Chapter 5: The Dream of a Nameless Soldier
The chapter starts in AVALANCHE HQ, nearly two and a half months since the Turks went shopping for kidnapping victims (two months since Episode Reno). Here, the player learns that Shinra has a mole who’s leaking information to Fuhito. It seems a certain Dr. Rayleigh, Shinra company scientist, will be carrying secret data that could allow AVALANCE “the strength to fight SOLDIER face to face.” Fuhito now knows what train she’ll be on, and plans to ambush him with some sort of personal detachment. Of course, it wouldn’t be a game if Shotgun weren’t Rayleigh’s Turk bodyguard. The game doesn’t make a secret of what she’s carrying: virtually all of Shinra’s data about the SOLDIER program. I can’t imagine what ludicrous situation required this kind of transfer, but ours is not to reason why about our cartoon villain overlords. Shotguh isn’t Rayleigh’s only bodyguard: we’ve got three grunts here too, and one of them is the actual intended draw for this chapter, Cloud Strife himself!
AVALANCHE attacks before you even leave the station (“Four guards, that’s pretty poor security,” says a trooper in a group of two). Cloud steps forward to help you in this first fight, as he’ll do in much of the chapter. Note that, as a grunt, Cloud uses a pistol. After a quick introduction, Ririn makes mincemeat out of the troopers. At the end of this chapter’s LP, Ririn includes an alternate playthrough that shows that if you let Cloud die, you get a Game Over. This suggests to me that this isn’t true of most allies, or it wouldn’t have worth noting!
Shotgun falls a few steps behind the rest of the party, and ends up cut off when the next wave of troopers arrives. Two end up getting to Rayleigh’s group, and Cloud stays behind to fight them off. It’s kind of funny how the player has to fight three enemies alone but only two when she has help, since the game can’t handle more than three AIs at a time, friend or foe, but that’s how it has to be. As I watched the fight, I started to wonder if this game has friendly fire. Before the thought had cleared my head, Cloud got shot in the face full-blast by a shotgun!
Shotgun gives Cloud shit for trying to protect every person in his group, not just Rayleigh but also her and the other grunts, but her lecture is cut off when more troopers attack Rayleigh and kill the other two grunts with a Death spell. Buddy, I hope you’re all aware you had lottery-level odds of pulling that off. The caster steps forward, dressed in black and armed with a sword. They tell Rayleigh, Shotgun and Cloud to cooperate if they want Rayleigh to live. As they’re taking Rayleigh away, we get a preposterous moment where Shotgun’s phone rings and everyone on scene stops to let her chat with Verdot! Verdot orders her to retrieve the data even at the cost of Rayleigh’s life, and Shotgun… does… something. She lines herself up with Rayleigh (and no enemies, I should note), tells her to duck, and then rushes towards her. Cloud intercepts this… whatever this is… and demands to know what the Turk was doing. The man in black says it’s clear the Turk doesn’t care if the doctor is hurt. You end up walking away with the gist of the scene (Shotgun was going to do something that would have retrieved the data or killed the troopers, but might have also killed Rayleigh), but I can’t imagine what Shotgun was going to do that could have been accomplished by rushing at Rayleigh, while Rayleigh was ducking, and no enemies were in Shotgun’s path. The devs had to put in an animation that would account for Turks with all sorts of weapons risking Rayleigh’s life to get the data, and suffice to say, they ended up with one that doesn’t make sense with any Turk.
Cloud’s furious that Shotgun’s willing to risk Rayleigh’s life, and the two of them argue while AVALANCHE gets aboard the train with their prisoner, and the train takes off. Cloud manages to get on the train after them, but Shotgun is left at the station with the man in black, who is actually quite strong (it takes Ririn three shots to kill him), and has the ability to dodge your attacks, similar to the player’s own dodge ability. You fight more of these guys later, and sure enough they can cast Death on you. This causes a reaper figure to appear and take a slash at you – I imagine you have to avoid the attack. This appears to be the only chapter where you encounter the Death spell. The black-clad troopers reappear in later chapters and definitely don’t seem to have it any longer!
The fight delays Shotgun enough that she misses the train. You might think she’s screwed, and so does she (“Go after them!!” “Go after the train!?”), but Verdot gives her directions through the central Midgar pillar that might allow her to catch up to them at a later station. You can catch up at five points, meaning there are five timers you have a chance to beat, each presumably easier than the rest, reminiscent of the sequence in FFVIII where Zell tries to get on board Lunatic Pandora. Of course, I say “presumably” because Ririn clears the first bell by a mile and the matter is instantly done. The dungeon has NES/SNES-style invisible passageways, and Bombs that you have to stealth past. In one instance, Ririn catches a Bomb on a floor of retracting spikes, causing it to explode and forcing open a wall to a later passage!
Once on board the train, it’s time to fight your way through a force of AVALANCHE troopers, and then to dodge the barely-visible bullets being fired by another Trooper by weaving through the seats of a passenger car. There’s a machine gunner set up in the next car, so Shogtun decides to climb up across the roof to avoid it. You’re given the option to not climb on the roof as well – since we see machine guns in a later chapter, I imagine this sequence would have involved you dodging through the seats again, since the later machine guns fire in “bursts” that I’ll explain when we actually get to them, and probably did the same here. Ririn goes on the roof. Unfortunately, there are troopers on the roof, which look like they might be difficult because you have such an extremely narrow arena to fight in, but that’s about the worst of it. After you get down on the other side, I get the impression that you could optionally defeat the trooper in the machine gun nest from behind, but Ririn gives it a pass and just walks on! This may be why a man ambushes her from behind in the next car, but since the next car is so boring, I imagine that’s part of its default layout.
