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!
Suddenly, Aerith runs back with two AVALANCHE troopers on her tail! It seems she didn’t consciously lead them to Shotgun, but Shotgun defends her as a civilian nevertheless. Ririn takes this fight seriously, using their favourite Bio spell to take out the troopers. It seems this is an escort mission, and as the mission goes on, you’ll see that the troopers target Aerith instead of you during combat (unlike past escort missions where the “escorting” only took place outside of combat), which sounds like a huge pain!
Aerith clues into the fact that Shotgun doesn’t know anything about her, and the two of them slowly get to talking about flowers. Unfortunately, this leaves their guard down when more AVALANCHE troopers appear from the garden side (they may have been planted there earlier). Shotgun tells Aerith to make a break for it with her, and they start looking for a place to hide.
We cut away to the Sector 5 Church, where Fuhito, Sears, and Elfé herself are commanding the operation. Sears comments suggesting that their mole didn’t say anything about the Turks showing up, just in case you still haven’t caught on to that.
Seeing their pursuers have fallen behind, Shotgun decides to engage the only two that have managed to keep up. Aerith suggests they head to the residential area where there will be more places to hide, which leads to an open gameplay section with more escort mechanics. Hey, Shotgun, are you going to call this in at any point? I mean, a sizable terrorist force inside the city, even if it is the slums? By the time we hit Crisis Core, Shinra was willing to send a Soldier 1st Class to the slums to kill giant rats and shit. At least tell Tseng!
After reaching a set point, Shotgun sends Aerith off so that she can battle a few of their pursuers. Unfortunately, this means that after the fight, Shotgun has to track Aerith down at the same time as AVALANCHE! Overhearing two AVALANCHE troopers, she learns Aerith is confined to the nearby area, and that AVALANCHE is about to commence a systematic search of the buildings. A red-clad trooper begins moving through houses, though there’s nothing you can do to outpace him at first, as there are set encounters blocking your path and he advances after each one. I suspect that you really are in a race after those first three encounters and the red trooper’s first three buildings, but it’s not clear how he moves around on the overworld. All we see in Ririn’s playthrough is that he finishes searching a building each time you do (which Ririn does to escape the patrols on the main map). By the way, I really have to complain about the dialogue in this section. “Sir! You still haven’t found her? You’ve checked like three houses, I mean… god!”
Speaking of Ririn’s search, let’s see what Shotgun finds in each of the buildings Ririn vists. First off, a man challenges Shotgun to a fifty-fifty guessing game because he’s “bored.” It’s not clear what the prize is, maybe he just doesn’t attack you. In the next house Ririn goes to, there are two AVALANCHE troopers and a guaranteed fight. The third house he enters is Aerith’s hiding spot. There, Shotgun proposes that they “wait here and see how things go”? But… there’s a guy out there looking for you, going house to house, and you know he’s doing it! I know rushing into the street doesn’t sound all that grand either, but seriously!
Shotgun asks why Aerith was running away when they first met, and she just claims “the wind was calling me,” but also that she wanted to know what it’s like outside the city. Shotgun talks about her world travels, before and after the Turks. “Some [places were] by the oceans, others [were] snowy…” We cut away in the middle of this line. Presumably Shotgun keeps talking after this, but I like to imagine she just shut up after those two observations. “That’s all I absorbed, honestly.”
The two women hide out for an extended period of time as we watch the troopers comb the slums, only to notice one of them pass by a sparkling object. Through the power of montage, Aerith reacts as though to this cutaway, and realizes that she dropped the White Materia outside! Aerith convinces Shotgun to go looking for it by telling her that the White Materia is her only remaining gift from her mother. The two exchange names, and Shotgun heads out, Aerith thinking to herself that she never knew a Turk could be kind to her like this. I guess the idea of even Tseng being a nice Turk with an extended and positive relationship with Aerith going back to her childhood didn’t emerge until Crisis Core!
Shotgun finds the materia automatically, but is spotted in the process and tailed back to Aerith’s hiding place. Sears shows up moments later, saying he’s there to protect Aerith from “scum like you.” Ririn beats him in the fight that follows, but Sears knocks Shotgun out anyways, which will always make me wonder if Ririn just overpowered his way through a loophole, or if the scene is just that badly scripted.
Up in Shinra HQ, it seems word of Aerith’s “movement” has reached them, but weirdly nothing about AVALANCHE. God knows how. The game tries to address the plot hole of Shinra not capturing Aerith earlier by having Rufus say that he wants to capture her now, but President Shinra is willing to treat her like glass to preserve his only source to the Promised Land, and that’s… all you get!
Aerith is dragged to the Sector 5 church despite her best attempts at fighting back, with Shotgun nowhere to be seen. There, she meets Elfe and Fuhito. Aerith is of the mind that AVALANCHE is worse than Shinra for kidnapping her, which goes to show that President Shinra might actually have a point about leaving her alone! Oh, sure, Shinra’s a horrid, civilization-destroying corporation, but what have they done to me?
