Session 4 carries through to the end of the game, though it was very close to the line. You’ll have to pardon us for putting optional content on the side like we did, because we gradually came to realize how close we were cutting things and wanted to get the game done! By the way, are we really through nearly two Persona games in a row with no new additions to our tacky Godslayer list? I thought this was a SMT game! (Wandering enemies don’t count. They have to be characters, or at least mandatory bosses!)
We started by going back to the bomb shelter, the second-last time we would do so (while the bomb shelter was “optional content” in the traditional sense, we had cleared the Abandoned Factory in P2IS, and so didn’t give up on the Bomb Shelter until a little later in the session. It probably helped that the Abandoned Factory feigned a shallow level of plot, but the Bomb Shelter had little to say that wasn’t clues to its final puzzle, which we never solved). Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to coax a Shoggoth back to our side to bust open the door from the hub to Room 5, we only ever saw one of them, only enough to restore our Pact but not enough to make a request! We had to go the long way, through Room 4, both forward and back, costing us nearly 45 minutes on one “room” worth of new progress. While we were there, we ran into this game’s version of Izanami as a wandering midboss, no longer with the bizarre pigtails, and got her material card. We would spend much of the session training Izanami only to completely drop her from our final layout. You could say she was the party’s Runner Up, a Persona who would have gotten in if there had been one more slot, as she had an in-combat only healing group spell that was more powerful than Mediarama. Oh well.
If Ririn’s playthrough can be taken literally, and the clues suggest that it might, Episode 22 part 1 and part 2 are interrupted by an update containing one of the game’s bonus episodes. As Tseng will later make reference to the bonus episode, it’s clear it was released at least before Episode 22-2, though I guess we can’t be positive that it was released after or along with 22-1. Episode Tseng is the earliest playable segment in FFVII’s timeline, occurring in “mu 1997,” the previous era, which the opening narration points out is before Kalm was shelled by Verdot’s incompetent artillery crew. As you can expect, we’ll be exploring that time when Verdot saved Tseng’s life.
We get started in Costa Del Sol, where Tseng, using the sames sprites he’s had this entire game, is investigating the curious kidnapping of an otherwise unremarkable reactor guard. The kidnappers took him onboard one of Shinra’s own cargo ships, and Tseng contacts Verdot to tell him that he’s going to look for the control room. Unlike Tseng, Verdot is not using his current sprite, but the younger one that we accidentally got during the rating sequence of Episode 19 for no adequately explained reason. Along with a few missing wrinkles, young Verdot doesn’t yet have a facial scar.
“Goodbye, Nanjo! We’re not returning this!”
The party decides to borrow a boat from Nanjo to attack the Nichirinmaru, and after some jokes about Maya trying to skipper, the audience got a cutscene that showed Chizuru and Kandori were on board the Nichirinmaru. Chizuru actually seems to want Kandori to take over the NWO, something Kandori thinks has to do with her being a woman, but then doesn’t elaborate on? The fuck? I feel like the localization’s been going downhill this session. Kandori says he doesn’t care about who’s in charge here, and Chizuru talks about how his only concerns seem to be Tatsuya (“The Paradox”) and the party. Gosh, I can’t imagine why that would be Chizuru, it’s almost like one of them killed him or something! I think the actual intent is that Kandori is in tune with Nyaralathotep’s game and realizes the party is what’s really important here, but I think the fact that Nanjo/Elly stabbed him to death in the past shouldn’t be overlooked!
At this point, Tatsuya starts firebombing the Nichirinmaru. Just… straight up. Kandori somehow knows Tatsuya’s responsible even though they can’t even see the explosions from where they are. In any event, he and Chizuru escape via one of the submarines they’re keeping on the ship. This is done in pre-rendered CG, and it’s probably the first one in the game I’d consider “poor,” which is still a pretty good proportion of good-to-bad cutscenes by the standards of the era! First off, there’s the design of the ship itself, which is disguised as a cruise ship… except for the blatantly obvious submarine launch bay in the fucking middle. It’s not just a bad design, but it looks hideous. Secondly, the game tries to mix its great 2D (a close-up of Kandori) with its simply passable 3D, and it looks baaaaad.
Chapter 22-1: Threatening to Shatter the Very Firmament
It seems that this episode was released in halves, and perhaps in an even more complicated fashion that we’ll get into later. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! We’re too shitfaced to get ahead of ourselves. Well, Shotgun is, anyways.
