FFVII Before Crisis – Jingle bells, Shinra smells

Chapter 6: Tonight in Our Innocent World

Big time skip here, as we jump all the way to freaking December, five months after the last mission. It’s three days until Christmas in Midgar, if you can believe it (like in the real world, Christmas is on the 25th of December), which makes me suspect this huge in-game time skip may have happened because it was Christmas in the real world, too, and they wanted to do a special episode (the game launched in September 2004, so Chapter 6 launching around December is hardly out of the question). Don’t expect the Turks to be very holly jolly. In fact, Verdot is going to put you knee-deep in literal shit before this is over, but we all celebrate our holidays in our own putrid ways.

Reno, Rude and Shotgun have gone to the Sector 8 residences after a mission (or perhaps one of those free-play activities you can do between story missions). You know, one thing I do like about Before Crisis is how rapidly the player Turk integrates with the veteran Turks. A lot of similar “novice joins the group” narratives have a way of treating the novice as a novice for the entire run, even as a bit of an endearing joke, or just don’t effectively integrate them as a professional somehow as an intangible matter of writing. I’m not just talking about Kingdom Hearts Days when I say that, which somehow manages to do both, but I can’t deny it comes instantly to mind. But Before Crisis doesn’t do that! You feel like your character is really an equal!

Reno invites Rude to walk back home with him (shippers, do as you please), but Rude turns him down, saying he has something to do. After he’s left, Reno confides in Shotgun that Rude has blown him off a few times lately, and he decides that the two of them should go spy on their coworker. He even tries to pass it off as an official “job,” in a joking sort of way, by walking ten feet away and giving Shotgun a phone call with “orders”!

The player gets to walk around Sector 8, talking to NPCs and asking if they’ve seen Rude. I mean, probably. Ririn already knows where to go and does nothing of the sort. The ideal route involves walking into a sexual assault in progress (!), where you blow the assailant’s head off with your weapon. He then walks away like nothing happened. I have got to do something about my hyperbole. You have to track him into an alley, where his buddies try to ambush you and get murdered away as well. After all this fuss, the assailant – apparently still alive after two rounds of this shit – reveals that Rude was heading into the sewers, of all places!

The sewers turn out to be a small maze, and Shotgun eventually finds another NPC at the end of them. The NPC says that Rude rescued him from some monsters, only for Rude to announce that he wanted some flowers, of all things! You might start wondering why Rude went into the sewers in the first place (after the maze, it seems unlikely that Rude heard this NPC under attack from the surface!), and good on you if you did, as that actually turns out to be relevant later.

Ririn returns to the surface and navigates to a small public park with a big tree that’s been done up in white lights. A woman nearby says that Shinra sponsored the decorations (god, Shinra’s got its fingers even in minor decorations) and said that this year’s “theme” is “Undying Love.” Ririn goes out of their way to collect this info, because it’s relevant to the upcoming story. It may be that this NPC forces you to listen to her speech, as you have to walk two steps past her to continue, and she’s positioned the way an RPG would normally position a “gate” NPC.

Just past the previous NPC, Shotgun finds a woman selling flowers. Surprisingly, the flower girl doesn’t appear to be Aeirth, which seems so unlike the BC we’re going to get to know over the rest of the story, which would never passes up the chance to make a cameo! I guess they only wanted to give Aerith the one cameo she’ll have later in the game? In fact, if this woman isn’t Aerith, where’d she get the flowers? High import costs? In any event, the flower girl says Rude bought a big bouquet from her and then said something about going to a certain bar.

Pictured: Shotgun, demonstrating how not to be seen behind a dialogue box.

After finding the bar, Shotgun spots Rude and ducks behind a decorative tree before he can spot her. Rude is meeting with a woman in a green dress, seemingly on a date! Rude soon identifies the woman as Chelsea, and we do a time skip, Shotgun stuck behind the tree for a whole two hours. A true professional, she doesn’t even complain about it! Chelsea and Rude talk briefly about work (it’s not clear initially if Chelsea knows his real job) and then head off, Chelsea with a walk animation and Rude at full sprint, because that’s all the devs had to work with.

We cut ahead to the 23rd, with the Turks once again getting off from work. A similar scene plays out, Rude heads off on his own, and Reno asks Shotgun what happened after he sent her off the previous day. Shotgun refuses to tell him, what with the date being Rude’s private business and all, but she inadvertently mentions that it was a date and Reno gets all excited. He runs off to tail Rude, and just like before, Shotgun’s phone rings. She expects that it’s Reno giving her another gag “mission,” but it turns out to be Verdot with legitimate orders regarding the Sector 8 sewers, where there’s been an outbreak of mantis-like monsters called Kimara Bugs. Shotgun even has a pleasant conversation with an NPC under attack by one of them. How polite!

