Saturday, 13 July 2013

Final Fantasy VII Playthrough: Part 7 - Dropping the Plate

After last week's picaresque jaunt through Wall Market looking for ways to trick an old mobster into bed, Tifa, Aeris and myself have come back down to earth with a bump. Well, actually more like a splash, because the Don threw us into the sewers below his mansion.

This week's episode takes an altogether more serious tone, because after interrogating Don Corneo, we discovered that Shinra are planning to eliminate AVALANCHE by dropping the upper plate of Sector 7 onto the slums below. The three of us need to make our way through this creepy train yard to save the people of the slums before it's too late.

Of course, the train yard is haunted.

We are attacked by a gang of ghosts who keep disappearing, so we have to time our attacks carefully. Poor Aeris, above, misses her chance and is left bewildered.

Proceeding through the train graveyard, we reach some trains which, at this fancy high definition, look oddly distinct.

I get inside one and it moves, creating a path. We push on, hoping to get to Sector 7 before the plate comes down.

In front of the pillar that supports the plate far above Sector 7, the townsfolk are panicking. We look up and see gunfire on the pillar as Shira's agents fight the resistance. As we stare, three small figures are hurled from the structure to the ground below.

One of them lands right by our feet.

It's Wedge, AVALANCHE member and ecoterrorist extraordinaire. He seems touched that I remembered his name, and tells me so as the light fades from his eyes. I can't bring myself to say that I keep getting him confused with the Star Wars character.

While Tifa evacuates the crowd from the danger zone, Aeris resolves to go and rescue Marlene, whom she's never met, from the Seventh Heaven bar. Thus she leaves our party. I forget to grab the materia she was carrying. It's not like she'll need it where she's going. Probably.

Tifa and I climb the pillar. Along the way we encounter Biggs, dangled comically over a railing. I try and suppress my laughter because his neck has clearly been broken and he's definitely going to die.

As we climb, we are repeatedly attached by men in propeller suits who keep attacking us with whirring blades. They evade my sword and Tifa's knuckle dusters, but not my fire spells.

Onwards and upwards. Near the top, we find poor Jessie.

Jessie's bleak final words expose the moral greyness of the first few hours of Final Fantasy VII. Is AVALANCHE's mission a good thing? I mean, sure everyone who works for Shinra is mean and their president smokes a cigar, but does that justify terrorism? Detonating bombs that destroy civilian property probably counts as terrorism. And when counter-terrorism measures result in the deaths of thousands of innocents, do the terrorists share the blame?

Having Shinra drop the plate on Sector 7 at this early stage in the narrative gives the player an interesting perspective because the true impact of Shira's activities has not been revealed yet, so the morality, or lack thereof, of AVALANCHE's crusade is highly ambiguous.

At the top we meet up with Barret, the body of a deceased Shinra heavy at his feet. He's desperately trying to disarm the explosive device that Shinra have planted in the pillar holding up the plate.

Neither Tifa nor I have any luck. Just when it looks like things can't get worse, Reno, the "Turk" who was after Aeris back when the two of us first met, shows up.

Part of me wonders whether he says his own name because if he didn't we would have no idea who he was. No matter.

A scuffle ensues.

Like everyone else, Reno looks way cooler during fights than he does in his super-deformed state.Check out that hair.

It looks like we're going to win the fight, but before we can land the final blows, Reno escapes onto a waiting helicopter. What a wuss, seriously.

The speech bubble obscures the other occupant of the helicopter, but the one we can see is definitely Aeris, who is now, worryingly, Shinra's "special guest".

The speech bubble moves, and we meet a new character, Tseng, who crows about having captured Aeris and his impending victory over AVALANCHE. Barret, Tifa and I stare on in horror.

The bomb detonates and the helicopter, carrying Reno, Tseng and Aeris, escapes. The three of us need to hurry if we're going to make it out with our lives.

Like Luke and Leia (and, like, one extra one), we swing from the pillar just as it falls.

Then, it happens.

The ground begins to shake, knocking people to the ground...

...the entire plate judders as the support beneath it gives way...

...the television signal in a house beneath flickers, then dies...

...people are tossed around like dolls as the massive structure crashes down above them...

...the entire plate rips free of its bindings and falls, obliterating the slums beneath...

...while above the chaos, the Shinra tower stands tall.

Tifa, Barret and I swing away from the billowing smoke and dust from the explosion.

We're propelled by the blast, and find ourselves in the playground where Aeris and I had our first proper conversation. The expression on the face of the cat slide now seems unfortunate. Or appropriate. It's hard to tell.

The slide is now the centrepiece for a dark visual gag. With red girders embedded in its plastic skull, the cat's open mouth and lolling tongue become gruesome.

Barrett frantically cries out for Marlene, who he believes to be buried under the rubble of the Sector 7 slums. Then, he starts to blame himself for her death.

Tifa is confused.

Gee, it's a tricky one, Tifa. Maybe, if AVALANCHE had never started trying to bring down Shinra, then Shinra would never have responded in kind by trying to bring down AVALANCHE. But really, that's all I've got for you right now because I don't know enough about Shinra to know if what they're doing is really wrong. At the moment, I've only got Barret's word for it, and though he seems like a nice guy, he's also has a gun for an arm, so I don't want to start a conversation about critical thinking with him.


To placate him, Tifa explains that before we climbed the pillar, she asked Aeris to go and rescue Marlene. In order to find Marlene, we need to know where Aeris went. It seems sensible to start with her house, so we set off for Casa Aeris. On the way, I black out.

Don't worry about that, that's normal.

We push onwards, eventually arriving at Aeris' house where Elmyra is waiting. Instead of asking where Aeris and Marlene are, we all take five while Elmyra breaks out the family photo album and begins telling us about her daughter, who it turns out isn't her daughter after all.

She tells us about the dreadful day when her beloved husband failed to come home from the war, and how she was left waiting at the railway station as couples reunited around her. When she was about to leave, a woman basically dies right in front of her and asks her to take care of her daughter. Elmyra said yes because it was just turning out to be that sort of day.

Then, some exposition.

Kids say the funniest things. Then, Elmyra skips forward to the time when Tseng, whom we met earlier, turned up that the house to try and take Aeris away.

It seems there was some truth to the child's stories after all.

Elmyra refused to give Aeris up, and Tseng left, though according to Elmyra, Shinra have been after her "daughter" ever since.

Speaking of daughters, there's someone upstairs who's very happy to see Barrett.

Marlene's survival improves morale after the disaster of the destruction of the slums, so Tifa, Barret and I decide to leave her with Elmyra while we set off to rescue Aeris.

Wise words...

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