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After reading all the guides at Gamefaqs as well as watching all the Youtube videos of both the misses and successes I think I DO have a few things to add.
It's all well and good for people to say it is just "luck" or "all skill" or "get as many balloons as possible" or "don't get hit whatever happens" but I think those are too general to be of any use. As someone who is 34 and whose hand-eye coordination is NOT godly, I wanted to put together an FAQ that if followed should allow almost anyone to be able to achieve this in a reasonable amount of time.
Key Points: Before even beginning to play.
1. The controls are terrible. However there is a method to the madness so to speak, some "rules" to live by.
Firstly, as many have stated, use the D-pad exclusively. The analog stick does not give you fast enough turns.
Secondly, ONLY TAP the left and right directions, NEVER hold them down. I
Thirdly, hitting the invisible walls along either "corridor" will instantly cause the Chocobo to veer at an almost 90 degree angle away from it. While sometimes desirable in specific situations to avoid birds, this move will likely result in you running right into one and is to be avoided if at all possible.
2. This game actually is indeed a combination of Luck and Skill, however I think more than even Skill for those of us with crappy hand-eye reflexes, there is also a significant amount of STRATEGY. In other words, regardless of skill in terms of relexes, if proper STRATEGY is incorporated, you can lessen the effects of skill and put yourself in a better position to win.
3. You will usually need to spend at least 30 minutes getting warmed up so don't be discouraged if you have some terrible runs in the beginning. Doing this will require repetition until the moves you are making are essentially muscle memory. That is going to take time but fear not, eventually you will succeed
4. Finally, as far as I'm concerned you can not finish the race in less than 35 seconds. So we are looking at the following criteria to get to 0:0.0:
12 balloons and no hits. If you don't hit any birds at all and race a pretty straightforward race, you will be between 35 and 36 seconds and 12 birds will get you there. Hopefully you don't get exactly 36 seconds as that will get you 0:0.0 on the dot which WON'T CUT IT (you have to beat that time, not tie it). In my opinion, getting 12 balloons while not getting hit even once is very difficult. In particular the last straightaway when the field narrows in the end is a nightmare to avoid the birds.
14 balloons and 1 hit. This is the most likely scenario that is going to result. 13 balloons and 1 hit will give you a NET of 12 balloons or -36 seconds but the problem is getting hit by that bird is going to add abou 1.8 seconds and as I've said before, it is unlikely to be able to finish the course in under 35 seconds in the best of circumstances. Thus, 13 and 1 will likely get you anywhere from 0.5 to 1.1 seconds which is very frustrating.
14 and 1 on the otherhand will net you 13 balloons for a -39 seconds which will definitely do the trick.
Now, the following technique should be followed almost PRECISELY. Do this OVER AND OVER again without straying. Over time, you should be able to get the perfect score.
Part 2 coming up
Let's get started.
1. First straightaway, you need 3 balloons minimum. 4 is better, 5 would be unbelievable but it almost never happened for me. NEVER, NEVER go to the trainer's side, it is a trap. Instead, right on your D-pad when the race starts to line yourself up for the first balloon on the right side (your side) that you can get and then make minute adjustments to get the rest. The key here is to get IN FRONT OF THE TRAINER.
By the way, sometimes the last balloon will be way to the left or at the turn. I give those up for lost because you need to be lucky to get the balloon on the turn and you simply can't get the balloon if it is too far off the left as the game will force turn for you once you approach.
You need to practice this part again and again until you are VERY comfortable quick tapping your D-pad to align yourself properly to get that balloon. This is easier said than done and many people take this for granted but you must master this part until you are able to do it at least 90 percent of the time. It is pretty easy but also good practice for GENTLY tapping and NOT holding the D-pad down.
2. Ok, the first turn. You are SUPPOSED to do a sharp turn around the corner and then immediately tap left to center yourself and see if you can get those 1 or 2 freebie balloons right around the corner. This is according to Morelock's guide. He also states that it is not really critical to get these "turn balloons" here.
I have to agree with that and go even a step farther. Make NO ATTEMPT to get these balloons. If they're right in front of you fine but otherwise you have bigger fish to fry.
