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, and the same is true of 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!
Shotgun, lucky not to have fallen into the lifestream, finds herself in the reactor’s basement. She’s somehow aware that Sears knocked her off the platform, which is pretty remarkable given she was probably knocked out by the initial impact. She notes that she has to get out before the place collapses, when all of a sudden, the lights go on and Shotgun discovers Sears is standing nearby. Sears asks for calm, and tells her that he knows the way out. His attempts at diplomacy fail when Shotgun tries to threaten him and the two get into a fight. This time, Shotgun wins handily, and she notes that something’s wrong, possibly that he’s wounded. She concludes he may have broken her own fall, leaving her fine and him thrashed. “Are you injured?” she asks. I’m a Final Fantasy character who took a giant fall and then got pumped full of buckshot. Of course I’m not injured.
The pair end up attacked by “Chimeras,” which are unrelated to the actual Chimera-looking monsters of FFVII and instead seems to be a kind of bird? They declare a truce and split up to attack comers from both sides. Ririn seems to race Sears to kill his monsters first, though I don’t know if that’s part of this mission’s scoring or if Ririn’s just impatient. I imagine it’s the former, because Sears at one point reports that he made a kill during one of Shotgun’s battles, and you wouldn’t need that kind of feedback if the simultaneous fights were purely cosmetic.
Shotgun ends up holding Sears at gunpoint (at least in Ririn’s version of events where she wins the “race”) and forces him to lead her out, even though he seemed perfectly willing to do so voluntarily. After a cut to the Turks on the surface, we return to the basement, where a pair of Ravens has snuck up on the Shotgun and Sears. Shotgun tries to hold Sears hostage, but the Ravens continue to approach and Sears starts laughing, revealing that Fuhito sent the Ravens after him, too. He really did fall from the upper level: Fuhito pushed him.
A fight breaks out, and Raven knocks a pyramid-shaped materia off of Sears, who retrieves it in time to keep it from Shotgun, saying it’s none of her business. The two of them carry on, fighting more and more Ravens as they go. I’m not fundamentally opposed to multiple fights with Ravens in this level, but could we have mixed up their formation or something? Maybe have three of lower level instead of another group of two at the same level? No? Finally, Sears asks what the hell is going on in AVALANCHE, and Sears says that Fuhito has basically taken over. His real plan is to wipe out all life on the planet, figuring it will give the Lifestream a chance to recover, both in that it will all be in one place, and in that no one will be around to run the reactors any longer.
Sears says the key to Fuhito’s plan is a Materia embedded in Elfé’s hand, something that you’ll recall was something Hojo thought was impossible… a conclusion he reached during his experiments on the people of Kalm, including the part where he assumed Elfé/Felicia died as a result of sticking Materia in her hand! It seems that he really did bind her to the Materia, essentially a modern-day Ki from FFLII, though significantly less of a White Mage. This is the reason she’s been able to stand up to Sephiroth, and it looks like her potential is even higher, and Fuhito has been looking for a way to activate it for some time now. Sears notes that the pyramid-shaped Materia he has is identical to Elfé’s, though where he got it or what he plans to do, he doesn’t yet say, simply that he wants to protect Elfé at any cost.
But wait. Not to be garish, but… Hojo thought Felicia was dead, so he left the nearly-unique Materia he stuck in her hand to get carted off with her corpse?
You know, Elfe has really fallen behind as a character as the so-called leader of AVALANCHE. There are a whole bunch of reasons why it happened, in and out of universe, but as much as I understand how we got here, it still ideally shouldn’t have happened like this. True, Elfé had to be kept away from the player Turk, who couldn’t possibly defeat her (the game doesn’t seem all that opposed to auto-lose fights in general, but note that many of those are actually the more infuriating, “you won in terms of gameplay but you actually lost” variety, whereas Elfé literally cannot be hurt by you). Elfé also had to be kept away from Verdot and his cameras, so that he couldn’t hear her voice. Elfé had to present her “illness” from time to time, which takes her off the stage. And the game is deliberately building up a rivalry between the Player Turk and Sears, though that role really should have gone to Elfé. But there are certainly times she could have had a stronger appearance even in this setup, maybe appear as a stronger leader until her illness kicked in, instead of fainting every time she gets on camera for more than a minute (I can see what they were going for with that, but no), having her present in more scenes without the player Turk present for starters, or to have her chase the player Turk in the Sector 5 church (though that certainly would have upset her negotiation with Aerith, so I don’t know). You could also have had her giving orders while ill, I mean c’mon. I admit that even that wouldn’t have been enough for my liking, however, she needed a lot more. But again, I understand how we got here. Anyways, Elfé, here’s the Xande Award for “Final Fantasy Fake-Out Antagonist Who Didn’t Get to Do Anything Before Being Displaced.” Fuhito will see you out.
