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Final Fantasy IX Chocobo guide | Hot & Cold, abilities, colors, and how to reach Lagoon, Air Garden, & Paradise

It wouldn't be a true FF with out plenty of Chocobo action, and in Final Fantasy IX, there's a major Chocobo Side Quest that spans a number of different locations and mini-games. This Chocobo side quest carries some significant rewards - and it all begins with a little mini-game called Chocobo Hot and Cold

Upon setting out from Lindblum's Dragon's Gate part-way through disc 1 of FF9's sprawling adventure, you can venture off away from your story objective, due east just a little way on foot - and there you'll find the Chocobo's Forest. This is where you get to meet Mene and his pal Choco. They need your help in order to get to Chocobo Paradise. This guide covers how to get there, though you'll find it also links out to a few separate pages on similar topics.

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Chocobo Hot and Cold - the core of the Chocobo Side Quest

Many of the side quests described in this section depend entirely upon your progress in FF9, and in particular your progress within the Chocobo Hot and Cold mini-game. Your party will not be able to reach certain areas or find some powerful items until you have commandeered certain vehicles and until Choco the Chocobo has acquired the necessary skills to swim, climb mountains, or fly.

While vehicles are obtained through story progression, Choco's abilities are acquired through a combination of Hot and Cold and digging up Chocographs on the world map. The progression is simple: you dig up Chocographs in the Chocobo Hot and Cold mini game; these function as treasure maps out on the world map. By figuring out the Chocograph treasure locations (which we've got a full guide on, just hit the link) you unlock a lot of great treasure - including Choco's extra abilities. These abilities can be used to find more treasure, but also to advance the general Chocobo side story. After your first visit to Chocobo Forest, you can call Chico from any part of the world map with Chocobo footprints by using Gysahl Greens.

How to play Chocobo Hot and Cold

Within a Chocobo Forest, each time you pay Mene 60 gil to play Hot and Cold, you get 60 seconds to search the Chocobo Forest for valuable items and gil. To search, ride Choco around the area and press the [Square] button to dig. Choco will let out a "Kweh" sound each time you dig to indicate how close or how far you are from a buried item. Choco makes a variety of sounds, each with its own meaning. Here's what they mean:

  • Kweh. - No treasure nearby
  • Kweh!? - You're getting closer to the treasure
  • Kwehhh!? - You're very close to the treasure

When Choco screams "K-KWEHHH!!!" (all in caps), you have struck the spot where an item is buried. Different items are buried at different depths; obviously, the better items are deeper down and take longer to dig out. 

For each item or amount of gil you find, you receive points. If you find four items in one sixty-second game, Mene will add 10 seconds to the clock and double your points for each item found thereafter. If you dig up two items within five seconds of one another, you receive additional bonus points. Each different Chocobo's Forest has a maximum of eight items - after that, Mene will end the game early.

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As well as the items, the points earned for digging up items can also be exchanged with Mene for other useful items. Choco's beak level will increase occasionally, depending on the total number of points you've earned. As Choco improves, finding items and digging them up become much easier and faster.

The easiest way to play Chocobo Hot and Cold with good results is to begin in the center of the area and work your way out as quickly as possible, remembering where you have already searched so as not to double up your efforts. Over time, you will get a better 'feel' for the radius in which Choco's awareness works, which will make the game easier, and the beak upgrades will dramatically speed up the process.

On modern versions of the game, you can use the built in 3x speed cheat to make everything move faster without speeding up the time limit on the game, which makes finding stuff far, far more easy.

Chocobo Hot and Cold Rewards / Treasures List

Here's the treasures you can dig up during Hot and Cold, and their points values. Point values are doubled in the Chocobo's Lagoon location you unlock later, and tripled in Chocobo's Air Garden later still.

