Chapter 12: Awakening Tears the Calm Apart
It’s September 21st, the day before Sephiroth, Zack and Cloud will ultimately be sent to Nibelheim, and Shotgun is attempting to helicopter her way directly to the Nibelheim reactor as a preliminary investigator. We haven’t checked in on her long before we suddenly cut to an unrelated section of Nibelheim mountainside, where we discover young Tifa Lockheart chasing a white cat with a Shu Takumi-style bandana around its neck.
Shotgun jumps from the helicopter (presumably with a parachute, although they never bothered to draw one) and the split second after she jumps, the wind picks up and she ends up landing on the peak of Mt. Nibel by accident. She calls Tseng and resolves to walk the rest of the way, but hasn’t gone far when she runs into a bird that attacks a Kimara Bug with some sloppily applied scaling effects, as though “flying out of the distance.” Judging from Ririn’s behaviour, you have to dodge the Mode 7 birds or be knocked off the bridges that line this span of the mountain. Ririn then takes a hidden path that loops behind a piece of foreground decoration, and seems to skip part of the map.
Because I wasn’t sure if we’d get another convenient Battalion teleporter leading back to the city even closer to the final boss, we decided to go and visit the game’s last Theatre mission right away, even though it was marked as Level 70 and we were below 60. We figured that if it was like the original two missions, we’d be fine, and if it kicked our asses we could just leave. We needn’t have worried – it was easy even at our current level, if you can believe it. Much shorter in terms of story, too. Let’s take a look.
This story is called “The Persona Thief,” and I suspect it was written/developed by a different author than the person who did “School of the Heart,” because there are major stylistic differences between the two. “The Persona Thief” prefers to have the characters narrate directly to the player, sometimes describing some real trifles. For example, you might see a scene where Lisa says, “Let’s go talk to that person,” followed immediately by a fade to black and Lisa narrating, “We decided to go talk to that person,” followed by the characters talking to that person! Holy shit! I get the impression that the person in charge didn’t care to program characters to move around, because this sort of narration tends to happen when someone would have to move from place to place. One side effect of this mode of story-telling is that Tatsuya barely feels present in the story, since everyone else gets such an inflated amount of screen time. Like “School of the Heart,” your fifth party member doesn’t appear in the narrative – Jun, in our case – though now that Yukino’s left the party, we finally know why: they had to account for either party combination!
Chapter 11: A Dash for Freedom
August, two months after the attack on Shinra HQ. Shotgun is in the Midgar slums, having a 1am meal in what… might be the Wall Market diner?… after missing a date with the other Turks. “Sometimes, it’s nice to have dinner like a normal person,” she says, actively cradling a magically-imbued, double-barrelled firearm through her entire meal. Since she has the day off tomorrow, she decides to go for a stroll and quickly ends up lost, happening across the Gainsborough house and garden, where it is clearly daytime. Writing team and art team not talking to one another, eh?
She’s admiring the garden when Aerith appears, apparently planning to run away from home just this very minute, a motivation that becomes irrelevant as she spots a Turk on her doorstep and assumes they’ve come for her. Why… even introduce that motivation, then? It relates to something she says later, but she could still say that later line without monologuing to herself about running away from home now. Aerith makes a break for it into the slums. “How rude,” says Shotgun, “She takes one look at me and then runs away!” Me! A face of the oppression!
There’s legitimately no way to pick up Tatsuya and Lisa’s legendary weapons at this early point, so we’ll return to the plot. After you complete the last temple, you get a call from Tamaki at the detective agency with bad news: Ms. Ideal has just been kidnapped by Prince Taurus! Jun explains: the Oracle of Maia demands a sacrifice of a “Maia Maiden,” and since King Leo had been twisting every step of the Oracle of Maia to fulfill it all along, it seems the plan was to just sacrifice a Ms. Ideal, whose name is Maia, instead of actually going to Central America or wherever to track down a descendant of the “Maians.” Evil bonus points for mopping up after themselves by killing the source of these rumours, plus who knows what else. Although… if they get away with the sacrifice, that sort of bonus might not matter any more.
Since Prince Taurus has such a strong lead, Jun figures it’s best if they just head for the centre of Xibalba, the final dungeon. It turns out it’s closer to home than anyone expected: the Naruto stone back at Sevens. Sure enough, we headed there and found out that someone had already opened the gate, and the Battalion had gone through (either after Taurus or before him, the witnesses weren’t clear).
Chapter 10: The Sole Deciding Factor
A whole four months pass until AVALANCHE’s next move. Somehow, they sneak into Shinra HQ just before midnight, bringing a group of Bomb monsters with them. The Bombs start murdering their way through the unprepared interior guards, but someone soon sounds the alarm.
Verdot calls the Turks, announcing that the Bombs are actually a monster outbreak from Hojo’s labs. He’s not aware of AVALANCHE’s involvement yet, and seems to believe the Bombs broke out on their own. Tseng and Shotgun are the only ones in the building, so Tseng is assigned evacuation duty and Shotgun extermination. Curiously, Verdot acts like only the executives and researchers know that Hojo is housing monsters, to the point where they can’t even call in SOLDIER to tend to things. Clearly this was retconned by the time we hit Crisis Core, as Zack basically uses the monster research labs as one of his minor hubs!
