Welcome back to the Gamer’s Guide to Writing!  Previously, we discovered that Tantalus, a gang of thieves, were hatching a plot to kidnap princess Garnet disguised as a troop of actors.  Today, we’ll see how their heist goes off.
This sequence gives us a pair of very interesting contrasting viewpoints:  Steiner and Zidane.  While both are playable characters, they have opposing goals.  Steiner’s job as the head of the Knights of Pluto is to defend Princess Garnet, and Zidane’s job is to kidnap her.  Of course, Garnet has plans of her own.  The play begins with a spray of fireworks and trumpets, which delight Queen Brahne.  This will be an interesting little contrast to the end of this scene.  Tantalus plays their part, telling the story of a doomed romance between a warrior and a princess.  After a scene on stage in which the player controls a few swordfights in the midst of some pseudo-Shakespearian poetry.  There is also a mini-game in which you must press the correct sequence of buttons to wow the crowd.
Afterwards, you control Zidane as he sneaks into the castle and tries to abscond with the princess.  He in fact literally runs into her, disguised in a red-lined white hood that long-time fans of the franchise should recognize.  She leads him on a chase through the castle while the control shifts to Steiner, her protector who has noticed she is missing.  With news of the plot spreading though the palace, he has to rally his knights, all of whom aren’t terribly dedicated to the profession, and find her.  The action switches several times, from Steiner to Zidane as he chases the thief through the castle and the Buena Vista airship before ending up on the stage itself.
But in spite of Steiner’s noble dedication, not all is right in Alexandria Castle, and Garnet pleads with Zidane to kidnap her right away, to which he agrees.  On stage, Garnet tries to blend into the play, taking the role of the tragic princess in the story.  Her cover is blown when Vivi, pursued by guards after sneaking in, accidentally sets her hood ablaze with his magic.  With the jig up, Tantalus tries to make a quick exit, but Brahne launches a broadside of chain shot, and even a bomb at them.  Although damaged by the explosion, the Prima Vista limps out into the night and away from the castle.  Queen Brahne orders that they be followed, adding ominously that they “need her alive.”
This scene works really well on a variety of levels.  It draws the player in with a lot of action and things to do.  The castle is a huge area, and while a lot of it is unavailable, it does drop some tantalizing hints.  It also establishes the characters and conflicts that drive most of the first disc’s action.  The rivalry between Zidane and Steiner is a nice microcosm of the greater conflict between Garnet and her mother, which will be explored further.  It’s also a really fun, high-energy chase sequence.  It’s quite spirited and cartoonish, making Steiner the butt of a series of pratfalls and sight gags.  It’s a great contrast to “I Want to be your Canary,” the play Tantalus is performing, which is a classical tragedy.
The play-within-a-play, or in this case play-within-a-game, is a great technique for drawing parallels and establishing theme.  Probably the best known examples come from Shakespeare, who uses it to interesting effect in “Hamlet” to prove Claudius’s guilt, and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” where it serves as comic relief.  Here, the play is a plot point for getting Zidane and company in the door, but it does a hefty bit of world building and character development as well.  The theme of an impossible affair between a princess and a commoner echoes Zidane and Garnet’s relationship, and the play will come up several more times throughout the plot.
Next time, we’ll explore The Evil Forest and discuss worldbuilding!

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