Chapter 24: Limit Breaking Concerto
Chapter 24 begins with a shot of each of the Turks in a stylish, collage CG – including Legend, which may cnfirm that his bonus episode was out by now. Also, this CG must play even if you haven’t unlocked him, right? I can’t imagine this early cell phone game going to the trouble of loading two full-screen CGs!
The game recaps the events of Chapter 23, and we pick up on the highway. Reno and Rude aren’t able to believe that Tseng shot the boss, and refuse to get on the truck with him as he rides with the bodies. The two are left behind, despite Tseng repeatedly nudging them to follow and so learn the truth of his deception.
The playable segment opens with Shotgun realizing her phone has finally lost its signal in the howling void from beyond time and space, which prompts her to note that she won’t be able to use Materia Backup, aka Summons. Hm, wonder if that was the case under the Corel Reactor, when the phone explicitly went out during that chapter? She carries on, fighting a number of shadowy Materia Keepers, which look unrecognizable and creepy in this new all-black form, like a Lovecraftian spider, much better than the fucking penguins. Shotgun talks about “avoiding unnecessary battles”: you have to wait for the Materia Keepers to shrink into pools of shadow before passing them by. Ririn does an uncharacteristically slop job of this and ends up having to fight a handful of them.
In the next room, Shotgun discovers one of the power points the Turks were looking for earlier, and decides to break it, even though it wasn’t her objective (or was it? I’ll admit, the original plan was a little sketchy). This Crystal-like opponent is called a “Zirconia Guard,” and it attacks by swinging arms made of energy balls around the arena, forcing the player to hide in the corner. There are two Materia Keepers here as well, though they don’t seem to die so much as hide in shadow pools for a short while after taking a set amount of damage – though damaging the pool itself again seems to wake them up, so maybe I’m misunderstanding! The fight actually takes Ririn a really long time!
In the next room, Shotgun finally catches sight of Zirconiade, a great, winged, armoured thing with what looks like roots or spider legs. It spots her in turn, and attacks. Shotgun notes that she can “hardly dodge [Zirconiade’s attacks] at all,” which is weird, because the next section involves Ririn doing so just fine. Basically: the player is put in a fight with Zirconiade, where they notice the summon is absorbing their attacks. Naturally, this dead-end fight soon ends. You get your first listen to the final boss theme here, which is pretty awesome too, especially the “Edit” version on the AST, which combines the song with that sort of “cool” groove the Turks’ aesthetic is built around.
At this point, three of the other playable Turks – Rod, Nunchaku, and Two Guns – arrive and say that they or others have destroyed the remaining Zirconia Guards. Huh, Nunchaku is one of the version-exclusive characters, would he really have been pre-programmed to appear here? Could it be random? Or did Ririn get to pick a list of a whole four possible partners (Martial Arts (Female) plus these three?). Maybe they’re the highest level or something? Unfortunately, these three haven’t seen the other Turks, not even Shotgun’s former partner Juget, or even Marital Arts (Male), who was bragging about getting through the maze earlier.
Shotgun gives it another attempt, and sure enough she can hurt the boss now. Zirconiade has a laser attack not unlike the signature attack of Dark Gaia in Enix’s Soul Blazer trilogy, as well as laser columns that can be called up from the floor. During the fight, the three playable Turks from earlier show up and give what I presume to be scripted attacks that deal higher damage than Shotgun’s own, plus a few scripted dodges for style. To spare the game the trouble of varying their attacks, even shooters like Two Guns attack at close range. Ironically, this section of Ririn’s playthrough may be the only surviving evidence of how the game’s melee attacks must have worked! Unfortunately, after enough damage, Zirconiade automatically catches Shotgun in a blast, and all four Turks are knocked out. By all signs, Shotgun seems to think the others are dead!
Shotgun rejoins the battle, giving a friendship speech that gradually transitions to one about duty. I’m tired of all of it. During this phase, Zirconiade has a new attack where blasters appear on the sides of the screen and fire rapidly in straight lines as they strafe from one end of the screen to the other. Looks like a real pain in the ass, almost impossible to dodge. After a while, Shotgun mentions “this crisis,” which is the second time the game has done a near title-drop (sorry, I didn’t make explicit note of the other). It may be that the original implication was that the “crisis” of the title was Zirconiade, whereas Crisis Core kind of implied it was Genesis, or… Nibelheim or something? Ironically, despite this being the “before” crisis and Zack’s adventures being the “core,” BC’s story continues past the end of CC by a few months.