The game starts you off in a sewer dark-maze, with only a small spotlight of vision around you. You have to find a light switch by following an objective arrow. By the way, I should go into detail about the objective arrow: it can only point to the eight cardinal extremes of the screen, so in a precision situation like this (not just a maze, but one with limited vision), it’s not as helpful as you might assume! It’s a nice way to make this more challenging for the player, while also being easier on the mobile programmers. There aren’t any Kimara bugs in this section, but after you turn on the light, they break their way through a hole in the floor and you have to track them all down in the maze before you can proceed. It may be that you have to prevent them from escaping into the streets to get a good end-of-mission rating, since some of them seem to be pathfinding in that direction, though at least one of them doesn’t seem to bother despite being almost on top of the entrance (perhaps it was waiting for a certain amount of time to pass before starting?).

After killing the regular Bugs, a larger Kimara Bug appears and attacks (Shotgun takes this opportunity to make a comment about her backstory as a big game hunter). Ririn is able to kill it instantly with a Water spell (possibly Watera or Watega), only for Shotgun to call up Verdot and announce the bug was immune to regular weapons, suggesting she should have lost the fight! Verdot advises she use Water attacks, just like Ririn already did. If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that Ririn is using a different weapon for this round, shooting water-aligned bullets. I don’t know what happens if you don’t have any, maybe the fight ends after a stretch? Verdot pulls her out, since she’s not supposed to be equipped for this, and advises her to switch up her equipment during the next mission checkpoint, or however this works.

We get another cutscene before the day ends and we get our checkpoint. This time, Reno tracks Rude to the bar and eavesdrops, where the conversation between Rude and Chelsea turns awkward for unclear reasons. Rude tells Chelsea she doesn’t have to lie to him, but she doesn’t take the opportunity, and instead admits to a mostly-unrelated little white lie and pretends that it caused their hang-up. Rude is clearly disappointed that she didn’t tell the whole truth, but their awkward pause is interrupted by the barkeeper. Two hours later, Rude gets up to go to the bathroom, leaving his phone behind in the process. Chelsea examines it, and the player gets to read her thoughts as she admits she, “Can’t go through with it.” Rude soon returns, and asks Chelsea to meet him at the decorated tree on Christmas Eve, as he has something he wants to tell her there. Chelsea is initially excited, but then turns awkward and leaves on her own, Reno on her tail.

Chelsea starts thinking to herself about not wanting to “deceive” Rude any longer, and Reno soon finds out what she knows when she climbs into a dry section of the sewer and makes contact with an AVALANCHE trooper! …Whom Reno is able to identify despite having a wall between them! The trooper asks if Chelsea planted a wiretap on Rude’s phone, but she says she didn’t get the opportunity. Reno says that she totally did have the opportunity and is lying to her handler. He immediately begins to suspect that she’s changed her mind about blabbing to AVALANCHE, but is smart enough to leave the possibility open instead of jumping to conclusions.

After a break to save, we cut ahead to the 24th, where we have a near-repeat of the opening scene on the previous two days. I’m not sure why the devs chose to do this scene three times with 1-to-1 dialogue. I know people have their habits, but the characters go so far as to imply that their missions each day were basically identical, and that seems unlikely. Things finally change up when Rude attempts to leave, and Reno reveals that they know about Chelsea, advising him to break it off with her. Reno’s about to reveal that she’s a spy, when Rude surprises both of them by revealing that he already knows, though he refuses to say anything further about his actions (indeed, he doesn’t specify that Chelsea is a spy either, and so Shotgun remains out of the loop). Personally, I like the clues that Rude knew what he was doing, like how, as a professional, he probably wouldn’t have left his phone exposed, and also he was somewhat needlessly in the sewers earlier on, presumably looking for Chelsea’s contact or clues about him.

Shotgun asks Reno what the hell just happened, and Reno remarks: “He’s going through a difficult age right now.” Pffft.

Verdot calls before Reno can go screw around with his friend any further, ordering both him and Shotgun to destroy the Kimara Bugs’ nest under Sector 8 before things get worse. Man, you had a whole day to work on this and you still want to deploy two spies at wiping out a whole nest of monsters? Where are the armed forces and a good fire hose?

The game cuts ahead until you’re back in the maze, where you discover one of the larger bugs digging a new hole in the floor. The two Turks follow it in, and it’s time for another maze. The game even shows follower teammate AI! Wow, the game improves in front of our eyes!

