On the PSX, this was when Disc 2 was swapped for Disc 3. At the start of Disc 3, a crewman dramatically rolled out a rope ladder for us to descend into the North Crater, only for us to turn back into the ship and leave. This was where Kyle and I broke for the night, but once we came back, it was time for a few final sidequests.
For starters, we discovered a small hut near the North Pole that led to a man who could help with advanced Chocobo breeding. We turned straight the fuck around and left again. What did you expect from us?
Our first major sidequest was to track down Ultimate Weapon, who as you’ll recall vanished after its attack on Mideel. This involved a processed descended from the FFVI’s party’s pursuit of Deathgaze: you had to repeatedly fight the boss to inflict damage over a series of fights, as it continued to escape from you no matter how much damage you caused. The trouble was finding the boss in the first place. While not as opaque as Deathgaze’s “Oh, it’s on some random square of the world map, good luck,” Ultimate Weapon was still fairly hard to chase down. Ultimate Weapon appears while flying in the airship, though it moves around, so you still have to find it basically at random. Once you’ve found it, you have to ram the boss with the Highwind several times. Having done this, Ultimate will go to a set position on the world map to battle you, but there is no way of knowing when the boss changes from its “dodging your ramming attacks” AI to its “going to the fight position” AI except through trial and error, and it’s easy to ram the boss over and over and still never know if you’re done. Why the game just doesn’t let you fight the boss at your current location after a certain number of rams, I can’t imagine. Sure, sure, Ultimate “has” to be at a certain location when it finally dies, but I don’t think I’d have minded if the game teleported you to that location after the fight! Why shouldn’t the fight take place in motion?
Like I said earlier, the break between sessions renewed my interest in FFVII, but I blame Ultimate Weapon for burning up most of my interest within the opening half hour.
Now that we were better equipped and running around with an actually viable party, Ultimate Weapon wasn’t near as deadly as it was against our B-party in Mideel. Still, there were a few close calls. Finally, the fight ended over Cosmo Canyon and Ultimate Weapon crashed into a nearby hill and exploded as it died, leaving behind the Ultima Weapon blade for Cloud. (By the way: it says a lot about the localization that both Ultimate Weapon the monster and Ultima Weapon the item have the exact same name in Japanese but the localizers still gave them different names in English) Moreover, the crater left behind by Ultimate Weapon’s destruction served as a handy landing zone for an optional dungeon that you can otherwise only reach by breeding Chocobos! Defeating Ultimate Weapon also causes one of the post-game bosses to appear, but noooo thank you, sir.
Due to my frustration with chasing down Ultimate Weapon, I actually went along and completed another sidequest in the middle of my chase. For some reason, my idea of “taking a break” from Ultimate Weapon involved using the damnable submarine, you can guess just how annoyed I was with Ultimate. Kyle had tried to direct me to this sidequest earlier on Disc 2: you have put Vincent in the party and then locate an underwater passage under the western continent, which allows you to surface in the high mountains (something seems incredibly wrong about the fluid dynamics here, but what do I know?). We did this back on Disc 2, but for whatever reason, once I got to the high area, I couldn’t get out of the submarine! We eventually left, reasoning that a proper landing zone would appear later in the game. We were wrong, and so I returned to this mountain lake and began trying to let the party off at every available surface. It still wouldn’t let me out! The game was so persnickety about where you’re allowed to land that we had to open a longplay to find the spot! Honestly, I don’t feel that guilty about missing it!
This frustration all led to a cave behind a waterfall, where we discovered a woman at the back. Vincent identified her as Lucrecia, his lost love and the human mother of Sephiroth. From Vincent’s flashbacks, we learn how Vincent accompanied Lucrecia, Hojo and another scientist (presumably Gast, but I can’t get a clear look) to the Shinra Manor. The flashbacks then told us how Lucrecia had rejected Vincent’s romantic advances and became involved with Hojo instead, a process that led to the conception of Sephiroth. A later flashback, set some time after Lucrecia hooked up with Hojo, showed Lucrecia collapsing, presumably some complication of her pregnancy with Sephiroth. This was followed by Vincent being shot by what I can only describe as Hojo’s finger guns, what with these low-quality models. Hojo then experimented on Vincent, leaving him with the body he has today.
Back in the present, Vincent speaks to Lucrecia and she responds, saying that her Jenova cells won’t allow her to die. Why she’s not affected by the Reunion as strongly as the others, I don’t know, but she says she dreams of Sephiroth often, which I suppose you could read as a symptom. In hopes of easing Lucrecia’s pain, Vincent tells her that Sephiroth is dead. The scene ends here. You then have to go off and spend some time doing other things, which FFVII enforces by having you fight 10 battles, which is all very boring and as far as I can tell forces you to submarine back through the tunnel first! Once this is done, you return to the cave and can find Vincent’s ultimate weapon waiting in Lucrecia’s cave, a gun called the Death Penalty. Lucrecia is nowhere to be seen, and it’s not clear if she was ever really up there at all.