Let's go back to the beginning again. Remember at this point if you are in the right position, you should be ahead of the trainer. To STAY ahead of her, you will need to make a perfect turn. Most likely you will not do it and the trainer will catch up and pass you around the turn. This has the added repercussion that any freebie balloon in easy reach will be snatched up by her. No matter.
When you round the corner and are trailing her which will happen about 80 percent of the time, you will be hit by the first wave of 4 birds. 2 will go for the trainer and 2 will go for you.
Rather than worry about the balloons coming out of the curve you need to worry about two important things that really HAVE to happen for you to have a chance:
First, the trainer needs to be hit by a bird.
Second, you need to NOT be bit by a bird.
Sadly, the first is completely determined by chance but luckily she gets hit much more often than not. I'd say over 70 percent. You can avoid getting hit by tapping RIGHT as you come around the curve. Okay, if a balloon is RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU and I mean it is right in your breadbasket straight ahead, you can try for it but understand you have about 1 second before the two birds targeted for you will get you. If there is any doubt, give up on those balloons and just veer right.
If all goes well, most of the time what will happen is the trainer will get struck and you won't.
3. Now we have gone through straightaway and the first turn and we are into the second straightaway after dodging the first pair of birds. The sharp right tap has likely destabilized your Chocobo so after dodging the two birds you need to IMMEDIATELY tap left again GENTLY to straighten up your Chocobo. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you overcorrect and cause the Chocobo to go radically to the left. You only need to "straighten" out but stay slightly to the right side of center.
Now we have a situation where you are ahead of the trainer again. The next two birds are GUARANTEED to go after the trainer and with some luck will hit her again. What matters is that they won't be seeking you so now you have a few seconds to align yourself and go after a few balloons.
This portion is again luck and somewhat skill based. You need to have some balloons in this region for you to get AND you need to be somewhat skilled enough to gently tap and control your Chocobo's trajectory to grab them.
At this point it is acceptable to go after some balloons in the CENTER of the corridor as well as the right. Again, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES go to far to the left because you will drastically increase the chances of a bird hit if you do. Also, do not stick too far to the right or you will hit the invisible wall and bounce off likely right into a bird hit.
Ok fine, you picked up a few balloons hopefully in the 2-3 seconds that the 3rd pair of birds went flying after the trainer. Now, get ready because the 4th pair is going to go after you. If you listened to me, your position shoudl be around the center of the corridor or slightly to the left or right of it depending on balloon positions. When the 4th pair of birds show up on screen, tap right and you should have ample room to dodge both easily.
Ok, after doing that, the 5th pair of birds are going after the trainer again. Don't go after any more balloons because you are now approaching the SECOND turn which is much more gradual than the first turn.
4. You know this turn is coming up because you can see the shadow of the mountain. There is almost ALWAYS a balloon as well (90% of the time) to tip you off. Continue to gently hug right and the screen is going to rotate. This will be happening while the 5th pair of birds is off hitting the trainer so you should have a free pass to get through the curve and line yourself up again. At this point a 6th pair of birds targeting you will show up but because you are in the middle of the screen scrolling they will miss you about 90 percent of the time if you are hugging right.
Now, it is NICE if you can practice enough to pick up the balloon along the second turn but it is not criticical. After the second turn straighten your Chocobo out by gentle tapping and get ready for the last straightaway stretch to the end.
5. Again luck comes into play. You need there to be a couple of freebie balloons lined up near the CENTER or RIGHT of the corridor. You have about 2 or 3 seconds to align yourself appropriately and pick them up because birds are going to be headed your way. The first pair will ALWAYS (100 percent) go for you and you will need to dodge them CORRECTLY. How to do this?
Okay, after the second turn finishes and you straighten out, collect what you can and then immediately begin to shade right by gently tapping right. When you see the birds begin to build speed and approach you, tap HARD to the left. You will immediately go 90 degree and cross the corridor. This will avoid BOTH birds meant for you about 80 or 85 percent of the time without fail.