There’s no need to kill all the bugs this time, just to get to a nest at the end of a corridor. Two Kimara Bugs appear to defend the nest, but they aren’t enough and Shotgun destroys the eggs she finds there. Unfortunately, this only reveals a new hole under the nest (oh yeah, that makes total sense, definitely build your nest over a hole in the ground that we soon learn has active traffic. It turns out Spencer was part Kimara Bug), and the Turks find themselves at a fork in the road. They split up, and there’s quite a bit of gameplay before the next nest. Ririn is usually able to skip this sort of mundane fighting and navigating one way or another, so the few minutes we see here feels like an irregularity!

If you were paying attention to your path, you probably realized you’re about to reunite with Reno, and sure enough he shows up just a few seconds too late to be of any help. Once again, there’s a Spencer Pit under the nest, and it leads to a wide-open area with the giant Kimara Bug guarding the final nest. The Turks get ambushed twice along the way, but it’s no big deal, nothing you haven’t done multiple times before now. You finally fight the giant bug together, though Ririn once again kills it with a single spell! After the fight, Shotgun destroys the final nest.

Now that the filler gameplay is done, it’s back to the focal story that we have no control over to begin with: Rude and Chelsea. Shotgun spots Chelsea heading into the sewer (actually, she initially misses her entering the sewer, and essentially comes across a dead end, prompting her to remark “Magic!” in amazement). Shotgun follows her in. Unfortunately for Chelsea, it seems her handler has gotten suspicious and called in backup, and demands to know why she hasn’t gotten them any information. It’s clear they’re going to hurt her if she doesn’t have any information, but Chelsea stands up for herself and declares that she wants out. They’re about to attack her when Shotgun arrives and kills the three of them. Chelsea makes a full confession (remember, Reno was the one who learned she was a spy, not Shotgun) and we go into a flashback where Chelsea and one of her AVALANCHE comrades feigned a mugging to get Rude’s attention in the first place. And whoa! Flashback Rude punched that guy so hard he evaporated!

By the way, why is Elfe’s theme playing over this scene? Had they just not decided it was “her” theme yet? Or is it just because it’s the saddest theme on the OST?

Long, touching, but maybe even a cliché story short, Chelsea fell for Rude, but she announces that she’s going to have to break it off. She tells Shotgun to pass on a message that she’d like to meet Rude again in another life. Shtogun somewhat blandly remarks: “Such tragedy. I can’t do anything but smile.” What? Was that some sort of lampshade about how the player Turk’s portrait can’t show emotions and is stuck with a default smile? Long story short, Shotgun goes to the tree, but can’t find it in her to pass on the real message. Rude at least manages to deduce that Chelsea’s broken up with him, and stoically accepts that this is the end of it. Reno arrives and the three finally go home as a group.

After this mission, we pop into a Shinra executive meeting, where Reeve is reporting on the damage AVALANCHE has done since their debut. President Shinra wants answers and decides that Verdot and the Turks are to blame, but Verdot sticks up for his agents. Apparently that’s enough for Shinra, who authorizes Verdot to make a few new hires! More on that in a second, but before the scene wraps up, Rufus decides to stick his neck in with a few insults, even though his father points out that Rufus is on a perpetual, punitive “business trip” right now and doesn’t have any official authority. He points out that AVALANCHE and the Turks seem to be crossing paths a lot lately, and begins to insinuate that there might be a mole in the Turks division, and not an author with too little prep time like you might expect, bashing the protagonists and antagonists together simply because they’re the protagonists and antagonists! Indeed, in hindsight, this mole is probably to blame for Fuhito hacking the SOLDIER data disc at the end of the last chapter.

Verdot contacts the three Turks from the mission and tells Reno and Rude to look into Fuhito’s seemingly-supernatural, black-clad troopers. Shotgun and the other playable Turks are ordered to focus all their efforts on finding AVALANCHE HQ. He then mentions the new recruits again, which makes for a great segue for me. This whole business about new recruits is the in-universe explanation for Before Crisis adding two new playable characters to the roster. However, I don’t believe these characters were actually added until a later update, as the new Turks actually appear during upcoming missions. To back this up, there’s a group shot of all the Turks that we’ll be seeing in between those two in-game appearances, and the second Turk is missing from it, which seems to confirm my theory. For those reasons, I’ll put off describing them until their proper debuts!

Prev: FFVII Before Crisis – Quoth the Raven: “Hehehehe”
Next: FFVII Before Crisis – Darth Fuhito

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.