Just then, Shotgun arrives at the door and kills the guard, Shotgun’s unconscious body having apparently been left completely fucking unguarded this entire time. I am continuing to suspect that this is not a professional yadda yadda. Shotgun decides to sneak in through the obvious hole in the church’s roof (after leaving a corpse on their front porch?), and recognizes all present, so she decides to sneak closer to hear what they have to say. W-Why? You have the entire leadership of AVALANCHE right in front of you! Call! This! In!
Ririn navigates the brief maze that is the church’s rafters and makes Shotgun’s way to ground level. There, Shotgun overhears the AVALANCHE admins asking Aerith to come into their protection and to even tell them where to find the Promised Land, but Aerith admits she doesn’t know. Suddenly, Aerith approaches Elfé, and says that she can hear “an old voice from inside you. But it’s in pain…” Since Aerith is acting overly familiar (and since I’ve jumbled up the series of events a bit), Elfé asks if this is Aerith’s way of saying they’ve met, as Elfé apparently doesn’t remember her own past before waking up already a member of AVALANCHE! Unusual to see the video game amnesia on the antagonist, though not unheard of either. I wonder who was leader back then? We never learn! Fuhito tries to interrupt, saying Aerith is probably hearing the voice of the Planet and not Elfé, which is obviously bullshit, but Aerith is interrupted anyways when Sears spots Shotgun in the area and sends a group of the red troopers after her, which use magic. Not that I get to see which kind of magic, because Ririn just Bios them from moment 1.
Sears goes in personally at this point, and Shotgun leads him away for no obvious reason. They end up fighting just on top of the sanctuary area, but after the fight, Sears knocks Shotgun to the ground, where she, like everyone else, ends up landing in the fucking super-magnet attached to Aerith’s flower bed. Aerith objects to everyone standing on her flowers (god, Aerith, a woman was just thrown violently into them during a fight to the death!), and Sears and Fuhito engage you together. Shotgun remarks that she “really can’t win,” and Aerith… really, Aerith? Continues to shout about people shouting on the flowers. This probably has to do with your post-mission rating (which is provided by Aerith), but how annoying! Worse, Ririn seems to get in trouble just for walking on the borders! It may be that she’s yelling at Fuhito and Sears, but Ririn doesn’t make any attempt to keep them off the flowers – indeed, Ririn uses the Gravity spell numerous times to move the two AVALANCHE admins on to the flowers, as a stall tactic since you can’t win this fight and have to survive instead. The fight ends about a minute and a half later, probably only a single minute once you crop out the time Ririn spent selecting spells from the menu, and more than that, also crop the time it takes to clear Aerith’s numerous text boxes.
Aerith, having decided that all this flower-stomping means she can’t trust AVALANCHE any further, starts shouting, but AVALANCHE are distracted away from her when Elfé starts showing signs of illness and they say they have to retreat. Aerith asks what’s going on, and Fuhito says that Elfé is ill and would need “something like” the Promised Land to be cured. He leaves her with that passive-aggressive ultimatum.
At this point, Aerith goes to Shotgun’s side, and Shotgun wastes no time feeling like crap and immediately tells Aerith to run for the hills to hide from both AVALANCHE and Shinra! Aerith says she doesn’t think she can do it, because she has to care for her godforsaken flowers. Fuck’s sake lady, you’re a one-track mind these past five minutes. What about your mother?
The two of them leave the building together and they encounter Tseng, who was sent by Verdot during the Shinra execs scene. Deciding that Tseng is here to capture Aerith, Shotgun cuts him off, saying that she’s on her day off, as though that excuses her defying the company. She’s going to go right back to being Shinra slime tomorrow, but today boss, oooo, you’d better watch it! Just to make this scene an even bigger mess, Shotgun and Aerith say goodbye while Shotgun is standing in front of Tseng. And congratulations to Square Enix! You just won a fabulous prize for ignoring the context of your conversations 1000 times in a row!!!
After Aerith leaves, however, Tseng tells Shotgun that he’s not going to capture Aerith either, though he does want her to cooperate willingly, since it would make the world a better place in that… “I’m wearing Shinra blinders and I’ve never even thought to question them” sort of way. The scene has a tone of being meant as corrective spackle for the FFVII plot hole of them never capturing Aerith earlier in her life, but Crisis Core did it better. Not well, but better.
Back at Shinra HQ, we get a preview of the next mission / game update, as Verdot announces that all the workers at Nibelheim Reactor have gone missing. In the conversation that follows, we learn that Verdot is aware of the reactor’s secrets and that it the issue must be handled with the utmost discretion. It’s time for the Nibelheim incident, and for Before Crisis to be peppered with so many retcons from Crisis Core that BC’s version of events will look utterly impossible.
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.