  • 1 Point: 50 gil, Antidote, Annoyntment, Echo Screen, Eye Drops, Gyshal Greens, Potion, Phoenix Pinion, Soft, Dead Pepper (only after Mountain upgrade acquired)
  • 2 Points: 200 gil, Ore, Phoenix Pinion
  • 4 Points: 500 gil, Hi-Potion, Remedy, Tent
  • 8 Points: 100 gil, 5000 gil, Ether, Elixir
  • 10/15 Points: Chocograph
  • 16 Points: Pinwheel
  • 15/20 Points: Chocograph Piece (six in total)
  • 16 Points: 1 gil, 10000 gil, Anklet, Barette, Cachusha, Extension, Rising Sun, Wing Edge
  • 20/25 Points: Stone with Patterns

Here's the items you can exchange your points for by chatting to Mene:

  • Robe of Lords (10,000 points)
  • Protect Ring (8500 Points)
  • Wing Edge (3500 Points)
  • Viltgance Card (1800 Points)
  • Ether (450 Points)
  • Ore (250 Points)
  • Phoenix Pinion (150 Points)
  • Gysahl Greens (10 Points)

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Finding Chocographs & Chocograph Pieces in Hot and Cold

By far the most important items buried beneath the ground in the forests are Chocographs. These are items that provide clues to the whereabouts of buried treasure that Choco can dig up on the World Map. During your first visit to the Chocobo Forest, you may find the first Chocograph within 3 or 4 games. The first Chocograph, labeled "Streamside," lets you dig up a treasure chest buried on the beach near the river just outside the Chocobo Forest, and acts as something of a tutorial, but later hints are more challenging and obtuse, which si why we've got a full Chocograph treasure location guide

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In terms of finding Chocographs in the Hot and Cold mini-game - it's all about random chance, I'm afraid. You have a 1-in-16 chance of digging up a Chocograph for the first four items of any run of the mini-game. As you collect more, this rises further. The chance goes up to 1-in-5 for your sixth item, while your seventh attempt has a 1-in-3 chance of being a Chocograph. Your final, eighth item has a 50/50 chance to be a Chocograph, if you make it that far.

One Chocograph is different, and is split into six different pieces. These pieces are again a random drop - so you'll just have to hope and cross your fingers. Thankfully, the more you play the mini-game and the more proficient you become at it, the easier the whole process becomes. It can be handled quite quickly, all told.

Chocobo Abilities & Colors explained

A few Chocographs provide hints about locations where Choco can dig up a "Power Up." In this case, instead of finding treasures, Choco will fall asleep and go to Chocobo's Dream World for a moment. Here, Fat Chocobo, the god of all Chocobos, bestows upon Choco a new ability, which in turn changes Choco's color. Each color indicates that Choco has attained a new ability. The abilities are cumulative, so Choco will not lose a previously gained ability just because he has turned a new color.

  • When Choco is light blue, he has the REEF ability and can now walk & search on reefs - the shallow, light-blue areas of the ocean, just offshore.
  • A red-colored Choco has the Mt. / MOUNTAIN ability and can run across mountains and ridges, which were previously impassable. This also enables Choco to search the high ledges to the left and to the right in the Chocobo's Forest area. However, you should only search up there when it appears that there's nothing on the ground.
  • A dark-blue-colored Choco with the SEA ability can swim across any part of the ocean.
  • Finally, a gold-colored Choco with the SKY ability can lift off from or land in any forest area; simply press the X button to do so. This enables a gold Choco to reach islands and areas that not even an airship can access.

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Reaching Chocobo's Lagoon

The next level of the Chocobo side quest sees you unlock a secret Chocobo haven of sorts, the Chocobo's Lagoon. To get there, continue digging up Chocographs in the Chocobo's Forest until Choco tells Mene that there are no more Chocographs to find. Once the party has a vehicle, pilot the party to the small strip of islands south of the western Forgotten Continent, which is the lower-left of FF9's four main landmasses. Land on the island where you see Chocobo footprints, and use a Gysahl Green to summon Choco.

Choco must have the REEF ability to travel in the light blue colored water areas to find Chocobo's Lagoon. Ride Choco north across the reefs in this area, curving south until you reach an island with a cave visible in the side, close to the reef. When you see the "?" appear, ride in with Choco. This is Chocobo's Lagoon!

