Chapter 14 – Each and Everyone’s Resolve and Wishes
Shinra took their time setting up this operation: it’s now January 3rd, a whole three months after Verdot’s report. Shotgun arrives in Wutai and confirms that she’s here alone. One person. You sent one person. Unless this is some scheme to fuck with the mole, this is ridiculous. Speak of the devil: inside AVALANCHE HQ, the mole is passing on the news of the incoming Shinra attack. They point out that SOLDIER is ruined now after Sephiroth’s “death.” If AVALANCHE can just stop the Turks, Shinra will be nearly defenceless, since we’ve established the Shinra armed forces are afraid of the sight of grass.
A complication enters the scene moments later: Yuffie Kisaragi, who has discovered AVALANCHE HQ accidentally and just as unfortunately gotten one of the troopers to chase her into the streets, where he runs into Shotgun. Shotgun spots the trooper and says: “This operation will fail if he alerts his comrades.” Good things bodies fade into the ether when they die!
After the fight, Yuffie comes over to say hello, and sheesh, Yuffie’s portrait looks even younger than usual, like a first grader or something. Did they have any handle on the timeline here at all? She’s got to be in her teens by now. Her height (she’s barely past Shotgun’s waist) is probably fine, considering she’s short even as an adult, but I can’t get past that portrait!
While they’re talking, Yuffie spots the materia in Shotgun’s shotgun, and is apparently just now learning what materia is, which is ridiculous when you remember that materia are sold in shops, and furthermore Yuffie has lived in a war zone her entire life, but whatever you say, prequel that’s desperate to shove itself into every crevice of the characters’ personalities and backstories, and is now trying to explain Yuffie’s obsession with materia. This is a pretty common prequel technique, even if I find it excessive and ineffective. It’s also interesting to me that they’re using it to begin with! Remember, at the time Square was considering releasing a whole series of FFVII games starring the various party members, but BC is basically wiping the table clean of all other possible prequels that might have wanted to inform other familiar scenarios! But I guess the company figured that all further FFVII stories would be sequels like DoC and not an additional prequels, like actually happened with CC.
Yuffie asks if the materia was why Shotgun beat the trooper so easily. “Wrong,” says Shotgun. “I won with my own strength.” You won because you have a fucking shotgun!
Back at Shinra HQ, President Shinra is being briefed that the operation is go. “If I recall correctly,” says the president, “it’s in Wutai.” Oh good gravy. Verdot fills in the backstory about Wutai and the war to explain why they’re using the Turks instead of the army, saying they plan to blow up the base with Shotgun’s help. I have to admit, I’d probably race to play this mission the Legendary Turk for sheer roleplaying points, but oh well.
AVALANCHE’s HQ is in a pagoda that’s either meant to be the pagoda where you fight Yuffie’s dad in FFVII, or one that looks just like it. Prrrrrobably the latter, considering the explosives and all, but I suppose it might could rebuilt between games if you want to insist. The plan is for Shotgun to go up Wutai’s famous, decoratively-carved mountainside (Da-chao) via some caves, and then jump on the pagoda’s roof and work her way down. Some of those razor penguins from FFVII, Red Bombers, defend the route, and even Ririn can’t skip them all. Shotgun finally makes her way through the maze and on to one of the statues coming out of the mountainside, and reaches the base without any trouble.
Inside the base, Fuhito is trying to encourage Elfé to evacuate before the Shinra attack comes, since they need to make sure she survives to be leader. Elfé talks a little about her amnesiac past and how AVALANCHE is like a family to her, and how she’d rather stay and fight. Sears insists she be allowed to assist in the defence. The two of them win out, and Fuhito decides to stay at her side as well, just in case.
We return to Shotgun, who has to plant explosives on each floor of the pagoda, top to bottom. Real great plan, infiltrating a building with nowhere to hide and only one route through it. At this rate, she’s just going to shoot everyone in the base just to get back outside, at which point who cares if you blow up the building? She’ll be opposed by “the Four Elite Units of AVALANCHE,” a group of idiots trying to do the “Four Kings” shtick. The four groups are the Ravens, the red-clad mages you’ve only seen from time to time, some blue-clad troopers who are brand new… and the brown-clothed generic trooper you’ve been fighting this entire game. It’s got all the comedy potential of a three Koopalings and a Goomba trying to pretend to be “elite.” Thankfully, Shotgun shit talks all three of them in time, so the writers might actually be aware of the flaw. Naturally, they decide to engage you in reverse order of power. What a joke.
