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.
The army is already in the forest. “Hey, did you bring your radio?” asks one of the grunts. “Of course!” Of course I have my radio, invented in the real world in the 1890s, some 120 years before this narrative was written! Since 120 years is more than enough for radio to be incorporated into both world culture and the fiction of that culture, naturally I, and everyone else in a well-equipped military or guerrilla rebel faction, has a mobile communication device! Boy, it sure would be awkward if this narrative and indeed the franchise it belongs to was full of plot holes that wouldn’t have existed if the characters had a mobile communication device, at least as capable if not more capable than the humble radio! Say, can you imagine that one day, wireless communication technology might be so capable that we could experience entire interactive narratives on our advanced mobile communication devices? Could you imagine if an interactive narrative like that – again, located on an advanced mobile communication device – still had plot holes that shouldn’t exist in a world with radio or more advanced forms of communication? Thankfully, that’s impossible. If we had such a device and encountered a problem, we would always be able to call it in.
Shotgun decides to ambush one of the grunts she’s spotted just to steal his radio and map. I don’t even know what to say about her attacking an ally like this for a fucking map. Where do I even begin. The map shows that the forest has been divided into a 3×3 area labeled A-C, 1-3. You follow instructions on the military radio to go to each room while avoiding military patrols. At key points, you can give your own orders on the radio to get unmoving guards to get out of your way, but pick wisely! I imagine there must be a post-mission ratings advantage to using this radio efficiently
Also, I can’t decide which possibility is funnier: that the radio is so shitty that the grunts can’t tell their commanding officer’s voice apart from over a dozen playable Turks, or that their commanding officer somehow sounds exactly like a dozen playable Turks at the same time.
As you go through this section, Shotgun reminisces on the fact that the “samples” are almost certainly Nibelheim victims, something she’s been doing her best to bury at the back of her mind. She doesn’t want to have to jail them again. Yes, my child, let the guilt bore through you! It might make this an actual drama for once, instead of just watching you following orders blindly. Finally, she discovers several unconscious grunts, and not long after discovers a patch of beach, with Zack standing nearby. Ah, I get it! This was adapted to the scene on the beach between Zack and Cissnei (one of the playable Turks from BC) over in Crisis Core, very nice! Indeed, Grimoire seems to have deliberately used CC’s dialogue wherever there was a direct match. It’s nice to see that CC salvaged some of this game after CC’s Nibelheim section tossed nearly every bit of BC’s plot into the trash.
Like in the CC scene, Zack asks if Shotgun is here to arrest him and begs her to leave him and Cloud (not present) alone. Just like how Cissnei threw a shuriken at Zack but deliberately missed, Shotgun fights Zack, but is clearly doing her worst, causing only 7 damage a hit, even with Ririn’s super stats. Meanwhile, Zack doesn’t seem to attack at all. Meanwhile, Zack actually remarks on the two of them being tools for Shinra! Wow, that’s what I keep saying, but I didn’t expect this game to twig to it! Of course, I don’t expect the writers to build on this, but it’s something! During a second “fight,” Zack will soon note that the player Turk just doesn’t give up. Indeed, this seems to be at the heart of the player Turk’s personality: not wanting to give up no matter what, even when she doesn’t morally agree at all. A curious character trait to give to a protagonist.
Shotgun is just about ready to question her role in the evil organization when something that didn’t make the transition to CC interrupts her: it’s an Adamantaimai, a giant, screen-filling turtle in the vein of the recurring Adamantoise (Ed. I later realized that “Adamantaimai” is just a transliteration of the original Japanese name for the Adamantoise). Ririn really puts in an effort here, as the turtle attacks with water magic, and this is the first time I’ve really noticed a significant EXP gain after a fight, after the reduction we’ve been seeing across the entire game for the player being high levelled. Maybe Ririn’s finally falling back to the curve?
Zack uses the giant turtle as an excuse to bolt, and he goes back to Cloud’s side. Unfortunately for them, Shotgun is able to follow. Zack conveys that Cloud is ill with Mako poisoning, and Shotgun realizes just how bad things are for the two of them. She, like Cissnei, calls in that they escaped. When Tseng asks for an explanation, Shotgun tries to hint that she has a guilty conscience, but he presses and she spills that “the sample” is Zack and that she doesn’t want to do this. She reminds him that he didn’t want to take the victims into Hojo’s death-lab either, and he decides to cave and call the mission a failure.
But Shotgun goes even further than that: she asks Tseng permission to go to Shinra Manor to see the consequences of her and the other Turks’ inaction, and after saying goodbye to Zack (no mention of a tandem bike in this version), she goes off to Shinra Manor.
Back in Shinra HQ, we see that Rufus is able to contact Tseng at Turk HQ for some reason, and reveals that he has somehow been listening in! That’s a… that’s a weird prison sentence you’ve set up here, President Badguy. But more on that late, it’s gonna be important in time.
Shotgun decides to go straight to Shinra Manor’s archives, where she found the file she had to burn last time, and discovers none other than Verdot reading through the remaining files! He keeps his magitek arm raised on her until she admits she’s on his side, though she also makes a short speech about how people need Shinra. Oh for fuck’s sake, Shotgun, people like you are why monsters like Shinra get to carry on. But enough about moral introspection, apparently.