Okay, now the next pair of birds (I believe if you are counting it is pair number 8) will be going for the trainer who has now made the turn herself. You have once again a few seconds of breathing room. It is imperative at this point that you immediately STRAIGHTEN your Chocobo out (since you right angled it to dodge bird pair number 7) and SURVEY the field. Remember you are rapidly approaching the end of the race when the corridor begins to NARROW making bird dodging extremely challening if not downright impossible in the tight confines.
At this point, luck kicks in again. There will be a few balloons scattered near the end of the race. You are hoping for a configuration where all the balloons are lined up 3 or 4 in a row either on the right or the left. Align your Chocobo and go after them. If the balloons are instead scattered all over, you will have to do your best to pick up what you can.
6. Endgame. Pair number 9 is the last pair you are going to have to dodge before the end but they are hardest. Why? First because as you approach the end, the corridor narrows tremendously. Second, you are trying to grab the last few balloons you are going to need as well.
IDEALLY, while the 8th pair of birds are off shellacking the trainer, you should be using you time to straighten your Chocobo out and get it around the center again so when Pair 9 comes on you can do another HARD left to dodge them. Note that at this point, HARD left is the only realistic way to dodge them because you are so close to where the birds are being made.
HOWEVER, you are hardly ever going to have the luxury of doing this because you desperately need to pick up those last few balloons and at this late stage, dodging the bird likely means missing the balloons.
At this point, I need to add in a VERY important point. The WORST configuration of balloons at this last stage is scattered because you are likely not going to be able to pick up more than 1 or 2 at best. But the SECOND worst is a line of balloons on the left side. Why?
Well for some stupid reason, the game puts this left line of balloons almost right at the left wall so while getting them, you have a very high chance of bouncing off and getting hit by Pair 9 as well as missing the last balloons. If that's the configuration you get, do the best you can but you need to have very fine control of your Chocobo.
As you can see, all the luck and hard work you've put into the run comes down to where the last couple of balloons are going to be arranged. What should you do as you come up on these balloons while Pair 9 is being generated.
What I do is I get hit by the bird on purpose. At this stage, you should have had a perfect run getting hit by NO BIRDS. It is MUCH more important to pick up all 2 or 3 balloons and if you have to get hit by a bird, so be it. Remember that Pair 10 will go after the trainer so you should have a relatively open run to the Finish after getting hit. JUST PICK UP THOSE LAST FEW BALLOONS IF THEY ARE IN A LINE.
1. Using this strategy I was able to get the Sun Sigil with 14 balloons and 1 bird hit in a time between 37 and 38 seconds.
2. Using this strategy, I was able to get hit ONLY ONCE almost 90 percent of my runs. In other words, almost never got hit more than once. The "ONCE" always occured in the very last part where I stopped dodging and tried going for the balloons.
3. There WILL BE VARIATIONS so if you are lucky, the balloons will be lined up so far away so that you can eat them up and then hang a SHARP turn left to narrowly miss Pair 9 as they rush for you. If so, you will have a Godly time. Normally though the balloons are placed almost RIGHT before the end making it very difficult to avoid getting hit while you are grabbing them.
4. Several times during my strategy I mention various Pairs of Birds going after the Trainer. Again luck comes in a bit. It is IMPERATIVE that while you are straightening your Chocobo out after dodging your pair of birds and going after balloons that you DON'T happen to get in the "line of fire" of the birds going after the trainer. MOST of the time, that won't happen as the trainer will be weaving herself but if you unlucky you might get hit by a pair of birds meant for the trainer. This happens most frequently in the last straightaway and the endgame.
5. As you can see, the main "skill" part of this minigame comes in CONTROLLING your Chocobo. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap to make minute adjustments. When the time comes in my FAQ to make a SHARP TURN, then tap HARD or even hold down a millisecond to make that drastic turn to dodge.
6. Also, as you can see, positioning of balloons is critical. You NEED the balloons to be in the right part of the corridor. It's useless to have 5 balloons in a row at Part One and yet have NO balloons in their optimal position for the rest of the run. Remember you need at least 14 balloons if you plan on getting hit at the Endgame to guarantee success.
