Chapter 23: On a Runaway Train to Certain Doom
Chapter 23 opens by turning back a few minutes, where we see Shotgun place a phone call to an unknown party to take care of Elfé. While this is happening, the game informs us that “there were many who were unaware of the coming crisis.” What, unaware of the giant light show outside? The game shows President Shinra and Rufus as examples, two people who should absolutely be getting a call about this, but whatever, President Shinra’s creepy, evil pride in having his son back is still interesting in its own right, now that the man’s a fully (or near-fully) fleshed character instead of a cartoon. Anyways, this scene doubles as the game’s only attempt to explain why no one talks about the giant final boss fight that took place not long before the start of FFVII, despite Shinra Sr. and Jr. standing in an office with huge windows, and it is simply pathetic.
We next learn that Tseng’s group has recovered Elfé and reunited her with her father. As a matter of fact, she’s on her feet! Sort of! The two have a brief chat, Elfé dealing with a lot guilt over hosting Zirconiade. Unfortunately, the group is just getting ready to leave when they’re found by some Shinra Grunts, who are apparently also so invested in their current activities that they haven’t noticed a magical nebulae the size of the Burj Khalifa, which by all signs is not a hundred yards from their current location!
The narration announces, for no particular reason, that the Turks can only hope to stop Zirconiade by defeating its four “energy supplies.” I suspect these sources correspond to the four doomsday “support” materia, as that would be internally consistent with Sears’ earlier plan, although the game never technically says as much (if you ask me, the materia are also probably the sources of the pillars of energy in the picture at the start of the post). We now cut to where we left off: the playable Turks waiting outside the nebula. Here, the game’s awesome and creepy final dungeon theme, “Last Labyrinth,” begins to play. Here it is on the OST-that-is-really-an-AST, check it out, it’s a favourite.
The Turks agree to split into teams of two to head down every “path” inside the nebula. I believe the idea is that eight of them will find the “power sources,” while Shotgun will go after Fuhito. Legend isn’t accounted for, what with him being optional and all. As we’ve discussed in the past, I’m not sure how Ririn gets or chooses a specific partner, but Shotgun ends up paired with Martial Arts (Female), aka Juget.
The opening section of the dungeon is a teleporter maze, afraid to say. I wonder what happens if you take the wrong routes? Dead ends with fights, or is it just a time-consuming maze? With Ririn, I have no way of knowing, since they complete the maze and are at the first loading screen in only a few seconds!
After this, it’s time for a maze with paths that overlap one another, along with even more teleporters, which the party… discusses again in full detail, for some reason? Maybe this is like Episode Tseng, where it seemed like you could restart the mission from mid-way through the chapter? After a while, they’re finally spotted by enemies, which are just shadow versions of the weird razor penguins from FFVII, using all-black sprites with no details. Wow, the razor penguins, such a demonic enemy for the final dungeon, definitely not laughable at all.
After a while, Martial Arts (Male) actually gives the team a phone call. Wow, Shinra offers some great reception, even in the magical maelstrom that will end all life! It seems none of the Turks have found their objective yet. On the plus side, at least you’re not behind the curve, right? At one point in this section, Ririn passes by a chest for no obvious reason. Maybe it was trapped, or maybe they got it on a previous playthrough and doesn’t care to do it again, or doesn’t get any benefit from it again?
Back in Shinra HQ, President Shinra is making the laughable suggestion that it’s “a bit bright outside.” I can’t get over this, it’s so stupid!
Martial Arts (Male) calls in again, saying his pair made it through, so you’re actually behind at this point. Ririn’s been doing perfectly, so this line can’t be meant to be a measure of your performance or anything. After this frankly unremarkable aside, we hit a “To Be Continued!” Thankfully, Ririn’s picks up with Chapter 23-2 immediately. From here on out, we’re done with the maze-half of the final dungeon, and on to the combat-half. We get started by walking straight into a pair of Behemoths. The Turks split up, and Ririn actually has to fight a boss close to Shotgun’s level for once. The Behemoths kick up dirt for an attack instead of animating, and it’s all a bit janky. The devs were probably putting all their money into the final boss. After the battle, the two Turks talk about how if they save the world, the company will have to keep the Turks around. Oh yes, this is definitely where Shotgun’s nascent redemption arc should be going: convince Shinra to keep the Turks around to enforce Shinra policy. Great job, fuckers.
At this point, Behemoths arrive from behind and Shotgun is forced to leave Juget behind to defend the rear. The same is happening with other teams – we see Rod (Male) and Cissnei split up for similar reasons, for example. Unfortunately, Shotgun has barely gotten away when she runs into a King Behemoth, as is traditional. This one can cast Meteor in addition to its lunge attacks, but doesn’t look like all that awful a fight.
