Chapter 8: A Darkness too Deep for Light to Reach
Oh, pardon me, judging from that title and the one from last chapter (“Scattered Light Wrapped in Darkness”), I must have put in a Kingdom Hearts game by accident. Give me a second h—oh, it’s legit? Are you sure?
It’s now two days later (or thereabouts – Chapter 7 only showed a time stamp before Sebastian and Essai were attacked, not after Shotgun arrived on the scene), and once again the middle of the night (lest they have to redraw all these outdoor sprites). With all this dawdling, Shinra’ll be lucky if they find so much as a few abandoned lunches once they finally get to the base, but whatever. Essai, Sebastian and Shotgun arrive to join the army, and no sooner has Shotgun asked about the legendary Zack than she overhears him snoring just off-screen and mistakes it for an earthquake. God, Zack, I missed you. I just adore how Shotgun’s first word to him is just: “So.” In its own text box and everything. Zack (who seems to know Essai and Sebastian) gives a speech about teamwork, and the combined force heads out.
There’s a weak bridge between the army and the AVALANCHE base, and the army slows down to cross it one truck at a time. Essai and Shotgun stay behind to guard the truck in the rear, at which point Guard Hounds attack. At this point, Ririn uses an exploit to avoid fighting the Guard Hounds by using Essai and the truck to create a corner that “pins” the Guard Hounds in place and prevents a combat! I don’t know if Essai is supposed to show up in combat as a consequence, or if he plays any role in this sequence whatsoever!
The bridge decides to stage its inevitable collapse after the trucks have passed for some reason, but Shotgun is caught on top of it and Zack goes down with you in a failed attempt at a rescue. You both survive of course, but this leads you into a brief snow cave dungeon as the two of you try to find your way back to the top of the hill. Yeah, good plan Zack! Let’s go into this dangerous cave, instead of looking for a way up outside! The cave is mostly minigames, where you have to dodge perpetually falling icicles. After crossing the first hall, Zack – who had been behaving himself up until now, which seemed so out-of-character that I figured the developers hadn’t bothered to vary his dialogue based on which Turk he was talking to – finally decides to start hitting on Shotgun, and is taken aback when she accepts his compliment without any fuss, as though that had never happened to him before. Zack, you are dating Aerith at this point in the story, so both the flirting and the response are a bit much!
Next up is a fight (the game keeps avoiding putting Zack in your party, probably because it only knows how to create characters that match the player Turk’s level, and not ones that outclass the player Turk like Zack rightly should). After that, more icicles, this time some you have to dodge while trapped in a smaller area between two fixed icicles. After a bone fide Kingdom Hearts friendship speech from Zack, Shotgun and Zack split up to fight more Guard Hounds, only for Zack to scare his share of the Hounds and convince them to walk away! He talks about how he “only draw[s] this sword when [he] has to,” a sort of proto-Angeal portrayal that doesn’t match up with Zack from Crisis Core at all, but at least gives a better explanation for why he’s been avoiding fighting with you.
That’s it for the cave, but we return to the surface to discover that AVALANCHE have set a big tree on the road. Essai and Sebastian decide to get out of the trucks to move it, without even setting a guard. Are you people for real? As you might expect, this is the prelude to an AVALANCE ambush. It’s not like the developers were ever going to animate them moving the tree, but it bugs me that the writers not only left the caravan defenceless, went out of their way to imply that Shinra had had no way past the tree, despite their extreme weather gear and extreme terrain military vehicles?
AVALANCHE arrive and open fire on the grunts, and soon only the two SOLDIERS are left alive. At this point, Kynughglghl shows up to finish them off, one Raven beating two SOLDIERs. Kynuff wins the fight and knocks them both out, and Fuhito once again orders they be brought to base, though he notices that Zack is missing despite some very accurate insider reports that told him Zack would be here. Rufus’ hints of a mole are starting to look more and more credible!
I have to admit, I’m in a weird place with this game’s story. I can’t help but be curious about its secrets and coming twists, while also… not having the confidence that it will pull them off successfully? Or that it even has any answers at all? How did Fuhito create the Ravens? Why are they always giggling? Who is the mole, are they someone we know or a faceless nobody like the hacker in Episode Reno? The answers might very well not exist, especially when it comes to the Ravens. The existence of SOLDIER narratively necessitated the existence of AVALANCHE super-soldiers to keep up, and the writers might not have thought any further than that!
