If chapter 8 is one of my favorite chapters of the game, chapter 9 is one of my least favorite chapters. There’s just too much running around and splitting units up if you want to protect the houses (and items inside) on the upper-left of the map from the pirates who keep showing up. Lethe and Mordecai are also computer-controlled for this one, so trying to keep them from running off and stealing experience from your controllable units is also a factor. Then there’s Marcia, who becomes recruitable in this chapter. Her showing up means that Ike needs to be close enough to the starting point that she won’t run off and get herself killed while trying to get to him.
Ike and Soren finally have the opportunity to have their first support conversation! I was beginning to go crazy with Ike’s only available support being with Oscar.
Lethe and Mordecai have a good sense of smell and can smell enemy weapons ahead as they lead Ike’s mercenaries . It turns out to be Daein soldiers, because of course it’s Daein soldiers. It’s always Daein soldiers in this game.
Ugh. See what I mean about having to run around? Your units start at the top-right, the top-left is where the houses at risk of pirate destruction are, the bottom-left is the point Ike has to seize, and the bottom-right is where Lethe and Mordecai will run off to by default. It’s possible to blow through this chapter really quickly by rushing to the boss (netting you some nice bonus experience in the process), but leaving items behind is always a grating way to finish a stage. I just can’t do it.
Since this is the first chapter where we’ve had actual laguz allies participating in combat (even if they’re not controllable yet), we get a tutorial about how they operate. Basically, they have their weak humanoid form that can’t attack in addition to their transformed animal form that’s devastatingly powerful. This is controlled by a gauge that goes up when untransformed by 4 every turn and 2 every time they get into combat. They transform once it hits 20, at which point the gauge drops by 3 every turn and 1 every time they get into combat. Once it hits 0, they transform back to their weaker state and the process repeats from the beginning. This would add a layer of timing strategy if the laguz were to ever become a serious part of our party, but that won’t be the case until the sequel, and the ones we’ll be focusing on there will have special skills that make the gauge a total joke. It’s useful to remember so that you have a sense of when enemy laguz will become vulnerable, though.
We also get a tutorial for directing computer-controlled allies to act a certain way. You can have them act the normal way (pursuing enemies, basically), stop in their tracks, move to a certain spot, or avoid enemies. Since Lethe and Mordecai will run off and steal experience if left to their own devices, I’ll be telling them to wander off and stay in a specific spot so that my usable characters can finish the stage.
This is a long one. Basically, I knew that there’d be pirate reinforcements showing up at some point, so I sent a bunch of my stronger characters left while the others went down. Eventually Marcia showed up and Ike recruited her since they talked in chapter 3, and she can rescue units to quickly shuttle them around. I didn’t use that as much as I probably should have. Then I had a bunch of characters stranded at the top-left and spent a bunch of turns moving them down. Really, the only thing that went according to plan was the very end, where Marcia attacked the boss from a square away (so that he couldn’t attack back) and then moved away. She landed a few hits for some valuable experience. I also had Soren attack from a square away, with Ike nearby to shove him out of harm’s way. That way the boss never attacks first, which means he never switches to his javelin, which means Marcia and Soren can chip away at him without having to worry about javelin counterattacks.
The mercenaries point out that Daein coming this far into Gallia is likely to result in a war that fans the flames of anti-laguz prejudice, drawing other nations into the fight.
Ike and the others finally meet the king, and he makes it sound like he has some huge secret about Ike-dad. It turns out to be nothing. Basically, the king always got the impression that Ike-dad was on the run from something. Great insight, Simba.
He also explains that most laguz don’t trust humans, so taking Elincia in would cause many to protest the decision for potentially giving Daein even more of a reason to wage war on Gallia. That means that we came all this way for nothing. Instead, he tells Ike to have his mercenaries take her to the country of Begnion to ask for their aid. Is this whole thing a convenient excuse to shuttle the player across the world so that they can get a feeling for the political environment of each country? Kind of, yeah, but the whole game won’t be a sightseeing tour like this.