Maya reads Leo’s riddle. Now, normally I’d be happy to quote a riddle in full, just in case someone is reading along who hasn’t played the game and wants to solve it themselves… normally. I’m afraid there’s no point this time: the game solves 90% of the riddle itself, and the last 10% is too easy to bother. If you get it wrong, the actual target will be blown up, but it’s not likely to happen if you ask me! But first things first: Ms. Ideal rushes back into the plot while Maya is reading and starts talking about the Oracle of Maia. When our Maya asks her some questions, Ms. Ideal decides the party are spies, inserted into the school by “the Fuhrer” to spy on her and someone named “Kashihara.” A few other names also come up: “The Last Battalion,” and someone named “Sudou.” Naturally, Ms. Ideal runs off from this group of, urm, spies.
If you’re following along but having been looking at any fan-timelines for the Compilation of FFVII, you might be wondering just where we are in relation to that other FFVII prequel, Crisis Core. Well, good news, because they actually have a crossover. As best as I can tell, this bonus episode was actually added to Before Crisis around the time Crisis Core was due to be released, several years after the end of BC’s update cycle. BC released a total of three bonus episodes: Episode Tseng, which was released the earliest and actually appears in Ririn’s recording; Episode Legend, which has a release I’m not able to place; and Episode Reno, the crossover from 2007. Episode Reno takes place at this point in the official timeline, so we’re going to cover it now. The other episodes… well, let’s just say we’ll cover them later. They’re a little more complex, chronologically.
Unfortunately, as Ririn’s recording doesn’t include footage of Episode Reno, it’s hard to talk about it. Episode Legend is in a similar bind: all I have regarding both episodes comes from Grimoire Valentine’s old site and from the FFWiki. Thankfully, Grimoire does have a transcript of most of the episode’s text, even though he doesn’t have any gameplay videos, which is far better than a simple summary or nothing at all! To give this post any screenshots at all, I’m going to have to take them from previous episodes.
For Episode Reno, here’s an archive link to Grimoire’s site for the transcript. This mission actually has a small handful of screenshots you might want to take a look at, and one wonders where they came from. You control Reno in this scenario. I imagine he wasn’t very hard to turn into a playable character, since he seems like he’d just be a copy of Alvis/Rod (Male), but what do I know? Maybe Square jazzed him up! If Episode Tseng is any example, you would have been at a preset level and with preset equipment during this bonus episode, though it may be that your spells carry over.
Reno and Rude have been deployed to guard and index the Shinra Science Department archives, as someone has been robbing said archives. During the initial briefing (which occurs in flashback), we get an explicit connection to Crisis Core when we’re told Verdot believes this has something to do with Genesis’ mass desertion.
Reno is busy complaining about work when the alarm goes off. While the two Turks aren’t aware of it as of yet, we’re actually smack in the middle of Crisis Core Chapter 4, when Genesis’ agents attack Shinra HQ! Unfortunately for them, a group of Shinra security robots that Grimoire Valentine identifies as “Red Saucers” mistake the Turks as intruders and attack. Remember that the robots went berserk during Genesis’ attack, though this is now being credited to the “hacker” who was robbing the archives (hard to say if the robot attacks in CC are also supposed to be the fault of this hacker, or a coincidence). I suspect you would have done a few waves here with Rude as your partner, after which Reno makes a bet: if he can take out more Red Saucers than Rude, Rude has to give him his Barrier Materia. Each of the BC bonus missions had some sort of unique prize on offer that would be transferred over to your main folder, and in at least one other case, you had to complete a bonus objective to get the prize, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the same.
Grimoire Valentine sticks a horizontal rule on the transcript page here, which in my mind suggests a loading sequence. Verdot and Tseng report similar problems across the building, and then who should speak up but Cissnei, who we’ll be seeing later in BC itself as one of the playable Turks, “Shuriken (Female).” I imagine she showed up under her player-assigned name in this episode, but Grimoire identifies her as Cissnei. She reports that Zack is on the scene, and since he’s a 1st Class at this point in the plot (if barely), Verdot declares that he can handle things, and Cissnei should concern herself with investigating the rogue robots and other computer problems that broke out at the moment of the attack. Verdot leaves Reno and Rude to the theft in the archives, much to their disappointment.