Shotgun has an idea as to how Elfé’s materia would have to be used: like the materia the player uses everyday here in Before Crisis, it might be possible to power up Elfé’s materia by using it with other materia, like the one Sears has (the game will later dub Sears’ materia a “Support Materia”). That means Sears is arguably holding something really bad, but they don’t concern themselves with that for the time being. By the way, nice touch of combining the game’s mechanics with the narrative!
Sears asks Shotgun why she works for Shinra, and talks about how they murdered his parents and left him to be raised by bandits. Shotgun never really answers the question, as the scene really serves to deliver Sears’ backstory and not to introduce moral ambi… wait, what’s the equivalent of “moral ambiguity” when you’re clearly working for the bad guy? The writers probably don’t know her reasons either, as is often the case in these “working for the bad guy” narratives. As for Sears, his backstory is a lot like Rod (Male)’s: he worked as a bandit until he was caught in the act and then joined the organization that caught him. I wonder if Rod says anything to that effect if he’s the one you control here? I doubt it, because Ririn includes a variant scene like that in a later part of the playthrough, but doesn’t do so here, so it probably doesn’t exist.
Sears’ story has to wrap up when the building starts to collapse. Shotgun and Sears split up temporarily, so that you can find your way to a steam valve to turn off a dangerous vent of steam so that the injured Sears can cross a dangerous hallway. Your route includes timed steam vents in a sort of obstacle course, but it doesn’t look that challenging overall. Naturally, Shotgun shoots the steam valve, because she literally has no better animations.
After some more fights with Ravens, we eventually get to the point where falling rubble cuts Shotgun off from both Sears and a Raven. Since Sears is injured, you have to break the girders to rescue him. After this fight, the reactor’s collapse starts to pick up, and Sears tries to sacrifice himself to save Shotgun, but she refuses to hear it. You have to dodge some falling obstacles to escape – ironically, it doesn’t matter if they block Sears’ path, as he can walk right through them! Hey yeah, fuck the real-world logic that’s made escort missions so horrible! Down with physics for AI companions! The bridge you’re on also starts to collapse, which becomes a little weird when it’s broken off on both sides. What’s… holding it… up…? Shit, I shouldn’t have said “down with physics!” With no way to cross the final gap, Sears makes good on his promise to sacrifice himself in spite of your best efforts, and throws you across the gap. Well, actually the animation shows him punching you across the gap, but what do I know? He then throws you the pyramid materia (not identified as such until the next chapter, it’s just a sparkle effect on-screen), and is left behind in the reactor, where he plunges into the black.
Back at Shinra HQ, President Shinra congratulates Tseng on the surreptitious arrest of his son (not even the admins are allowed to know), and confirms that Rufus’ “cell” has been “properly equipped,” as we’ll see in later episodes. The only black mark on the entire mission is Shotgun, who took several injuries in the reactor’s collapse and is also suffering from radiation poisoning. Oh, and the part where Scarlet machine-gunned a civilian population. Your hospitalization is one of the reasons that BC doesn’t recount Scarlet’s destruction of Corel town. To replace such a valuable asset as Shotgun, President Shinra calls in the “Turks Special Detachment.” The last batch of new characters is coming! It’s interesting how the President thinks so highly of the player Turk at this point in the story, despite not meeting since Chapter 2, that he wants multiple reinforcements to make up for their loss, I like that. Tseng seems surprised by the extreme reaction himself! Shinra confirms that Tseng has indeed been made head of the Turks, and then threatens him double: both not to make a run for it himself, and to kill Verdot for his dereliction of duty.
Naturally, Tseng, the new boss, evaluates your mission today.
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.