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I'm playing through all of Final Fantasy, and everyone is invited (Playing FF VII now)

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
Moderator
In 10, on the other hand, Yu Yevon is certainly the central antagonist hiding behind Sin.
 

nosimpleway

(he/him)
It's also never any secret that Kuja is the true villain behind Brahne. Garnet brings up "that man" once you get to Lindblum, I think, and he's picking bits of scenery out of his teeth as early as Burmecia. The only speculation is whether Kuja is manipulating Brahne into her conquest, or if it was Brahne's idea in the first place and Kuja is just supplying the weaponry.

If Garland is Gestahl to Kuja's Kefka, the Brahne is... I guess... I dunno, Cid?
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
I'll write more to your comments later. Just wanted to say that there is no need to use spoilers. I played all these games, so feel free to just openly talk about them here, you can't really spoil me. If there is an exception, like with the World of Ruin, I will let you know. I appreciate the concern, though.

Oh, if someone feels like it, it would be very interesting if I got comments on how the remake deviates from FF VII, while playing the original. Don't feel pressured, and anyone playing along with the original would be great too, just wanted to put that out there. No need to use spoilers there either, except if someone in here would prefer that (in which case, please speak up now, just in case).
 

nosimpleway

(he/him)
The main difference is that in Final Fantasy 7, the villain is Sephiroth.

In the Final Fantasy 7 Remake, the villain is the plot of the original Final Fantasy 7.
 

Purple

(She/Her)
In 10, on the other hand, Yu Yevon is certainly the central antagonist hiding behind Sin.
I mean... yes, but it's not the same sort of "right hand general of the evil emperor turns out to be the one you really gotta worry about" thing 6 and 7 have going. And also like... damn every other game, from any genre, by anyone, for a pretty sizable number of years in there. Often with basically the exact same character design as Sephiroth.
 

RT-55J

definitely not a robot
(He/Him)
I just had a thought pertaining to a discussion several pages back regarding FF4, but it just occurred to me that Cecil's bout of chauvinistic chivalry towards the end might have been a holdover from a prior version of the script. This is mostly just speculation with no grounding in any interviews, but I suspect that they originally had planned for FuSoYa and Golbez to take the places of Rosa and Rydia in the final party (based on the fact the those two went to the moon ahead of you in the final game and that they made a player sprite for Golbez), but they backpedalled on that idea after realizing that it was stupid as heck. Thus, the scene with the women stowing away could be seen as much as the developers lamblasting the idea as it is the characters (not that this excuses Cecil as he is written).
 

nosimpleway

(he/him)
The game does poke fun at itself for the revolving-door party once in a while. I'm thinking of the time that Cid worked himself to death on the airship, and as he loses consciousness one last time in the dwarf castle clinic, the sorrowful music starts to play... and then he starts snoring. Whoops, ha ha, you've got your endgame party, no one else has to die now.
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
But... didn't you do Strago's sidequest? You talked about getting Grand Trine and seeing the cinematics where he talked about beating Hidon with his staff instead of his magic.
I did, but only after beating the game. Dunno, I wanted to beat it, and wasn't motivated to do any more sidequests, but afterwards thought that I should get at least these character-heavy sidequests done, so I get more context for Strago and Sabin.

They say your favorite Final Fantasy is the one you played first. Which was six for me, too, but thinking about it I'm not sure which one I'd say is my favorite.
This was never quite true for me. I inititally only played the SNES games, and from them VI was my clear favourite. But as soon as I played IX (I think I hadn't even played VII and VIII at that point) it immediately became my favourite FF, and it never left that place. Will be very interesting to take a new look at it, it's more than ten years, since I last played it.

It comes up once or twice in Final Fantasy 7. Somebody in a side conversation goes "Hey, have you noticed that literally all the magic and abilities we get from Materia are for fighting? How come that is, do you think? The life of the Ancients must have been incredibly violent."

In this gameworld magic is something granted to humans specifically for fighting and killing one another by the Warring Triad, so that's that.

Esper magic comes from killing espers, and gives the ability to kill others. That's perfect for Gestahl's agenda! Edgar's, maybe not so much.
That's a very fitting interpretation. Nice one.