We catch up to Rayleigh and Cloud to discover Cloud’s had his ass kicked. One of the Turks stammers at Shotgun that he’ll kill Rayleigh if Shotgun tries anything. The stammer is a nice touch, as it explains why he doesn’t shoot her when Shotgun decides to rush them (not sure if the stammer is from the original or Grimoire’s translation, but compliments where appropriate). After the taking him out, things finally seem to be looking up for the good guys. Erm… bad guys? The… point-of-view characters?
Cloud is still sore at Shotgun for her “needs-of-the-many” attitude (or “needs-of-the-company,” as the case may be). He asks: “Did you come here to put the doctor in danger again?” I think Cloud means to say “Don’t you care if you put her in danger again?” because, as it is, it sounds like a six-year-old who can only conceive of the Player Turk as an evil sadist who came here to hurt the doctor for fun. Surely Cloud must be able to tell the difference between “Unforgivable shithole that he violently disagrees with,” and “A literal demon who is going to do mean things just because they are mean.”
Verdot calls in, asking if the data is safe, which Shotgun confirms. To be accurate, the player Turk hasn’t checked, but I’m getting used to BC’s weird sense of abstraction. Verdot reports that Fuhito and more of the black-clothed troopers are coming (actually, Verdot doesn’t mention the black-clothed troopers, but Shotgun somehow knows?) and he orders Shotgun to flee the scene with the data, leaving the doctor behind. Sure enough, they’re already on the train car and Verdot repeats his orders, but Cloud has given Shotgun a change of heart, and she pretends to be losing her signal in the tunnels. Verdot doesn’t actually buy it, which is a nice touch, but she ignores him and carries on. Shotgun gets Cloud and Rayleigh to the next train car, and then blows open a control panel to disconnect her and the troopers from Rayleigh.
Shotgun is now on a train with three of the black-clad troopers, which she figures is bad odds. She goes to the roof and fights them one-on-one, but only kills one before the other two surround her. Luckily, the troopers are distracted when the train stops, and Shotgun escapes to the ground, where she’s better positioned to fight both at the same time.
After winning the fight, Shotgun looks around and remarks, “Where’s Doctor Rayleigh and Cloud?” Um, miles away, on a train that’s still operating, exactly like you planned? What kind of question is this? Unfortunately, we cut further up the line, and discover that another black-clothed trooper has somehow gotten rubble on the tracks, which causes Rayleigh’s train to come to the calmest crash-stop I’ve ever seen.
The black-clothed trooper gets on board the train and knocks out Cloud, but Shotgun is somehow on board moments later, which seems basically impossible, but whatever. Shotgun orders Cloud to stay with Rayleigh rather than limp after her, and ends up facing AVALANCHE reinforcements, who were presumably part of the group that was waiting here with the guy who blocked the tracks. Cloud, however, refuses to stay down, and picks up the black-clad trooper’s sword and joints Shotgun. Cloud, you realize this train car has two doors, right? And that someone might come after Rayleigh from the other side? Shotgun is impressed he can wield such an apparently oversized sword (heh, cute), and is doing it well, too.
The two of them defeat the troopers and go back on the train car, only to find Rayleigh wounded and the black-clad trooper’s body missing. Rayleigh and Shotgun remark that the trooper should have been dead, but Rayleigh confirms he got up and took the disk out the other way! Oh look, train cars have two doors.
Rayleigh reassures the two that it’s not all bad: the disk is fingerprint locked, so they won’t be able to access the data. Okay, two points: 1) why did nobody tell us this earlier? 2) Digital security is not that secure, as we will soon see. At this point, the train’s PA system announces that the track is clear, though how anyone could have done that in the middle of an active combat zone is beyond me. Robots, maybe?
We see the black-clad trooper make his way off the train, where he meets two others that ask if “They got you too.” These are apparently the ones Shotgun and Cloud killed just outside the train car, and they were also revived! Luckily for them, neither Shotgun nor Cloud jumps off the trains to follow them, and I can’t even bullshit an excuse for why!
Elsewhere, Shotgun thanks Cloud for teaching her some humanity, and even encourages him to look out for his fellow grunts after all. Cloud remarks that his next assignment is to patrol a mako reactor. Initially, I took this as a hint that he was heading off to NIbelheim, and that’s probably what the writers intended (probably expecting to skip the Nibelheim incident entirely), but as it happens, the Nibelheim incident will occur quite a bit later in the game! At the end of the conversation, Shotgun addresses Cloud as “future SOLDIER.” Wait how does she know about Cloud wanting to be in SOLDIER? Or did she just “scout” him in her capacity as a Turk and was hoping to recruit him the moment he gets back from his-trip-that-would-have-been-to-Nibelheim, but-because-it-was-Nibelheim-she-couldn’t? Geeze, that would have broken his heart to learn.
In an outro/next episode preview, we learn that Fuhito has already decrypted Rayleigh’s disk (admittedly, some of these previews seem to take place closer to the next episode in the timeline than the current one, it’s never 100%), and that they plan to put the SOLDiER data to work right away. But Fuhito has a concern, and wants to ask his questions directly to Shinra’s Doctor Hojo.
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.