Chapter 11: Beginnings
Heading inside the next building, the party found a pod for Shelke, though it’s unclear what it’s supposed to… do for her. Is it a Deepground-model healing tank that uses magic instead of fluid? An MP recharger to make up for her draining herself with the Shield Materia? Is it a mako replenisher for Shelke’s essentially-forgotten mako dependence? We just don’t know! And never will!
Yuffie outlines their new plan: Vincent will take on Nero and Weiss while Yuffie shuts down Shinra Reactor 0 and stops the birth of Omega. It kind of highlights just how absurd their whole plan is, how there’s an entire army of WRO upstairs but it’s only these two and a wounded Shelke against the entire actual city. Square Enix’s notoriously poor sense of scale continues to inflate. As Yuffie leaves the room, Shelke calls to Vincent, and the camera bizarrely points to an unrelated computer console at the other side of the room, which reads “Discoverer: Grimoire Valentine.” Despite Vincent not looking at this screen, the game will use this screen to justify Vincent’s next flashback. Why it’s even open and what Sports Illustrated discovered, the game will never explain. The fuck, was someone browsing Shinra Wikipedia?
We enter another flashback, wherein Vincent arrives in Lucrecia’s lab and discovers Grimoire’s file open on her computer screen. This confirms that he was, naturally, Vincent’s father. Vincent apparently gleans enough from the page to learn that Lucrecia worked with him, and when she arrives, he questions her about it. Lucrecia is utterly distraught that he’s learned what she was browsing, and starts shouting from the second he brings it up, and I guess I can understand the build-up of anxiety she must have had with Vincent around for the past few months (or whatever), but sheesh does this feel like the author is in a rush! Apparently she blames herself for Phone Book’s death, and the mere mention of him is enough to throw her past the edge. In fact, Vincent says that this was the inciting incident that led to Lucrecia leaving her romance with Vincent (which I suppose is fair) and choosing to go have a child with Hojo instead (which seems like an overreaction… or a misevaluation on Vincent’s part, either/or). I won’t pretend to understand Lucrecia’s motivations, but I will say that I also don’t care anymore, because the game has basically lost me on her at this point.
Back in the present, Shelke asks Vincent why he’s fighting. By the way, “why are you fighting against evil?” feels like a cliché question at this point. I wouldn’t have thought of it as cliché prior to making my notes for this section, but after thinking about it for a while I realize it’s come up in all sorts of entertainment media that was stretching for a way to force introspection out of their characters. Shelke even says that she no longer wants to see the world end, so doesn’t that answer her question? Not fighting or helping out the fighting in this situation could lead to the death of all life on the planet, which is something I’m starting to think the writers didn’t even realize about their own story. Long story short, Shelke has the groundbreaking revelation that exterminating all life on the planet is bad.
Chapter 11 mostly has the player exploring what looks to be Deepground’s furnace rooms, including the rooms that Cait Sith explored earlier in the game. I’d like to point out that we’ve spent basically the entire Battle of Midgar (four hours so far) moving from an environment best described as a “Ruined garbage heap” to go visit a “Ruined basement,” to a “Ruined city” and then a “Ruined furnace,” and that even the stage before the Shera was partially a “Ruined building” if you think about it. This game’s level design is so repetitive. This mission even has the gall to repeat its secondary objective three times rather than create three separate objectives: you have to shoot down pointless gargoyles that would otherwise ignore you as you approach the core in the middle of city.
After the first room full of gargoyles, you enter another room and discover an incredibly fortified tower, which you can essentially only handle through luck: you have to blow up an explosive barrel above the tower’s guards and hope the game’s primitive physics engine lands a bundle of explosive barrels on top of the enemies’ heads instead of the pit right beside them, all while an infinite stream of minor drones from the tutorial come out to bite your ankles. I took a lot of damage here, which probably led to my death towards the end of the stage, easily the furthest we had to retrace our steps in the course of the entire game.
