At the start of the next chapter, Zack reported the Wutai War was over, and “Everyone’s real happy.” Naturally, this implies another time skip, and naturally we’re not given any specifics. Sephiroth then called him on his cell phone, ordering him to the director’s room. Judging from my notes, Kyle and I found the idea of great, grand, big-bad Sephiroth calling Zack casually on a cell phone to be hilarious, as I basically ended up laughing every time that it happened.
While the game leaves you to your own devices at this point – and sure enough, Kyle and I did go off on our own devices – it’s actually better that you not, just this once. It just so happens that if you go straight to the Director’s office, you’ll unlock a major feature and then be allowed to return to your sidequests without forcing you to continue with the plot. Gotta hate when games do that. It’s probably best if devs just hand effortless, unhidden major upgrades to the player as part of the plot so that they don’t miss them by innocently doing other things. In short, Lazard promoted Zack to Soldier 1st Class, giving us a number of fundamental improvements like added Materia slots and a new uniform. Zack was less happy than he had expected, given his mentor’s defection and how that had contributed to the promotion, but we got access to Materia Fusion, so we didn’t care.
Wait, we failed one of our missions and our only other mission is almost certainly still under investigation by internal affairs, and we were promoted?
Unfortunately, I won’t be explaining Materia Fusion in detail because we rarely used it for reasons that will become clear as we go along, but in short it was the predecessor of a similar system in KH:BBS, and allowed you to combine materia to create stronger ones. We decided to train Regen to fuse Curaga, and then basically forgot about the feature for the rest of the run.
As this was all going on, Angeal and Genesis were summarily reported as KIA to the public at large, in effort to bury news of their defection.
Prior to the promotion, Kyle and I were directed to one of the labs by Kunsel, where we were introduced to one Professor Hojo, who was identified as the creator of the “Jenova cells [used] to create SOLDIERS,” which didn’t mean much to me at the time, and arguably wouldn’t for the duration of Crisis Core, since “Jenova cells” are an element of FFVII and has no reason to be explained in the prequel. Actually, I’m not entirely sure how Kunsel knows about them? While Hojo was introduced to us in a text sequence, later in the game he would be voiced by Paul Eiding, who had the role since Dirge of Cerberus. Eiding is both voice actor and screen actor, with a career going back to 1980. Most gaming fans will know Eiding as the voice of Colonel Roy Cambell from Metal Gear Solid. You know: he of “Snake? Snake?? Snaaaaaaake!” Younger fans might also know him from Ben 10 and its successor series, where he voiced Ben’s grandfather, Max.
Hojo didn’t so much as look at us during our first encounter, Instead, he ordered us into a VR simulation against low-level enemies, only to see us wipe them out. Since he hadn’t looked at us during the intro, Hojo had mistaken us for some random scientist, and was now convinced his simulations were broken somehow before finally learning that Zack was SOLDIER. At this point, Hojo turned into a straight-up cackling villain and tried to get revenge by calling up a simulation of the Behemoth from the tutorial. Unfortunately, even this upgrade didn’t help: we were so overpowered that even the Behemoth hologram seemed busted and underpowered! One of the weirdest elements of this scene was the way that Hojo kept acting like a human’s never been put in this simulator before, even though you were clearly using the thing in the tutorial? I think the game meant to say something like “these programs,” rather than “the simulator,” because the game has already and will go on to imply that this simulator is used by SOLDIERs on the regular.
Heading into town for the hell of it, we gathered up a few new sidequests, including one involving a SOLDIER 3rd class pawning off his missions on us but starting to see Zack as a mentor as you cleared the missions. We also learned that a lot of people hated Shinra in town, including a man who mentioned raids occurring between Midgar and the nearby town of Kalm. He mentioned a prophecy that alluded to future events from FFVII, and maybe it’s for the best that I don’t remember the specifics, lest I puncture the thin film that encircles this blog, vaguely resembling a spoiler policy. We also met up with some women in town who ran Genesis and Angeal’s fan clubs, to see how they were doing after the news of their heroes’ deaths. I’m afraid the answer to that is… not well.
In other side-mission news, we refought Bahamut in a simulation, and won the Odin materia from a “Hungry,” which was a monster that you can just tell was named during the original, often terrible FFVII localization. “Should I fight it?” I asked Kyle, as I slashed the monster repeatedly in the back. “Why not?” he asked. “Well, it’s hungry, so maybe I’m supposed to be feeding it?”
My notes remark that Genesis copies encountered around this point in the sub-missions started to display his one wing. My notes also remark that at another point, Kyle shouted that he got “butt-bummed by a bird.” “That’s what happened!” he added. “It hit me with its ass and it died! Its ass does over 4000 damage without Barrier equipped!”
