FFVII Before Crisis – Shotgun the Nuclear Engineer

Chapter 16: The Dim Flow of Irresistible Fate

Despite the immediacy of the preview from the last chapter’s ending, it’s now May, one month later. Sure enough, AVALANCHE has brought a small army to take the Corel reactor. Huh, it looks like Shinra really is going to destroy Corel because of terrorist action in the reactor! I always thought that was some bullshit of Scarlet’s? Even weirder, BC never actually calls attention to the connection? As you’ll see, there’s a reason we never see Scarlet destroy the town, but they never even mention it, either!

Naturally, a whole four Turks have been deployed to stop AVALANCHE: Shotgun, Tseng, Reno and Rude. For Minerva’s sake… Once again, this is the army’s job, or at the very least SOLDIER’s job, not the Turks. AVALANCHE has a huge armed force in there! Our team of four splits up and heads in toward the reactor.

Shotgun ends up using the old Corel coal mines as a route to the reactor, where who should she meet but Barret, still hard at work mining. Barret is basically the least-surprising element of this AVALANCHE-focused prequel, so you’ll be relieved to know that the game completely fails to address him naming his own organization “AVALANCHE” in any fashion.

Actually, I’ve gotten ahead of myself, in more ways than one. We initially see Barret even before he meets Shotgun, being duped by an AVALANCHE trooper into leaving his shift in the mines so that the reactor’s “construction workers” can get to work in his place. Barret heads out and runs into Shotgun, where the two have a cutesy moment where they keep trying to move out of the way for one another, only to go in the same direction. “Sorry, heavily armed and formally-dressed woman entering a subterranean mine” “Pardon me, man with arms thicker than a human torso.”

The two get to talking, and Barret relates the story about the “construction workers.” Shotgun realizes what’s up, and tells him the truth about the invasion. While Barret himself isn’t in favour of the reactor, he’s invested in the rest of the town’s hopes and dreams and agrees to help Shotgun find a safe route through the mines and into the reactor. Unfortunately, AVALANCHE have worked fast and have already installed a machine gun guarding the way inside the mine. Fortunately, they were stupid enough (and yet somehow ingenious enough?) to install it on the mine cart tracks, and you can ask Barret to shove the cart into the gun for you. The next section of the dungeon plays out around that mechianic: you ask Barret to move mine carts to where they need to be, and hit switches to rotate the carts on certain platforms to change their direction. The cart itself can destroy machine gun nests and boulders, but there are a few obstacles (dedicated stop points for the cart, I’m afraid I don’t know the word for them) that you’ll have to remove or work with on your own. Barret doesn’t actually engage in combat if you fight any of the troopers, but this is hardly surprising after Tifa and Yuffie.

Unfortunately, after clearing the last obstacle, Shotgun and Barret become the victims of a very sudden cave-in, with Barret forced to hold up the ceiling (or at least a giant rock) with his bare hands! God, this is how Josef died. You doing okay there, Barret? I understand the devs needing to split these two up, but believe it or not, neither Shotgun nor the writers actually resolve Barret’s situation. Do you think he just stayed there, holding up the ceiling until help arrived hours later, at which point he and Dyne were instantly shot off a ledge?

Back in Shinra HQ, Verdot discovers that Rufus has made a break for it.

Shotgun arrives at a twin, underground river, once again guarded by machine guns. The area is policed by drawbridges that have to be held down by a person to get across, and naturally Shotgun is all alone, with no one to hold down the buttons. You basically have to get into a fight near the switch and then trick the trooper to staying on top of it, preferably with Gravity. Since Ririn does this perfectly, it’s not clear how the sequence resets if you get it wrong. Then you do it all again at a second switch. Notably, both of the switches Ririn encounters have different battlefields, so the puzzle feels a little different both times.

Next, it’s time to dodge the machine guns, which fire in clumps of bullets and then… stop firing a few bullets later. It reminds me of Bloody Wolf on the TG16. If you’re not familiar with the TurboGrafx, it had a standardized, three-stage turbo switch for both face buttons, meaning turbo fire was part of the experience instead of a hack like on every other system. If you switched your machine gun to full turbo in Bloody Wolf, you would hit the on-screen bullet limit every half-second, basically spitting out “clumps” of bullets instead of the proper machine gun spray you’d get on medium turbo. That’s what this looks like here in BC: like a system limitation gone awry. In Bloody Wolf, the bullet clumps sometimes worked out for the better (although I still don’t recommend them, medium turbo for the win), but here in BC, they just look awful.

Shotgun finally arrives inside the reactor, where she’s surprised not to find any defences compared to outside. But she’s not entirely alone, as who should she discover red-handed but Rufus the mole in person. Rufus is just about to make an overconfident villain speech explaining all his plans, when the other three Turks arrive and shut him up. All he says before clamming up is that: “AVALANCHE has been taking liberties.” Surprising everyone, Verdot shows up right after the others! This is especially surprising to the player, who – if you’re like me – probably took the scene at Shinra HQ where Verdot found Rufus missing as happening at the time it was played, and not several hours earlier, like it would have taken for Verdot to go from the president’s office to Corel! Verdot reveals that Rufus is the mole, and that the Turks should arrest him, where he’ll be confined to a “secret room” in Turks HQ, secretly under arrest with no one in the public knowing about it to preserve Shinra’s image. The Turks are wholly behind this. Looks like human rights violations are back on the menu, boys!

