At this point, the group overhears a broadcast saying that “several seminars [are] being sponsored by international celebrities,” supposedly on the subject of purifying Jokers. One such seminar is taking place at SMILE Hirasaka (“Smile Mall”), hosted by Ginji “Prince Taurus” Sasaki. No alternate universe redemption for this guy! Curiously, after this scene, Baofu remarks on how strange it is that NWO is collecting kegare not just from Jokerized humans, but also from normal humans, something we won’t learn they’re doing until we investigate these seminars! He also wants to know, “What about the ‘pure’ humans?” a concept that hasn’t come up at all, although maybe he’s just extrapolating? Geeze, what’s with these lines?
Returning to the world map and to our actual playthrough, we’ve lost a few minutes of footage here, but I made sure to make a note what we had done soon after I noticed the problem, so I think I’ve got it all covered. We cashed our first map with Salam, and also got the next blank one, which curiously comes in two parts (Smile Map A and Smile Map B), even though the dungeon doesn’t have two parts? I’m still confused about that detail. Even the walkthroughs don’t mention it! It doesn’t help that the blank maps don’t even show up in your inventory! We also went manhunting (one such search appears after we turned on the recording) and checked out some prospective new Personas, although we didn’t get any. The entire party was maxed out on their current Personas, and we really had to give Elly a backup for Nike, but there just weren’t any good ones in our level range! Also, Baoful’s Hel had mutated so often that I wasn’t sure we wanted to drop her for any reason.
Chapter 20: Accepting the Price of their Resolve
The chapters get longer again from here on out, and part of that is because enemies are catching up to Ririn, forcing combats to run for more than three seconds. This one in particular is probably the longest single chapter in the game in Ririn’s playthrough, so let’s get to it!
We’re in Shinra HQ, where several grunts have found Cait Sith lying on the floor, and mistake him for a doll. They take to talking about work: these grunts are looking for Turks HQ to spy on them on orders from Scarlet (who doesn’t know that the Turks have Rufus locked up and that the big boss doesn’t want anyone to learn about him). Luckily for the “heroes,” no one knows where Turks HQ actually is inside the labyrinthine HQ. Really? I’m not so hung up on the secret HQ so much as the fact that the Turks are really still inside the building, after your open betrayal. Fuck’s sake. After the guards say as much, the Cait Sith doll gets up and walks away.
The party went into hiding. It wasn’t clear how much of what happened actually ended up on the talk show camera, but you can be sure someone called the cops, not to mention Chizuro getting away to report to the NWO. They returned to Nanjo’s suite, only to find that someone had broken in and murdered the faceless NPCs in his employ (one has to wonder why they didn’t wait for the party). Nanjo is already here, and is too much of an emotional mess to do any deduction. The party initially suspects that Sneak might be the one responsible, and that he may have led them to Nanjo just to expose his base of operations, but that seemed unlikely to me given that their meeting with Sneak was so far apart from the massacre, both physically and chronologically. In any event, the party retreats to Baofu’s hideout in the same district. Here, Nanjo gives a summary of his scenario, and in Nanjo’s storyline, Nanjo players will hear Elly’s version of events. So that means it’s time for me to check someone else’s playthrough to see the other side of the coin!
Because it’s just this one post, I’m going to fill our screenshots with general gameplay pictures rather than secure a source for Nanjo’s screenshots.
Chapter 19: The Choices Made in the Beginning and the End
Grimoire Valentine normally adds a sprite of Grimoire-Valentine-the-character next to the mission title while Ririn’s game is loading the chapters, but today he substitutes Lucretia. I should note that neither sprite is used by the game itself: they’re either impeccably on-model fanart, or were created by the BC team for some other purpose.
December 19th: Zack and Cloud break out of the Nibelheim Manor through a side door or window… before moving right in front of the open main doors. A hell of an opening shot. We cut away to the surrounding forests, where Shotgun has arrived with orders to capture the “samples,” preferably before the army finds them, fights them, gets mowed down in an emotionless massacre on Zack’s part, that sort of thing.