Not her mom, at least. You can learn exactly what happened to her dad.
Yeah, had a brain fart there. Oops.

Yep. Shadow, in a game where the theme is healing and redemption, gains neither. He simply comes to grips with his regrets and allows himself to die.

The most generous interpretation is that killing is all he's good at, as he says himself, and without the conflict from the Empire or Kefka's godhood, there's no reason for him to be around anymore. But it's not even that. He's just tired of running from his past and sees himself as beyond any sort of redemption. He never even <spoilers> to his <spoilers> <spoilers>.

seriously though the dreams fill in a couple of the questions you're still asking, but if you wanna watch them, turn your sound off first. There's no music, but the dreams have some seriously obnoxious buzzing/shrill sound effects going on.
Yeah, I watched them, and they fill out Shadows past very nicely. Pretty well done character, I have to say, definitely makes him one of the more interesting ones.

Chaos has his full heal and partywide elemental blasts, Palamecia is damn near impossible to even scratch while he drops stars on your head, and the Cloud of Darkness doesn't futz around with anything but blasting everyone with particle beams. I feel like Zeromus was the last Final Fantasy boss to be really hard, and not that Big Bang and Black Hole are anything to sneeze at, I think that's mostly due to his extensive counterattack scripts.

That's probably a general shift in design philosophy. People get invested in the story, closure is one fight away, and banging their head against a nigh-invincible endgame boss is just frustrating. If you want a combat challenge, the chest with Shinryuu in it is right over there --->
Yeah, having a brutal final boss is a different flavor from multi-form ones, where the final phase isn't too challenging is definitely a big change in the way the final feels. I definitely prefer the newer method, but I see how there is a tradeoff.

Zeromus seems like an in-between step,. a bit. If you just don't use Rydia, he doesn't really do much. At least that was my experience, when I fought him a few months ago.

President Shinra also shares a bit of creative DNA with Gestahl, in that both are the overarching antagonist of their respective games but ultimately not the most important one. I think it's obvious Kefka and Sephiroth also share more than a bit of creative DNA, including the bit where they kill their old masters. No Shinra, no Sephiroth; no Gestahl, no Kefka.

I'm not as familiar with the games that proceed FF8 but isn't this theme repeated in FF9 and FF10, where the main villain ends up being a product of a more powerful but narratively minor villain?
Shinra feels like a new interpretation of Gestahl, like FF VII feels like a new interpretation of FF VI. There are differences, but they occupy a similar space. That said, Sephiroth does feel very different from Kefka. But my memory on FF VIIs plot, at least the details, are hazy. I'm very interested in replaying it, and looking for similarities to VI.

I think the swerve towards multi-form bosses is why the true final boss tends to be on the easy side. When you've just fought through 1-3 difficult battles, and you're one fight away from finishing the game, it can be incredibly frustrating to die and have to go through all that all over again.
Yeah, the multi-form bosses like Kefka are a bit more of a marathon, instead of the intense sprint that is the Cloud of Darkness. Kefkas final form is dead pretty soon (I guess he is a glass cannon? He hadn't the time to actually do much, so I don't know how dangerous he actually would be, if he would survive a bit longer). But the three forms before, especially the second one, weren't trivial to defeat. One really needs to look at all four fights as the final boss, instead of just the last form.

Which, granted, doesn't change too much, as even with multiple forms, it's not that difficult of a boss. But definitely more of a challenge, than just the angel form.

I just had a thought pertaining to a discussion several pages back regarding FF4, but it just occurred to me that Cecil's bout of chauvinistic chivalry towards the end might have been a holdover from a prior version of the script. This is mostly just speculation with no grounding in any interviews, but I suspect that they originally had planned for FuSoYa and Golbez to take the places of Rosa and Rydia in the final party (based on the fact the those two went to the moon ahead of you in the final game and that they made a player sprite for Golbez), but they backpedalled on that idea after realizing that it was stupid as heck. Thus, the scene with the women stowing away could be seen as much as the developers lamblasting the idea as it is the characters (not that this excuses Cecil as he is written).
Sounds possible and interesting, but it also would be really obnoxious to lose two characters who had accompanied you for so long. You know, maybe instead of latecomer Edge, you could get Golbez as the final party member? Maybe? Just a random though.

