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 that suspicion if Cissnei was trying to imply the latter.
Balto and Cissnei call in some more familiar faces: Tseng, Reno, Rude, and what looks to be Two Guns (Male) and possibly… Martial Arts (Female)? These tiny sprites are hard to distinguish, and obviously that last character doesn’t speak. Besides looking roughly alike in a blurry scene like this, both characters are Ririn’s designated partner at different times in the platyhrough (we’ll see Martial Arts (Female) in a few chapters, so she could easily be “set” now) so it would make sense if they were there when no other playable characters are. Shotgun tries to pass on the news about Elfé and her doomsday materia, but it seems things aren’t as bad as you might expect after a three-year gap, as it seems Fuhito has put AVALANCHE into cold storage, and they haven’t been seen since! (Weirdly, the Turks claim they also already know about the doomsday materia, but if AVALANCHE has been in hiding and Sears dead, how would they know?) Tseng also passes on news about the kill order for Former Chief Verdot. For some reason, Shotgun is surprised by this. What did you all expect?
Shotgun is returned to active duty, and “a few months later” (we never do learn when she woke up, exactly), we come to our next story mission. It is now October 30th of Year 6, the year before the events of FFVII. Not much time left for this game…
Shotgun and Reno have come to Cosmo Canyon, and Shotgun remarks that this is a “big-game hunting” mission, which is exactly what her backstory is qualified for! That actually means she’s bored by it, which is exactly in-character for Shotgun. I like Shotgun, as villains go. She doesn’t have much character, but damned if she isn’t entertaining when her character does crop up. She and Reno are hunting for an “endangered animal” for Professor Hojo. You get three guesses and the first two don’t count: it’s time to capture one of our few remaining cameos, Red XIII, aka Nanaki.
Reno informs Shotgun that their target is going to be around town because of a special festival that happens in town every 50 years. Reno wants to capture Red outside of town to avoid pissing off the locals. A few seconds later, Reno and Shotgun encounter a Coeurl – a recurring Final Fantasy cat-monster famous for its instant-death attacks – and mistake it for their target, but no dice. By the way, there’s no way of knowing if Coeurls have instant death attacks in this version, what with Ririn’s near-perfect play. Tseng calls in to correct the mistake, finally conveying the information that Nanaki’s species can talk. “A beast that speaks?” Shotgun asks. Well, you already knew it was a beast that attends festivals!
Cut to Bugenhagen’s astrodome, where Nanaki shows up to say hello. Huh, Nanaki’s talk sprite looks like a crop of existing official art, and not a custom pic like everyone else’s? By the way, I really like Bugen’s new custom portrait, and that’s probably why I noticed Nanaki’s was a crop the moment it showed up on screen.
Bugen conveys that the special rite that takes place at the festival has to be done by members of Nanaki’s species, a male and a female, and that there are only one of each left! Huh, look at that! We’ve never heard of there being a known, female member of Nanaki’s species before now! God, I hope the Turk’s don’t shoot her. …They’re probably going to shoot her. Nanaki suddenly announces that he doesn’t want to do the ritual, and then childishly storms out. Bugen sadly remarks to himself on how the old traditions are dying, and that’s where we leave him.
Back with the Turks, Reno and Shotgun discuss if they should split up as they climb the caves that pepper Cosmo Canyon. You get to choose if they should split up or not, and get the offer to change your decision several times throughout the dungeon. Ririn curiously splits up the first time, but stays with him when he makes the offer again a few rooms later, and keeps him with her when the offer comes up a third time I don’t claim to know why things are going like this, I’m just the analyzer. Seems like if going alone would get your more mission points, it would do it both times, right? In any event, Ririn gets through the whole maze without a single fight. It doesn’t exactly make for thrilling viewing, but it’s a perfect performance nevertheless.
Shotgun and Reno end up inside of Cosmo Canyon town, and Reno reveals he has an unrelated objective to go deliver a message to Bugenhagen. He drags Shotgun off with him. Bugen accepts these threatening guests, and reveals that he already knows why Reno is here: Verdot showed up sometime earlier asking questions about Elfé/Felicia, and the Turks want to know where he went after the fact. Reno offers a brief summary about Bugen’s importance in the grand scheme of things, and Bugen reveals that Elfé’s materia is a Summon Materia of unbelievable power: it’s designed to wipe out life on the planet. Why? I haven’t the foggiest. Maybe some last-ditch weapon of the Ancients for stopping JENOVA? Bugen also reveals that this “incomplete” materia is draining Elfé’s life force, and she’ll soon die if she can’t complete it or get it out. For better or for worse, he also doesn’t know where to find Verdot. Okay, thanks Bugen, going to kidnap your grandson!
The Turks return to town square, when suddenly Nanaki runs past, pursued by two Ravens! The Ravens catch site of the Turks and go after them instead! Whoa, what? We learn what they’re doing here later, but I’m yet again embarassed by the writers having them break cover to do it. Reno and Shotgun split up to divide the Ravens, Shotgun eventually ending up in a dead end and Reno surrounded. Shotgun clears her attackers and thank god, she finally calls some AVALANCHE activity in. Next, let’s talk about equipping you lot with headsets instead of loudly ringing phones.