Zack and Shotgun arrive on scene and find one of the grunts alive, and manage to get out a report (of course, they make no effort to provide medical care). Zack decides to take out the base single-handed, while Shotgun stays back to pass on the news to headquarters. Verdot also questions if there’s a leak, and thinks to himself that only the executives knew the details of the attack. Well, I guess, but how much would really have to have been leaked to AVALANCHE to lay a tree across the only road leading to your base after chasing two spies out of their base the previous episode, and then hearing a noisy truck convoy? I’m just saying, Fuhito’s clue to the player is a lot more decisive than Shotgun’s clues to Verdot!
Verdot orders Shotgun to follow Zack into the base, and you return to an area from Chapter 7. Verdot orders her to start by finding her way back to the room where Essai and Sebastian were held last time, though she finds the halls are now patrolled by ogre-like Grand Horn enemies (from Cosmo Canyon in FFVII, which I’m sure is quite a temperature shift for them!). Sure enough, Essai and Sebastian exactly where she found them last time, and she rescues them yet again. But this time, the two of them attack her the moment they’re on they’re freed, and start giggling like the Ravens. Ririn treats this fight somewhat seriously, using a cross-pattern Blizzard spell to freeze them in a stall for time, as you apparently can’t kill them.
After a few seconds, Zack arrives and the two of them attack him instead. Zack’s friendship speeches go on deaf ears, but he really gives it his all, and after an extended scene, Zack’s friendship speech kills them. It fucking kills them. This has officially topped, “Sora distracts Jack Sparrow into getting stabbed” on my list of hilarious friendship speech consequences. They tell him they’re happy they got to talk one more time before they died, which would probably be heartfelt if I weren’t killing myself laughing.
By the way, I didn’t mention that the corrupt SOLDIERS had black armour after they came out of the tubes. God. When a show like… I dunno, Sailor Moon turns your costume black to show you’ve gone evil, I still think it’s tacky but it’s at least in line with the series’ colour-centric aesthetics, but when Final Fantasy recolours metal armour to show you’ve gone evil, that just… god. Although I suppose FFIV did the reverse!
Since the two SOLDIERS failed to kill you, AVALANCHE moves on to phase two: just blow up the base. What good is it to them at this stage anyways? They have to operate in secret! Zack insists on staying with his friends’ bodies for a while longer, and Shotgun goes off on her own. Not long after she’s gone, we return to Zack to reveal that… urm, that he seems to have dissolved his friends’ bodies. But more importantly! More importantly, he didn’t really stay behind out of grief, but because he knew Kynog was nearby. For some reason, Zack blames Knugget for corrupting his friends, but he has nothing to say but giggling and “Death to Shinra,” causing Zack to realize that he’s been corrupted beyond the point of reason. Zack remarks that he hates killing humans (oh, you can really tell in Crisis Core, when he breaks out of Shinra Manor and starts a massacre of his former coworkers in town square), saying it’s easier to kill monsters. Yes, constantly killing your enemies is a lot easier when they’re unthinking monsters, aka “the goblin principle.” Zack decides that it’s okay, since the Ravens are like monsters. Oh, are we here? Fine, I guess it was inevitable. It’s what I was saying in FFT: Square Enix could have talked about something controversial like armed rebellion against an evil administration, but we wanted an easy exit from controversy, sooooo… now they’re demons. We don’t have to make a political stand on this subject, the literal subject of FFVII itself not one shift in narrative perspective, seven years and one corporate merger ago, because the one group are literally demons. Cowards. Anyways, Zack kills Kybbles and leaves him to be wiped out for real by the bomb.
After this, you have two minutes to escape the dungeon, with Zack reuniting with you early in the process. There are enemies prepared to jump you in the maze, but of course Ririn gets out clean. If you avoid them long enough, Zack will rescue you, but you still have to fight three of them with the timer going at the end of the maze (Ririn uses a Bio spell to take them out fast, maybe for post-mission rating purposes). After this, Zack is able to break open the shutter keeping you inside the base and you’re home free. Zack stays behind, and uses Essai and Sebastian’s swords to create a memorial.
In an outro cutscene, Rufus confronts his father about the mission’s fuckup, and brings up the ambush on the road in particular, and the implication of a mole therein. President Shinra decides to put the blame on Verdot, and demotes him from the head of the Turks, putting him as head of headquarters security as punishment duty. Remember my earlier complaints: Shinra’s “proof” of this leak involves them screwing around for two days after their spies were spotted on scene. This is a terrible reason for Verdot to be demoted, even though there are plenty of good reasons!
Verdot leaves the room to find all the Turks waiting for him, and they ask him a series of questions, the most important being “What’s going to become of the Turks?” He says that he’s leaving the rest up to them. As a clever final punch, Tseng gives the post-mission evaluation instead of Verdot.
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.