After killing the brown troopers, Shotgun sets her first bomb. I like how Shotgun sets up her bombs just past the south end of the camera, so you can’t see them.
The new blue troopers turn out to be projectile users, and are just as quickly disposed as the brown (in the past, the brown troopers did have projectiles – in hindsight, I’m not sure if they ever stopped, what with Ririn’s constant one-shot kills!). After setting up the second set of bombs, Shotgun runs into Yuffie again, and confirms she’s not with AVALANCHE. In fact, she’s trying to “get back at them,” since as far as she’s concerned, they’re invading Wutai like Shinra. It’s unclear where her dad, the actual leader (or at least, future leader?) of Wutai, stands on the matter, as he never appears. In fact, Yuffie blames Shinra for AVALANCHE’s existence, too, which isn’t entirely wrong. Shotgun seems a little guilty for Shinra’s role in this, but convinces Yuffie to leave before the bombs go off. Yuffie agrees… while secretly planning to steal all of AVALANCHE’s materia before she goes. Materia that she suddenly knows that they have, despite only learning that materia exists less than ten minutes ago. Right.
After Shotgun kills AVALANCHE’s mages in the third battle, we cut to President Shinra’s office, where Verdot informs us that the mole has been provided with fake guards ready to capture “him” at a moment’s notice. You know, it might have been nice to have some false suspects for the mole, both in the larger context and right here. Like, say, if Tseng had appeared with guards at his side not long after Verdot mentions guards. Oh well.
Shotgun ends up fighting three Ravens at once, which gives even Ririn some trouble, but Shotgun mocks them after the fight like she did everyone else. Geeze, the Ravens don’t even feel relevant anymore, and they certainly aren’t regenerating on the spot any longer! We cut back to Elfé, who’s been giving a meaningless speech to the troops this entire time. Don’t you have a building to defend? Unfortunately for Elfé, her illness kicks in soon after the speech is done, and Fuhito says that they’ll have to evacuate her after all, even though all of AVALANCHE has seemingly been deployed!
Shotgun arrives on the final (ground) floor, and has apparently made it here before the AVALANCHE reinforcements. Just then, Yuffie falls on her from the ceiling, which is certainly one way to bring her back into the plot. Knowing the bombs are about to go off, Shotgun is about to drag Yuffie out the front door, when Yuffie announces the front door was “blocked off” today. What? How? By who? In what fashion that we can’t undo it from the inside? Boy it’s almost as though this mission shouldn’t have been in the hands of one person. Yuffie insists that she be allowed to fix things, and reveals that there’s actually a secret passage going further down, and that AVALANCHE’s real HQ is in an expansive bunker under the pagoda. Unfortunately for Shotgun, Yuffie also stole the detonator. For some reason. God, this chapter.
Yuffie later leads Shotgun through another secret door, and I do mean “through.” The door pivots on its middle axis, and Yuffie and Shotgun move right through said axis, by all logic, phasing through the door itself. It’s just fucking gone.
After the first secret room I just described, we come across a new challenge: Yuffie runs ahead into the second secret room and hits hidden switches in multiple locations, opening the next door and allowing her to get further away from Shotgun. But when Shotgun goes in, you discover that there are actually multiple, nearly-identical rooms connected to a hallway, and that the camera had only focused on one when it was following Yuffie. This means that not only have to remember the pattern, but the layout of the room Yuffie was in to figure out which room to press the buttons in to begin with! I like it! This is followed by a second version of the same puzzle, except this time, the correct switches open a door in one of the otherwise-wrong rooms, for added cleverness! Unfortunately, this sequence does have a major downside in that there doesn’t seem to be a way to repeat the scene with Yuffie pressing the buttons, but it’s possible Ririn just never demonstrated the method?
After finally catching up to Yuffie, you find her stealing AVALANCHE’s supply of materia. Or more likely: “all the materia that isn’t equipped to the army sent out to kill you minutes ago”… an army that seems to have vanished into thin air? Unfortunately, Yuffie sets off Shotgun’s detonator in the process. Luckily, the detonator only starts a timer, and doesn’t trigger an instant explosion. Luckier still, Yuffie knows there’s a nearby secret exit (presumably the one Fuhito was hoping to evacuate through), and Shotgun is forced to follow. Now, I’m all for going the extra mile to keep from being wiped out by an explosion, but unless Shinra was aware of the underground base and brought special tech to deal with it (Tseng’s been outside, doing absolutely nothing even when Shotgun needed assistance, so maybe he’s been planting bombs of his own?), I’m not sure how Shotgun’s surface explosives are going to hurt them now that they’re not only underground, but several rooms horizontally away from the skinny pagoda?
