that should count for something. Or maybe I need to really consider never mentioning that publicly ever again. Anyways, this has been a long-time coming, and if any of you reading this blog o’ mine are frequent visitors then you’ll know I’ve been…hmm, actively doesn’t really seem right to use…futilely trying to beat this game since about 2013. Or, if you consider when I actually got my PlayStation 1 copy, then more like the year 2000.

Final Fantasy IX is an RPG that has always managed to grip me with its first several hours of action and adventure and story-telling, and then lose me by the end of the second of four discs. I will continue to stick my flag in the ground and say that this epic adventure is too epic, and that the story should have concluded once Garnet was back in Alexandria, her mother, Queen Brahne, no longer a viable threat. Sure, sure, the whole Kuja side-plot would need some rewriting to make that work, but just have the two go down together and bring on the parades of peace and happiness and Vivi not feeling terrible about his existence. Everything that happens on discs three and four is insane, and I don’t mean crazy in a good. I mean characterized or caused by madness. Honestly, I tried to follow along in earnest, but once we got to the point where we learn that Zidane and Kuja are actually Genomes, sentient soulless beings constructed by Garland for the purpose of acting as hosts for Terran souls when two parallel universes merged…well, I gave up caring. There’s a really good chance I even got some of those details wrong, and I was using an online source.

Here’s the thing. Without its cast, Final Fantasy IX is just another adventure to save the world from destruction. From a single-minded villain. I’ll go out on a limb and say its three most pivotal characters are Zidane, Dagger, and Vivi. Steiner is one note, and that note is amusing and never sways too high or low, but not enough to be top tier. Despite not caring what was happening in the overall plot in the second half of this fever dream, I did care greatly about what was happening to each and with each of these characters, as well as many of the side, almost one-offs, such as Cid and Beatrice. The characters are quirky and troubled, all trying to better themselves or find their place in the world–something I can connect with. Also, those Active Time Events I loved so much? Yeah, they are nearly non-existent in the last two discs, which was a big bummer, as it is in those side snippets that you learn the most about the cast.

As it turns out, despite the number of hours I put into Final Fantasy IX, there are complete sections and quests that I didn’t even dip my toes into, for various reasons. Such as Chocobo Hot & Cold, a mini-game that is so lengthy and involved that it might as well be its own standalone title. Related to this is feeding Kupo Nuts to a Moogle couple and watching their family grow. Now, I did keep up with delivering mail for Mognet, but was unsuccessful in seeing it all the way through; evidently, you can eventually visit the headquarters and save the post office from fading into memory. Dang, that sounds pretty good. I also didn’t fight any of the Treno weapon shop monsters or participate in many games of Tetra Master, content to simply collect the cards, though I’d estimate I didn’t even hit 50% of them by the time credits rolled. There’s even more things I didn’t do, as my focus from disc three forward was on strengthening my team–always Zidane, Vivi, Steiner, and Dagger–and synthesizing good weapons and armor in their fight against Kuja’s evil minions.

Whew. Unsurprisingly, I suspect I have a lot more to say about Final Fantasy IX, but I’d rather wait for those thoughts and revelations to emerge naturally and not force them out through my fingertips. It’s a big game. There’s a lot going on here, and I’m not just talking about mechanics and boss fights and grinding. Vivi’s “who/what am I?” story is handled with such coldness and confusion, and it gets me every time. I still love how perfect the “Dagger Tries” ATE is in Dali. That said, every love connection felt really forced, and that ending cinematic and triumphant reveal was a little too drawn out for my liking. Again, like when I went back to play Primal, I’ve discovered that there’s both good and bad to examine here; real quick, I’m not at all saying that Final Fantasy IX is anything like Primal. In fact, it’s far superior, but both of those games are ones that I played the opening hours over and over again, building them up in my brain and assuming that’s how the entire game went. Nope, nope.

I’m most certainly not ready to commit to another entry in the series at this point. In fact, the only other one I have in my grasp that hasn’t seen its credits roll is Final Fantasy VIII, and I’m missing one of the middle discs because I was young and dumb once and loaned it to a “friend” who ended up moving away with it, which really puts a nail in that quest’s coffin. I would certainly love to dive deeper and play one of the older titles; that NES Classic Edition coming out this holiday season comes packed with the original Final Fantasy, as well as 29 other retro titles. Hmm. Also, perhaps one day, far, far down the road of life, I’ll give Final Fantasy IX another swing since it is now available on Steam and has a tempting list of Achievements to pop.

Until then, I’ll just cast “Sleep” on myself and crawl under a tent as a Moogle softly sings me to safety, to slumber.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #51 – Final Fantasy IX

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Princess kidnapping
Turns to saving source of life
First two discs better

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #42 – Spyro the Dragon

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The smallest dragon
Soars, scorches, charges, saves realm
The biggest impact

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

Final Fantasy IX’s Earth Guardian says slow down

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Here’s some unsolicited advice: if you’re going to boast and hold high your mighty conquests, the very least you can do is acknowledge when you fail. You don’t need to linger on it and live your life around such defeats with a gray rain cloud hanging overhead, but coming to terms with where things went wrong will, in time, help you come to terms. That said, despite giving it a good-not-great effort, I did not complete Final Fantasy IX in 2015, which was a goal of mine after, yup, failing to not complete it the year prior. As well as the year prior to the year prior. Grr.