Finally returning to business, we headed for the director’s office, where he informed us that Genesis and Angeal had been given death warrants but that Zack had been taken off their case in favour of the Shinra Army, backed by Sephiroth. I can’t really blame Lazard for that decision, to be honest. Just then, however, Shinra HQ itself came under attack! While the director and Sephiroth went to secure the company’s president, Zack took to the first floor to defend the entrance, only to be interrupted at the SOLDIER floor where security bots had gone haywire. We rescued a few groups of NPCs, including some members of Science Team who bribed us to hide that they were trying to have sex on company time. I had no memory of that last incident when it came to write this journal, so I had to re-read that my notes several times before I was able to believe it.
Down in the lobby, Genesis Copies and rogue robots were laying siege. Zack fought them off using one of our favourite materia: Hell Thundaga, which we had collected from a sub-mission. Sephiroth arrived soon after, blaming “Hollander” for the attack. Hollander was a former Shinra scientist who had invented the Genesis Copy technology, but now held a grudge against the company. Zack and Sephiroth agreed not to believe Genesis that was supporting a scientist who was out to get Shinra apparently out of petty revenge, despite the presence of the Genesis Copies in the invasion force? I’m not sure if I agree with their reasoning on that. In any event, the two of them split up into the city to save the citizens.
While out on rescue in the streets, Zack discovered one of the Turks being attacked by several Genesis Copies. But before he could come to her aid, he was interrupted by two other Turks, who began to argue matters of jurisdiction. These two are Reno and Rude, characters from FFVII itself. Reno, as readers of this blog already know, is voiced by Quenton Flynn, who was… shall we say… “introduced” to the role in Kingdom Hearts 2, where he voices Axel, who was designed to be fundamentally the same character in a distinct role. Reno traditionally shares voice actors with Axel in all regions for exactly this reason.
Rude, meanwhile, is the strong silent type, but when he speaks he’s voiced by Crispin Freeman, who was also in KH2 as a matter of fact, where he voiced Setzer from FFVI, as well as Will Turner from Pirates of the Caribbean. Freeman is primarily a voice actor, also known for Roy Harper in Young Justice, and Alucard in Hellsing. He’s also a white man playing a decidedly non-white character. Japanese-to-English localization is plagued by the question of whether or not its central, pale-skinned characters should be voiced by Japanese or white voice actors, but to sidestep that for a moment, Rude was apparently designed to look South American, a distinct and clear-cut racial connection, and that makes the matter… shall we say… less complicated. He should have had a Latino voice actor, end of story.
(Ed. I probably should have also brought down that hammer on the casting of Yuffie Kisaragi, who according to behind-the-scenes info was designed to appear explicitly Japanese the same way Rude was designed to be South American. Given the depiction of Wutai, that should have been obvious to me. Yuffie has only been voiced by white women in English to my knowledge, and I should have complained about the casting back in my coverage of Kingdom Hearts 1, so I apologize for both the mix-up and the oversight. Behind-the-scenes info clarifies that the race of other light-skinned characters is intentionally more ambiguous, and has leaned in different directions depending on the artist at the time.
We have encountered another racebending situation here on the blog, via the voice cast of Disney’s Aladdin in Kingdom Hearts, but that was more Disney’s 1992 fault than it was Square’s 2002 fault.)
In any event, Tseng arrives on scene, and we discover that the Turk that Zack tried to rescue has dealt with her attackers while everyone else stood around jawing. (Tseng, by the way, is being voiced by an Asian-American actor. Ryan Yu will have to pardon me for not being more precise.) After Reno and Rude leave, the lady Turk comes over to introduce herself to Zack. This is Cissnei, who was introduced to the series as one of the generic, player-controlled Turks in Before Crisis, where she, like every other player-character in BC, was known by a player-assigned name. To complicate things further, she’ll later reveal that “Cissnei” isn’t even her real name, just a code name, which the FFWiki reasons was done so that the player-assigned name from Before Crisis could be still be considered her “real” name, which I think is fair. As far as I can tell from the months online since completing the game, Cissnei seems to be most everyone’s favourite addition to the franchise post-original FFVII. She’s certainly ours, and it’s a damned shame she’s barely shown up in any other Final Fantasy media since (besides Pictologica, the company’s nonogram puzzle game). Cissnei is voiced by Carrie Savage, a frequent anime voice actress, who would go on to voice Final Fantasy characters in The Crystal Bearers, Bravely Default, and minor voices in Type-0.