Yukino’s rushed exit finally complete, we checked out some of the surroundings, but got bored early and decided to pursue the main plot. Still, I’ll go over our results. There were doomsayers gathered in the park, waiting for the end of the world under the assumption that they’d become Idealian when it happened (they had been lifted into the sky, which probably feels like a significant omen). We also checked in for new weapons and armour, bankrupting ourselves yet again. Jun uses thrown flowers for his weapons, taking a page from Tuxedo Mask’s book while also sticking to the same weapon element (Thrown weapons) as Yukino. Jun soon came to serve as one of our primary demon negotiators, since there were very few demons that didn’t fall head-over-heels in love with his “Fawn” and “Horoscope” options. Not sure why, he just is! Jun also adds to the Maya pile of contradictory voice clips with his “I don’t want to fight!” followed by a smug and self-satisfied, “You got in my way!”
Oh, before I forget, Jun is voiced by Bryce Papenbrook, voice of Zidane Tribal in Dissidia and Tiz in Bravely Second, as well as many other mainstays: Naruto, Digimon, and Danganronpa. I presume he’s also the voice of Joker from earlier in the game, but in voice acting you can never be certain about that, which is why I’m only getting around to Papenbrook’s credit now, since I’m only certain about Jun. Or at least, as certain as I can be about these unsourced credits!
It’s time for another special episode starring an alternate character. Grimoire Valentine even had a lot of screenshots from this one, so I’m going to try to stretch them out! While the majority of Episode Legend takes place in flashback, its ending is explicitly set during or around the previous chapter, what with the second AVALANCHE occupation of Junon. I have a strong feeling that this episode it wasn’t released until late in the game’s lifecycle, possibly even after the story was complete (albeit probably before the Crisis Core promo chapter we covered earlier). The primary reason I think this was released towards the end of BC’s lifecycle is the fact that it unlocks a new Turk, Legend (Male), who has such truly absurd upgrade costs that would only make sense for him to show up at the end of things (he also only has two available weapons, which matches up with the last two Turks who join the roster). On the flip side, Legend (Male) does show up in a few group shots near the end of the story… but those might have been modified after his release. It’s hard to say based on evidence alone, so if anyone has any solid information, feel free to share it!
Episode Legend begins just after the Wutai war, a month and a half before the start of BC’s main storyline, but don’t get settled! For unknown reasons, Verdot calls Tseng to his office to tell him that he wants to recall a certain former Turk to duty. Tseng seems to know the guy, and informs us that he’s been held under house arrest in Costa del Sol for being a member of an anti-Shinra group. Verdot doesn’t seem concerned, however, and sends Tseng off to Costa del Sol without much more to say.
Further in, we came to another room where we were suddenly confronted with another flashback to the party’s Power Rangers days. In fact, it’s one we’ve already seen: the one where they lock Maya in the Shrine. But this time, Tatsuya does the locking and Jun the protesting, and suddenly Lisa and Michel are openly talking about murdering “Big Sis,” which Tatsuya does personally with his Persona, with no involvement from the future King Leo. It’s clear this is some false memory that Jun has been operating on for the past ten years, now raising the question of who planted it there. Joker is being manipulated, but why and by whom?
In another flashback a few rooms later, we learn that Tatsuya and Jun once tracked Big Sis down to her house some time before the incident, and hung out with her at a park without their masks, which reinforces the scene we saw earlier where Tatsuya and Jun were hanging out alone at some other point. It seems these two were cheating on the deal! Big Sis talks about how she was spooked to see them, and is inspired to recite Franz Schubert’s “Der Doppelgänger.” Apparently Maya was just that kind of teenager! Besides introducing the term “doppelganger” to anyone who might not know it, the poem also introduces the idea of a doppelganger as a reflection of past grief that just won’t go away no matter how much time has passed. No significance there, no sir!
Chapter 9: Stepping Into Uncertainty
It’s the first of February, only a few weeks after Verdot’s demotion, and Heidegger has taken over command of the Turks. He sets to work immediately, and with good reason: AVALANCHE is apparently returning to Junon as we speak! He wants the Turks to serve as scouts, and gives them orders to report the moment they see the enemy so that he can deploy his armed forces to deal with the threat, which he insists can be done in minutes. Tseng goes to tattle to Verdot, still calling Verdot “chief.” By the way, Verdot’s room in building security is a full set, not like the static picture of the board room we had for the executives, which is nice considering they didn’t really have to do it and could have shot the scenes over a CG or flat black. Long story short, Verdot blows Tseng off, but Tseng points out that Verdot can use his security control panel to watch literally any of the company’s cameras (this is simultaneously surprising and unsurprising from Shinra, I don’t know what to say), and he asks him to keep an eye on the Turks in Junon and in general.
Shotgun has apparently waited until reaching Junon to let off steam about Heidegger, including mocking his laugh, much to my delight. We’re given a brief introduction to the Junon elevator for later, and Shotgun goes down to the beach for her patrol route. Much to my annoyance, the game then basically reproduces this scene three more times with Reno, Rude and Tseng, almost word-for-word. Why?