Unfortunately, the AVALANCHE troopers Elfé sent after you in that earlier cutscene have finally caught up to you, somehow from behind? And in much smaller numbers? Yuffie decides to stall them by throwing down a big statue in their path. “Damn it!” says the Trooper. We’re video game characters, we can’t avoid a foot-high wall! But it doesn’t last, as they break the statue (Wait a minute, we’re video game characters! Anything we smash is atomized!) and Shotgun is forced to fight them. Unfortunately for her, one of them leaves the area to chase after Yuffie instead! Boy, if only you had some kind of projectile weapon you could fire to stop him from getting away, eh Shotgun? When Shotgun finally gets around to giving pursuit, the trooper throws a statue in her path, too! Oh no, I too am a video game character and can’t get over a foot-high wall! You fiend!
Yuffie tries to stop the man by throwing down statues of her own, but he dodges each just in time to Yuffie’s side just before they come crashing down. Unfortunately, now you have a trail of statues blocking your path. Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly how these impact the gameplay, as Ririn destroys the statues in a series of “battles” in which the statues are the only “enemies,” without the slightest complication. Do they impact the chase, causing the Troopers that are chasing you to catch up if your stats aren’t through the roof? Or are they just fluff?
The explosives go off just after Shotgun rescues Yuffie by killing the trooper, and Shotgun ends up pushing Yuffie out of the way of some falling rubble, saving her life. Unfortunately, they end up almost at the feet of AVALANCHE’s admins in a section of the bunker that wasn’t destroyed. At this point, Fuhito decides to go after Yuffie for some reason? Oh yeah, definitely focus on the preteen and not the woman with a shotgun. Shotgun is able to scare Fuhito into letting Yuffie go, after which all three admins attack her at once. To my surprise, Shotgun is able to defeat them all, dropping Sears and Fuhito with one Bioga and Elfé with only a few extra shots. Huh, you know, it’s weird, we did that entire scene, and didn’t once hear Elfé’s own theme musi—oh, it turns out those there were just Ravens transformed by some kind of materia and their bodies assume their natural forms after Shotgun leaves the room. Oh! Good job on the musical cues after all! In fact, that’s a good twist, praise all around!
Yuffie reaches the surface, where she finds Tseng, who like I said has been outside, doing nothing this entire mission. The two briefly assume Shotgun is dead, though she arrives about a minute later. Yuffie gradually clues into the fact that the only people who would most want to destroy the anti-Shinra AVALANCHE are Shinra themselves, so Yuffie starts yelling at Shotgun and makes a break for it, saying Shotgun was “fooling her all along.” Shotgun gets defensive about how she’s not evil. Considering all the evil shit Shotgun has done, her assumption that she doesn’t “deserve” this just makes me angry at her, though I suppose her attitude also doesn’t surprise me at this point in the narrative. This is an oblivious woman, and/or writing staff, glopping downhill to the natural conclusion with all the speed of molasses, and a similar uncertainty whether it will actually reach the bottom before losing momentum entirely.
We once again return to Shinra HQ for our usual biscuits, tea, wrap-up, and sequel baiting. Today, Verdot passes on Shotgun’s erroneous report that Elfé and the other admins are dead, convincing President Shinra that AVALANCHE has been truly destroyed. Ever the professionals, he and Verdot don’t celebrate for long. Their next move is to reinvigorate public opinion towards the company. President Shinra suggests they focus their efforts onto the upcoming launch of the Shinra No. 26, the rocket that was meant to take Cid Highwind to space.
But there’s one more loose end: the mole, who is unmasked for the player in the final scenes. It’s Rufus Shinra, whom Verdot has apparently left untouched after the fact for whatever reason. You know, I do get it. It would be hard for Verdot and the President to deal with Rufus right now (I mean: Vice President and the President’s son? Right when they’re trying to make a move to improve faith in the company?), but surely they can do more than nothing. In any event, he’s gone to meet with the AVALANCHE admins, saying that it was their plan to feign AVALANCHE’s destruction all along. The reason Elfé was so peeved throughout the mission was because so many members of AVALANCHE would have to die to carry things out. Rufus then announces that he plans to assassinate his father during the upcoming rocket launch.
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.