Cissnei starts flirting with Zack (if only for fun), only for their conversation to be broken off by Tseng. Cissnei gets added to the DMW at this point, where her special technique, Lucky Stars, which makes all your attacks Crits for a stretch and, more importantly, is the only way to boost Zack’s Emotion Gauge except through story progress. The Emotion Gauge essentially causes the DMW to spin up better results, so if the story causes the Emotion Gauge to drop in the future, Cissnei can help. It can be frustrating to wait for Cissnei to randomly come and fix things, but since she’s all you’ve got, you don’t really have any choice but to wait.
Cissnei went off in the direction of the attacking group’s leader, and Zack followed her for – I’m sure – exactly that reason. After saving some civilians, Kyle engaged with the Copy in question, which was an advanced copy called G Eraser, who looked a lot like Dante from Devil May Cry, what with the red coat and guns. G Eraser tried to fly away after being defeated, but Zack cut it down. Examining the body, Cissnei commented that she always wanted wings, like an angel, but Zack reasoned that humans with wings were monsters. A company man through and through, our Zack.
At this point, Zack got another phone call from Sephiroth, who told him Angeal had been sighted at Mako Reactor 5. I don’t recall Crisis Core specifically elaborating on the reactors, since it would have been redundant on top of FFVII itself. In short, there are nominally eight reactors in Midgar, built at the edges of the city and named for the sector they’re attached to. Zack is nowhere near Sector 5 but thankfully the game going to jump cut to Sector 5 and save us the walk. Sephiroth surprised Zack then by saying that he had no plans of them actually killing Angeal and Genesis, implying that he still felt they can be talked down. Or as Zack put it: “Excellent! Probably!”
Zack arrived in Sector 5 after a jump cut, only to find a strange turtle-man that turned out to be an Angeal copy. Remember when Tseng said the copy technology could be used on SOLDIERS or monsters? Specifically, this was a Sahagin – or rather, an “A-Sahagin,” since this was an Angeal copy after all. Sahagins in the FFVII world are turtle-people rather than Deep One-inspired fish-people as in the rest of the series (for some reason, the normally old school FFIX also makes them turtle people?). The game will continue this trend of Angeal copies being monsters and Genesis copies being SOLDIERs. It’s hard to say if there’s an in-universe reason for this distinction, or if the developers just decided to divide the two sets of copies for tidiness’ sake. I suppose I should also point out that most of the Angeal copies seem to actually be weaker than the monsters that lack his cells? It’s consistent enough to be deliberate, so it probably warrants your attention.
Meeting up with Sephiroth, Sephiroth told Zack that he, Angeal and Genesis used to meet and hang out during their early days at SOLDIER, and we saw an extended flashback of them fighting in the training simulator (which once again underlines the problem with the Hojo scene implying that no person has ever been in the simulator before). There, they entered a simulation of a famous landmark from FFVII, the Junon coastal cannon, and began arguing about Sephiroth being the only one of them with the reputation of being a “hero,” much like Zack had in the opening. While initially Genesis and Angeal battled Sephiroth together, Genesis eventually went in solo, and pushed hard, so much that the two of them decimated their digital battlefield, all while the game played FFVII’s famous final boss track, “One Winged Angel.” Angeal tried to break up the fight, only for Angeal’s shitty back-up sword to snap and strike Genesis, destroying the hologram projector as well. Back in the present day, Sephiroth concluded from the Angeal clone that both Genesis and Angeal in league with Hollander, reversing his conclusion from before.
Sephiroth said that Hollander’s secret lab was in the basement of the reactor, and we pressed down, through the mini-dungeon, Kyle having to fight some enemies that climbed up out of the sewer. We worked our way through the reactor, turning a few wheels and getting lost a lot, and started getting emails “From a Hot Treasure Hunter,” that Zack filed away in spam. But it turned out these weren’t quite spam. They actually unlocked more side-missions, which Kyle said we just had to follow at the next save point. He was absolutely correct: it turned out the “Hot Treasure Hunter” who had sent them was actually our favourite character, Yuffie, who was hoping Zack would defeat the monsters in the mission so that she could steal the treasure hidden at the end. Of course, we didn’t let her get away with that, and we made her cry a few times, because we’re the heroes. She then continued to send us messages, which Zack continued to put into spam even though he certainly knew where they were from at this point. I love this subplot, it’s easily one of the best handled bits of humour (albeit cruel humour) in the entire game.