At this point, we cut to Nanaki, who is confronted by this young woman of his species that we’ve been hearing so much about. Her name is Diné, a Navajo name (like Elfé’s accented letter E, this appears as “Dine” in Grimoire’s translation). Strangely, like Verdot, the official but obscure English name for the character is different (Deneh), even though we’re talking about a real-world name this time. Is Deneh another way to spell the name, or is this a “Marach” situation again, where the translators mistook or deliberately erased a real-world nameand tried their own spelling? Unlike Nanaki, she doesn’t have any painted designs on her fur. I don’t know there’s a gendered reason for this based in Navajo traditions or what, I couldn’t find anything in my brief research.
Diné asks Nanaki if they can practice this rite they’re supposed to perform, and Nanaki informs her that he doesn’t want to do it. His concerns are actually partially about her, and also give us a good reason or her to be absent during the events of FFVII: after the festival, she’s supposed to live the next three years as a hermit, praying for the life of the planet, while Nanaki’s supposed to spend the next three years in permanent patrol, protecting the village. He doesn’t want that for either of them, and when he storms off again, she calls him a coward.
Back in the astrolabe, Fuhito has shown up to speak to Bugen, and “thanks” him for some bad advice he gave him the other day. Bugen plays dumb, which is the game’s admittedly in-character excuse for Fuhito expositing about what the both of them already know: Fuhito wants to know how to use Elfé’s materia. Fuhito makes his case: the planet is dying, and his “wipe out all life to restore the lifestream for later” solution is their best hope in his eyes. Bugen says it won’t work, but doesn’t make a very strong counterargument. “Doing so won’t change anything. Everything that has a form must one day perish.” Y…es? I’m not following. Killing everyone on the planet won’t work because… everything on the planet can die? Not only is this not prove it won’t work, it almost sounds like an elementary description of Fuhito’s plan. Did something happen in the translation?
Still, this is as good a place as any to make a general complaint. During the events of FFVII, Bugen’s position was that it was too late to save the planet, and to do nothing. In comparison, Fuhito is trying to do something, it’s just balls to the wall monstrous… yet, Bugen’s presumably mistranslated complaint aside, it seems like a hell of a lot better than, “Do absolutely nothing whatsoever and wait for global extermination.” Fuhito’s “murder everyone” plan is still absolutely vile, but in the Lifestream-driven theology of FFVII, killing everyone actually ensures their own futures in later reincarnations, so it’s got a certain practical value that it would lack in the real world. It’s the X-Men problem again: the nuances of the fictional situation are different enough from the real world that the fictional world has different problems and solutions, and the authors don’t seem to realize it. In this case, the authors don’t seem to realize that they just gave the omnicidal monster a better plan than the wise old good guy!
Fuhito has a threat to ensure Bugen’s cooperation: he’ll kidnap either one or both of Nanaki and Diné, preventing this all-important ritual.
As it happens, Shotgun is the one that finds one of the two first, running into Diné on the Cliffside. Ravens are not far behind, and both Shotgun and a Raven, who went down a different hall, end up delayed by a series of crates that Diné appears to have vaulted. You have to clear your set of crates before a Raven breaks his (all while being attacked by more Ravens!), though it’s not clear how this is timed.
Nanaki ends up spotting Shotgun chasing Diné through an exterior room from a distance, and you have to do a block puzzle to reach the exit without blocking it in the process. Nanaki then watches Shotgun chase Diné through the exact same exterior room again, having not moved in the slightest and with the exact same scripting, which is a pretty shoddy sequence. In the next room you have to sneak up on Diné without her seeing you coming, a bit like the “stalk the Subrosians” minigame sequences from Oracle of Seasons. Why Shotgun doesn’t bother to actually capture her, I don’t know. She just lets her leave the room? Nanaki then watches them run through the same exterior room again. Fuck’s sakes, developers.
Having chased Diné to the summit, Shotgun finally has her cornered. While she insists she’s not going hurt her (and she’s not! Hojo will, but she’s not!), it’s clear Diné is out of options. Just then, Nanaki finds his courage and rushes in, telling her that they have to complete the rite. Shotgun insists she doesn’t want to fight, but sure enough you end up fighting Nanaki, twice in a row! Nanaki is captured despite Shotgun’s protests, especially after Reno arrives, and it’s only after the fact that Shotgun is allowed to make her case: she heard Nanaki talking about the rite, and wants him to be allowed to go through with it. Reno and Nanaki agree to these rather dire terms: complete the rite, and then send Nanaki to the mad scientist who will try to get you to have sex with humans.
During the rite, Shotgun is filled with a rush of environmentalism, and announces that surely there must be a middle ground between inaction and the end of life itself. Fuck, I sure hope so. You have a plan there, Shotgun? Eh? Shotgun? …Anything…?
In our next-chapter preview, Rude announces that two “research samples” (Zack and Cloud) have just escaped from Nibelheim.
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.