Retro recollections: Final Fantasy VII: Hour 6-8: Big bad Sephiroth

Yes, it’s a special double episode, mostly because of the scarcity of save points.

When last we saw our heroes, they were on the cusp of rescuing Aeris from a completely avoidable capture because Cloud is an idiot the evil forces of Shinra.

See also:
Retro recollections: Can I replay Final Fantasy VII?

And indeed, Aeris is in the very next room.

I’m left wondering if his father’s name was Homer.

Hojo has her, and keeps referring to her as “the specimen” (which sounds rather lavatorial for my tastes), as well as this red fox fella. I remember him well from my original playthrough, but what’s interesting here is how I’d forgotten precisely how he comes into the story.

I feel certain there's all sorts of... unsavoury... fanfic around this particular scenario.
I feel certain there’s all sorts of… unsavoury… fanfic around this particular scenario.

So naturally, what’s the first thing that Cloud wants to do? Get rid of Aeris, BECAUSE THAT’S WORKED SO WELL IN THE PAST.

Sheesh. Idiot. Oh well, best to give the gig to Tifa, so that it's at least done competently.
Sheesh. Idiot. Oh well, best to give the gig to Tifa, so that it’s at least done competently.

At least I get Red XIII in the party. I like Red XIII. A lot. I can’t recall what I renamed him last time, so this time he can keep Red XIII. It at least has a sense of mystery.

Who let Red XIII out?
(Who, Who Who Who Who…)

After a few random battles, however, we’re captured trying to escape.

At least we get the personal touch of hired goons.

So it was all for naught, and it’s time to go meet the real big boss. Which means that a boss battle feels imminent, but first, it’s time to have a whole heap of exposition.

Blah blah blah… ancients.
Blah blah blah… materia.
Blah blah blah… atom bomb.

I’m a little torn on how FF7 handles its exposition, to be honest. Some of the dialog is clunky, and while that’s at least partly due to the translation, there’s not much getting around it. We get a lecture from President Shinra, and then…

It’s off to the cells.

The group is splintered across multiple cells. Hmm. Splinter. Cell. Nah, it'll never take off.
The group is splintered across multiple cells.
Hmm. Splinter. Cell. Nah, it’ll never take off.

Frankly, it all feels a little anti-climatic. A few discussions with each character, and it’s time for sleepy bo-bos. I’m sure that morning will bring something new.

Indeed it does. Because suddenly, the door is open and the guards are dead. The music changes too, to a really nice but ominous bit of work. Once again, one of the key things that keeps me in love with FF7 is that awesome soundtrack.

This does allow me to choose my team, because suddenly there are too many of us. No mistakes this time; I’ll take the ever-competent Tifa and Aeris with me.

Tifa wears short shorts.

Further investigation finds a lot of corpses, and a LOT of blood.

I'll remind folks once again that this is a G8+ rated game. Were the censor's offices asleep when this was presented to them?
I’ll remind folks once again that this is a G8+ rated game. Were the censor’s offices asleep when this was presented to them?

 

The President of Shinra seems less lively than when we last saw him.
The President of Shinra seems less lively than when we last saw him.

And we get… A Sephiroth namedrop!

Yeah, you may as well line up that music now.

Up to the roof to meet with Rufus, the President’s son and new head of the evil corporation. He wastes little time reaffirming his evil status.

This is (sadly) pretty much how Australian politics works, too.
This is (sadly) pretty much how Australian politics works, too.

So we split up again, but for the first time, I don’t have Cloud in my party. Instead, Aeris, Barret and Red XIII head down in the lifts, or at least they try to. At the last second Tifa turns back, which is pleasing, because it means I might have some competent help in my battle against Rufus.

Tank you.

The other team first faces a tough battle with a tank in the lifts which plays nicely with my expectations, because it can only be hit with ranged attacks. That’s not Aeris or Red XIII’s forte, although for some reason his Limit Break can reach the tank. After a hefty grind, the tank goes down, as do our heroes, so we return to Cloud.

I’m confident at this point, but as it turns out, too confident.

Way too confident.

Rufus kills Cloud, which means that at around 6:45 of playtime, I face my first Game Over screen.
Rufus kills Cloud, which means that at around 6:45 of playtime, I face my first Game Over screen. Won’t be the last, I’m sure.

Which really sucks, because I now have to rush through the escape from the cells and the tank battle again. At least this time I mix up my materia so it’s easier to run ranged attacks and keep everyone healthy. The tank dies much more quickly this time, but Rufus doesn’t, because he escapes, bad 80-action-movie style on a helicopter tread.

Quite why Cloud doesn’t chase him isn’t explained. Neither is it explained why it took Tifa so long to climb one flight of stairs. Maybe I’m overestimating her competence.

We escape down, and meet up with Aeris, Barret and Red XIII again. Tifa appears, and then…

WHAT THE HELL, CLOUD? WHERE DID THE BIKE COME FROM?
WHAT THE HELL, CLOUD? WHERE DID THE BIKE COME FROM?

Ah well, the rule of cool. Actually, this is a game sequence I remember from back in the day, and it’s only now that I’m struck by how relatively poorly it’s aged. Somehow, my brain remembered the cutscenes but not the sword swinging, bike riding actual gameplay bit.

It's a lot blockier than I remember.
It’s a lot blockier than I remember.

At the end, a tank to take down, and then… we leave Midgar. Possibly forever.

Now, it’s here I should have saved, because the game allows you to save at any time on the open world map. Instead, I ploughed forward to Kalm, the next town on the schedule, at which point I fall into the longest bit of narrative flow I’ve hit in the game so far.

Keep Kalm and don't think of the past... damn, too late. Way too late.
Keep Kalm and don’t think of the past… damn, too late. Way too late.

That’s because it’s time to introduce Sephiroth.

Fun trivia fact: The first thing Sephiroth says in FF7 is "Hey". It would get more involved from there.
Fun trivia: The first thing Sephiroth says in FF7 is “Hey”. It would get more involved from there.

What follows is Cloud’s recollection of meeting Sephiroth, and re-meeting Tifa (it was the past, but it makes sense in context). I could rob it of context and run through all of it, but that would rob it of some of its power.

We’re introduced to Sephiroth, proven just how awesomely powerful he is, and run through what essentially boils down to an interactive novel without much of a fail state. Sephiroth’s just that powerful, you see.

For me, a terrifying dragon. For Sephiroth, a rainy Tuesday.
For me, a terrifying dragon.
For Sephiroth, a rainy Tuesday.

He’s also nuts. Deeply, deeply nuts.


If the rights issues had been different, this could have been Sephiroth’s theme

 

It turns out he's something of a mummy's boy. Then again, when mum is a demonic horror from the dawn of time...
It turns out he’s something of a mummy’s boy. Then again, when mum is a demonic horror from the dawn of time…
This escalated quickly.
This escalated quickly.
Hi. I’m quite evil. Also quite powerful. You didn’t kill my father, but prepare to die anyway.
Sephiroth's audition for Take That didn't work out well for anyone involved.
Sephiroth’s audition for Take That didn’t work out well for anyone involved.

And then… he doesn’t kill me. Cloud isn’t quite sure why he and Tifa survived, but the long narrative run is over, and I can save, having run through two hours worth of gameplay this week.

Next week: Out into the wild yonder.

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