At the end of the dungeon, we found a secret laboratory. Not only were there more clone generation tubes in here (presumably used for the Angeal clones) but there were a number of stolen documents, discussing three topics of unclear relationship. The first was marked “Ancients,” and described a species that used to live on the planet before humanity. The report said that the Ancients had somehow “used the power of the planet to tear the earth asunder,” and described a plan to mass-produce a race with comparable abilities to… reduce mako excavation costs, of all things. If that sounds like bullshit to you, it probably because it is. This report does relate to this game, but also heavily relates to the original FFVII. It’s not doing its job very well, but I also don’t think the developers of Crisis Core could have done much better? Spoilers for FFVII, but the game has quite a few big holes. After completing the Compilation, I feel like more than a few moments in FFVII’s prequels and sequels are designed to explain or elaborate on poorly justified elements of the original FFVII, which were sometimes so very poorly done that despite Square Enix’s attempts, there was nothing the sequels could do to justify them. Why does an energy company need ancient magic proto-humans?, you ask? And Square Enix replies: …Uh, look, I dunno man, mining or something?
I actually first-drafted part of the FFVII journal (though to Junon, or thereabouts) before coming back to complete Crisis Core’s Journal, and I complained a lot about problems like this. I felt kind of uncomfortable doing it, too, given FFVII’s high reputation, as though I had to be missing something that somehow explained problems of this size? It’s only after coming back to Crisis Core that I remember that Square Enix, too, thought these elements from FFVII were a problem, and I began to settle back into my skin. (sephy points out in the comments below that FFVII does have an explanation for why the company did this, but since Square Enix still retconned it to “mining,” we have to ask… why?) We’ll discuss that further in the main FFVII Journal.
The next file was marked “Project G,” which described a plan to implant the cells of an Ancient into a human fetus to give it an Ancient’s abilities. According to Sephiroth, who was in the room as we read these things, the result was a supposedly normal child, “however…” He let it hang until we had finished reading. The last report described a “SOLDIER Degradation Phenomenon.” Apparently, SOLDIER genetic information can “leak away” in some circumstances, though in the last sentence, the report reversed its conclusions to say that “some circumstances” was actually unique to Type G. Yeah, uh, great job, localization team. Sephiroth elaborated that after Genesis was wounded in the flashback from earlier, he did not heal. Hollander treated him, but said they needed a transfusion. For some reason, Hollander specifically refused Sephiroth’s blood, and used Angeal instead. This new flashback gave us a voice actor for Hollander: Sterling Young, a man with a very short resume. His most prominent other role was as Pipsqueak, Jet’s giant companion on Avatar: The Last Airbender.
After reading all three reports, Sephiroth confirmed what was now obvious: that Genesis was the child in Project G, that the “G” in the project stood for “Genesis.” He said that the report about him being a regular human was clearly wrong or falsified as Genesis changed later in life, and had changed before now as well, spawning copies somehow naturally as part of the degradation process! As they were talking, Hollander suddenly showed up, and apparently hadn’t noticed them as he descended the long staircase? Having walked too far into the room to get away, Hollander began to cover for his ass by saying that only he could prevent Genesis’ degradation, suspecting that Zack and Sephiroth were still trying to save Genesis and so wouldn’t attack him if he was Genesis’ only hope! Hollander was saved the trouble when Genesis himself arrived on-scene. Sephiroth sent Zack after Hollander while Genesis quoted LOVELESS and claimed to want the Gift of the Goddess from the play, whatever that happens to be. He then tried to metaphorically place himself and Sephiroth into the roles of two of the three heroes in the play.
Zack chased after Hollander, which was probably one of the better chase sequences I’ve ever seen in an RPG, or any game in general really. You were always cut off from Hollander at just the right time by random encounters or perfectly timed events. He hid behind a door to dodge you at one point, and even pauses to catch his breath as you fight random encounters in the rare cases he pauses within your line of sight at all. At the end of the road, we fought a trio of robots we had previously battled in sub-missions – namely, they were recolours of FFVII’s re-design of our old buddy, Warmech (Warmech itself, under its Japanese name “Death Machine,” would show up in Crisis Core’s final dungeon as a regular enemy). We ripped them up with Hell Thundaga.
After the fight with the robots, Angeal appeared and cut us off from Hollander. Zack asked what Angeal thought he was doing and Angeal joked: “destruction and world conquest.” Okay, I laughed. Angeal then suggested “Revenge” and revealed that he also had a wing now, a double white wing on the right side, one larger and one smaller. He said this made him a monster and all monsters want destruction and world conquest. Zack tried to counter this, even though this forced him to challenge his own perspective. He pulled from Cissnei and said that they weren’t the wings of a monster but an angel, but Angeal replied that all angels want is to be human, and he slammed Zack at the base of the ribs. Zack refused to fight back, so Angeal used a Quake spell to hit him, destroying the grille underneath his feet and dropping him far and away from the reactor. Honestly, Zack should have died, but he was saved by the power of reference – a reference to when the exact same thing happened (or will happen) in FFVII.