We've taken care of all the side stuff now. The card tournament is obviously the final boss of Final Fantasy IX, so let's begin the gauntlet.
You must win two games before you can challenge the champion. Fantastic prizes await the contestant who defeats the champion.
What's the champion like?
Lo and behold...!
Is he that amazing?
Oh, yes, very much so...
Just tell me what he's like!
Wow, I'd love to challenge her!
See? Now, go ahead and register!
Sure, I'll register. Anything to meet this girl!
At least Zidane's gotten over Dagger rather quickly.
The game will begin automatically.
Our first match is against Attic Man Wake. I don't want to ask how he got that name, some mysteries of the FF9 universe are best left as mysteries.
We've got a good collection of cards already from just looting and battles.
But you can retry the first two as many times as you want so I go with crap cards.
I'm not going to bother covering Tetra Master's mechanics again because I did that the second update and this minigame isn't worth that treatment.
Instead, I'll show how bullshit this game is.
Through sheer bullshit and no real skil of my own, I score a perfect game.
That means I get all of the opposing player's cards.
Here's a terrible video that you shouldn't watch of this particular match.
No, instead let's watch some ATEs that are now available.
In case you were wondering what Freya was doing, she was hanging out at the auction house.
What are you doing? Looking at the lake?
I thought you'd be the quiet type...
Sorry. Maybe I've changed. It's probably his influence.
Well, I've been investigating Kuja... Some people seem to think that King, the owner of this mansion, is Kuja. True, I found people who witnessed Kuja on his property. But there is no proof that Kuja is Lord King.
So far, Freya's the only person to actually do anything about the fact that Kuja is still out there and will very likely strike again. She's seen what happened to Burmecia, she doesn't want that shit to happen again. Everyone else is content to take a vacation and what-not, but not Freya.
But we have seen Kuja here back in Disc 2, watching Dagger and also talking to the auctioneer when she left for Gargan Roo. At the very least, he has a strong connection to this place, and my buying shit here is probably helping fund his crazy world-ending schemes.
...What do you know?
Maybe I can find out the truth from the mansion's auctioneer...
Don't hold your breath.
So, what's your story? You seem to know your way around. Are you also here for a reason?
It was painfully dull...until the day he showed up.
What, you're interested in hearing about my past?
That will wait until the next ATE, though.
Which is now!
Who is 'he'?
I thought the two of you just met!
I don't think he remembers.
I was looking for a fight... It didn't matter who, as long as he was strong...
So now we're going to finally look into the backstory with Amarant and Zidane. Note this is all in an ATE and thus you could very well miss it, especially if you just go back in immediately to do another card battle rather than leave the screen to trigger this ATE.
Fun Fact: Zidane once told the story of this exploit to Dagger back in Dali.
But the Kings were hiding something in their mansion...
You look like a worthy opponent...
Hmph. So you're the King family's infamous new security guard, huh?
What if I am? Hasn't got me any action yet.
Hmph. So you're just a thug.
What did you call me!?
Don't disappoint me.
Hee hee... Here they come.
I won't let them interfere... Come on!
He came out of that door as I was passing by! I was staring at him 'cause I thought he might be a burglar, then he started pummeling me!
But he's a guard for this mansion...
W-We always had our suspicions, but...
I'm gonna call the police! You guys hold him off until they get here!
(How can I describe it to you? The sly eagle hides its claws.)
(I'm outta here! Buh-bye!)
That kinda makes me think that Zidane really does remember Amarant (I don't remember if the game ever actually says it one way or the other). I mean, how can you not remember someone with hair and a demeanor like that? Plus the whole spiel about being strong and finding a worthy opponent and all that shit.
But yeah, Amarant was just some low-level security guard who ended up getting played by Zidane. Zidane managed to deflect the situation to make Amarant the patsy, thus why he's a wanted man in Treno.
And in case you wonder how he escaped... Well, he's freaking Amarant.
I became a wanted man...
So the guy who's all into strength and fighting honorably...got punked by some kid half his size.
What's so funny?
I'm with Freya on this one.
