Thursday, 31 October 2013

Final Fantasy VII Playthrough: Part 11 - The Search for Sephiroth

We don't believe official reports that Sephiroth is dead for a number of reasons.
  1. Shinra own the press.
  2. Sephiroth disappeared after torching a large amount of incriminating evidence that Shinra don't really want coming to light. 
  3. Shinra are all bastards.
Consequently, we decide to search for him in order to find out what's really behind Shinra's recent activities and the bloody trail that's recently been left in the corridors of their HQ.

Recent disturbances are said to have created increased monster activity around "Mythril Mine", so that's where we head first. Unfortunately we need to cross a marsh to get there, a marsh inhabited by the deadly "Midgar Zolom".

The only thing we have access to that can move faster than the Zolom is of course, a Chocobo. All Final Fantasy games have Chocobos in them, and they're always accompanied by weird bouncy farmyard music.

Conveniently, these Chocobos live at a Chocobo ranch, right next to the area where you really need a Chocobo.

Unfortunately, none of the Chocobos at the Chocobo ranch are for sale, so they sell us a "Chocobo lure" Materia and some tasty "greens" and tell us to go out and catch our own.

This is easier said than done. Chocobos only ever arrive flanked by monsters, whom you have to kill before you can capture the Chocobo. This is complicated by the fact that our feathered friends have an annoying habit of running away ofter a few seconds, so you have to keep giving them greens (at 1000 Gil a pop) in order to keep them occupied.

After a very expensive few fights, we succeed in capturing a Chocobo, which we ride over the marshes, evading the shadow of the Zolom.

I was a bit disappointed about missing a Zolom fight, but when we get to the other side of the marsh we see this.

Tifa and Red XIII ar so horrified they can't even look directly at it.

By the time the text in the box had finished being typed out, the menacing lightening bolt in the sky had disappeared, and lightening is more important than coherent sentences in screenshots.

The entire party is afflicted with "sadness".

This is a status ailment of course, not a reaction to the unfortunate monster's corpse, but I thought it was appropriate. In order to cure "sadness", you need a "Hyper", but I only have one left and I can't decide who to give it to. Further to this, the increased defence "sadness" gives you (at the cost of a slowed Limit gauge) is quite useful in an area filled with low-level monsters.

The increased defence symptom of the "Sadness" status ailment makes me think of this famous Hyperbole and a Half cartoon, in which author Allie Brosh describes the numbness that accompanied her depression. It is powerful and hilarious, please read it if you haven't.

We enter Mythril Mine and run straight into the Turks.

For an intelligence agency, the Turks aren't very good at keeping their plans quiet.

They introduce Elena, who helpfully informs us that we have compromised their organisation. She makes a vague warning about Reno, who is currently convalescing from the injuries he sustained at our hands.

Hurr, hurr.

After telling us lots of useful information, our enemies leave without starting a fight, which is fine by us. We explore the rest of the Mythrill mine, which is small, yet stocked with useful equipment.

On the other side, we head for Junon Harbour (again, thanks guys). On the way, we meet a demon riding another demon carrying a ball of death.

We defeat him and then head into a forest.

The depiction of the world map in Final Fantasy VII is figurative rather than literal, and Cloud's model is taller than the entire forest...

...but when the battle scenes start, the trees are shown to be much, much taller than Cloud.

This makes sense. The alternative - rendering the world map to scale - would not only take up too much processing power, but also mean that the player would spend a disproportionate amount of time walking through it as opposed to progressing with the story. To make this kind of world-traversal interesting, they would have to fill it with secrets and things to do, and that would detract from the main quest. Final Fantasy VII might give you a lot of freedom, but it's focussed freedom. Making it more like Skyrim would rob it of its immediacy.

Anyway, when we're making our way through the not-to-scale forest we are attacked by a ninja.

She turns Red XIII into a frog, but we still defeat her.

After the battle she lies dazed on the floor, and we walk up to her to begin a conversation. This is one of those conversations where you have to say exactly the right things to achieve the desired outcome, much like the dress-shopping incident back at Wall Market.

I knew the right answers because I looked at a walkthrough, though I think if you get them wrong you can just fight the ninja again. However, I've spent a year on the first 10 hours of this game, and I'm not about to start playing trial-and-error with it now.

I name my pet ninja "Yuffie".

Her first limit is "Greased Lightening".

We head down to the beach on our way to the harbour and fight some weird little dudes.

We arrive at Junon (which strongly reminds me of my hometown, Gosport) and head down to the beach.

We meet a girl called Priscilla down there, and Barret starts chatting to her about which terrorist organisation we belong to and what we're doing in a Shinra port.

Everyone in this game is so abominably bad at keeping sensitive information quiet that I can't even think of anything funny to say about it. It's like that time I found out there was a $425 pill that would turn your poo gold for a few days. I thought there must be some material in there for some kind of joke but there wasn't. It was just too stupid.

Barret is just about to tell Priscilla our social security numbers and mothers' maiden names when we get attacked by a giant fish for no reason.

We kill it, but Priscilla is knocked unconscious and submerged by the wave.

I have to perform CPR.

Priscilla wakes up and is taken home by her grandfather. The rest of us retire to a local inn for the night.

It's so cosy that I go to sleep straight away, but my dreams are haunted.

It seems I can't remember why Tifa and I couldn't spend some time alone together to catch up when I was last in Nibelheim. Tifa and I grew up together in Nibelheim, so it does indeed seem odd that I didn't catch up with her upon my return, even if I was there with SOLDIER.

When I wake up, Tifa is there.

She's confused by my question, and brushes it off because a parade is taking place outside, loudly. It seems that the new president, Rufus, is heading off on an airship and the army is going to see him off. I have a bone to pick with Rufus, so I resolve to follow him.

In real life the music is distressing, a looping chiptune military march.

Priscilla explains how Shinra have destroyed the environment. Final Fanatasy VII is very moral in this repect.

This is something it has in common with Miyazaki films, particularly NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke. This is only a valid comparison in so far as they are all Japanese and Princess Mononoke came out in the same year as Final Fantasy VII, and I only notice it because the environment seemed to be less of a pressing concern in a lot of the western media I was consuming at the time.

I sneak into Priscilla's house and go through her stuff. She has nothing of value so I capitalise on my earlier fish-killing escapades and get Mr. Dolphin to help me break into Junon's base.

This bit really reminded me of Gosport. There's a lot of ex-MoD property around there, vast rusty structures groaning out of the mud flats that make up Portsmouth harbour. I used to climb on them and pretend I was in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

At the top of the structure is a vast airship. Airships are as much a part of the Final Fantasy series as Chocobos.

Some airships, like the Al Bhed one in Final Fantasy X, are beautiful, inspiring and friendly. This Shinra one isn't, but this just makes it look even more dramatic against the sunset.

I contemplate it before heading inside the base to follow Rufus, hopefully all the way to Sephiroth...

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