7. Even if the balloon positiong is impossible in the beginning of the race, DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED and DO NOT GIVE UP. Use that opportunity to practice the rest of the stages of the race. You cannot control where the balloons are placed, however there is very little randomness in when the birds are generated and who they target. With some practice, you should NEVER get hit more than once during any run and your hit should only be at the very end. Of course if you lose concentration, lose focus, make a mistake, gamble for a balloon you shouldn't be going after, you will get hit. However those are mistakes YOU make and not randomly generated.
8. Thus we have now arrived at a situation where you should be able to routinely reduce the bird hit rate to 1 or even 0 with some luck at the Endgame (not that you can reduce the rate to 0 hits if you are focused on dodging only but again you are unlikely to have enough balloons at the end and will be forced to gamble somewhat to pick up the ones you need). Now all you need is for the balloon placement to be favorable. You have thus reduced the mini-game to ONLY that variable.
Granted it is a BIG variable which is why the game is still very challenging and may take many, many runs over 1 or 2 or even 3 hours to complete but with this strategy and with consistency you should be able to do it pretty quickly.
There is also the issue of "choking" when you suddenly realize that the balloons are RIGHT where you need them to be and you lose focus and screw it up. Thus, for me, it's best to not even think about it and simply go through the run over and over in identical fashion. When I finally did it, I knew it was a clean run but had no idea how many balloons I managed to snag. Wound up with the 14 I needed and 1 bird hit. Ironically, I was going for that one last balloon and got hit. If I had just dodged I would have gotten 13 balloons and 0 hits with an even faster time (probably sub 37 second) and won anyway.
This guide of course is not meant for the gods among you who can get 18 balloons or can beat the game 7 or 8 times in an hour. For us mere mortals, I think this is as complete and detailed a walkthrough as ever existed to beat for me is one of the most ridiculously frustrating minigames in all of video games. It is a combination of strategies from Morelock and Anthony Ambrose as well as my analysis of the Youtube videos and my own personal experience.
Good luck to all of you.
I'll try it tomorrow!!
well this topic should be sticky-ed since there are so many people encounter this trouble : )
Child of man, do you fear me?
I've tried it out a couple of times to fine tune it. The diciest part is the very end because your reaction time is so short. They appear sometimes literally right in front of you and the course begins to "funnel" you into the end. I've noticed over the course of literally hundreds of runs that HARD dodges to the left against the wall give you the best chance of avoiding that last pair of birds. The problem here is that a hard left dodge will bounce off the left wall and immediately result in a HARD bounce back to the right with no control or time to straighten out. If you miscalculated and went hard too soon, you may then bounce back into a bird meant for the trainer.
And of course radical dodges to avoid the birds will likely make you miss the few balloons you need to pick up at the end.
Although I haven't tried this because my wife doesn't play video games at all, it MAY be helpful to have a partner act as a "spotter" next to you so while you are grinding through the course, he/she can silently count for you. Then as you approach the endgame, they can yell out the number of balloons you've accumulated so you can prioritize whether you should focus on dodging or grabbing balloons.
It is a LOT EASIER to finish up the run if you are focused solely on dodging and don't have to worry about snagging that last 1 or 2. If you are skilled enough with the turns and a little lucky, you may very well have 12 or 13 balloons and then you can afford to shift focus into dodging of course. That's why a partner to count may help. In analyzing the many successful runs on Youtube, I have counted balloons and some of them have 12 or 13 after the second turn into the final straightaway which is remarkable. These people are very skilled though at picking up one balloon at the first turn and one or two at the second turn which adds at least 3 balloons to their total that I usually am not able to pick up. They have completely mastered the turns which does help.
NEVER count balloons while you are grinding through these runs, you need TOTAL focus and concentration for maintaining the overall gameplan and dodging the pairs of birds sent against you. As with Lulu and Kimahri's Sigil Quests, breaks after one to two hours may help to "reload" concentration.
Admittedly the last part of the run is a more fluid situation than the rest of the course because your priorities will be determined in part by how many balloons you have at that point. The ONLY thing that doesn't change is you MUST NOT BE HIT before the end so you can absorb that one last bird hit going after as many balloons as you can . . .
Stick request submitted.
We need as many approaches to this as we can get.
I call you to join me in following the ways of Canas the Monocle Man.
Knowledge is the greatest power of all!
Bump in case people are interested.
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