...It's no concern of yours.
I'm sorry. I see, so that's what happened.
Don't get me wrong. I don't hold a grudge against him.
Amarant is and has always been a loner, so he thinks strength comes solely from within. So someone like Zidane completely baffles him, someone who will pull dirty tricks to get ahead, someone who doesn't show their true strength, someone who embraces the people in his life and builds on their strength. If Amarant wants to be the strongest, he has to learn from the best, thus his following Zidane.
'Two men walking on the same path are destined to confront each other one day.'
Freya tried the whole solitary knight thing, but it cost her her home. She's still hopelessly in love with Sir Fratley despite his original self no longer existing. It's only when she joins with Zidane that she really has a bigger goal to work towards. She understands how Zidane works, but also Amarant from her travels searching for Fratley.
Freya's kind of an outsider in the group, though, since Zidane, Dagger, and Vivi all have built up a tight bond now from their continued travels, one that Eiko's quickly become a part of due to her and Dagger being the sole survivors of their tribe. Steiner just cares about protecting Dagger, and Quina's going to kill themself in the next ATE (spoilers) so it makes sense that the two outsiders bond like this.
The Freya/Amarant friendship is kinda cool for me. They're both not part of the core party, and honestly neither have any significant plot relevance or stakes in the fight against Kuja. Both are only really sticking around because of Zidane, and even if they have no personal stakes in this fight, they're still willing to fight.
It's kind of a shame both of them kinda fall off the face of the earth at this point.
What a rip-off.
Draws can happen, in which case you just play again.
If you do multiple arrow combats, you choose which resolves first. This is important since if you win and set off a chain, it may convert the other cards. Of course, you could also maximize the cards you convert if you do more combats. And you're making things riskier for yourself.
This would be interesting if this weren't so random.
I lost the second game but it doesn't matter.
There, now one more game and I never have to play this shit ever again in my life.
A word of caution! You have only one chance to play in the final round! Be careful! Find a moogle and save now if you have any doubts!
Unlike the first two games, you only get one shot to win. If you lose, the plot progresses and you miss out on the final prize. That final prize is good, though, so I'll savescum for it.
Two new ATE's are up, so let's watch those until we celebrate no more Tetra Master.
I try travel to eat many foods from different cities... But why you need Gil to eat anything!? I cannot eat without Gil...
But maybe real! I go jump in!
I've seen many people commit suicide because of gambling debts... What a shame...
r.i.p. Quina again. I hope you get to chill with Celes and Tellah in Suicide Heaven.
Last ATE of the update.
Welcome back! How did you like Treno?
Hmm... It was okay.
Do you prefer your own village?
Yeah... But it's fun to meet different people. I've only had my moogles 'til now.
Just the moogles...? What about the others?
They're gone... I'm all alone now.
Why does everyone wanna know about my horn and the eidolons?
Oh, I'm a researcher of sorts... I'm just curious.
I see... Oh yeah, you were Dagger's teacher, right?
Ha ha... The princess used to be a rumbustious girl, just like you.
Do you think I can be just like her when I grow up?
Oh, of course...
The mark of the princess...?
Yeah! Dagger gave me one of hers. So now she's got two and I've got two.
Dagger had one, Eiko had one, and then the two that were stolen by Brahne from Lindblum and Cleyra were obtained by Dagger. I'm not sure which one Dagger gave Eiko, but I'd guess the pendant myself since the other two don't belong to them (though Cid likely doesn't mind and Cleyra's gone anyway so...).
Let's trade the jewels as a symbol of our friendship.
You may be wondering what jewels they're talking about. First there's the Silver Pendant, the Alexandria jewel Garnet always wears and that Brahne tried to take from her. There's the Falcon Claw, the treasure of Lindblum. The Desert Star, the jewel that was in the harp in Cleyra. Finally, there's the Memory Earring, Eiko's last momento of her heritage and the symbol of Madain Sari.
These four items are actually in our Key Items now, though it'll be next update when I show them off proper. There's some story significance to these four special jewels in this Final Fantasy game, but if it's not obvious yet the game will tell you just what they are in a few updates.