Mene appears and offers to let you search the area for 30 seconds at 30 Gil a shot. With the REEF ability, the light blue colored chocobo can only search the shallow portions of the area. Once he earns the SEA ability, the dark blue chocobo can search the entire area for 60 seconds at 60 Gil. Note that, you must have a red chocobo before you can have the ocean chocobo. To acquire the ocean chocobo, you must return to Chocobo Forest with the red chocobo.

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Finding Chocobo's Air Garden

After finding all of the Chocographs in Chocobo's Lagoon, Mene indicates that it's time to find Chocobo's Air Garden. The whereabouts of this mysterious place is indicated by the clues inscribed on the back of the six Chocograph Pieces. You must dig up all six of these pieces in the "Chocobo Hot and Cold game." After finding them all, the Chocograph that leads you to the gold-colored chocobo SKY ability immediately becomes available. This Chocobo can fly, taking off and landing from any forested area on the world map - but it can actually reach a number of places the airships cannot.

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One such place is Chocobo's Air Garden, the very last Chocobo Forest area in FF9. Floating in the sky, the only way to find this area is by searching the world for a slow moving, circular shadow. When found, entering this area merely requires floating above the shadow on Choco, and feed him a dead pepper. Within, the last (and best) of the Chocographs await! The five possible locations of the shadow that can lead to the Air Garden are indicated on the following map:

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When you find the shadow, hover Choco directly over it and then take Choco up into the sky. Feed Choco a Dead Pepper, which temporarily increases Choco's abilities, to find the Air Garden. After Mene arrives, you can play Chocobo Hot and Cold here to find the remaining Chocographs. Search along the two islands floating among the clouds, but don't hop to the other one until you're sure there are no more treasures on the isle you're currently on.

Within the Air Garden, undertake some search efforts again to nab yourself some of the best Chocographs with some of the best rewards, including ultimate weapons! This is also where you can fight Ozma, the ultimate boss in FF9... but given that Ozma eclipses even the final; boss in difficulty, you might want to leave that alone for now.

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Chocobo's Paradise

After finding all of the Chocographs and digging up their corresponding treasures, it's time to head to Chocobo's Paradise. You'll need a Dead Pepper, an item you can find while playing Chocobo Hot and Cold.

Pilot your gold chocobo to the most northwestern part of the World Map, where you'll find a hidden island. There's a forest for Choco to land in and a small mountain nearby. Look for a large crack on the side of the mountain. Move Choco across the ground to the crack, and then open the menu ([Triangle] button) and use a Dead Pepper. Choco will dig open the entrance to Chocobo's Paradise.

Now ride Choco to the right, where he will use the fountain as a springboard to leap up to the high platform. This is where Fat Chocobo presides. At this stage, the Fat Chocobo will indicate that there are still treasures to find on the World Map. Also, you are now able to understand all of the chocobos when they speak. The chocobo seated to the left of Fat Chocobo will give you 99 Dead Peppers. All the rest of the chocobos, including the two near the entrance, provide clues as to the whereabouts of treasures hidden in the world that you can find by using Dead Peppers.

These remaining quests involve finding the bubbling Chocobo Dive Spots, the Mountain Cracks, and the Chocobo Beaches

If you've found all of the treasures, Fat Chocobo dictates that Choco must stay in Chocobo's Paradise. He gives you the ultra-rare Fat Chocobo Card, as if it's any consolation. But don't worry, Choco won't abandon his friends. When you move back to the entrance, Choco rejoins you for more adventures!

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Chocobo's Revitalizing Ability

As an added bonus for completing the Chocobo Hot and Cold game, Choco can learn to completely restore your party's HP and MP, as well as remove any status abnormalities. All you need to do is visit a beach.

First, find every treasure on the World Map and all of the Chocographs. Then visit Chocobo's Paradise and challenge Fat Chocobo to a card game. When you challenge Fat Chocobo to a card game, he will give you clues to the beaches. It isn't necessary to even play against him, as long as you challenge him.

Ride Choco to a beach and dismount. Then press the Circle button and you will hear a chime. After you repeat this process on every single beach, you will heal your entire party. You can now heal your party completely just by visiting any beach and pressing the Circle button. We've got a full list of the healing beaches and their locations if you need it.

For more Final Fantasy IX help, check out some of our other guides:

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