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!
So like, was this Hojo’s entire stock of monsters, and he was just on a Bomb-collecting spree this week? Because this seems like a pretty volatile collection of samples.
There’s quite a bit of continuous gameplay in this early stretch, as you play hide-and-seek with the Bombs. The game is generous enough to tell you when each floor is cleared (he says with a scowl towards Persona 2 EP’s mapping quests). Ririn darts instantly from hiding place to hiding place to find all the Bombs and it still takes nearly ten minutes to rout them. About the only notable thing that happens is when a Bomb jumps out from under the boardroom table to ambush Shotgun – all the others start out in the open.
After working through the lower levels, Ririn… goes back down to a previous floor to kill a Bomb that wasn’t accessible before and wasn’t even included in the “floor clear” message for its floor! Probably tied in to the end-of-level rating. After that’s done, Ririn proceeds to Hojo’s lab. There, Shotgun discovers the body of a Shinra guard who was stabbed or slashed to death. “No monster could have done this,” Shotgun says. Yeah, no monster could wield a sword! (We’re all sure there has literally never been a Final Fantasy monster with a sword, right?) Shotgun starts to investigate, running into Kyneugh, Fuhito and Sears in Hojo’s main lab. Hojo doesn’t really care or even notice that there are terrorists in his lab, and after they reveal themselves, he compliments them on letting the monsters free so that he could get data from their rampage (and even after they identify themselves, takes him a while to clue in that they aren’t from the company, or that they’re even enemies to begin with). Fuhito tries to get his attention by promising him data on something he has that’s even greater than SOLDIER, presumably the Ravens, although hold that thought.
Unfortunately for Shotgun, Fuhito seems to realize she’s there, and he sics Kyneugh on her. Fuhito and Sears try to take Hojo out a back door, but he insists on staying behind to see their new-model “SOLDIER.” Ririn kills Kyneugh easily, but to Shotgun’s surprise, Fuhito has retrofit the Ravens to revive from death of their own accord, seemingly based on the data they stole several chapters ago. And someone should have told the devs that because the Ravens were already doing that in the mission where they stole the data in the first place! Fuhito promises Hojo that he has even better research back at his base, and Hojo agrees to come willingly
Shotgun attempts to intercept, only to be knocked aside by Kyneugh. This blow inadvertently slams her against the door of an incinerator, letting it to swing open. The two of them end up in another battle (Grimoire Valentine mistakenly labels Kyneugh as a Bomb in this sequence). Shotgun has an idea: put Kyneugh in the incinerator to utterly destroy his body. Ririn accomplishes this with the Gravity spell, which pulls the Raven in, though I imagine it might also be possible to do it with knockback. After this, the player has to hit a button to gruesomely end the fight. I imagine that if you don’t, Kyneugh gets back out after a pause.
Shotgun contacts Verdot with the bad news about Hojo (he apparently doesn’t have any cameras in the lab, so this is all news to him!), and then goes after the enemy. Verdot contacts Tseng at this point, since he’s done helping the evacuation. Tseng asks how on earth AVALANCHE got past security, but there’s no time for that. Tseng is assigned to evacuate the executives as well while Shotgun continues pursuit. You have five minutes to catch up, although this sequence is repeatedly interrupted by cutscenes that pause the clock.
Sears is in charge of AVALANCHE’s escape, and he counterintuitively takes their group up towards the roof, revealing that he plans to steal a helicopter, which seems to clue Hojo in that they must have an inside source. Strangely, Shotgun is right on their tail even though she doesn’t learn they were headed to the roof until Verdot calls her to tell her a few seconds later! Geeze, just a few lines away from when AVALANCHE was saying that no one would guess what they were doing! I imagine that the call from Verdot was supposed to take place earlier and was moved here to better position the five minute timer, but that doesn’t mean I like the end result.
You now have to stealth past several (apparently sacrificial) AVALANCHE troopers to catch up with Hojo within five minutes. Like I implied earlier, you get quite a few cutaways to Hojo and the AVALANCHE admins, but they don’t say much of value – Hojo is just very impressed by their evil deeds, and the scenes repeatedly reinforce that there really is a mole in the company. The camera likes to linger on their walking through rooms for a while. You’d think this was the dev’s way of simplifying the maze, but you shouldn’t trust it, because in at least one instance, following their path leads you into a trap!
Verdot reports that all the other executives have now been tucked away in an armoured bunker somewhere. Rufus points out that Hojo is the company’s biggest possible liability, and accidentally riles his father enough that he demands Sephiroth stop the “kidnapping.”
Sears manages to steal the helicopter all on his own (making me wonder, for the first time, why Sears is so strong that he outclasses even Fuhito’s Ravens. I don’t think there’s even an answer?). The helicopter’s low-quality rotor sound effect continues to play during the next sequence with Shotgun for some reason, which is especially odd and may be a glitch or a problem with Ririn’s video recording. Personally, I’m surprised Shinra hasn’t already put all their copters in the air after Verdot learned where they were headed. Maybe I should revise my theory about Verdot’s call to Shotgun and presume it wasn’t part of the original draft at all? Likewise, Shinra should have more helicopters in their air in case AVALANCHE had their own transportation in-bound. What did I say to you people about making me improve your evil plans?