We start the chapter by learning that Tseng still hasn’t been kicked out of Top Secert Turks HQ, and is trying to hack his way to find Verdot’s location. Reno is there, but they’re otherwise alone. It’s now one day to Verdot’s execution, and the other Turks, true to their character from FFVII, can now be found in a dive bar.
Session 3 now, from the return to Aoba Park to… well, actually we dicked around for a bit after the last major milestone, so I guess I’ll say “until Tatsuya took us to the Alaya Shrine.”
The return to Aoba Park is a bit of a bore, and I can’t imagine it ever being much better. The Persona 1 and 2 games are not built in such a way that you can get an interesting experience out of repeat dungeons, though for what it’s worth, other series don’t tend to do much better! We did run into one of those wandering secret bosses that the Persona 2 games have, one named Nata, during our very first battle, so that was nice. Apparently, Nata can actually show up during your first trip and will absolutely rock you, so I can’t help but feel fortunate about how things played out, considering the guy was doing more than half our health with each hit even now! (When his buff was active, I mean.)
Chapter 21: Ready to Head to the Finale
That chapter title might be a little overeager, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves, even if it wants us to. As a related, but more general, narrative complaint, I want to mention about how the ongoing, “plot coupon” structure is leaving us with no tension in the build-up to the finale. We’re one plot coupon away from the finale and this doesn’t rightly feel any different from the last few missions, or honestly better than filler in general.
At this point, the group overhears a broadcast saying that “several seminars [are] being sponsored by international celebrities,” supposedly on the subject of purifying Jokers. One such seminar is taking place at SMILE Hirasaka (“Smile Mall”), hosted by Ginji “Prince Taurus” Sasaki. No alternate universe redemption for this guy! Curiously, after this scene, Baofu remarks on how strange it is that NWO is collecting kegare not just from Jokerized humans, but also from normal humans, something we won’t learn they’re doing until we investigate these seminars! He also wants to know, “What about the ‘pure’ humans?” a concept that hasn’t come up at all, although maybe he’s just extrapolating? Geeze, what’s with these lines?
Returning to the world map and to our actual playthrough, we’ve lost a few minutes of footage here, but I made sure to make a note what we had done soon after I noticed the problem, so I think I’ve got it all covered. We cashed our first map with Salam, and also got the next blank one, which curiously comes in two parts (Smile Map A and Smile Map B), even though the dungeon doesn’t have two parts? I’m still confused about that detail. Even the walkthroughs don’t mention it! It doesn’t help that the blank maps don’t even show up in your inventory! We also went manhunting (one such search appears after we turned on the recording) and checked out some prospective new Personas, although we didn’t get any. The entire party was maxed out on their current Personas, and we really had to give Elly a backup for Nike, but there just weren’t any good ones in our level range! Also, Baoful’s Hel had mutated so often that I wasn’t sure we wanted to drop her for any reason.
Chapter 20: Accepting the Price of their Resolve
The chapters get longer again from here on out, and part of that is because enemies are catching up to Ririn, forcing combats to run for more than three seconds. This one in particular is probably the longest single chapter in the game in Ririn’s playthrough, so let’s get to it!
We’re in Shinra HQ, where several grunts have found Cait Sith lying on the floor, and mistake him for a doll. They take to talking about work: these grunts are looking for Turks HQ to spy on them on orders from Scarlet (who doesn’t know that the Turks have Rufus locked up and that the big boss doesn’t want anyone to learn about him). Luckily for the “heroes,” no one knows where Turks HQ actually is inside the labyrinthine HQ. Really? I’m not so hung up on the secret HQ so much as the fact that the Turks are really still inside the building, after your open betrayal. Fuck’s sake. After the guards say as much, the Cait Sith doll gets up and walks away.
The party went into hiding. It wasn’t clear how much of what happened actually ended up on the talk show camera, but you can be sure someone called the cops, not to mention Chizuro getting away to report to the NWO. They returned to Nanjo’s suite, only to find that someone had broken in and murdered the faceless NPCs in his employ. Nanjo is already here, and is too much of an emotional mess to do any deduction. The party initially suspects that Sneak might be the one responsible, and that he may have led them to Nanjo just to expose his base of operations, but that seems incredibly unlikely given that their meeting with Sneak was so far apart from the massacre. In any event, the party retreats to Baofu’s hideout in the same district. Here, Nanjo gives a summary of evenhis scenario, and in Nanjo’s storyline, Nanjo players will hear Elly’s version of events. So that means it’s time for me to check someone else’s playthrough to see the other side of the coin!
Because it’s just this one post, I’m going to fill our screenshots with general gameplay pictures.
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.