Rufus points out that they’re not exactly in a position to arrest anyone, and needs only to gesture upwards to reveal an AVALANCHE fire team, led by Fuhito, already in position on the second storey atrium. For some reason, Rufus takes this opportunity to complain to Fuhito about AVALANCHE capturing the reactor without instructions from him, and Fuhito decides it’s time to defy Rufus and retake AVALANCHE’s freedom. Rufus threatens that this will take away their money, but Fuhito says they don’t need it any longer (it’s unclear what’s changed to allow this, if anything, partially because of some drastic plot changes about to take place). Ironically, Verdot ends up having to order the Turks to defend Rufus from AVALANCHE, since he has to be taken alive!

While the Turks initially have the advantage, as they just so happen to be on a defensible platform and can withstand a few waves of troopers, they aren’t going to get out by standing there. Then again, why aren’t AVALANCHE just shooting them from above? The scene with Fuhito already had troopers armed with guns in it. He all but announced he was going to shoot them! Did an artist add the guns as an embellishment without the writers realizing it, or something vice versa?

After a while, Elfé and Sears arrive on the second level with Fuhito, saying the explosives are ready to blow the place to high hell. Which is a little strange, since Elfé and President Shinra were both independently talking about the Corel reactor somehow being able to “expose” Shinra, but whatever, I guess. But the strangest reaction is from Verdot, who recognizes Elfé’s voice and calls her “Felicia.” It seems she’s actually his daughter, who supposedly died in the Kalm bombings! Elfé starts to regain her memories. The short of it is that Felicia survived the bombing, only for Verdot to hand her over to Hojo (eeeugh). Hojo experimented on her, and then tried to dispose of her after the experiments nearly killed her, but she beat the odds and escaped the “disposal” process. At some time after that, she presumably met up with AVALANCHE.

AVALANCHE are just as stunned as the Turks, but out of nowhere, a blue “bubble” of magic appears around Elfé and she collapses. Fuhito reacts to this with a villainous ramble about how this means “everything is in place.” Sears goes to help Elfé without questioning his associate’s incredibly suspicious dialogue, and Fuhito orders the attack to continue in their absence.

On the ground, the three NPC Turks all encourage Verdot to go after Elfé, even if it means abandoning his duties, a real flip-flop on their brown-nosing. Shotgun is the only one who says otherwise, if only to encourage Verdot to do what he thinks is right. Rufus points out that Shinra will have Verdot killed if he goes AWOL, but Verdot retorts that since their orders to arrest Rufus were ultra-hush-hush top secret, literally no one knows what’s going on here besides the five Turks and Rufus, and Rufus is about to be arrested and buried like the Ark of the Covenant. True, Verdot admits that President Shinra still wants to pass on the company to Rufus (which has been evident, for all it’s foolish), and so Rufus will come to power one day, but Shinra wants his son to pick up his act first, so in the interim, Rufus will be powerless and silenced. Verdot decides to head off after his daughter, telling Tseng to take over from here. What, really? Is that all Verdot had to do? Just say he’s passing things on to Tseng, and suddenly Heidegger or some other executive doesn’t get to take over and nearly destroy a major population centre out of spite?

The Turks finally get moving just as Ravens show up on the platform to stop them, and Shotgun, who was assigned the rearguard, sticks around to stop them. Now that the Ravens are surviving more than one of Ririn’s attacks, I have to say: wow, this game is terrible at landing AI melee attacks on missile player characters, which is shocking considering they used to be the majority of playable characters! The Ravens spend most of the time milling about the battlefield nowhere near her! Come to think of it, this vaguely reminds me of the “partner” AI in FFA (scare quotes because it was just repurposed monster AI, long story). After the second round of Ravens, who should show up to reinforce our heroine but Two Guns / Ruluf (again, the Turk in question could be assigned based on the fact that you’re playing Shotgun, or might even be assigned by the player, I really don’t know). Ruluf has no idea what’s going on, so Shotgun orders him to run as a minute-thirty time counts down. Numerous Ravens can catch up to you during this sequence, and it really goes to show how diluted they’ve become that they’re speed bumps now instead of bosses equivalent to 2nd, possibly 1st Class SOLDIERs, doesn’t it?

By the way, I’m so glad Shotgun has just given up on rescuing the reactor. I mean, I kind of genuinely am, because it would be silly for her to even be able to save it at this point, but I’m also glad because it’s funny. You see, the writers have basically forgotten about Barret and his hopes for the town, and that’s comedy.

Just as the two Turks are about to make their escape however, Sears suddenly plunges down from above, not so much “attacking” as “falling,” and he takes Shotgun off the gantry she’s standing on and into the darkness below. Ruluf is forced to escape on his own, and the bomb goes off offscreen, Back at HQ, Scarlet is ordered to report to Corel – we won’t see her attack play out, funnily enough, but you know how it goes by now. After this, Verdot makes what very well might be his final evaluation of the player’s performance. We leave off with Shotgun unconscious, buried under the rubble of the Corel reactor.

Prev: FFVII Before Crisis – Get My Driving Spear
Next: FFVII Before Crisis – Toenails of Chaos

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.