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.
And indeed, Aeris is in the very next room.
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.
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.
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.
After a few random battles, however, we’re captured trying to escape.
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.
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.
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.
Further investigation finds a lot of corpses, and a LOT of blood.
And we get… A Sephiroth namedrop!
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
That’s because it’s time to introduce Sephiroth.
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.
He’s also nuts. Deeply, deeply nuts.
If the rights issues had been different, this could have been Sephiroth’s theme
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.