But first things first: a few rooms after the fortified tower, you find a soldier pushing a turret gun into position and can snipe him before he gets into place, at which point you can take the gun and use it to shoot down some Heavy Soldiers who come in through the door you used to enter. In my case, the turret ended up at such an awkward angle that it couldn’t turn any further to the right to face the Heavy Soldiers. I survived but, as I already mentioned, died later in the stage. When Kyle replayed this stage, he allowed the turret to go a bit further… only to be rewarded by a stream of bullets as the gunner mounted the turret gun the split second they reached their destination, no mounting animation whatsoever, and they opened fire just as fast. At least we were right about the turret being in the perfect position to hit the Heavy Soldiers after Kyle managed to reach it!
A few rooms later, we came to a room with infinite soldiers and a bunch of incredibly clumsy platforming (which the game had avoided up until this point!), all guarding the last of the G Reports. Kyle had to re-collect this after my death. This one was actually interesting, since it finally connected Genesis to the plot of Dirge of Cerberus instead of babbling on about how intriguing and great Crisis Core would probably be. The third report says that Genesis now “slumbers” below Midgar, and that “Soldiers branded with epithets of colour… those are the hellspawn of ‘G.'” This tells us, at last, why the Tsviets are so special instead of just being shonen supervillains for basically no reason: they’re Genesis Copies, but with Genesis “slumbering,” they’ve regained their independence. Interesting… and maybe the first and only interesting concept Dirge of Cerberus has presented from start to finish!
After finally collecting the G Report a second time, Kyle returned the control to me for the boss… oh, for fuck’s sake, it’s another Dragonfly, the Dragonfly PT. I complained about the Black Widows being re-used as bosses, but Dragonflies haven’t just been bosses but have also been a frequent cutscene prop, and it’s fairly clear DoC’s budget was starting to tell on the whole production. The Dragonfly PT fights you just outside the core at the centre of the city (which turned out to be Reactor 0), which meant it was able to seek cover behind the pillar and even call in Gargoyles as support. I wasted a lot of this fight trying to play fair with our un-upgraded rifle, but finally I gave up at Kyle’s urging and switched to the Quantum Cerberus. The fight, already more than half over at this point, ended almost exactly a minute later. The Dragonfly PT crashed into the Lifestream mixture below, which, uh, can’t be good for that “purity” you guys are shooting for, huh?
A short scrap with Deepground troops later – the last regular combat in the game – Vincent found himself in an important-looking room, where he reunited with Yuffie. I guess there was no point in splitting up at all, eh you two? They headed into the next room where they found Weiss sitting in the same throne he had used when he broadcasted his speech at the start of the game. He was dead. Weiss’ absence from the plot had been incredibly obvious to me while playing, and I had been planning on talking about it during the Journal, only to be hit by this plot twist. While it was obvious that he was missing, Weiss being outright dead almost all along was quite clever, especially for Dirge of Cerberus. It’s not clear how Weiss died, or even when. Frankly I would have preferred to know, but as DoC goes, we’re riding high!
Nero arrivs and explained that Weiss wouldn’t remain dead for long, saying “A new life breathes inside him,” comparing that new life to Chaos. Vincent realizes what this means without telling the audience, but Nero instead talks about someone telling him how to resurrect Weiss, implying there’s a hidden figure behind the scenes at Deepground, as if that wasn’t already obvious. I mean, if Weiss wasn’t the main villain, it sure as rot isn’t Nero.
The reactor began powering up and shaking. Worried that Omega was coming, both heroes turned on Weiss for some reason, which forced Nero into action to protect his beloved brother…’s already long-deceased corpse. He engulfed them both in darkness, and unfortunately, Yuffie wasn’t immune to the stuff. She was chased by some dark… urm… geeze, I don’t want to say this, but there it is right in front of me… dark… sperm. Vincent rescued her. From the sperm. They escaped the darkness and found themselves in the previous room rather than the throne room, where Nero once again confronts them, and pulls Vincent into a dream-like arena for their final showdown.