(Reno appears to break the fourth wall to joke about Cissnei’s appearance here, saying “Why’s Cissnei getting the special treatment? […] The newcomers don’t even know she exists…” I feel confident that this is a fourth wall gag, but it’s hard to tell exactly what it’s satirizing. On one hand, he might be complaining for the sake of fans of FFVII who never played BC, and thus won’t know about Cissnei when they play the new Crisis Core. On the other hand, he might be saying that newcomers to BC don’t know her, which would suggest that Shuriken (Female) and other characters really weren’t unlocked for new players until you reach a certain story point, like I was discussing in our first post. Or it could be something else entirely!)
Reno and Rude jibe one another for a while, until Reno suddenly spots someone sneaking around. They give chase, realizing that the high level of alert means the thief can only leave the area via the elevator. This sounds like horrible emergency procedure, but it does match up with Zack’s experience in Crisis Core, so they’re at least being irrational in a consistent fashion! Reno and Rude can’t decide whether or not to cut off the thief from above or below. Without visuals, it’s impossible to tell what they mean, but given later context, it’s clear that Reno gets on top of the elevator carrying the thief, whereas Rude’s plans are supposed to be unclear to the player. But wait, how did they go up or down from here if they aren’t taking the elevator and all other routes are blocked? You literally just said all other routes are blocked!
Reno gets on the elevator just fine, but he discovers the ceiling hatch is password-protected (also bad for emergencies). He calls Verdot for some help, and Verdot asks for a look at the elevator’s internal cameras, only to learn that naturally the thief cut the cameras along with every other tech failure. While he’s waiting, Reno is attacked by security bots, and judging from Grimoire’s narration, this plays out as a sort of minigame, where you have to attack bots to knock them away. Unfortunately for Reno, the thief in the elevator suddenly changes direction and starts riding the elevator to the roof. Tseng informs us that this will lead Reno to a Mission Impossible-film-style death, because damn, Shinra really does not care about realistic safety standards!
Tseng reports that Reno has only 50 seconds left to live, and like a surprising number of time-sensitive situations I’ve seen in games, people start talking and won’t shut up for what must be far more than the time available. I don’t know why writers do this, it seems like it should really easy to avoid? Because of the high alert, Tseng has to hack Shinra’s own systems to get the password. He manages to deduce that there are eight digits in the password and that the password in question relates to the discovery of mako, but that’s it. In the middle of this discussion, he and Verdot take a nowhere-near-urgent call from Cissnei reporting on the computer attack, because everyone’s got their heads screwed on backwards.
In any event, you have only two chances to get this right but three options to choose from. I assume that if you’re wrong you just… die! As it happens, Grimoire only reports on the win state. Reno’s lucky he guessed that the password would be written in YYYYMMDD format, but maybe date formats are more consistent on Planet than they are in the real world. Unfortunately, there’s now a second password request. At this point, Cissnei makes a second irrelevant call, reporting on Zack’s progress over in Crisis Core. It’s certainly important that Verdot learns the President is secure (Sephiroth went to rescue him, as you might recall from Crisis Core), but even Reno points out that he’s going to be pancake, so why can’t we get this info later (this also sounds like an annoying amount to skip if you die of “bad multiple choices!”) and Tseng can keep talking to Reno in the interim?
The second password’s a little silly. In Grimoire’s translation at least, it’s so easy that the only way you’d get it wrong is if you’re bad at math or if you overthink it. Here’s the deal: just have to enter the current floor number based on the information to follow. Tseng says you’re five floors from the top, and the top floor is floor 59. That’s it. It’s basic arithmetic. Literally all you have to do is 59 minus 5 = 54. We’re told you can try again if you get it wrong… I wonder: if you get it wrong, does the elevator progress to floor 55 for your next attempt?
Despite getting the hatch open and having mere seconds to survive (something the game really doesn’t seem to comprehend), you now need to battle a rogue midboss robot that drops onto the elevator from above. It’s not clear to me if the timer is still going, but it perhaps doesn’t matter, since even if you beat the robot (as is the case in Grimoire’s transcription), you’re saved when the robot is crunched against the ceiling before you are, and jams the mechanism, preventing you from being squashed against the top of the elevator shaft. But to Reno’s surprise, the person he finds inside the elevator isn’t the hacker, but Rude! Rude reveals that he planned to cut the elevator off from the 20th floor all along, and discovered it was empty, and was trapped inside as it began is rise to the top (why Genesis’ hacker or virus or whatever didn’t just drop the elevator to the floor, I don’t know, but you can probably dream up some excuses). It takes these two blockheads a while to admit that the thief must have never gotten on the elevator in the first place.