---------------------------------------

So, I need to add a bit to the final post, because I forgot something (of course I did). Specifically, I didn't talk about what I feel the place of FF VI is in the development of the whole series.

Honestly, after playing these games so close to each other, the game feels like a kind of low-key reboot of the series. Probably still the wrong word, it still sounds wrong. But there are just some wild changes.

First, we aren't in a fantasy setting, for the first time. With that, the Crystals are gone. And, granted, they weren't in II either, but that game was still from the phase where the series was mainly undefined as a series. But we had three games, where Crystals are important in some way. And setting-wise, changing to a steampunk setting feels huge.

The new NPC sprites add to that feeling. This is the first game, where old man don't wear a single bedsheet with a pointy hat, but wear something that looks like actual clothes, at least if you accept the fantastical setting. This one is the most striking, but on the whole, the NPCs seems to have gotten an upgrade. The main callbacks to earlier games are the scholar sprites. Which...I never realized that they were used for such a long time, after appearing in FF III.

Also, while there are monsters that are called goblins, they are very different from what the game has called them up to now. The classical goblins are gone, which feels fitting, considering we left the fantasy setting behind. But it's also the classical beginner encounter. Feels strange.

Dunno, reboot is clearly the wrong word here, but it really feels like VI is a big change in the series. Maybe that's really just me, and mainly due to how different the game looks. But then, considering how VII is always seen as the game were the series changed, and VI is really similar to VII in a lot of ways, I think I'm not alone with that.
 

nosimpleway

(he/him)
In Dissidia, each of the ten Warriors of Cosmos possess a crystal, based on whatever form the "crystals" took in their own games. The Onion Knight's crystal is a dead-ringer for the crystal sprite in FF3, for instance, and Cecil's looks like a sprite upgrade of the form they took in FF4. Zidane has one of the crystals from Memoria. Warrior of Light should have an ORB I guess but he doesn't.

Cloud has a materia. Tidus has a sphere. Terra has a magicite. So inasfar as the game has "crystals", in this case they're still not cosmic keystones that hold the balance of the world in check, they're a chunk of a phantom beast's corpse. FF6 does have some rocks that preserve the health and well-being of the world at large, and whose disturbance wreaks global havoc. It's just that in FF6 those rocks are the petrified Warring Triad.

The weird thing is that yeah, Firion and Squall both also have crystals, and I'm not really sure why. The most important crystal you find in FF2 is the Crystal Rod that lets you unlock Ultima (or maybe crystals that surround Ultima that give you stat boosts? At least that's a set of four). The most important crystal in FF8 is the crystal pillar that aligns with the moon to cause the Lunar Cry, and that is unambiguously a bad thing.

Thinking about it like that, both 6 and 8 riff on 4's set of crystals. In 8 disturbing the crystal forces a tidal wave of monsters to fall from the moon. In 6 disturbing the, uh, aforementioned rocks looses the power of the Warring Triad to destroy the world. In 4 the collection of the crystals allowed the Giant of Babel to teleport to the Blue Planet. In some games the crystals are more dangerous than beneficial.

6 might have put more stress on the development of technology beside magic, but sci-fi elements were always in Final Fantasy, ever since you had to teleport up to a geosynchronous satellite colony to defeat the Fiend of Wind.

Hey, hang on ...the Fiend of Earth lives underground, the Fiend of Water under the ocean, the Fiend of Fire in an active volcano... why does the Fiend of Wind live only spot that there isn't any air?
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
Looks like Square realized that and reconned it later:
releases starting with the WonderSwan Color version changed it into a more traditional castle in the clouds, albeit still made with technology significantly more advanced than anything on the surface.
 

nosimpleway

(he/him)
Oh, and the critter called "Goblin" in FF6, found underneath the Figaro stratum in the cave to the Ancient Castle? In the original Japanese that's a "Satan". Other translations call it "Devil". No relation to the first-section-of-the-overworld goblins from the first five games.

Satan has had a rough time in this series. In FF2 he made a pact with Palamecia, then when Palamecia usurped his throne he got stuffed into a chest and told to guard a suit of Genji Armor. Now he's just some random encounter mook with some blue magic.
 
