Looks like Zidane survived, at the very least.
The Prima Vista...has seen better days.
Yeah, but the Prima Vista's wasted.
Just our luck to crash in this forest... It's gonna get interesting...
What do you mean, "interesting," Boss? I hear no one's ever made it outta here alive.
Quit yer whinin' and get it under control! And get the wounded outta here!
There's no way we can survive if all our stuff is toast.
I'm on it!
They're lookin' for Garnet... Can't find her anywhere. Maybe she fell off... Got squashed under the ship.
This is great. First we kidnap her, then we kill her. We'll hang for sure.
At this time, Zidane finally decides to show up.
I can't believe you jumped off! You're nuts, you know that?
I didn't jump off. I got thrown out from the impact. So, is everyone okay?
Yeah. We've all got the devil's luck. But if we don't find Princess Garnet, we're all dead meat.
Now it's time for a new mechanic.
Active Time Event is a system that lets you see other events that are happening at the same time elsewhere, kupo! Press the SELECT button when you see the icon flashing below. You can press the button anytime while the icon is flashing.
ATE means you can view optional cutscenes involving people besides the currently-controlled character. There's usually no reason not to watch them. It's basically "Meanwhile..." made into a game mechanic for some reason.
Sometimes there's more than one. For now, let's watch this one.
Are you alright?
I-Is it still coming?
And that's it. Now we're in control of Zidane.
Alright. Today we'll get into the actual gameplay of this game. Every Final Fantasy has a gimmick to learning new abilities and spells, like materia or espers or jobs or whatever.
This game has you learning abilities from items. For instance, the starting dagger that Zidane starts out with teaches the "Flee" ability, which gives you a guaranteed run from encounters you can run from, at the cost of 10% of the gil you would've won from that encounter. You can still run as normal with L1/R1, of course.
The Mage Masher is nice enough to teach Flee AND Detect, but most weapon and armor upgrades won't be so nice. You can use the ability as long as you have the weapon or armor piece equipped. So if I get another dagger that doesn't teach either of these abilities, I can't use them any longer.
The exception, of course, is if you gain enough AP from battles to permanently learn them. Detect and Flee both require 40AP to learn. Once they're learned, you can go to the next weapon or armor or whatever and learn abilities from there.
General reception to this system is "meh" at best, as generally you'll need more AP to master abilities than you normally would spend fighting enemies in dungeons, and it can be annoying to be stuck with lower-tier equipment especially when the game incentivizes you to steal good stuff early to make use of it only for you to still need to hold off to finish getting this ability.
On the other hand, a lot of abilities are pretty unimpressive anyway (Detect lets you see what items an enemy is holding, pretty pointless when you can just get a guide and use it to get a link to GameFAQs to get what the enemy is carrying), though obviously it's hard to tell what's good in a first playthrough. At any rate, it's not the best way to handle abilities in the series, and it is a bit puzzling that they reuse this mechanic for the Tactics Advance games. I don't mind it so much myself though so I'll deal.
The Leather Hat teaches Fire, which Zidane can't learn, so it's only there for defensive boosts. The Wrist and Leather Shirt also teach abilities, and Zidane can learn something from the Moonstone as well.
There are two types of abilities. Active are ones you use during battle, like Flee or Vivi's Fire spell. Passive abilities give you certain boosts, like extra damage against certain enemy types, status immunities, or buffs you always have like Auto-Haste.
Another useful thing is you can press Select to get more information on, well, anything. Beast Killer does 150% damage to beast-type enemies. Zidane also gets Protect Girls, which takes damage for girls if their HP is below 50% of max, and Flee-Gil, which nets you 10% of the gil you would've won from an encounter if you ran away normally (L1 + R1, not the Flee ability).
To use passives, you have to equip them. Each has a cost depending on how strong the ability is, and each character has a set amount of crystals to spend that go up with level. Right now, Zidane has more than enough to use all three passive abilities, but of course that will change as play continues and passives build up.
Finally, everyone has different passives, with the physical jobs getting more to make up for the relative lack of abilities compared to mages. There's some overlap, such as Zidane and Steiner both getting Beast Killer, but overall the passives will be geared toward that character's skillset. Zidane has stuff that affects Steal, Steiner's focused on dealing more damage to various enemy groups, Vivi's geared towards magic passives, and so on.
