Chapter 15: To the Distant Skies and Beyond
Well this chapter promises to be an odd experience. Like a lot of Crisis Core’s stuff, we know exactly how this is going to end, but have never had the chance to play in it, so it could still be interesting. We’re already heading in the right direction, in my mind, by turning the rocket launch into a major publicity event for Shrinra, giving us a new perspective on an incident the writers could have slept through. Of course, FFVII also gave me the impression that the launch took place way more than four years ago… Oh well, this at least promised to be interesting.
Unfortunately, in hindsight, I think Chapter 15 ended up being one of the game’s most boring chapters, but let me explain why that is as we go along.
It’s April, three months later yet again, and Cid is flying the Bronco in an air show before the big rocket launch. Shotgun has been assigned as Rufus Shinra’s escort for the day, and he does nothing but complain about the money being wasted the entire time. Cid ends his show and comes over to be introduced to Rufus, carrying his fucking partisan with him wherever he goes. Seriously man, even in the plane? And if you thought Yuffie’s portrait was too young, check out Cid, who can’t be past twenty-five yet.
…Wait, hold on, Cid from FFVII was 32? The man acted like he’s pushing fifty! Oh, Square… Square… Square… As it happens, the Cid we’re looking at here is twenty-nine at this point, but still, I would have guessed he’d be 45 based on FFVII! (Please note, if you go to the FFWiki, that Cid’s listed age for Before Crisis is his age at the start of Before Crisis, twenty-six. We’re three years into the story at this point.)
Cid and Rufus get to talking, Cid gushing about the sky and outer space (Shotgun too, she’s like a little kid in fact), and saying he’s “gonna plant Shinra’s flag on the Moon.” Hrm, come to think of it, while Shinra’s rule over the world is basically public knowledge, would they actually operate so out in the open as to plant their flag on the moon? Aren’t they still nominally pretending to be behind the scenes, like with the puppet mayor? Shouldn’t it be Midgar’s flag, at least?
After some chat, Cid spots someone attempting to steal the Tiny Bronco and breaks his Paragon of Humanity persona by swearing like… well, like Cid Highwind! He rushes off to stop the thief, but Shotgun insists that she handle it instead, since Cid’s the only one trained to do the launch. Seriously, no stand-in at all? Also, Shotgun barely even asks Rufus if she can leave before she runs off, leaving him totally defenceless.
Shotgun manages to get on the Bronco, but not before it takes off, since it’s a canon fact that this plane can take off with no pilot whatsoever. She knocks out the thief, but realizes too late that she doesn’t know how to fly, which is kind of a big hole in her plan. Thankfully, Cid is able to get on the radio with her to give her a tutorial. You get to muck around a bit at first, but the objective of this sequence makes itself apparent when another part of the launch’s pre-show starts blasting fireworks at you for some godforsaken reason. You get a warning showing where each will launch about a second before it appears on screen. You have to dodge them to avoid losing fuel, which is always ticking down to begin with. Also, any time you press the accelerate button (which I think allows you to move faster in any direction, not just forward like you’d expect), you’ll also lose more fuel. This sequence goes on for about three, nearly four minutes, and it looks so, so dull. So little is happening at any given second, it’s mostly dead air. It’s entirely possible that Ririn is making it worse somehow by being in the bottom-right corner, maybe causing the game to launch less fireworks or something, I don’t know.
Shotgun lands the plane off screen, and Cid asks what the thief could have been thinking. We get something of an answer as we cut to the woods, where Sears and a few troopers are disguised in plainclothes. The thief arrives on scene, apparently not detained for some reason. “Did you get the Tiny Bronco?” Sears, where would it be, is it in his pocket? We’re never told exactly why AVALANCHE wanted the plane, but Sears does say that they’ll “have to do without it,” implying that they planned to use it in the assassination attempt. He sends the thief, who has already been identified, back to the site to steal a launch tank from the rocket, claiming it will prevent the launch and ruin Shinra’s reputation. Sears’ reasoning seems to be: “Oh no, a technical setback that will prevent the launch, as is disappointing but should absolutely be expected in a space launch, our entire company is ruined. I guess it’s time to send our President onto the giant bullseye we have set up for high-profile failures!” Honestly, technical or weather problems delaying a space launch are a publicity problem in the real world, which is why we don’t have high-profile launches anymore, but for fuck’s sake, it doesn’t bring down a government. And even if it did bring down the government, why would it expose President Shinra to assassination? Part of the problem is that Sears appears to be hiding the incoming assassination from his subordinates, so he never explains how his plans are supposed to lead up to it.