At this point, a mysterious cutaway to dialogue from an unidentified speaker (I suspect this took place over a black screen, and also with no talk sprite). This person says that now that he’s duped the Turks, he can steal the documents without any trouble, revealing the Turks had the order of events backwards all along: the alarm came before the theft! The thief asks whoever he’s speaking to find him a route to “the hideout in the Plate,” and then begins to monologue about how he’s going to get away scot free.
Despite Reno and Rude all but putting together the fact that the thief is back in the science department, and then noting that the elevator is out, the next thing we know they’re on street-level! Why did they go there? How did they go there? Is it so much to ask that the writers pay attention to what they themselves wrote mere sentences before?
We’re actually picking up a thread that was hinted at during Cissnei’s obnoxious phone calls: the Turks are now defending the citizens from rogue security bots in their beloved home territory of Sector 8, the sector where you started the game (I wouldn’t be surprised if the game reused a map or two here). No mention of Genesis copies, even though that was the actual street-level threat during this sequence in Crisis Core, rather than robots (once again, this is a matter of asset reuse, as BC has plenty of robot enemies, whereas Genesis copies would require new sprites). Reno clears out a few rooms worth of robots, one after another. There’s quite a bit of text here, none of it saying much of significance. It’s just a generic clear-out mission. After wiping out a room with the help of Rude as a party member (or at least that’s what I think is happening), you reach the fountain square where Zack runs into the Turks, and the scene is dutifully recreated in BC, what with this being promotional and all. You can read my commentary in the linked post, above.
Presumably still on patrol, Reno and Rude are now outside the Sector 8 reactor, and they just so happen to spot the thief they’re looking for. Reno wants to give chase, but Rude insists on following their standing orders to protect Sector 8. Meanwhile, Cissnei reports that Sephiroth has cleared two of the city’s sectors on his own. This sequence is the first of several that happen in less than two minutes in Crisis Core, but were stretched on for quite a span in Before Crisis. I guess it’s not impossible to imagine Zack was off-screen in CC, doing other shit while we weren’t looking. I’ll reorient us with Zack closer to the end of the chapter. Long story short, even though Sector 8 is still a mess, Reno calls into Verdot and gets permission to chase the data-thief from earlier instead.
Reno and Rude chase the thief into the Sector 8 reactor (or at least I think it’s the Sector 8 reactor, it might be some other reactor if I’m misreading things), but are frequently cut off by security bots. It’s only now, despite Cissnei previously mentioning signs of sabotage, that the two clue into the fact that the thief programmed the bots to defend him. Real geniuses here. They eventually catch up to the thief, who speaks to them about their impressive track record as Turks (I presume the thief is still out of view while doing this). Despite the fact that Sears did the exact same thing without raising an eyebrow, Reno now points out that this is top-secret information, which convinces the thief to reveal that he’s a high-ranking inside man!
It’s at this point where we finally encounter some Genesis copies (Grimoire has a single screenshot of them), and Reno and Rude defeat them and presumably capture the thief (in the script, the capture seems to happen off-screen, and it very well might be, but I’ll give the game the benefit of the doubt!). At this point, Cissnei interrupts the scene with a call to Verdot reporting on seeing Genesis himself. Once again, Cissnei’s report is entirely superfluous, and we whiplash back to Reno and Rude before you can even say, “the devs scripted the entire chapter in an afternoon.” They report that despite all the mystery, the archives thief is a nobody, just a Shinra sysadmin named “Neumann.” But they also have information on who he’s working for: Hollander. They’ve even tracked down Genesis’ base to the Sector 5 reactor, information that Verdot passes on to Sephiroth.
At this point, Reno and Rude get a brief outro, and Cissnei calls in to admit that she’s now learned that she wasn’t following Genesis, but the rather a copy. This leads directly into the scene from CC where Zack rescues her from said copy, leading her to remark on humans with wings being monsters. At this point, Sephiroth passes on the news about Hollander’s hideout to Zack (without permission, apparently!) and the rest is history.