After a long fight (the real Final Boss battle by any measure), Shotgun is once again caught by an automatic blast. The developers at least had the decency to hit her with a different one of Zirconiade’s attacks than the last automatic loss for variety’s sake! Nearly knocked out, Shotgun reminisces about… of all people… the future cast of FFVII, talking about their hopes and dreams. Erm… some of them anyways. Cid, Nanaki, Yuffie, and Aerith. She doesn’t bother reminiscing about the others, possibly because the game wants to re-use a thing it does where four characters all shout something at once and they all show up on screen at once? There’s no sign of Barret or Cloud, who definitely had hopes and dreams to share; or Tifa, Vincent and Reeve, who… okay, I understand them being excluded, especially since Shotgun will never outright admit to hating Shinra like Tifa and Vincent. During this section, Shotgun once again confronts the idea that she’s working for the wrong people, so that once again she will, like, ignore it in the long run. You’ve seen this happen a few times already and it’s almost stale at this point. In any event, these four near-strangers inspire her to get back on her feet, and in the process she unlocks her Limit Break!
And of course, unlocking your Limit Break means unlocking the Limit Break tutorial! In the middle of the final boss battle! Limit Breaks are essentially Materia Backup under a different name: Shotgun builds up her Materia Backup bar and then triggers it. Thankfully, it fills on its own at a rapid clip. Ririn uses the Limit Break, Shotgun seems to fire some beams and finally an explosion at Zirconiade, and that ends the fight. I wonder if the other Turks have different limits? This one was pretty… projectile themed, you know? Probably not, but I wonder all the same.
Zirconiade gets an impressive death explosion (it annoys me that BC is so adamant that no one saw any of this final boss battle outside of the main cast, when it was easily the most visible final boss fight in the franchise prior to Dirge of Cerberus). At this point, we cut away to see that Reno and Rude decided the best course of action was to run to help the other Turks, and good for them I guess, but they aren’t anywhere close enough to help. Zirconiade’s destruction seems to cause the final dungeon to collapse, and considering it just a series of platforms floating in the nebula to begin with, I think that’s probably more justified than your average collapsing dungeon. By the way, one of the shots during this sequence is of the end of the broken highway where the FFVII party will later escape from Midgar. Is the implication that this highway was broken during the party’s escape in FFVII, all because of Zirconiade? Huh, I guess that’s kind of cute.
Back in Midgar, Aerith discovers that it’s… snowing? Yeah, don’t catch that on your tongue, Aerith, I have a feeling that might be vaporized Turk. We watch the snow fall for a while as Elfé’s theme plays, and the last screen of the chapter is of one of the Turks’ cell phones shutting down.
Epilogue: The Cantata Connecting Comrades
Fast-forward to December 9th, two months later. A Court of Inquiry is being held to investigate the Turks, and Scarlet informs us that only three Turks have seemingly survived: Tseng, Reno and Rude. But just as President Shinra seems ready to condemn the three of them, Rufus barges in, now wearing a new haircut – or rather, his original one from FFVII. Rufus insults the President and then insists the Turks be allowed to stay, bringing up Tseng “shooting” Verdot and Elfé as evidence. So your plan is to storm in, offer a character witness piece that they surely must have brought up already, and act like everything is solved? And what’s weirder: it works!
Rufus and the remaining three Turks chat on a helipad after the fact, and the dialogue implies that Rufus and Tseng arranged this all the way back when Rufus was in his cell and wanted to talk to Tseng alone in exchange for Verdot’s location (possibly implying the court of inquiry scene was a show for the public record). Rufus now has the Turks in his pocket, and they will be perfectly loyal to him. Tseng offers the “comfort” that they will carry out their orders to the letter as part of their pride in their jobs, “for the Chief.” Oh good! This 100% excuses Reno committing mass murder during FFVII.
Just then, an alarm goes off: Cloud and Barret have just restarted AVALANCHE and are bombing the Sector 5 reactor this very second. That’s right: no recontextualizing Barret’s taking on the AVALANCHE mission and name, not now or ever. Tseng dramatically lets out his ponytail, putting him in his FFVII appearance, saying this is the beginning of a new Turks. “But one thing remains the same.” “The pride in our work.” Now let’s pridefully drop part of the city onto another part of the city. No I am not giving that up, it’s the biggest fault in the entire plot! For fuck’s sake, you didn’t account for it at all, you just tried to pretend it never happened both in the prequels and the sequels!