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Lokii

It's always time for burgers
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
I always figured the crystals in 6 were magicite.
 

Issun

Let's 90s gaming
So, I need to add a bit to the final post, because I forgot something (of course I did). Specifically, I didn't talk about what I feel the place of FF VI is in the development of the whole series.

Honestly, after playing these games so close to each other, the game feels like a kind of low-key reboot of the series. Probably still the wrong word, it still sounds wrong. But there are just some wild changes.

First, we aren't in a fantasy setting, for the first time. With that, the Crystals are gone. And, granted, they weren't in II either, but that game was still from the phase where the series was mainly undefined as a series. But we had three games, where Crystals are important in some way. And setting-wise, changing to a steampunk setting feels huge.

The new NPC sprites add to that feeling. This is the first game, where old man don't wear a single bedsheet with a pointy hat, but wear something that looks like actual clothes, at least if you accept the fantastical setting. This one is the most striking, but on the whole, the NPCs seems to have gotten an upgrade. The main callbacks to earlier games are the scholar sprites. Which...I never realized that they were used for such a long time, after appearing in FF III.

Also, while there are monsters that are called goblins, they are very different from what the game has called them up to now. The classical goblins are gone, which feels fitting, considering we left the fantasy setting behind. But it's also the classical beginner encounter. Feels strange.

Dunno, reboot is clearly the wrong word here, but it really feels like VI is a big change in the series. Maybe that's really just me, and mainly due to how different the game looks. But then, considering how VII is always seen as the game were the series changed, and VI is really similar to VII in a lot of ways, I think I'm not alone with that.
General opinion has shifted over the years on where the series changed. For the longest time it landed on VII, because polygons and FMV and it was the game that made JRPGs a heavyweight. Over time, though, most people seem to have come around to VI being the true turning point, for the reasons you mentioned, and also because it was the first game where Sakaguchi was less hands-on.

As for Shadow, I'm not so sure he dies at the end. I just recently finished a replay of FFVI, and he talks about starting over. My theory is that he lets everyone think he died, so he can start a new life with a new identity and maybe live like a normal human again. It's been shown he can find alternate ways in and out of just about anywhere, so the theory isn't that untenable.
 

nosimpleway

(he/him)
In SNES he says "I'm going to stop running. I'm going to begin all over again." But in the GBA and Mobile translations Shadow says "Baram, come and find me" instead. I take that as a solid intention that he's going to go look for his buddy in whatever counts as the afterlife.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Shadow's resolved to reunite with the one person he ever really cared about, so death it is for him. Clyde and Baram are pretty typical storytelling for the game, where the bonds of men are defining and sacred and the women around the periphery are just kind of sacrificial chaff, or at least a salient premonition of Nomura as a creative voice as he had a great hand in shaping Shadow's narrative role and premise and so those themes are very present. I think it only works because he's not framed as aspirational; he has failed in every way that the character himself held important and given up long before he's ever even met by the player, and interactions with the party don't set him on a path of self-acceptance, redemption or responsibility--he just comes to terms with his past to the extent that he makes amends for his greatest mistake in the only way he knows how, a resolution arrived at through guilt and self-loathing. It's the wrong thing to do, it doesn't resolve or make anything better, and it potentially frames self-harm and suicide as an act of "courage" on Shadow's part, and I guess that's the fundamental tragedy of the character, in that he only ended up where he did because he considered himself a coward for being unable to do an extremely hard thing, repressed it for the rest of his life, never shared, discussed or attempted to overcome that burden, and let it ultimately end him.

Even putting all that aside, the arrangement of Shadow's theme in the ending medley always clearly communicated to me the character's fate--no one else had their leitmotif infused with so much fatalistic finality, and for good reason.
 
In SNES he says "I'm going to stop running. I'm going to begin all over again." But in the GBA and Mobile translations Shadow says "Baram, come and find me" instead. I take that as a solid intention that he's going to go look for his buddy in whatever counts as the afterlife.

In the original text, he says something along the lines of, "Well, it looks like I can finally stop running, Billy [Baram]. Roll out the welcome mat for me [in the afterlife], okay?"