Heading outside, we discovered Nanjo’s penthouse was actually in a new district, and I mean a new district, as not only was it new to this game, but wasn’t even in P2IS, having been recently constructed in this universe. That meant new shops and new rumours. This resulted in an incredibly busy overworld play-session, and not just in this district! First off, you can create another specialist shop, which we once again did with armour, giving us a bunch of magic resistant armour to supplement our specialist evasion armour from earlier (they didn’t even overlap in terms of equipment slots!). Next, we created a synthesis shop, though the only way to make use of it this early in the game is to have earned some high-level synth ingredients from the casino, or to have Retired some incredibly specific, max-Rank Personas. The Sumaru Genie, whom we had restored to her P2IS capacity at some earlier point in the game, was now rumour-upgraded again to also offer “affinities,” which allow you to boost Fusion Spells between party members or, more commonly, reduce prices from a single shop, although until she gets an third upgrade, the shop affinities are only available for item-hawking convenience stores.
Another important stop was to return to Kismet to have Maya meet with her boss and claim that she wasn’t at the bar, as this leads to a secret Persona later on for some reason. Mizuno doesn’t believe you, as she herself was at the bar and saw Maya there, but since she also seems to have seen Maya flirting with Katsuya, she gets distracted and gives Maya a weird lecture about not flirting on the job, using a lot of… uncomfortable flower metaphors.
Chapter 18: The Howl Echoing Through Heaven and Earth
Chapter 18 begins with Shotgun waking up after being in a coma for some time. The two new Turks are here to meet you: Katana (Male), also known as Balto, and Shuriken (Female), also known as our old friend, Cissnei from Crisis Core! Oddly, Grimoire switches to proper names for the new Turks in this scene, probably because of Cissnei. The game uses later parts of this scene to establish that the two of them have been with the Turks for a while, just not in Shotgun’s group, which the writers would later loophole as an excuse to put Cissnei into CC.
Very bad news: Shotgun’s been in a coma for three years. Balto tells you this almost right away, making me wish he had been the one to meet up with Zack, since Cissnei entirely fucking forgot to convey a certain similar bit of information, as you may recall. The translation is a little wonky here, as Cissnei either credits your coma or your survival to the pyramid materia, which they’ve apparently been keeping by your side this entire time, perhaps even under the suspicion that it is helping.
We regained control of the party, and confirmed that yes, Ulala was now several levels behind the rest of the party and wasn’t level-averaged back to the curve. We gave her a replacement Persona (one of the ones we had picked up just for the hell of it during the past four hours). At this point, we decided to follow the walkthrough more closely, so that we would be better prepared if EP pulled any more stunts like the last one. The walkthrough informed us about two rumours we might have overlooked if we hadn’t checked it, one of them because it’s actually in the first room of Zodiac.
We went in and discovered that there’s a new entrance hall to the club, and I’m not sure why it exists, as there’s literally nothing there (Ed. and never was!)? But anyways. We met Anna in the dance hall, who confirmed the kidnapped Jokers were being held in the back. At this point, Maya took the liberty of telling Anna that Tatsuya was the one that saved them all at the clock tower. Anna talks a bit about their friendship, and says that Tatsuya talked about “[Atoning] for [his] sins” before he disappeared. Odd, Tatsuya was probably the most innocent person in the entire original party, so I wonder what he’s talking about! Long story short, Anna confirms the kidnappers spoke Chinese, making everyone feel confident that the Taiwanese mob was behind the kidnappings. Anna asks you to save Noriko. She doesn’t comment on the fact that Noriko committed a double homicide, just that Noriko and Tatsuya are the only two she can carry a conversation with. “Present company included,” Kyle said in his Anna voice, when Anna ended the talk on the spot.
Chapter 17: Fangs of Chaos
Thoughts on semiotics in Final Fantasy: when the game says “Fangs of Chaos,” am I supposed to think of the literal fangs of the demon Chaos, progenitor of evil in the Final Fantasy series? Because I do, even if they didn’t intend that.
This is a shorter chapter overall, as will several of the ones to follow! Ririn has taken between 30-40 minutes for every chapter from Chapter 4 to Chapter 16, but all of a sudden we regress to the 20-30 minute range for a stretch. Maybe the money was running out, or maybe design sensibilities were changing as the months went by, who can say? My gut instinct is to bundle up two or so small chapters into the same posts, but since I’m still stalling for time with regards to P2EP, maybe it’s best if I settle for short posts for a few weeks. In fact, I just managed to line things up so that BC and P2EP will end on the same week by setting up some full-sized EP posts, at which point we can move on to the next game (FFIX) without any left-over mess!