Nero’s illusory battlefield was basically ring-shaped, with Nero appearing above the pit in the middle, attached to a floating rock by a set of robotic spider legs that also projected a force field around Nero himself. It took us a little while to work out how to defeat “Arachnero,” but it was because we were overthinking it. We first assumed that we should attack the crystal “drones” he was sending around the room, which wasn’t easy because they were so quick, but in reality all we had to do was to damage the force field, forcing the crystal drones to stand still to regenerate it, which is when you were supposed to shoot them down. We were eventually able to shoot down the crystal drones, though we did it in the least efficient way imaginable: by tracking them down around the room instead of breaking the shield to lure them into position. I think we were once again concerned about wasting our supply of bullets on the force field, what can I say?
Once Nero’s shield was broken and irreparable, he kept dropping and rising from and to his starting position to alternate between two attack styles, before finally recovering his shield at around half health. At this point, he inexplicably fell into the dream-lava below, and changed attack styles entirely: we now fought “Gorgonero” on top of islands of rock and took shots at Nero as he teleported between three set positions. This was a great deal easier than the first phase, even if it did leave Vincent exposed, and Nero was soon out of health. He returned us to the real world and then limped out of the room, looking for his brother.
After the battle, we talked to Yuffie and prepped our inventory for the final battle, refuelling to 350 handgun bullets, perhaps the highest we had ever carried at one time, considering our game-long inefficiency. Naturally, we went into battle carrying a sniper rifle at the hip.
As Vincent opened the final door a second time, however, he was greeted by a bright light and found Weiss standing on two feet, if barely. Weiss began a mad laugh, and Nero approached his brother, basically walking into the death all of us could see coming. Weiss stuck a hand through Nero’s chest, and then threw him away.
Weiss then turned to Vincent, saying that he had merged with Omega like Chaos had joined with Vincent, bringing him back to life. He declared that naturally Omega would be stronger than Chaos, and so Vincent was doomed. He then curiously said that he and Vincent were meeting again, and then told a strange story about how he had “distributing [his] data” across the Shinra internet, claiming this was a new Reunion, which got Vincent to realize that he was actually talking to Hojo. Wow. The Compilation of Final Fantasy VII really is just “Hojo fucks everything up forever.”
With Weiss now speaking in Hojo’s voice, a hologram of Hojo appeared to speak alongside Weiss. He says he came to believe in Lucrecia’s theories about Omega after Vincent transformed into Chaos during the events of FFVII, though it’s not clear when this happened. Hojo will later imply it was before the battle with him at the end of FFVII, but Hojo never encounters the party in or even near a battle prior to that one that was also after they meet Vincent! Hojo says that he would need a powerful body to host Omega, so he tried to inject himself with Jenova’s cells prior to the battle in FFVII as a way to strengthen his own body. When that failed and he was forced to resort to his “upload my brain to the internet and hope for the best” plan, he somehow convinced Nero to go through with his plan. Meanwhile, Hojo gradually infested Weiss, who as a SOLDIER, Genesis Clone and Tsviet, had just the body Hojo needed. Oh, and Hojo also establishes that he did, in fact, experiment on Vincent’s body after shooting him, even though DoC has been implying that Lucrecia was responsible for his transformations, just so that FFVII doesn’t come off as mistaken now that DoC has complicated Vincent’s origins.
Hojo also explains why it was so important that the Lifestream they’ve been cultivating had to be “pure”: he reasons that since Chaos came from a Jenova-contaminated Lifestream (loosely established by one of the Omega Reports), then he would need a pure Lifestream for Omega. I’m not sure I’m following the logic, considering Chaos was supposed to arrive as part of the Planet’s natural lifecycle, meaning that Jenova’s presence should have either prevented both entities from arriving or allowed both of them, but whatever you say.
Vincent decides to respond by opening fire on Hojo, but apparently despite being in a dead, rotten body for the past who knows how much time, Hojo is apparently at full strength and already a master of Weiss’ martial techniques, and he deflects all Vincent’s bullets. Hojo/Weiss then goes to absorb the pure Lifestream, but Vincent gets back up and the first fight begins against “Weiss the Immaculate.” The battle then promptly ends as Vincent is killed in the first few shots.