He no longer feels any more obligation to keep living, and he hopes to see Baram soon again (and get a hearty welcome from him) in death.
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
I thought a bit about how to start this post - like FF V, VII doesn't have a bunch of text to introduce you to the state of the world. Unlike V, it also doesn't have a bunch of pictures to do the same thing. So, let's just say I started playing FF VII.

When the game was new, I actually didn't hear about it. Part of that is probably, that Final Fantasy, as a series, hasn't been a thing in Europe, up to this point. The first six games never appeared here (or, rather, later versions were published, but VII is the first one to make it here). Also, I was a Nintendo kid, and had an N64 at the time, and only read about games for that, and for the Gameboy (Color, I guess at this point?).

A friend of mine had a playstation, though, and at some point, he borrowed this game from someone. I watched him play, but only partly, as he also played while I wasn't around. Stuff that I saw included Cloud climbing the wall to the upper part of Midgar, and trying (and failing) to catch a Chocobo, to make it through the swamp with the Midgar Zolom (or however that thing is called). How did we make it? Well, I thought that thing wouldn't attack you, or at least only rarely, if you stuck to the wall. And, funnily enough, it worked, and we made it through that part without a Chocobo.

But, maybe aided through only seeing parts of the game, it didn't catch me, despite desperately wanting to play JRPGs. But my main (only?) encounter with the genre had been Breath of Fire III, and FF VII couldn't be further apart, with it's ATB, "realistic" graphics (I wanted beautiful, colorful sprites!) and modern feel.

Years later, after I had emulated the earlier games (only owning a 64k modem, which made it basically impossible to download Playstation isos), I actually knew about the earlier games, and I had learned a lot about how big this series, and specifically this game, was. I wanted to play it, but hadn't really any way to do so.

Until (some more years later, let's say it's 2007), said friend asked me for a favor. I used the chance, and borrowed his old PS (or maybe PS 2?), and some of his games, one of them being FF VII.

Or at least, that's how I remember it, but it's all pretty unclear. I'm sure that I borrowed the game from him, I'm also sure, that I played it again, a few years later, but that makes no sense, because he had it back by then, and we didn't have much contact. I also remember borrowing DQ 8 and some other games from him...no idea. The main point is, I don't know if I played through the game two or three times. My feeling says three, though - one time in 07, one time in...09? and one time in 2015 or 14, to revisit it.

When playing it for the first time, I was enthralled. I had a hard time following the story (the German translation isn't any better than the English one), but the oppressive feeling, my general enjoyment of dystopias, and just the pure competence with which the game was made, made me a big fan. Let's just say it was this time, where I couldn't stop playing, beat all the Weapons, tried and failed to breed Chocobos, and basically did what I could find. Except for stuff about Vincent, because I guess I didn't look everywhere.

For some reason, the way the game was portrayed in general also stuck with me, though - Cloud was always mopey, Aerith is shy and Tifa is funny and adventurous. When playing the game a second time (this time only beating it regularly), I was shocked to learn that my memory was completely wrong. Cloud is a cocky jerk from the start (or at least can be), and Aerith and Tifa had switched personalities in my head. Weird.

For the record, feel free to call her Aeris. For some reason, Aerith is stuck in my head, and I will therefor use that spelling.

Or maybe I realised that during my actual second time in 2014/15, where I definitely replayed the game. Where I learned, that, yes, it is a great game (remember, I was around 20 when playing this game for the first time, so there is no childhood nostalgia attached). I also saw how ambitious it was, with all these weird minigames, and that it wasn't a purely grim affair. Cid wasn't cool, he was an abusive jackass,... I wrote about it in TT 2.0, back then, being surprised about the things I could see in the game now.

It's, aside from the NES games, the one that I played the most recent, and it's still more than five years. I need to play these games more often, they are all great.

To be honest, I have a hard time writing about this game. I just started, and feel already how it makes me sad. It feels, like it hits right through my emotional defenses. Also, I can't stop thinking about it, and find so many things to say. Oh well, we will see how it goes.

Anyway, let's get started.

--------------------------------------------

We start, by looking at the night sky, a clear view of the stars, surrounded by noise. The view changed to Aerith, who is looking at green sparks(?) - I guess there is a Mako leak. She steps out onto the big street. And the camera zooms back, more and more, until we see the disgusting Moloch, Midgar, in it's whole glory.