Screenshots in this Journal come from a subtitled video playthrough of Before Crisis (believed to be a playthrough of the DoCoMo release), originally played by Ririn and subtitled by Grimoire Valentine. The playthrough is available on YouTube.
Out of leads, Maya decides to track down rumours, which leads to an utter bullshit sequence where you have to speak to Kozy’s coworker (the rumourmonger from earlier) to gain access to a new district, and then do a circle through every rumourmonger now in the game to learn that… none of them know anything. Suffice to say, we got a few things done while this was going on. Firstly, we came across a scene where a group of strangers crowded Lisa, and then started strongly implying that Lisa was being advertised as a new breakout idol along with her two best friends from the start of the game. The party just… does not clue into what they’re saying, even though everyone in this scene and later scenes all but says it straight-up. It’s really… really pathetic. By the way, I say “Lisa’s friends,” but Lisa kept dropping hints that she had some sort of falling-out with them, even to the point of wanting nothing to do with them. Naturally, Kyle and I figured this was a lead (one such Lisa-is-an-idol-sequence took place next to a rumourmonger, so directing you to “all rumourmongers” would make an adequate hint), and went to see Lisa’s friends! But no dice: despite repeat mention that Lisa’s friends would be at a certain arcade (one you could turn into a casino with rumours), there was no sign of them there at the time. It’s like the devs were saying: “You will talk to all the rumourmongers and you will like it!”
Chapter 4: An Existence Proved Through Scars
We begin Chapter 4 in medias res, going straight into the SOLDIER candidate hunt. It’s half a month after the AVALANCHE attack on Junon, and Shotgun has just broken into a fight club, where the reigning champion, “King,” is defending his title. With little more than a how-do-you-do, Shotgun blows the head clean off of the door guard. Okay, okay, the game doesn’t actually imply that he’s dead. In fact, her brazen murder is followed up by someone shouting: “She took him out with one blow!?” Yes, you idiots! That’s what guns do! This is one of many times where it seems the writers only had Rod (Male) in mind when writing these scenes, which is bizarre, because there are three gunners in the launch lineup, three of only four characters available when this episode was released!
King decides that beating up someone with a firearm sounds pretty interesting (I mean, that’s not what he means to say, but it’s what he’s essentially saying all the same), and asks who Shotgun is. She replies by announcing that she’s going to impress every single person in the crowded club, single-handed, into SOLDIER. Shit, historical press gangs would bribe or kidnap a small group of people, but Shinra’s here to tell those press gangs that they were playing for small change! Obviously all you need is one spy with a baton and you can pick up about fifty assholes at a single truck stop, and nobody will even ask questions!
At Zodiac, we ran into a loose plot thread: remember the girl from the track team who wanted to find her missing sempai? Well here they both are! The girl we had spoken to earlier was basically unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but the older girl, Anna Yoshizaka, is worth naming. Her NPC teammate told her that Anna “can’t keep that up that up or it’ll ruin your health even worse! Then you’ll never run again…” But it wasn’t clear what she was talking about? The P1/P2 overhead sprites may not have been detailed enough to make out Tatsuya’s lighter, but they’re detailed enough to see that Anna’s sitting down, not dancing or doing anything that might harm or even strain her legs. We can clearly see Anna’s hands in this shot, arms crossed and definitely not holding anything – say, drinking, smoking, or doing drugs. Hell she’s not even “hanging out with a bad crowd,” because she’s literally on one side of the room on her own. The phrasing doesn’t even seem to imply that the NPC girl was saying, “You have to go back to school and track or you’ll fall out of practice,” either, she’s supposed to be doing… something! I’m out of after-school specials, Persona, so tell me: what horrible, life-ruining activity is this teenager supposed to be doing to herself?
(Ed. Coming back to this from the end of the game, and even after seeing a few scenes involving Anna from Eternal Punishment, my best guess about this weird scene is that there was a localization issue, and the NPC is simply trying to say “Anna, please come back to school and track club.” Unfortunately, the localizers tied her up in a stilted double negative: “Anna, please stop doing the thing where you are not going to school.” Unfortunately, later scenes throws this for a whirl, so I’m not certain, but this feels closer than my other guesses.)