AVALANCHE gets into the air just as Shotgun arrives (no matter how long you had left on the timer), and decides to start firing on you, forcing you to fight the helicopter itself! Don’t worry, you aren’t supposed to beat it, per se (melee characters simply wouldn’t be able to hit it, since the copte’s entirely off the edge of the building), you’re just supposed to survive, although Ririn puts a few shots in just to keep from getting bored. The helicopter has a very, very predictable two-attack pattern that repeats until the fight ends exactly one minute later. Bit of a chore, really. It’s still worth a laugh when Hojo complains about how bored he is, though. Who thought I’d be sympathizing with this asshole?
Verdot orders you to follow the chopper in a truck. Oh yes, do assign the person on the 70th floor to get to a ground vehicle. Given the circumstances, you won’t be surprised to learn that Tseng got there first, and he’ll be joining you. I’m shocked that they actually catch up with the chopper after the fact (and that the AVALANCHE is flying in a straight line over the highway to begin with?). Luckily for AVALANCHE, they have a motorcycle escort coming up from behind to make life difficult for the Turks. Once again, Ririn performs perfectly, so it’s hard to say how this section is supposed to work, but it seems that you’re supposed to intercept the cyclists with your truck, either forcing them to crash into your rear bumper or by sideswiping them off the road. It’s not clear what happens if you miss. Picture below.
Back on the helicopter, Fuhito has told Hojo all he needs to know about his top-secret experiment, and we learn that it actually concerns Elfé, AVALANCHE’s so-far rarely-seen leader. Sears gets pissed off when Hojo addresses Elfé as a research subject instead of by her name, but Fuhito tells Sears to leave it by, since they need Hojo, however rude he may be. The funny thing about this is that, in any other story, this scene would read like as an extra-narrative clue that Hojo wouldn’t return to Shinra. After all, if Hojo went back, he could expose AVALANCHE’s secret plans! But this one time, it doesn’t work, because Hojo is so treacherous that things could still go either way. I mean, he’s not going to tell Shinra shit.
At this point, Sears parachutes out of the helicopter to attack the Turks, and blows up the highway for good measure. You know, instead of blowing up the road and flying away. Or blowing up the Turks along with the road. I’m begging to suspect this is not a professional terrorist organization. The truck crashes, and Shotgun ends up somehow thrown all the way to the far side of the gap! She’s lucky she didn’t break every bone in her body. Unfortunately, this leaves her alone with Sears, with no sign of Tseng. This is the first time you can fight Sears and win (it’s unclear if you have to), something Ririn does in only two shots. “You’ve gotten a little better,” says Mr. Understatement.
Sears automatically defeats Shotgun after the fight, saying she still isn’t near strong enough, and the helicopter comes back to retrieve him. Back on the helicopter, Hojo is asking Fuhito about his facilities, and Fuhito reveals he has a “very powerful sponsor,” which Hojo points out is unlikely without Shinra’s backing these days, but Fuhito insists. At this point, Fuhito changes the subject and promises Hojo a demonstration of a monster they picked up from Hojo’s labs, which they’ll use to finish off Shotgun. You don’t see the thing at first, as you actually have to weave your way past obstacles as it spits fireballs at you (at some points, Ririn relies on the fireballs simply vanishing after a set distance, often standing just next to their despawn point, which looks very silly). When you finally reach the end of the road, it’s bad news: a Mt. Nibel-style dragon. Ririn doesn’t waste any time on this: he casts a Bio spell, only for Shotgun to seem to… fall down? I guess this is the game’s newest way of auto-losing?
Shotgun flees the dragon, only to end up next to an impassible crack in the floor. She’s saved at the last minute by the arrival of Sephiroth, who bisects the dragon and then goes after the helicopter while they foolishly hover around to watch the fight. The chopper goes down, and Sephiroth retrieves Hojo, although there’s no sign of Fuhito and Sears. Hojo tries to pass his unaware son a compliment, but Sephiroth just walks off. Hojo sticks around for a moment, chuckling about Sephiroth and Elfé, and then thinks about how he doesn’t plan to go to AVALANCHE on his own, as he wants to stay with Shinra to observe Sephiroth.
Back at AVALANCHE HQ, someone off-screen is yelling at the admins, including Elfé, for attacking the Shinra building. Fuhito points out that this mysterious person ordered them to attack Shinra HQ with the Junon cannon over a year ago (Chapter 3), so why does he care about the building now? The mystery person insists that they were meant to lose the first siege of Junon, and he never really wanted Shinra HQ to come to harm. Even Elfé is subordinate to this person. At this point, the stranger gives them news that Shinra has been watching “a daughter of the Ancients,” which is news to them. They give AVALANCHE orders to find Aerith and learn where the Promised Land is located. Oh, because Shinra’s been having so much luck on that front!
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.