Before Crisis is divided into 24 story Chapters, although two of them were released in two “parts” (i.e. across two separate updates), making for a more accurate total of 26. On top of that, there are also numerous bonus chapters, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s get started with Chapter 1. But when does Chapter 1 occur in the FFVII timeline? Early in these Marathon Journals, I implied that Before Crisis was out-and-out the earliest game in the FFVII chronology, but it turns out I had misunderstood! Before Crisis does feature chapters that took place years before Crisis Core, but those are flashbacks! Chapter 1 starts after Crisis Core, specifically after Zack’s first trip Banora village. So, to place Chapter 1 on the timeline: Tseng and Zack have just met, and shared that classic male bonding experience of carpet bombing a civilian village. Everybody grounded? Fantastic.
Chapter 1, “Those Who Lurk in the Night,” begins in Sector 8, topside. According to the timestamp, it’s 2:15 in the morning of February 30th (yes, “February 30th“) of the year 0001. Uh… look, FFVII’s year system is complicated, all you need to know is that it’s year 1 of the current era, and if you want some Crisis Core reference points, both of Zack’s previous missions in Crisis Core took place in year 0. Gathering in the sewers below Sector 8 are a number of people in brown uniforms and dehumanizing goggles meant to assure you that they’re cannon fodder. Their leader, who actually does have a face, tells them that they’re here to begin the fight against the Shinra Company, and they all give a weird salute (which doubles as their attack animation, go figure) and shout “Down with the Shinra!” Oh, we’re still doing this, translator? The whole “the Shinra” thing? We’re just going to treat it as a weird Midgardian regionalism on the planet? Okay, fine, fine.