Look, I’m still on disc three. The last time I wrote about Final Fantasy IX, I was dealing with the consequences of sending an all-magic team to a place where no magic could be used. Since then, I’ve hit a wall, and I was hoping it wouldn’t happen, but seeing as the same thing happened to my party of heroes and heroines in Final Fantasy VIII way back in the day…I should have expected it. They always do this. Basically, to better search for the Elemental Shrines, which I believe will offer further clues on Kuja and how to take him down to the ground, your group is divided up into small parties of two: Dagger and Eiko, Freya and Amarant, Steiner and Vivi, and Zidane and Quina. Yes, Quina–that strange foodporn fanatic who battles with forks and surprise surprise I’ve barely used in my 40+ hours chipping away at Final Fantasy IX. Your party will be investigating–and battling–each shrine’s boss simultaneously, but you are only actually involved in the fight against the Earth Guardian using Zidane and Quina. Grr.

Going into this boss battle with only a party of two is scary enough to begin with, but things become dire when you realize that Zidane is around level 43 and Quina is far behind at level 28. That means Quina dies in one hit from the boss, which results in burning a turn with Zidane to revive him only to have Quina die right away from another hit. Basically, it’s not doable. You need two strong party members that can at least take a few hits before having to heal up one another–otherwise, you might as well as be swinging a sword against the base of a tall building that hits back. I have to wonder if I’d be at all successful if the other duos actually asked you to command their actions in their respective Elemental Shrine fights; certainly Steiner and Vivi are a deadly combination not to be messed with.

Unfortunately, I already saved the game on my one save slot right before entering the Earth Guardian’s shrine, with some 34 hours logged in total. Thankfully, you can retreat and either get back on the airship or wander around the area, but even grinding random battles with a party of two is a slower affair because you can’t dish out as much damage each turn, which means every fight takes longer than with a strong party of four. Alas, this is my only solution–Quina needs to be a much higher level to survive this fight and help Zidane deal out the big damage.

Knowing this fact is keeping me at bay because, at this stage of Final Fantasy IX, grinding is not as enjoyable as it was when I was permanently learning abilities for multiple characters. There are no more Active Time Events to witness either until I hit the next series of story beats. I am stuck in this one spot, with the only way out being burning several hours and items/MP-restoring items on fighting monster after monster after monster in hopes of getting one character to a decent starting place. So far, I’ve gotten Quina up to LV 36 now and taught him/her/it permanently Auto-Float and Auto-Haste, which is still not good enough. Grr.

Trust me, I’m not giving up. Final Fantasy IX‘s credits will roll, eventually. Strangely, in 2016, it’s also coming to PC and phones, but that’s not where I want to see this adventure end. Ideally, it would’ve ended where it started, on the bedroom floor of the house I grew up in, some 15 years back, on an original PlayStation 1, which featured a PSM smiley face sticker on its tray lid. At least I’m still using my PSM sticker-adorned memory card to save my slowly increasing progress. I’ll let you know when I’ve crossed this hump.

Never want to go back to Final Fantasy IX’s Oeilvert

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Last time I wrote about Final Fantasy IX, I expressed my concern over the fact that I just couldn’t help myself wasting hours and hours on grinding for permanent abilities for all potential party members. The siren’s call to fight Zemzelett over and over simply so both Garnet and Eiko had all potential summons at their disposal was too hard to resit. Well, all I can say is that, despite wanting to do more ability grinding, I moved the plot forward after my summoners stocked up on epic, screen-defying magical beings from beyond. I mean, it’s scary–2015 is nearly over, and I simply cannot let another year go by where I don’t see this adventure through.

Unfortunately, I was watching Giant Bomb‘s Drew and Alexis Extra Life 2015 stream–for the kids!–while playing, and missed an important piece of dialogue before selecting which party of members I wanted to bring to Oeilvert. Other than the name of a place that is deviously tough to spell, it’s also home to some mystical maguffin called the Gulug Stone that Kuja wants, but is afraid to gather for himself. So he kidnaps Zidane and his friends, and in order to save some of them from dropping to their death, tasks Zidane and three other people with traveling there and obtaining the thingy for him. The important part of dialogue I missed though was that Oeilvert is a no magic zone; naturally, because I missed this, I brought Vivi, Eiko, and Garnet with me, all three of which are heavy on magic casting and not so much on hitting enemies with sticks. This made Oeilvert much harder than it needed to be, but by then I had already committed to the task, plus saved my progress.