It's excellently done, and I immediately understand why people think, that the series changed here. From the perspective of artstyle, that is just true. We aren't only gone from 2D sprites to 3D polygons, but the camera can now move around, and Square really used it to full effect. The beginning is very effective in setting a tone.

I find interesting, how we see more and more of the city. When Aerith steps into the light, it looks like a somewhat modern town. Then, we see cars - we are now clearly gone away from the old, medieval style. Zooming further back, we see the Goblins Bar (nice name) and the word Loveless (a movie?), which is a really fitting word. We already see, that it isn't a particularly nice looking town, but it does look like that - a small town, that could be one on it's one. Zooming further back, we see the train station, which also looks a bit like a town square, with the big clock.

But we go even further back, and show that, while this definitely was a town, at one point in time, it isn't anymore. It was eaten up by the giant city, with it's gigantic, towering skyscraper. Having this play by night adds even more atmosphere, the giant amounts of gas (or, likely, Mako) and the fact, that the skyscraper is made out of cold, dead steel, does the rest.

The mood is grim, the situation bad. Seeing the calm, sympathetic face of Aerith, and then contrast it with the harsh reality of Midgar works excellently, especially in that speed.

But the intro(?) isn't over. We zoom back in, to another part, where a train is stopping. The way the game switches between the train stopping, and the zoom is, again, excellent, and very dynamic. And soon, the train stops, and we start.

It's an extremely fast intro. Square clearly wanted to use it's new, movable camera to full effect, and did so quite well, I think.

People get out, and immediately kill the two train attendants. Barret, the leader, gives Cloud, the newcomer, oders to follow him. As we do so, we are attacked by two soldiers, who are easily killed.

Cloud doesn't have a name, yet. He still is Ex-SOLDIER. Going further inside, we meet Biggs and Wedge (sort of again), plus Jessie. Both Biggs and Jessie are surprised, to find an ex-SOLDIER in Avalanche, as these two groups are actually enemies. Biggs wants to introduce himself, but Cloud cuts him off. The latter is acting like he is pure business. Sure, do as you please, Cloud.

Barret appears, yelling at us for being in a group (it's easier to find us, this way), and tells Cloud that he doesn't trust him.

But that doesn't matter much, here. We have a job to do. And the camera switches, showing us a gigantic tower - the reactor, that we want to reach.

As an aside, while the graphics look dated, I still like them a lot. Early 3D has a lot of character, even if it isn't to everyones taste. The prerendered backgrounds, while making it hard to see where you can go, look pretty nice, in any case. Except for the fact, that we are in a gross place of steel, which looks per definition disgusting and unfriendly.

Also, the music is pretty impressive, and helps a lot in creating this awful mood. It's intense, but also foreboding. Bad things are happening.

A bit further in, we meet Wedge, who tells us that he will secure an escape passage. We learn, that we are here to blow the reactor up.

Barret talks, angry as always, about how Shinra (which Cloud worked for, as a SOLDIER) and people in general use Mako, which is also the lifeblood of the planet. It's dying, due to Shinra. But Cloud doesn't care.

There are easy, random battles here, which soon charge our limit breaks. I don't have much to say about them, at least for now - but I do like the concept a lot. It's nice how you reguarly get a stronger attack.

Soon, we reach the core of the reactor, where Cloud hears someone talking to him. "This isn't just a reactor."

To be honest, I don't know what is happening here. Is this another part of Cloud, that is surpressed? Is it Aerith? Is it the planet?

After setting the bomb, we get attacked by a security robot, which acts as the, by now, classical tutorial battle. Don't attack at the wrong time. Except, that the translation is so awkward, that everyone would think to attack when the tail is up, which is the very thing you SHOULDN'T do.

It's really disgusting, but typical, how much Shinra doesn't care about human life. Instead of having guard to arrest you, or something like that, intruders are simply killed. The soldiers we encountered probably would have done the same thing, if I had given them the chance.

After the battle, we have a very generous time limit of ten minutes, to get out. We find Jessie, whose leg is stuck. We can help, or ignore her. I did the former, and, if I don't misunderstand something, you can assume that I will play Cloud as nice as possible.