Anna ignores her former friend, who eventually storms off, and Yukino goes over to Anna to say: “Don’t do this. Trying to be something you’re not isn’t cool.” Anna asks who the hell she is, and Yukino just says not to ignore the advice people give you. What, like from strangers? Just any advice given to you by strangers, who have never even met you? I’m talking about you, Yukino, I hope that’s not too opaque for you. I’m with Anna when she says “That’s stupid,” and gets up to leave, because what Yukino is saying is so broad it’s basically spread beyond its limits.
Chapter 3: Swords Crossing in the Twilight
Chapter 3 starts off at the Junon cannon. There, Reno leads a few grunts into the AVALANCHE vanguard, while Shotgun sneaks in underground, remotely directed by Tseng. A lot of responsibility for a rookie, but I suppose you’ve been doing good work!
You’re not the only one in the basement tunnel. AVALANCHE seems to have tried to get in this way as well, only to be absolutely mowed down by a trio of giant Shinra security robots called Proto Golems. Shotgun sits around complimenting the work of the robots for so long that it gradually becomes inevitable that they’d turn on her too, but it takes weirdly long for them to jump. After a while, I was virtually expecting her to shouting like a stage actor trying to remind the stagehands to trigger a forgotten special effect, “I sure hope no robots attack me too! That sure would ruin my day!” You actually have to take out all three Proto Golems at once, even though three-on-one fights are still a relatively rare experience. It’s also surprising given the damage they supposedly caused on AVALANCHE, but as with a lot of things in this early playthrough, I can’t say how dangerous they really are, since Ririn kills them in one hit and only gets 1 EXP each for the trouble.
Since we’ve got Maya in the party, I’m going to voice a complaint. Most of Maya’s in-battle quips have her being cocky and bold, only for them to intermix the line, “I’m sorry…” as one of her battle win quotes! Sometimes they play virtually right next to one another! “You’re done for! [one battle later] …I’m sorry…” Holy crap, devs.
You waste a lot of time revisiting rooms, smashing clocks, and eventually talking to the teachers in the staff room to get the last of them. Ms. Saeko is happy to see Yukino, of course, and Yukino makes a comment about not being smart enough to be a teacher herself, as Ms. Saeko was a big inspiration on her. Unfortunately, destroying the clocks doesn’t seem to work, and Lisa soon realizes they missed the biggest emblem-clock of all: the one in the clocktower. Unfortunately, principal Hanya gets on the PA system at just that moment to tell everyone to stop destroying school property, and everyone outside the party instantly obeys him, utterly reversing their previous take on the matter. At least this finally confirms that Hanya’s popularity is supernatural!
Chapter 2: The Assassin Smiles in the Bright Daylight
Chapter 2 brings us to Junon later that same day, 1pm. If you’re wondering how long it takes to get from Midgar to Junon with reliable transportation, it seems it’s somewhere around eleven hours, minus the time it took to finish Chapter 1. It makes Zack’s rush trip from Costa del Sol to Genesis’ siege of Junon in Crisis Core seem even more preposterous than I implied at the time.
Reno and Shotgun arrive at a hotel where they’re ordered to head in to meet the President. Mere moments later, AVALANCHE arrives outside and takes out the guards on street level, all without them sounding any sort of alarm? I get that this isn’t a government building, but was the FOMA900i so expensive that they could only buy enough cell phones for the Turks? Speaking of expense, outside of the President’s suite, this is a seriously utilitarian hotel, since they just re-used the “metallic military building” tileset that we’ll be seeing across the game. It’s really weird to be in a gradually developed social game and yet see these early missions be filled with assets probably designed for later missions instead of the other way around, but somehow we’ve done this twice now! I’ll give the game this: it must have been very thoroughly planned!
Joker leaves the party with an iris flower, which according to the Key Items menu symbolizes vengeance. Like I was saying: nice guy. After we learn Kozy can’t see the shadowmen, and she whispers to you not to tell Michel her real name. It’s worth noting that she kept calling Michel “-kun” by accident during the past few scenes. At this point, we have no choice but to leave. Michel wants to go with you to get revenge on Joker, but everyone concludes they shouldn’t do so without weapons. Are you guys sure? Because I’m pretty sure we could have never used our weapons in Persona 1 and got through the game just fine! Well, okay, but only because you insist!