final fantasy marathon

FFVII Before Crisis – A Company Man

bc-00060Episode Tseng

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.

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FFVII Before Crisis – I Get Knocked Down

bc-00054Chapter 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.

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FFVII Before Crisis – I Swear Dirge of Cerberus Is Relevant

bc-00044Chapter 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.

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FFVII Before Crisis – At last, I have bound the evil to my command

bc-00030Chapter 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.

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FFVII Before Crisis – Morse’s Nightmare

bc-00019Chapter 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.

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FFVII Before Crisis – Get Well Soon (And Kidnap Somone)

bc-00008Chapter 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.

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FFVII Before Crisis – Toenails of Chaos

bc-00002Chapter 17: Fangs of Chaos

Thoughts on semiotics in Final Fantasy: when the game says “Fangs of Chaos,” am I supposed to think of the literal fangs of the demon Chaos, progenitor of evil in the Final Fantasy series? Because I do, even if they didn’t intend that.

This is a shorter chapter overall, as will several of the ones to follow! Ririn has taken between 30-40 minutes for every chapter from Chapter 4 to Chapter 16, but all of a sudden we regress to the 20-30 minute range for a stretch. Maybe the money was running out, or maybe design sensibilities were changing as the months went by, who can say? My gut instinct is to bundle up two or so small chapters into the same posts, but since I’m still stalling for time with regards to P2EP, maybe it’s best if I settle for short posts for a few weeks. In fact, I just managed to line things up so that BC and P2EP will end on the same week by setting up some full-sized EP posts, at which point we can move on to the next game (FFIX) without any left-over mess!

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FFVII Before Crisis – Shotgun the Nuclear Engineer

bc-00079Chapter 16: The Dim Flow of Irresistible Fate

Despite the immediacy of the preview from the last chapter’s ending, it’s actually May, one month later. Sure enough, AVALANCHE has brought a small army to take the Corel reactor. Huh, it looks like Shinra really is going to destroy Corel because of terrorist action in the reactor! I always thought that was some bullshit of Scarlet’s? Even weirder, BC never actually calls attention to the connection? As you’ll see, there’s a reason we never see Scarlet destroy the town, but they never even mention it, either!

Naturally, a whole four Turks have been deployed to stop AVALANCHE: Shotgun, Tseng, Reno and Rude. For Minerva’s sake… Once again, this is the army’s job, or at the very least SOLDIER’s job, not the Turks. AVALANCHE has a huge armed force in there! Our team of four splits up and heads in toward the reactor.

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FFVII Before Crisis – Get My Driving Spear

bc-00069Chapter 15: To the Distant Skies and Beyond

Well this chapter promises to be an odd experience. Like a lot of Crisis Core’s stuff, we know exactly how this is going to end, but have never had the chance to play in it, so it could still be interesting. We’re already heading in the right direction, in my mind, by turning the rocket launch into a major publicity event for Shrinra, giving us a new perspective on an incident the writers could have slept through. Of course, FFVII also gave me the impression that the launch took place way more than four years ago… Oh well, this at least promised to be interesting.

Unfortunately, in hindsight, I think Chapter 15 ended up being one of the game’s most boring chapters, but let me explain why that is as we go along.

It’s April, three months later yet again, and Cid is flying the Bronco in an air show before the big rocket launch. Shotgun has been assigned as Rufus Shinra’s escort for the day, and he does nothing but complain about the money being wasted the entire time. Cid ends his show and comes over to be introduced to Rufus, carrying his fucking partisan with him wherever he goes. Seriously man, even in the plane? And if you thought Yuffie’s portrait was too young, check out Cid, who can’t be past twenty-five yet.

…Wait, hold on, Cid from FFVII was 32? The man acted like he’s pushing fifty! Oh, Square… Square… Square… As it happens, the Cid we’re looking at here is twenty-nine at this point, but still, I would have guessed he’d be 45 based on FFVII! (Please note, if you go to the FFWiki, that Cid’s listed age for Before Crisis is his age at the start of Before Crisis, twenty-six. We’re three years into the story at this point.)

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FFVII Before Crisis – (Not) Detonating a Small, Innocent Child

bc-00054Chapter 14 – Each and Everyone’s Resolve and Wishes

Shinra took their time setting up this operation – it’s now January 3rd, a whole three months after Verdot’s report. Shotgun arrives in Wutai and confirms that she’s here alone. One person. You sent one person. Unless this is some scheme to fuck with the mole, this is ridiculous. Speak of the devil: inside AVALANCHE HQ, the mole is passing on the news of the incoming Shinra attack. They point out that SOLDIER is ruined now after Sephiroth’s “death.” If AVALANCHE can just stop the Turks, Shinra will be nearly defenceless, since we’ve established the Shinra armed forces are afraid of the sight of grass.

A complication enters the scene moments later: Yuffie Kisaragi, who has discovered the AVALANCHE HQ accidentally and just as unfortunately gotten one of the troopers to chase her into the streets, where he runs into Shotgun. Shotgun spots the trooper and says: “This operation will fail if he alerts his comrades.” Good things bodies fade into the ether when they die!

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