final fantasy marathon

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!



FFVII Before Crisis – Awkward Conversations with the Boss

bc-00039Chapter 13 – The Scar of Calm’s Destruction

We pick up exactly where we left off. Shotgun is holing out in the reactor with Zack and Cloud’s bodies, waiting for the incoming “medical team,” cough cough, that is definitely not going to be headed by a mad scientist. Unfortunately, a whack of Grand Horn monsters arrive (in waves of two, three and three) attempting to kidnap Cloud and Zack before Hojo can! How dare! These two are company property! During these fights, Ririn uses Bio twice, wiping them out fast but leaving Shotgun on virtually half MP for the rest of the mission! Yeah, starting to figure that’s Bioga, not just regular Bio.

Hojo and Tseng both arrive on-scene, Shotgun pointing out that Hojo shouldn’t even be here. Tseng responds that, “the president has issued a top-secret order.” Shotgun shouts, “Top-secret order?!” Yes, Shotgun, that’s what they call things I can’t tell you. Nevertheless, Tseng promises to brief her later? Right in front of Hojo??


FFVII Before Crisis – The cat came back

bc-00026Chapter 12: Awakening Tears the Calm Apart

It’s September 21st, the day before Sephiroth, Zack and Cloud will ultimately be sent to Nibelheim, and Shotgun is attempting to helicopter her way directly to the Nibelheim reactor as a preliminary investigator. We haven’t checked in on her long before we suddenly cut to an unrelated section of Nibelheim mountainside, where we discover young Tifa Lockheart chasing a white cat with a Shu Takumi-style bandana around its neck.

Shotgun jumps from the helicopter (presumably with a parachute, although they never bothered to draw one) and the split second after she jumps, the wind picks up and she ends up landing on the peak of Mt. Nibel by accident. She calls Tseng and resolves to walk the rest of the way, but hasn’t gone far when she runs into a bird that attacks a Kimara Bug with some sloppily applied scaling effects, as though “flying out of the distance.” Judging from Ririn’s behaviour, you have to dodge the Mode 7 birds or be knocked off the bridges that line this span of the mountain. Ririn then takes a hidden path that loops behind a piece of foreground decoration, and seems to skip part of the map.


FFVII Before Crisis – Stay off the grass

bc-00015Chapter 11: A Dash for Freedom

August, two months after the attack on Shinra HQ. Shotgun is in the Midgar slums, having a 1am meal in what… might be the Wall Market diner?… after missing a date with the other Turks. “Sometimes, it’s nice to have dinner like a normal person,” she says, actively cradling a magically-imbued, double-barrelled firearm through her entire meal. Since she has the day off tomorrow, she decides to go for a stroll and quickly ends up lost, happening across the Gainsborough house and garden, where it is clearly daytime. Writing team and art team not talking to one another, eh?

She’s admiring the garden when Aerith appears, apparently planning to run away from home just this very minute, a motivation that becomes irrelevant as she spots a Turk on her doorstep and assumes they’ve come for her. Why… even introduce that motivation, then? It relates to something she says later, but she could still say that later line without monologuing to herself about running away from home now. Aerith makes a break for it into the slums. “How rude,” says Shotgun, “She takes one look at me and then runs away!” Me! A face of the oppression!


FFVII Before Crisis – Hello Again, Dr. Bad Guy

bc-00002Chapter 10: The Sole Deciding Factor

A whole four months pass until AVALANCHE’s next move. Somehow, they sneak into Shinra HQ just before midnight, bringing a group of Bomb monsters with them. The Bombs start murdering their way through the unprepared interior guards, but someone soon sounds the alarm.

Verdot calls the Turks, announcing that the Bombs are actually a monster outbreak from Hojo’s labs. He’s not aware of AVALANCHE’s involvement yet, and seems to believe the Bombs broke out on their own. Tseng and Shotgun are the only ones in the building, so Tseng is assigned evacuation duty and Shotgun extermination. Curiously, Verdot acts like only the executives and researchers know that Hojo is housing monsters, to the point where they can’t even call in SOLDIER to tend to things. Clearly this was retconned by the time we hit Crisis Core, as Zack basically uses the monster research labs as one of his minor hubs!


FFVII Before Crisis – Cause I’m TNT

Episode Legend

It’s time for another special episode starring an alternate character. Grimoire Valentine even had a lot of screenshots from this one, so I’m going to try to stretch them out! While the majority of Episode Legend takes place in flashback, its ending is explicitly set during or around the previous chapter, what with the second AVALANCHE occupation of Junon. I have a strong feeling that this episode it wasn’t released until late in the game’s lifecycle, possibly even after the story was complete (albeit probably before the Crisis Core promo chapter we covered earlier). The primary reason I think this was released towards the end of BC’s lifecycle is the fact that it unlocks a new Turk, Legend (Male), who has such truly absurd upgrade costs that would only make sense for him to show up at the end of things (he also only has two available weapons, which matches up with the last two Turks who join the roster). On the flip side, Legend (Male) does show up in a few group shots near the end of the story… but those might have been modified after his release. It’s hard to say based on evidence alone, so if anyone has any solid information, feel free to share it!

Episode Legend begins just after the Wutai war, a month and a half before the start of BC’s main storyline, but don’t get settled! For unknown reasons, Verdot calls Tseng to his office to tell him that he wants to recall a certain former Turk to duty. Tseng seems to know the guy, and informs us that he’s been held under house arrest in Costa del Sol for being a member of an anti-Shinra group. Verdot doesn’t seem concerned, however, and sends Tseng off to Costa del Sol without much more to say.