Chaos arises at this point, but it seems Hojo is right: Weiss’ Omega-infused body totally outclasses him. All Chaos’ return manages to accomplish is to wake Shelke, who’s basically an entire video game stage away.
Unfortunately, at this point, the USB cable connecting our capture device to the computer came disconnected, blacking our screen. I paused the game as soon as I realized what had happened, thankfully. Checking the software, we discovered that the capture program had responded to this disconnection the way it would if we had stopped recording manually: by automatically converting the raw feed into a more compact video format. Unfamiliar with the capture program, Kyle and I had no idea if we were able to pick up recording while the program was busy baking the past ten hours of gameplay. While we made a promise to never the recording run this long ever again, we were stuck with the question of what to do with ourselves while the PS2 was paused and the computer was baking. (As it happened, we needn’t have worried about the PS2, as the game had actually saved just after the cutaway to Shelke, but we didn’t know that!) Thankfully, it was the weekend, so we spent the next three or four hours doing other things while we waited for the capture program to finish its work!
Once those hours were up, we started a new recording. I would later find that we had missed only about fifteen seconds of cinematic thanks to me pausing the game in time, most of it dedicated to Vincent (back in his regular form) standing up and Hojo/Weiss turning slightly to the side. Riveting pacing, not that I’m ungrateful about where it happened to land! It also seems that a hologram of Lucrecia appeared on the scene, which Kyle and I simply didn’t question – I mean, Vincent’s been seeing Lucrecia all game, there’s no reason for us to be surprised by her now. Having seen the full scene, I now realize that Shelke somehow hacked Lucrecia into the room, as she starts speaking with Shelke’s voice, saying that Vincent has to take control of Chaos rather than the other way around. Weiss tries to break up the Lucrecia hologram with his computer program… magic… and eventually succeeds. This is all so stupid. But it’s too late! Vincent is somehow able to subdue Chaos inside of himself and deflects the next of Weiss’ attacks, which prompts Hojo to announce that Vincent is using the Protomateria to channel Chaos’ power through his human form. Ah-huh. And, uh… where is the Protomateria at the moment? I think that’s an important detail that you’re glossing over.
The battle is restarted, this time without the instant death, though Weiss was now called “Weiss Empowered.” Hojo/Weiss is able to deflect our shots from time to time, but was a lot like the fight with Shelke: since Weiss had virtually no missile attacks, all we had to worry about was his rush attacks, and the rest was near-constant shooting in our favour. Hojo/Weiss eventually started launching attacks from his throne (a gap we couldn’t cross) while invincible, but he would soon return to the field and was quickly killed.
Vincent knocked Weiss into a wall, and Hojo remarked that all of a sudden, Omega’s power was fading. It wasn’t Vincent’s doing: after Hojo had stuck Weiss’ hand into Nero, Nero had infested Weiss’ body with his magical darkness, and now Weiss was contaminated. Just like Hojo predicted, Omega would not tolerate a contaminated host. Nero asked Weiss, who was now speaking for himself, if they could join together and never be apart again, and Weiss agreed, saying “Let us… join him,” presumably speaking of Omega (although there is another equally valid interpretation that we’ll get to post-credits). Nero merged into Weiss’ body, and Weiss stood, approached his throne, and then dissolved, dropping the Protomateria as he did so. Oh, there it is. It rolls into the Lifestream.
The stage ended here with Hojo screaming protest. Hojo is not seen again after this point, presumably purged from Weiss’ body by Nero. Of course, he was also in the Internet and rightly still should be (why not make a backup or a hundred?) but Square Enix’s writers apparently don’t understand that. In any event, he joins the small parade of Shinra executives dying ambiguous deaths. Good riddance. But the game’s not over yet. As for the two of us, despite an absolutely terrible performance with C’s in 6 of the 10 scoring categories, apparently our two S-ranked-categories and a near-perfect performance on side missions was high enough to earn us a B-rank on Chapter 11. So strange.