At this point, the game rolls credits, but that’s not the end of it. After the credits, we fast-forward to Meteorfall. It seems the Turks (Tseng, Reno, Rude, and now Elena) have been orchestrating the evacuation of the city, presumably on Reeve’s orders if you want to keep all the canon in line. Unfortunately, the evacuation of Sector 5 is going very poorly, and the Turks themselves are nearly killed in what’s either a collapse or a blast of magic from Meteor. Luckily, they’re joined by a small army: all of BC’s playable Turks are still alive, as is Verdot, and they have been living in hiding. You know… sitting out on some of the most important events in world history until the last possible moment. It seems the four Turks knew they were alive, too? Geeze, when in this process did Tseng tell Elena her sister was really alive? She doesn’t seem surprised to see her. Was it immediately? After joining the Turks, maybe?
Verdot makes it clear that Tseng is in charge here, and he begins shouting orders. The game ends here at last.
Both this game and, to a lesser extent, Crisis Core are driven by the mentality that yes, the characters are evil, but because they’re efficient and principled about it, that’s still “good”; that these principles either nullify, dilute, or serve as a warm, soothing blanket to comfort the villain after a principled, efficient day of war crimes. And while I suppose I can’t argue about it being “soothing” to them, I hope they choke on it in the end. The player characters in these games don’t even actively reject their positions until 11:59 at night, 1 minute from death or retirement. In Crisis Core, Zack, our favourite puppy, retains the attention span of a puppy and only turns against Shinra when they are actively attacking him. The Player Turk, meanwhile, is repeatedly confronted with their evil deeds and after an arc of nearly turning around on the matter… seems to forget about it at the last minute, with supporting characters Tseng, Reno and Rude taking a look at their options and deciding to stay full-time evil, which the game no longer seems to think is all that evil.
I just don’t understand. Why even have this mixed morality when they could have either just had the Turks be evil and condemned by the actual good people that we got to know during FFVII itself, which is what BC seemed to be angling for early on; they could have had a redemption arc, which they were doing for a while in the middle; or they could have sidestepped the evil stuff in any number of ways, which is what Square Enix would later do in Kingdom Hearts Days. Instead, they sign off with this, “Well, we’re horrible, but we’re professionals, and that’s what’s really important,” and decided it was such a good moral that they decided to do a variant of it in Crisis Core! Remember that we were actually fighting these shitlips in FFVII itself, the famous game that brought all these fans in in the first place. I made this comparison during the Advent Children review, but look at what happened before, and which happened after 9/11, except this time with morons. The author of the FFVII short stories looked at the story of FFVII again after the events of 9/11 and realized the deep human cost of the plate drop, and put the blame firmly and more legitimately on Shinra’s shoulders than FFVII could have ever fathomed, doubling the case for Cloud and his rebels. The authors of Before Crisis and Crisis Core recontextualized the events of FFVII and decided, “It’s probably fine to enforce totalitarianism if I do a good job of it and they don’t hurt me personally.” And that’s the last 18 years of world history in miniature.
After the game ended its narrative lifecycle, it received at least two more major updates. We’ve discussed Episode Reno, aka the Crisis Core promotional chapter, earlier in the Journal, but there was also the WEAPON Mode update, briefly documented on Grimoire’s former site. WEAPON Mode was a collaborative effort by players around Japan to defeat Jade Weapon, a stealth bomber-looking Weapon woken when the planet freaked out after the summoning of Zirconiade. In short, the Turks-in-exile have to fight Jade Weapon by boarding it as it enters their area of the world, which corresponded to the player’s actual location within Japan. If Jade Weapon was in another part of “the planet,” you’d have to wait your turn. I think that’s a really clever idea, maybe even more than it would be in a global game, since a global game would “suggest” something similar through time zones alone. Once you get on top, you need to fight the boss, and if you do well enough, you get a free summon to deal bonus damage. If you do poorly, you’ll have to be rescued via Rescue Mode, just like in normal play, except retrofit to account for the fact that you’re fighting a giant monster and not AVALANCHE. Any damage you did would be conveyed to the boss on the server, and once the entire player base across Japan had dealt a collective mountain of damage, the Weapon is defeated. That was a pretty common way of doing big bosses during the era, especially on relatively lower-budget MMOs – Neopets comes to mind – which makes sense in a low-bandwidth cell phone game. It’s possible this event was run multiple times, but I don’t know for certain. In the end, the Turks take out Jade Weapon, saving the world again. I hope that makes them feel better at their war crimes trial.
See you in the remake, FFVII. Meanwhile on the blog, we will continue into FFIX next Thursday!
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.