After ignoring one last teleporter (seeing as how this half of the dungeon isn’t a maze, this lone teleporter really has my interest – what’s it do?), Shotgun discovers that she’s actually caught up to Fuhito. Fuhito decides to thank Shotgun, saying “Zirconiade could never have been summoned without your efforts.” Ugh, dude, don’t try to make this a “the player was my puppet all along” ploy! Besides it being a tired cliché, I think AVALANCHE had it mostly covered, so give yourself some evil credit! Fuhito nearly gets a shot off on Shotgun, but she’s rescued at the last moment by Sears, who, shock of all shocks, is alive and back at full health. Shotgun even asks how it happened and we don’t get an explanation – unless we’re supposed to believe his wounds up and closed thanks to The Power of Duty (duty to Elfé, in this case), which at this point doesn’t seem off-base for this script and its themes.
Sears reveals that he managed to save Juget from the Behemoths, though we won’t see her again, so I assume she’s too exhausted to continue. The two of them continue to chat as Fuhito… just… watches? Sears relates an entire conversation he had with Elfé before she met up with her father and everything, and Fuhito just sits and stares! One detail in this speech is that Sears only stayed with AVALANCHE out of loyalty to Elfé. Huh, and Elfé only stayed with AVALANCHE out of loyalty to its members. Is Mr. “Wipe Out All Life on Earth” the closest thing we have to a genuine environmentalist in this enviro-terror group? For real?
After the chat, the two of them fight Fuhito, but aren’t able to break through his inexplicably-acquired invincibility (at least this time you can blame Elfé’s super-materia for the invincibility!). His damage reduction is a little weaker this time, and he seems to die after the fight. Sure he has! I absolutely believe this, just like every other time a final boss has acted like this. It’s 100% reliable!
Yeah, Fuhito gets back up only a few seconds later, and decides to fuse the doomsday materia with his own body, causing him to transform into a monster, which looks kind of like the G Eliminators from Crisis Core? Maybe it went on to inspire them? He starts calling the two protagonists “traitors,” a nice shout out to Sephiroth that actually makes sense this time, since they’re traitors to life itself in his eyes. He then impales Sears with one of his new giant claws, taking him out of action. Shotgun makes a speech about all her friends that Fuhito’s hurt, which for some reason include Elfé, someone who’s more of a friend-of-a-friend. She goes on about how Fuhito’s the root of all her problems. If you didn’t exist, I could be kidnapping, murdering and destroying all life on the planet as a comfortable agent of the oppressor! Oh boo hoo, Shotgun! Weren’t you showing character development a few chapters ago? Now you want everything to go back to that evil? You know what? Fuck you.
Shotgun fights Fuhito, including a bit where Ririn casts Meteor! Fuhito has a unique death animation, though I’m disappointed to say that he doesn’t have a unique boss theme. Oh well, downloading that shit is costly on cell phones, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. The boss fight does look kind of rough, as Fuhito is constantly on the player’s ass, only breaking off to throw projectiles across the screen with pretty wide coverage. Still, it’s soon over. Fuhito is still going after the fight, however, and Sears is forced to get up to pin him down. Fuhito seems to explode in a shower of blood (!), and Sears is killed in the process. On the plus side, the doomsday materia is also destroyed: Zirconiade can no longer become “Perfect” and invincible. If the Turks can just take out the power sources (and they may have already done so), they’re just a final boss fight away from saving the world.
Back on the highway, the standoff between the grunts and Tseng’s group is suddenly broken when word comes in that the President has changed his mind and the Turk’s punishment will be “suspended.” It’s suggested that Rufus is the one responsible for this shift in attitude. Unfortunately, there are terms: Verdot and Elfé have to be turned over. Tseng fakes out that he’s going to resist, but after a moment, turns on his boss. This is obviously a fake-out in its own right, so why did he risk everyone’s lives pretending otherwise for a few seconds? He opens fire on Elfé and Verdot and appears to kill them. You won’t be surprised in the slightest to learn (in the next chapter) that Tseng is just faking their deaths, but how he’s doing it without their cooperation is unclear (they didn’t have time to prep!). It’s a little heartbreaking that Verdot, probably overcome by his daughter’s apparent death, doesn’t seem to catch on that Tseng is pulling a fast one as he passes out, thinking he’s dying, and tells Tseng he’s doing the right thing for the company. Oh yes, very reassuring. You know, shit like this loosely implies the devs were aware of their hypocritical message, but do they follow through on it? They do not.
The chapter ends here.
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.