After you complete Oeilvert, you switch back over to Cid, now a frog instead of a oglop, as he helps free the other party members. How? Through a time-based stealth puzzle section where you have to also place certain weights on scales…naturally. It’s goofy and tricky, and I’m not going to hide the fact that I looked up a solution to the weights puzzle as I was running low on time and worried about losing a good chunk of progress. It’s certainly not the best part of Final Fantasy IX, that’s for sure. With everyone else freed, you get to search the Desert Palace, light candles, and fight monsters. However, now my party was made up of Freya, Steiner, Quina, and Amarant, none of which I look to for magic stuff.

See, in this area, you fight Grimlocks, which have different strengths and weaknesses based on what colored head is on the top. The red head deals out high physical damage dealer, but has a low defense to magic. On the flip, the blue head casts status-inducing spells and has low physical defense. Basically, it boils down to this–when the red head is on top, cast magic, and when the blue is on top, attack with weapons. Basically, I had to constantly wait for these beasts to don their blue heads and then attack with everyone, though Quina did have a water spell in his/her/its inventory. This made these fights extra long, and when you get into a random encounter every few steps, it can begin to feel a bit maddening.

Somehow, I got through it all and am now on my way to the Last Continent. It might not have been the clearest cut path–and that’s my fault for not selecting better balanced parties–but I’m right behind Kuja and his army of questioning black mages as they cross through Esto Gaza. Progress, people. Progress.

Look, I don’t know how Final Fantasy IX concludes, nor do I want to just yet, so please refrain from spoilers in the comments section. Somehow, I’ve remained blissfully ignorant when it comes to plot details for the end of this story, as well as Final Fantasy VIII, but I really do feel like we’re dragging our feet now. The conclusion to disc two felt more like a finale than anything else, but I guess then that would be too short for a JRPG from the mammoth Squaresoft. I’m not as invested in Kuja as a villain as I was with Garnet’s mother, and so I am simply following after the effeminate man because the game is telling me to. Also, I hope I get an airship like soon.

Final Fantasy IX’s middle ground really drags

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I am freaking out. Not in a way that anyone would know by looking at me, but on the inside, and the inside of my insides, I am freaking out. It’s October 2015, and I’ve still not completed Final Fantasy IX, a game I set out to take down in 2013 and then, upon failing that, put in the crosshairs once more for this stretch of three hundred and sixty-five days. I could present y’all with a list of excuses, of things that got in the way and stole my limited attention span away, but it doesn’t matter. I’m in charge of this ship, and I have two months and change left to see Final Fantasy IX‘s credits roll, as well as every Active Time Event unfold.

Unfortunately, after an epic finish to Final Fantasy IX‘s second disc, which saw the ragtag group of adventurers battling the Soulcage at the Iifa Tree and then witnessing the power of Bahamut, the start to the third disc really drags. It’s got a ton of great stuff in it, but it’s all turtle-pace storytelling and character development, for nearly every character, and there’s little freedom put in the player’s hands, which means a lot of reading, watching, and doing as whoever is in charge currently says.

There’s some playful–and Broadway play-like–silliness involving a found love letter, wherein everyone who comes across it misinterprets its meaning. Next, you travel to Treno to participate in a card tournament; since I’m terrible at Tetra Master, I found myself nervously saving a lot and reloading when I’d lose a rare card to an opponent. After that, there’s the fall of Alexandria, and one could get through this seeing little action, but I did at least discover a bookshelf and hidden Tantarian in it, which awards everyone with lots of AP upon defeat; it’s a tough, long-winded battle, but worth it in the end. Lastly, there’s some action and cutscenes and rebuilding of Alexandria, with the plot pushing forward to have everyone go after Kuja with a smoldering passion, but not before trying to restore Regent Cid to human form. Spoilers: it doesn’t work.

After all that, I’m back to actively controlling my party–all members, too, even Quina–and exploring the world of Final Fantasy IX. Plot-wise, we’re off to the Black Mage Village. However, I can’t head directly there just yet. I mean, technically, yes, I totally can, now that I’m riding the ocean in style on the Blue Narciss, but my brain won’t let me. See, there’s abilities to be earned for all these party members by equipping all sorts of gear, and that means a whole lot of easy, but mindless grinding to do. I can’t not do it, I’m sorry. I need for every party member to have as many options as possible when it comes to abilities and spells to cast. Sometimes this means equipping weaker armor or weapons just to permanently learn these things. I’m sure there’s a saying that relates wells here, like to go forward, one must tumble backwards for a bit.

I think what I need to do is put aside Super Mario Maker, Fantasy Life, and Pokémon Shuffle as my late night, pre-bed gaming fix this week and focus squarely–pun intended–on getting my team up to snuff so that they can move and do actual story stuff. I care about these people and what trouble concerns their land, but I also care about earning enough AP for Steiner to learn Level Up so he can constantly level up faster, as well as Dagger to get every summon locked under her belt. You never know when you’ll need to cast that Odin or Ifrit, but you’ll be glad you can when the moment arises.

Final Fantasy IX‘s credits or bust.