Wanting to thank Shotgun, Cid offers her a tour of the rocket, but this finally provokes her to remembers her duty to Rufus. Cid decides to extend the offer to the vice president, saying he wants to change Rufus’ mind about the space program. Here, Rufus drops a very strange line in internal monologue, thinking to himself that, “The operation should be underway by now. Having a Turk around will assure the workers. That should make plan [sic] easier to execute.” So… Rufus’ logic is that he should take the Turk on-board to make it easier for the thief the Turk is looking for to steal something… on-board? In front of the Turk? God this chapter is stupid. I remembered it was boring but I forgot it was stupid. Then again, I’ve had this lingering mental image in my head ever since I first watched this thing, a mental image that wasn’t actually from the original and was just something I made up, but that stuck with me as representative of the chapter: an image of Cid flying the Bronco with a pike sticking out of the cockpit like a flagpole. Maybe that should have reminded me.
We don’t waste much time on the tour – our very first stop is the crucial tanks that are about to be hoisted, and the thief sneaks on board moments later. Rufus spots him, and curiously reports the thief despite the fact that AVALANCHE is working for him, perhaps to avoid blowing his own cover even though we know that no one else saw it. Cid tries to go after the thief, but Rufus insists Shotgun go instead, despite her complaints about being his bodyguard. Oh, you get to joyride on a plane away from your job on your whim, but he doesn’t get to order you away on his whim? Let’s just admit you’re both in the wrong.
Shotgun ends up confused – it seems the thief managed to slip on a grunt uniform and is now pretending to do maintenance work. She spots someone that she deems suspicious for no stated reason, and you’re asked to follow him as the workers go about their work, switching positions back and forth. We are honest-to-goodness having a shell game that’s only possible because these people are literally faceless, identical NPCs. I don’t know what to even think about this. Despite the fact that he knows Shotgun is looking for the thief, Cid then comes in and dismisses everyone! God’s sake, man, and he acts like letting them go is part of the plan! You have to follow the right person out one of the room’s many doors to tell the game which NPC is the thief, and if you get it right, the two of you fight. Curiously, he changes back to his civvies during the battle? Curiouser still, Ririn uses magic in the fight, despite it looking like an everyday fight against a boring, AVALANCHE trooper! Cid gives Shotgun an Ether for getting it right.”I took care of him,” Shotgun says. I murdered him. He’s dead now. Inside your ship. Forever.
That’s the end of the day, with the launch scheduled for tomorrow, and with the thief accounted for, all should be well. But when Cid does another check, it seems someone stole an oxygen tank anyways, despite our efforts! One of Cid’s employees points out that while they can replace it, this means they’ll have to do another technical check, which will push them close to the time limit. We cut to Rufus reporting the delay to his dad. President Shinra refuses to delay the launch, and Cid promises that everything will be on time, since his “best mechanic,” Shera, is on the job. Rufus makes the mistake of trying to scare Cid by pointing out that Cid could die if things go south, and I say “mistake” because this allows Cid to say that he doesn’t care if he dies, he just wants the launch to go forward. Rufus’ attempt to scare him just ends up making him look like a company hero! Furthermore, the president promises to manipulate the broadcast if something goes wrong, so where’s the harm to them? In the end, President Shinra orders the launch to go ahead as scheduled. Cid leaves, saying: “Gotta kick that slowpoke mechanic’s ass into gear.” Ugh… Cid… please don’t say anything about kicking Shera’s ass, into gear or otherwise.
