In what I hope doesn't turn out to be a Deus Ex Machina, the pickle in which Tifa, Barret, Aeris and Red XIII and I briefly found ourselves in was resolved when a mysterious assailant slaughtered all the Shinra guards on our floor and unlocked our cell doors in the process.
Tracking said assailant is not difficult as he or she has left a trail of blood in their wake. Red XIII suggests we follow it to the upper floor.
On the way, we get served by a gang of really sassy tapeworms.
The trail leads to President Shinra's office, where we find the man himself slumped theatrically over his desk with an expensive sword still lodge in his back. I conclude that he has slaughtered by someone either really melodramatic or really forgetful.
A quick examination of the offending weapon reveals that it belongs to Sephiroth, who's been mentioned in hushed tones several times throughout the game. As we debate the ramifications, Barret displays a lack of political understanding that I wish I'd been aware of before I joined his resistance group.
Before anyone has a chance to explain succession to Barret, Palmer, the head of Shinra's space program, runs out from behind a pillar. It seems he's witnessed the murder, but we let him go because we have bigger fish to fry.
Namely, Sephiroth, about whom we exchange anecdotes on our way out of the office.
We don't get far before we're accosted by Rufus, the president's son. He's also the vice-president of Shinra! What are the chances?
He recites what we can only assume to be the company motto.
Our best chance of escape, apparently, is for me to attack Rufus "Draco Malfoy" Shinra while the others make a run for it.
After only a few seconds, he's picked up by one of daddy's helicopters, mirroring Tseng's earlier escape. Clearly, helicopter escapes are part of company policy at Shinra.
There's no point sticking around, so I race downstairs to find the others. An FMV ensues.
Red XIII looks like Shenzi, the Whoopi Goldberg hyeena from The Lion King.
Now, I know he looks like a bath toy in all the screenshots I've taken of him thus far, but Cloud is actually supposed to be really cool. Here he is (or, to be consistent, here I am) on a motorbike that I just happened to find lying around in Shinra H.Q.
The appearance of the motorbike means that the strange vehicle advertisement we found earlier makes a little more sense. It's not the same vehicle (that was a car), but at least we can now assume that the advertisement was foreshadowing.
I include the above screenshot purely so you can see what Tifa's supposed to look like. Her super-deformed form looks more like her "true" appearance than Cloud's does.
Tifa, Aeris, Barret and
Hey, it's a Morris Minor 1000! My dad used to have one of those.
The Morris Minor 1000 skids out onto the Shinra streets, and I'm not far behind.
What follows is a sequence which I'm pretty sure is a homage to the bike chase in Akira. This is the second possible reference to the seminal anime I've spotted in Final Fantasy VII, the first being Jenova's cryo-tank in the Shinra lab in the last episode of this playthrough. Both are unsurprising whether they are or aren't intentional, Akira's Neo Tokyo and Final Fantasy VII's Midgar have much in common. Neo Tokyo is a booming urban sprawl built on a post-nuclear wasteland, while Midgar is an industrial powerhouse built on the decaying slums that house its working class.
Whether Final Fantasy VII reaches Akira's symbolic and emotional heights remains to be seen. For now, there are baddies to take down.
It's pretty hard to tell from stills, but I'm in the middle on a motorbike, protecting the Morris Minor 1000 from goons using my sword. The sequence is yet another example of awkward action in this PC RPG, which is something I'm going to stop complaining about.
I manage to knock all the big kids off their bikes, but we can't escape Midgar because someone forgot to finish the road, and we can't turn back because there's a juggernaut blocking our path.
Only one thing for it...
Final Fantasy VII came out in 1997. Robot Wars first aired in 1998. Co-incidence?
In the post-battle calm, we debate the merits of following Sephiroth versus fighting the good fight on home ground. We unanimously agree to pursue the baddie in the hopes of ending Midgar's troubles once and for all.
Almost a year after I started the Final Fantasy VII playthrough, we've finally reached the Midgar City limits. We mumble a few platitudes to each other before we head out into the wild. What will we discover? Whom shall we meet? Will we ever uncover the truth behind Sephiroth's crusade?
Will it take another year to find out?