So, what about this story significance?
I assume anyone reading a Final Fantasy Let's Play has at least some familiarity with this series and knows that the crystals are basically magic plot McGuffins that do things. That said, their typical representation don't actually show up in many games. FF1 has ORBS the party's trying to restore light to, but they basically serve the same purpose and get retconned into crystals in the remakes. FF3 and FF5 have them involved in natural disasters from the work of evil forces, and they both give you jobs as well. In FF4 they are used to power an elevator to the moon, though the party instead prays for a space whale to take them there. But they don't really appear in any other main-series game, though they're in many of the spin-off games, being one of the most recognizable pieces of iconography associated with the series and all. Some games have approximations like FF6's Magicite, FF7's Materia, and FF10's Spheres.
In FF9, these jewels are actually pieces of a legendary crystal of this world. I don't think there's any real association between the usual main elements and these crystal fragments (other than the Desert Star being Wind, of course), plus you don't actually get a good look at them, and it seems they don't really look like crystals as the series portrays them anyway. There's a bit more to this game's representation of crystals, of course (the logo has a giant freaking crystal after all), though that'll have to wait awhile. The various jewels you get that teach summons and other such things are also kinda approximations of crystals in a way.
I'm sorry. I get lost in my thoughts sometimes.
...Mog is calling me... Mog wanted to talk to a moogle she met here in Treno, so I left her there, but something's wrong!
So surprise surprise, shit is gonna go down pretty soon.
BUT FIRST MORE FUCKING CARD GAMES
Please, Regent! You must behave like a champion! Let's register!
Ah, we've been waiting for you! Please go inside.
You may remember Erin from back to our first trip to Lindblum. She talks about wanting to pilot an airship while Zidane keeps hitting on her until she runs away.
Shoo! Shoo! Go away, you filthy oglop!
Um... I'm sorry, but this oglop is my...
It's the champion's pet?
Well, you ARE an oglop right now, after all...
Silence! <Gwok!> I'm the champion!
So basically Erin's the card champion, yet she's basically playing for the actual champion, Regent Cid.
Seems Cid also owns a publishing house whose work includes card magazines. Makes sense.
As before, there are hints to this. This game really, really likes to do this, if you haven't noticed by now.
Her name is... 'Erin the Oglop Master'...
I had to redo this twice before I won a game.
This is the end result. As you can see, Erin only plays Oglop cards, so if you win you'll get one for sure without having to do that dumb side quests in Madain Sari.
And this is why you want to win. The Rebirth Ring is limited quantity. There's this one, one from a Chocograph, and one you can steal from the game's penultimate boss. You can technically synth them as well, but doing so requires a Diamond and you can only get four of those.
The Rebirth Ring teaches the support ability Auto-Life, which is as useful as it sounds. Of course, it goes away once you die. Still very useful for Quina for Limit Glove reasons. It also teaches the regular Life spell and Revive, a technique Amarant learns that revives a party member with HP equal to MaxHP/5 + Spirit*MaxHP/100, making it a decent bit stronger than the Life spell. It also boosts Holy-elemental damage and, probably most importantly, boosts Spirit by a whopping 4 points, making it good for permanently raising Spirit (I am definitely not getting into that mechanic today, spent too much time on this update as is).
Long time no see, Mr. Zidane!
Don't be ridiculous! I'm the champion!
Cut me some slack, will ya? What are you doing here, anyway?
Mainly participating in the tournament, but there was something I wanted to test.
What are you testing?
The one that can fly without Mist?
Correct. We can't go very fast yet, but we made it to Treno.
Great fucking job, Queen Garnet.
What's up, Eiko?
Oh, it's horrible! A moogle from Treno just told me-
What's wrong? <Gwok!>
Oh geez, I wonder who this could be.
The people are overjoyed; they believe a wonderful future is ahead of them. ...But the celebration isn't over yet. It's time to really light things up!
Looks like Bahamut's back, and this time has joined Team Kuja.
We're done with the pleasant naval-gazing of early Disc 3. Next time, shit gets real.