We cut to launch day, and Tseng calls in to Shotgun, saying that Cid is nowhere to be found. She ends up heading into the misty forest that’s near the town for whatever reason, and finds Cid there, chasing more plainclothes AVALANCHE troopers. The fog gets even worse after the opening cutscene, just to make gameplay trickier on you… or that’s what I would say, except Ririn goes north and it immediately clears up!
Ririn catches up to Cid right fast, and now everyone is talking again. This has been an incredibly scripted, linear chapter for BC. That short and easily navigable trip through the woods was basically all you had for free movement between minigames and combats, mere seconds on the clock by Ririn’s measure, and it’s all you’re going to get, too! Shotgun says: “Captain Cid, it’s almost time for the launch.” Don’t worry kid, I’ve just got to murder someone, doesn’t take long! You team up for the fight, Cid stabbing with his partisan. Hope you enjoyed that, because it’s Cid’s only fight in the game! Oh yeah, programming evil Reno as a midboss in Chapter 13 would have been way too hard.
Cid and Shotgun get back in time for the launch (I mean, obviously he does, we already know this part of the story), but one of the troopers manages to get the jump on Shotgun at the launch site, and leaves her unconscious on the gantry as the rockets are about to go off! We cut briefly to mission control, where Verdot is serving as the president’s bodyguard. One look at Verdot convinces Rufus that he and AVALANCHE have to give up on the assassination plan. Oh no, the most powerful man in the world brought one (1) capable bodyguard, time to give up! Great plan team, congrats! After that, we go inside the missile to repeat the flashback scene from FFVII, with Shera staying to check out the oxygen tank despite the risk to her life. You know… these retcons don’t work for me overall, since Cid now has very little reason to blame Shera for the failure of the launch when the AVALANCHE thief makes a far better and more obvious culprit. Not that I want Cid to be an abusive monster about this sort of thing, but since they’re clearly not going for a retcon, I think I have to consider this prequel chapter a failure for undermining one of the only two elements that had to come out of it!
Shotgun manages to wake up in time to get away from being roasted, so naturally she stands around exactly where she was lying to make a phone call! Even Tseng has words for her on that. Shotgun eventually makes a break for it, and just because the world of any Final Fantasy game is horrible, ends up cut off by a troupe of Ochu – giant plant monsters! Ririn avoids every fight here, it’s really quite easy because the Ochu burrow and surface on fixed timers, so all he has to do is wait for them to drop before moving on. And that’s it for gameplay in this chapter, if you can believe it. The boring Bronco segment, the human shell game which in hindsight was probably the chapter’s high-point, a brief dungeon that Ririn appears to have entirely skipped (?), and the Ochu sequence where you’re supposed to actively avoid combat, even if it means waiting through long pauses for them to go away. What a wreck.
You know the rest of the story if you’ve come from FFVII. Cid bails on the launch a split second in to save Shera, the rocket ends up tipped over, and Shinra fakes the broadcast, explaining why no one has ever heard of the launch in FFVII (this detail is new, but not surprising). Cid makes a vow to fly the rocket one day, and I do like that they had him collapse when the vow was complete. We cut from there to the Shinra HQ boardroom, where Rufus has arranged the shutdown of the space program. No sign of Palmer, by the way, which strongly implies we won’t be seeing him at all in BC (and don’t). Rufus then loudly hangs the blame for the launch on the president’s neck, and Reeve and Heidegger remark that he might soon move to take over the company.
As usual, we end with a preview of the next chapter: AVALANCHE have invaded the still-under-construction Corel reactor. Wait are they serious? They invaded Corel, openly dressed as AVALANCHE, blowing the massive advantage they sacrificed dozens of lives to obtain? I imagine the devs were tired of working with substitute sprites or something, but shit. Use your surprise to do something surprising, not a big march and invasion you could have done at any time after your surprise!
As this was yet another unofficial mission, Cid evaluates you for this chapter.
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.