Verdot is looking for Felicia/Elfé’s records, and has learned that Elfé will die very soon. He also reveals that he knows about the materia Shotgun got from Sears, even though that was after his defection. Shotgun points this out, but doesn’t pry. The two go into checking the notes, and learn that there’s a sample in the manor behind a “sealed door,” but that they’ll have to find three numbers hidden around the manor, in locations identified by flowery riddles: “The Keep of Knowledge,” “The Gate of Dreams,” and “The Fiery Dragon’s Maw.” Well shit, I can already tell you the second is a bed and the third is the fireplace, and BC has only itself to blame, because it already had you canvasing the entire manor for a source of fire the last time you were here, and the bed was a key checkpoint on your way there! The problem here is that the original chapter was tightly designed for its own purposes, leaving few unique props to highlight during this revisit. Verdot concludes the “Keep of Knowledge” is the archives, right here, and reveals that he’s already found the number in question. Well, that was easy, we’re almost already done!
… So like, who keeps coming here, swapping the puzzle locks on these doors between CC, two chapters of BC, and FFVII? Does Hojo just come back on the regular and reset his traps like fucking Acererak?
The manor is much the same as before, save that the player doesn’t have to manually open doors in this chapter, as the devs have tossed that mechanic into the flames at this point. The upwards-facing doors don’t exist (except for the locked one at the end) and the sideways ones just work as automatic portals. Did they decide that using a door-opening mechanic in just one mission and no others was a huge mistake? Can’t blame them for that! Despite Verdot following you in this section, he never battles enemies, which is a little odd.
After finding the three numbers, Shotgun finds the “sealed door” in a room that didn’t previously exist between the secret stairs and Hojo’s lab… but did in FFVII! It’s Vincent’s coffin room, and sure enough the man himself is here, and Verdot recognizes him from his days as a Turk.
Oh, good, Vincent probably has the materia you’re looking for! He’s stuffed full of MacGuffin materia!
You’ve barely said hello when Ravens show up (maybe on Verdot’s trail) and Vincent helps you kill them. He then turns back to Verdot as though nothing happened, so I get a laugh when Verdot responds to this by saying Vincent hasn’t changed. That’s not what Verdot meant – he meant the fact that Vincent is immortal and youthful – but it’s still funny.
Verdot wants to help Vincent, but you know Vincent by now: he just blows Verdot off. Conversation drifts to Verdot’s objectives. Vincent tells them that there might be another one of the MacGuffin materia stored here at the manor, but they discover a Raven was listening in on them and bother Verdot and Shotgun give pursuit. Are Ravens really cognizant enough to eavesdrop like this at this stage? It’s like… do you want your villains to be zombies or not?
Unfortunately, a Shinra grunt also arrives on the scene not much later as some ominous foreshadowing.
Shotgun falls behind in the chase, and the player regains control. There are a few generic fights in this section against troopers, and I notice Ririn is starting to have trouble extremely mild trouble dropping the enemies, though they’re still only worth a few scraps of EXP. After a while, Shotgun catches up to Verdot in the room where Vincent said they might find the Materia, a convenient coincident. Verdot is surrounded, and you have to help him survive. He actually does join you in combat here.
In a moment of sheer, concentrated luck, it seems the party knocked one of the Ravens into the wall in just the right position to damage the drywall and reveal a hidden button. Bullhonk. Shotgun pushes the button, and a chest appears… I guess the chest just fell from the ceiling? Shotgun… shoots… the chest open, and they find another of the doomsday materia. All of a sudden, she and Verdot start talking like it’s an established fact that there are four support materia in total. Maybe I missed something? Even once you’re ready to take this as fact, some of the details aren’t clear. Because of the way the dialogue is written, it’s not initially clear if the four pieces everyone is now talking about include the one in Elfé’s hand. For the record, the one in her hand is separate, and there are actually five materia in total: the main one in her hand and four “supports.” “What will happen if you gather all four of them?” one of them asks. Well, given genre standards, I imagine the dragon will grant your wish. And since Verdot’s wish is to rescue his daughter, maybe I’m not far off!
Unfortunately, as the party is musing, a Raven opens fire on the pair and, long story short, steals the materia. The Raven manages to get it to Fuhito just inside the manor gates, and he and Verdot have a brief confrontation before the latter points out he could execute Elfé anytime he wants, so Verdot better let him leave peaceably. Verdot has no choice but to allow it. Shotgun wants to go after Fuhito, but all of a sudden, Verdot turns and clobbers her, heading away on his own. Shotgun realizes why a few moments later, when she discovers the Shinra grunt from earlier is spying on them, so Verdot knocked her out to avoid any evidence of collusion. Better yet, Verdot left her a note, telling her to ask Reeve of all people for the final Materia. Well I guess we are one FFVII party member cameo short, for all we shoved it as far back into the storyline as possible. But when on earth did Verdot write that note?
That’s it for this chapter, so it’s time for our next preview, and it’s a dire one. Scarlet sends President Shinra a message: it seems the grunt who was watching Verdot at the manor didn’t buy Verdot’s little act, and now Scarlet knows the Turks are helping their former boss. Not that she… seems to have any evidence, but whatever. Shinra wants to crush the Turks for this, but there’s a big problem: Tseng is in charge of Rufus and can use him as a hostage. He decides to order Scarlet to find Verdot instead, to even the scales.
At this point, we cut to a secret conference of all the Turks, including Tseng, Reno, Rude, and all the playable Turks, shown in dramatic silhouette. They agree their loyalty is to Verdot rather than the company, and some of them (not Shotgun) remark on how they were considering going against Shinra but will stay with the Turks to help their own boss alone. Do I even need to open my mouth to talk about how contrary it is that Reno is announcing how he’s going to stay with the Turks, for the sake of Verdot, and then goes on to slaughter the people of Sector 7, for the president? This prologue narrative is such a hash.
For some reason, an alternate Verdot sprite gives your rating here, one we won’t see until a later flashback. I can’t help but wonder if this was an error of some kind, although at what stage in the process (maybe even via Grimoire Valentine’s translation), I can’t say.
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.