Having rescued Cid from a life of regret (luring away with the promise of almost certain death), we find out that SHINRA are pursuing Sephiroth to the Temple of the Ancients. They've got a head start due to the fact that they're the planet's most powerful industrial corporation and we're using a broken plane as a raft.
A few conversations with suspiciously well-informed locals reveal that in order to get into the Temple of the Ancients, we need an artifact called the "Keystone", which is currently in the possession of our good friend Dio, owner of the Gold Saucer amusement park.
He's keeping it in his collection of curios at Gold Saucer's museum and agrees to lend it to us if I amuse him by fighting some monsters in his battle arena.
I defeat enough monsters to tickle Dio's fancy and he gives us the Keystone. When we head for the exit it appears that the cable car isn't running, so he offers to let us spend the night in his sex dungeon alongside his friends the chess-playing ghosts.
I go to bed, but Tifa sneaks into my room and asks me out on a date. I want to get as far away from the crotch-sized guillotine on the table as I can, so I accept even though it's a bit weird that she just barged into my room.
We take a spin on a fairground ride. I could not be more excited about our date.
There is a button you can press at this point to lean in and thus engage a little more with your lovely companion. I am actually holding the button down at this point. This is engaged as I get.
Tifa tries to confess her love (probably), but is too overwhelmed by the fireworks and just mumbles something about the time.
This is so awkward that it's almost a relief when we're almost knocked over by Cait Sith, who has stolen the Keystone from my bedroom and is in the process of handing it over to Tseng.
Cait Sith seems remarkably calm about being unmasked as a spy by an angry mercenary and a martial arts expert.
We frogmarch him back to the sex dungeon. He explains that he's taken Barret's daughter Marlene hostage, so we can't kill him or cut him loose, but also that because he's beguiled by our collective lack of self-interest/common sense, he's going to help us.
He tells us that Tseng's taken the Keystone to the Temple of the Ancients and that we might beat him there if we hurry.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Temple of the Ancients.
Apparently we didn't beat Tseng, because here he is bleeding to death against a plinth. His final words are something about Aeris and corporate cock-ups. We push his body to one side and activate the strange glowing mechanism on the top of the plinth.
This is how bad things start.
The architecture inside the temple resembles an Escher drawing. We make our way through the maze to the heart of the operation.
I'M FAMILIAR WITH CLOUD STORAGE BUT WHAT ABOUT POND STORAGE
The Time Guardian is a clock with a flappy mouth in the middle.
When we finally reach the heart of the temple I experience a vision of Tseng trying to chat up Elena, presumably moments before his death. Poor Tseng.
I hallucinate Sephiroth's murder of Tseng just moments before the real Sephiroth appears before us.
Remember last week's lesson from exposition fairy Bugenhagen? The one about the Lifestream? Well it turns out that the Lifestream acts as a kind of immune system for the planet and that if anything threatens the planet, the Lifestream will gather its energy to heal the wound, even destroy life on the planet in order to protect it. Anyone who could harness that energy would gain the power of a god.
The inscriptions on the temple walls provide some clue as to what Sephiroth is planning. That meteor doesn't look too friendly.
Right, so Sephiroth needs the Black Materia in order to use meteor magic. It's meant to be on that plinth but we can't see it, so Aeris suggests that the Temple itself might be the Black Materia.
That's not actually the silliest thing we've heard today, so given that the temple is starting to collapse around us (told you we'd need to add Indiana Jones to the list of cultural references), we take her word and head for the exit.
The exit is blocked by a "Demon Door" which looks like the xenomorph. It is a horribly difficult boss and in order to beat it I had to go back through the temple fighting baddies for about two hours in order to level up enough to do it. You don't get any screens of the actual fight because I am still too traumatised.
Defeated, the Demon Door bursts open, only to reveal the disgraced Cait Sith on the other side. He explains that the temple is indeed the Black Materia, and that a puzzle must be solved from inside it if it is to be claimed. Because solving this puzzle will result in the Temple's collapse, anyone who does it will be killed. To make up for his transgressions, he offers to do this.
We are all quick to accept.
The temple collapses in on itself as Aeris, Cid and I escape.
Just as we'd hoped, the Black Materia is in the bottom of the pit where the temple used to be. Aeris and I run down to grab it.
Oh, look who got there first.
It is really hard to depict what just happened using a single screencap. Basically, I have an out-of-body experience in which I think I'm the little boy (whom no-one else can see), while my real-life adult self slowly runs towards Sephiroth before handing him the Black Materia.
That's my excuse for everything.
Still tripping balls, I see Aeris bidding me farewell before running through an enchanted forest towards the City of the Ancients to confront Sephiroth and save the world. In case you'd forgotten, Aeris is actually an ancient, or Cetra, one of a race of extra-terrestrial beings who migrate from planet to planet in search of the Promised Land, acting in part as benevolent caretakers of the worlds on which they landed.
I awake from my fevered dream to see Tifa and Barret at my bedside. I tell them what I saw.
They confirm that Aeris has indeed gone, and I explain what I think she's trying to accomplish.
Barret, the train was ages ago. Keep up.
Presumably embarrassed by his inability to follow the plot and keen to re-assert his authority, Barret threatens me with violence if my mental health deteriorates further.
Good job, Barret.
En route to the City of the Ancients is Bone Village, which is not as fun as the name suggests.
After making completely sure there definitely isn't any boning in Bone Village, we enter the same forest that I saw Aeris running through in my dream.
On the other side is the City of the Ancients, which looks like Triton's kingdom from The Little Mermaid if all the water disappeared and the sun-bleached corpses of Ariel and her adorable friends were used as garden furniture.
Yes, those are seahorses. Are they flying or are we under water? It is pretty hard to determine this kind of thing in Final Fantasy.
The architecture in the City of the Ancients is adorable, like a post-apocalyptic Brambly Hedge.
The lawn art is IMMENSE.
Seriously though, did the ancients actually live under the sea? This is never really addressed.
I follow Aeris' trail further into the inner sanctum.
Where can she be?
It seems that shell was a portal to this central shrine.
We find her praying. She doesn't respond when I call so I approach her.
All of a sudden I am overcome with an overwhelming urge to cut her down with my sword. I regain control just in time.
She looks up at me...
...I stare back (check out my hair)...
...she returns my gaze...
...I... oh wait, that's not me!
The tension is broken somewhat by the graphics reverting to the in-game style. Even though he looks more like a bath toy than an evil wizard at this resolution, Sephiroth still cuts me to the quick with the accusation that I have no feelings. This, ironically, upsets me so much that I pass out and have an epiphany.
That would explain giving Sephiroth the Black Materia and trying to kill Aeris just now, yes.
I'd really like to do some serious moping at this point, but Tifa, Vincent and I have to fight a Jenova beast instead.
Once the Jenova beast is defeated, I carry Aeris' lifeless body down to the water.
I lay her to rest in the city of her people. The last thing to go under is her weird pointy hair.
As Aeris' lifeless body sinks beneath the waves, we are left to ponder many things. Is Sephiroth really going to summon a meteor? Can we stop him in time? Can we continue on our quest without Aeris? What's the deal with Cait Sith? Do I have free will? Are we absolutely sure about Bone Village? Did you guys at least check in the tent?