FFVII Before Crisis – The Five Against Junon

bc-00118Chapter 9: Stepping Into Uncertainty

It’s the first of February, only a few weeks after Verdot’s demotion, and Heidegger has taken over command of the Turks. He sets to work immediately, and with good reason: AVALANCHE is apparently returning to Junon as we speak! He wants the Turks to serve as scouts, and gives them orders to report the moment they see the enemy so that he can deploy his armed forces to deal with the threat, which he insists can be done in minutes. Tseng goes to tattle to Verdot, still calling Verdot “chief.” By the way, Verdot’s room in building security is a full set, not like the static picture of the board room we had for the executives, which is nice considering they didn’t really have to do it and could have shot the scenes over a CG or flat black. Long story short, Verdot blows Tseng off, but Tseng points out that Verdot can use his security control panel to watch literally any of the company’s cameras (this is simultaneously surprising and unsurprising from Shinra, I don’t know what to say), and he asks him to keep an eye on the Turks in Junon and in general.

Shotgun has apparently waited until reaching Junon to let off steam about Heidegger, including mocking his laugh, much to my delight. We’re given a brief introduction to the Junon elevator for later, and Shotgun goes down to the beach for her patrol route. Much to my annoyance, the game then basically reproduces this scene three more times with Reno, Rude and Tseng, almost word-for-word. Why?


FFVII Before Crisis – Death By Friendship

bc-00108Chapter 8: A Darkness too Deep for Light to Reach

Oh, pardon me, judging from that title and the one from last chapter (“Scattered Light Wrapped in Darkness”), I must have put in a Kingdom Hearts game by accident. Give me a second h—oh, it’s legit? Are you sure?

It’s now two days later (or thereabouts – Chapter 7 only showed a time stamp before Sebastian and Essai were attacked, not after Shotgun arrived on the scene), and once again the middle of the night (lest they have to redraw all these outdoor sprites). With all this dawdling, Shinra’ll be lucky if they find so much as a few abandoned lunches once they finally get to the base, but whatever. Essai, Sebastian and Shotgun arrive to join the army, and no sooner has Shotgun asked about the legendary Zack than she overhears him snoring just off-screen and mistakes it for an earthquake. God, Zack, I missed you. I just adore how Shotgun’s first word to him is just: “So.” In its own text box and everything. Zack (who seems to know Essai and Sebastian) gives a speech about teamwork, and the combined force heads out.


FFVII Before Crisis – Darth Fuhito

bc-00096Chapter 7: Scattered Lights Wrapped in Darkness

We start a new arc with this one, which begins at Icicle Inn in mid-January of the next year, in the middle of the night. It seems Shinra has a base here, and if you’re wondering why we didn’t hear anything about it in FFVII… well, give it thirty seconds. Two SOLDIERS, Essai and Sebastian, have just arrived on scene on a mission to wipe out some monsters. These two are treated as relatively prominent characters for people without faces! And since they are relatively important, I should point out that they appear to be 1st Class… maaaaaaybe. You see, the picture quality is so poor that I can’t tell if they’re wearing blue or purple, and to make matters worse, the SOLDIER uniforms were changed a some point between FFVII and Crisis Core, with the matter of confusion being “at some point.” Was the switch before Before Crisis, or after? Or even during! In FFVII, SOLDIERS 3rd Class wore blue, 2nd red, and 1st purple, but by Crisis Core the colours are 3rd blue, 2nd purple, and 1st black. We’ll be meeting Zack later on in BC, which is during his 1st class days, but he won’t make things any easier: his sprite wears the same indistinct purple-blue, and his close-up portrait wears black! Since the same is true of these two, I assume that they, too, are 1st Class, even though we’ll later see that Zack is in a whole ‘nother league.

The two are discussing their mission when two of Fuhito’s black-clad troopers arrive, chuckling instead of speaking, which becomes like a signature for them in the future. Sebastian has no sooner exposited that SOLDIERS are superhuman than the black-clad troopers dash through them and knock them both out!


FFVII Before Crisis – Jingle bells, Shinra smells

bc-00083Chapter 6: Tonight in Our Innocent World

Big time skip here, as we jump all the way to freaking December, five months after the last mission. It’s three days until Christmas in Midgar, if you can believe it (like in the real world, Christmas is on the 25th of December), which makes me suspect this huge in-game time skip may have happened because it was Christmas in the real world, too, and they wanted to do a special episode  (the game launched in September 2004, so Chapter 6 launching around December is hardly out of the question). Don’t expect the Turks to be very holly jolly. In fact, Verdot is going to put you knee-deep in literal shit before this is over, but we all celebrate our holidays in our own putrid ways.

Reno, Rude and Shotgun have gone to the Sector 8 residences after a mission (or perhaps one of those free-play activities you can do between story missions). You know, one thing I do like about Before Crisis is how rapidly the player Turk integrates with the veteran Turks. A lot of similar “novice joins the group” narratives have a way of treating the novice as a novice for the entire run, even as a bit of an endearing joke, or just don’t effectively integrate them as a professional somehow as an intangible matter of writing. I’m not just talking about Kingdom Hearts Days when I say that, but I can’t deny it comes instantly to mind. But Before Crisis doesn’t do that! You feel like your character is really an equal!