We also decided to go fetch everyone else’s ultimate weapons while we were at it (again, except for Cait Sith’s). The most narratively notable ultimate weapon “quest” involved going to Cosmo Canyon, where we discovered that Bugenhagen was dying. He gave Nanaki a speech about observing all living things and seeing the wholeness of it all before he died, leaving Nanaki the Limited Moon weapon. Quite in contrast to this tragic death scene for Nanaki, we got Cid’s Ultimate Weapon by talking to some random stranger in Rocket Town! Unfortunately, we had missed Barret’s ultimate weapon by not having him in the party during the raid on Midgar, which I think is honestly quite unfair, but what are you gonna do?
Our last stop before the final dungeon was to go to the optional dungeon we had unlocked by killing Ultimate Weapon, if only because the last of the Summon Materia could be found there and we felt obliged to fetch it as part of the Marathon’s “Get all party members” rule, as I’ve discussed in the past. This optional dungeon was the Ancient Forest, a curious place where various map elements are used to get past other map elements, forming an unusual, resource-dependent maze. Well that’s how I would put it now that was going on. At the time my notes simply sneered at the dungeon, saying: “Bravely killing all our animal friends to get across the forest.” This isn’t… exactly untrue. For example, you have to feed insects to flytraps, and frogs to… also flytraps. You’re just sort of force-feeding things to carnivorous plants, to be honest. Some of the controls here were also incredibly picky (god forbid our FFVII experience end without at least one new wrinkle in the controls), but Kyle got through all the puzzles on his own, in the end in spite of the games’ best efforts to be shoddy. Besides the Summon Materia (which contained Ultros’ buddy Typhon from FFVI, whom we never used), we got a Slash-All Materia that turned Yuffie’s attacks into group attacks, and the Minerva Band (the descendant of the Minerva Bustier from past games), which went to Tifa. If you can’t tell, it was our plan to go into the final dungeon with Cloud, Yuffie and Tifa, despite our previous complaints about Tifa. Unfortunately, Yuffie’s dramatic level lead had finally evaporated after all the time we had benched her, so it took a few rounds of fighting in the final dungeon to round her up.
I suppose this is as good a spot as any to talk about the post-game Superbosses. There are two, both of them Weapons that were added in the international release. The first I’m going to cover is Emerald Weapon, which appears in a crater found underwater near Junon (the implication is that Sapphire Weapon left this crater after it was destroyed). Unlike the second Superboss, Emerald Weapon doesn’t have to be unlocked, meaning it’s possible to have an unfortunate run-in with a superboss the moment you get your submarine!
Unfortunately, if you fight Emerald Weapon right away, you’ll almost certainly lose, and not just because you’re low level: because you’re underwater, you also have to contest with a 20 minute timer, lest you drown. To deal with that, you have to go to the underwater passage in Junon and use the Morph Materia on that specific enemy I mentioned several entries ago. Once you’ve morphed that particular enemy, it turns into an item that you trade for the Underwater Materia, which will erase the timer. Kyle tells me that Emerald is the weaker of the two superbosses, but that’s subjective and they’re still both in the stratosphere. Emerald’s big strategy is to drain your HP and MP throughout the fight until you destroy its multiple eyes, it’s not near as awful-sounding as its counterpart. Your reward for beating this pest is an item you trade for copies of all the Master Materia in the game. Really, Mr. Prize-Giver? All the Master Materia in the game? Just… sitting in your back pocket, you say?
Ruby Weapon, the second Superboss, shows up in the desert near Corel after you kill Ultimate Weapon. Ruby’s gimmick is to boot party members from the battle as the fight goes on, forcing you to finish the fight with just one fighter. That sounds wretched. I want nothing to do with it! Your reward for beating this superboss is an item you trade for a Gold Chocobo, which is a breed you can use to go to any location in the game, though this particular Gold Chocobo isn’t very good at the Chocobo races, should that matter to you. With the Gold Chocobo, you can grab all sorts of prizes that a diligent Chocobo breeder could have had ages ago, like the Quad Magic Materia, or the ultimate Summon, Knights of the Round. Reader creativadistratta points out that Ruby is so much easier with Knights of the Round (acquired through Chocobo breeding) that this prize is worthless to many players, since they’ll already have it!