There's a moogle to save at here but nothing new with Mognet for now.
Anyway, nothing to do but to go looking for Garnet.
The Evil Forest is our first dungeon. The locals around here aren't big on elaborate names.
Enjoy the music for a bit, because we're about to do our first random encounter!
This is a Goblin. They're one of the enemies that like to hang out in this putrid forest swamp.
Back attacks are still a thing. I believe there's a passive that stops this stuff.
The Goblin by itself is no threat, chipping away ~10HP a hit.
Steal is not a 100% success rate. Yet. There's an ability we'll get pretty soon that will change that, though.
Let's show off Detect since we'll never see it again otherwise.
Some of the abilities are pretty goofy-looking and make no sense. Welcome to Final Fantasy IX! If there's more than one item to steal, Zidane's mechanical eye-ball pal will tell us.
Anyway, I got the item so I'm content to kill this guy in one hit now and then use the Potion I just stole and could've skipped if I killed him in the first place.
Each character has a celebratory dance I can't show off because moving backgrounds are the bane of animated GIFs.
After the different fanfare themes of FF7 and FF8, the classic one from the earlier games has returned. Enjoy.
There are two screens in the victory screen. First is EXP and AP, where you learn when people gain levels and learn abilities.
Next is gil and item drops. There are four slots for enemy drops, and each slot has a chance of dropping depending how rare it is, meaning theoretically you could get four drops from one enemy. Some enemies also have a chance of dropping cards for Tetra Master, which is its own separate drop rate.
Let's check out our inventory.
Potions are a bit different in this game in that they only heal 2/3 as much in the field, more rewarding you for actually using them in battle.
Hi-Potions recover 450HP in battle, and Ethers recover 150MP in battle. Phoenix Downs revive a person at single-digit HP. Phoenix Pinions recover at around half HP, but they can only be used in battles. The rest I will assume you can glean since they're no different from other Final Fantasy games, though Tents have an interesting secondary use in this game that I'm sure will come up sooner or later.
You can also get information on weapons and armor, which is handy for looking up stuff like elemental defenses. Silk Shirts reduce Thunder damage by 50%! That might actually be useful!
This whole area is one screen and it's possible not to run into any battles at all.
...What the hell is that?
Release the princess at once!!!
Yeah, like it's gonna realy listen to you.
Meet Soul Cage. This fight's kind of a gimmick.
You see, this is our introduction to Trance.
I've heard of it before! Trance is induced by a surge of emotion.
Alright, let's take him!
Trance is FFIX's version of a limit break. It does different things for each character, which are generally pretty awesome. It generally adds up from taking damage, and higher Spirit stats lets it rise more quickly.
The major problem with Trance though is that, unlike Limit Breaks in FF7 and FF8, you can't save it. If it activates, it automatically happens and will wear off at the end of battle. That makes it pretty terrible and end up being nothing more than a nice bonus here and there if it activates at a point where you'd actually use it.
Trance is used up as you take actions in Trance, especially those related to Trance.
So this guy can absorb Garnet's HP. If Garnet goes down, Game Over.
There's nothing to Steal, so let's skip to Zidane's Trance. For Zidane, his basic skill set is changed to Dyne.
His abilities are replaced with new ones that do large damage, albeit at the cost of MP.
Tidal Flame is a trap for this fight since it's multi-target, which means it'd kill Garnet. We want Free Energy for this fight.
It does solid damage.
Steiner does alright damage. He'll shine later on.
After two hits of Free Energy, Soul Cage runs away with Garnet in tow.
What the heck? Where did they go?
How could I let this happen!?
Don't worry. She's not dead yet. That monster was only a minion. He's probably gonna take her to his master.
That means the princess might still be- Come! We must go find her at once!
Now Vivi's caught in one, and we don't have Trance to help out.
Vivi however is in a much better position to help out in frying this damn thing.
This thing will also absorb Vivi's HP, so it's good to keep him healed while Steiner helps wear this thing down.
Zidane wants to steal some items first.
Don't be afraid to use a Potion on Vivi if he gets low. He's your biggest damage dealer this fight.
After enough damage...
Are you alright?
...Welp. That could've gone better.
Next time, we do some soul-searching on the Prima Vista.