Honestly, there are a lot of times, where you get to choose if Cloud acts like a cold, uncaring jerk, or someone who is actually nice. It's not enforced. The game gives you the choice, which I find really interesting. We are actually allowed to roleplay here, and both answers fit Cloud in each case. Well done, game.

We make it in time, and get out of the way, just before the reactor explodes. Biggs thinks, we did something to help the planet, at least a little bit. And then, he makes the hallway explode, too, which I don't understand the point of. Barrett tells everyone to split up, and meet up in the hideout in Sector 8.

Finally alone, Cloud meets Aerith for the first time. I wasn't able to buy flowers from her, no idea what I did wrong. But I tell her to get out, without telling her the reason, which she does.

This is the place from the intro, with sad, whistful music. Cars are overturned, this place is clearly a slum. It also clearly wasn't always one. The game already starts with one of it's themes: The better past, compared to the horrible present. It's not the first time, even in the small part that I played, that we find fragments from earlier, happier times, when everything wasn't horrible.

So, this game isn't quite cyberpunk (considering there is no cyberspace, or even internet), but it's clearly some kind of depressing, dystopian punk-setting. Feel free to suggest the correct setting to me, until then, I will stay with cyberpunk. From the start, it's very disillusional of the coming-to-pass of many of our wishes. This society got energy, to use on great things. But not for everyone. The poor might have TVs, and even other, fun stuff, but the price was high - and no one asked them. Or, more likely, they were brought in by empty promises. Which might be the better way, anyway, as we will see later on.

No one remembers, how this town was called, before it was eaten up by Midgar. It's just a number now. It gave up everything, for cheap energy and being part of this moloch.

In case this isn't clear, FF VII is extremely unsubtle. Which is fine by me, but I might talk about some of these points way more than necessary. Please feel warned. As mentioned, that stuff just hits hard, for me. The message, that we should be careful about what we wish for, is scary. Like other things in this game, it's a reimagination of the old tale of the Djinn, who might grant you wishes, but in a corrupted fashion.

It's always fascinating to me, when old myths, legends and monsters are brought into the presence, with only a new coat on. A troll under a bridge, who demands payment for letting you pass, might be reinterpreted as highway thugs. Or, with FF VII, the evil overlord and his castle, might be the CEO of an awful, powerful company, with the main building of the company the new version of the dark fortress.

To talk about Midgar itself, I feel pretty confident in seeing in it a reinterpretation of Vector. Especially the reactors feel and look very much like the Magitek Research Facility, or however it was called - all metal. But also the city itself, both Vector and Shinra are hellholes of steel. In Midgars case, decaying steel, the places have long since turned into slums.

In this sense, I feel like someone was fascinated by the idea of Vector, and just the other version of the story: What if Gestahl hadn't been overthrown by Kefka? And made his dream come true. Except, that we reinterpret it, from a fascist, military dictatorship of Ubermenschen to the conquering of the world through a disgusting corproration, that treats it's people like garbage. And this seems to be the basis of FF VII. Again, a small part of the former game was used as a basis for the newer game.

Like, maybe FF VI started with the idea of having a bigger, better open world, at the end. And everything went from there? Just a stray thought.

As mentioned, FF VII is very unsubtle. No flowers or plants are growing in this hellhole. And, through the plate for the better part of the city, Shinra even took the stars (and presumably the sunlight) from it's lower class citizens. It took away every form of nature, and exchanged it with man-made, inferior replacements.

Aside from the good past vs the awful present, there are two other themes in the game. On of them is, of course, the freedom of Nature vs the imprisonment in artificiality. The sky seems to play some role here, as a visual indicator - I mentioned it at the beginning, because I think it is important.

And another theme, the class struggle, between rich and poor, signified by elevation. Similar to that one city in FF VI, whose name escapes me already, there are at least three places in VII, where the lower classes are imprissoned (I think that's true for Midgar, I can't imagine how a regular person could even leave this place) at the lower parts, and the richer ones live in the upper parts.

I have played further, but this post is already long enough. I'll end with the grafity, that Aerith and Cloud can see:

Don't be fooled by Shinra!
Mako energy doesn't last forever!
Mako is the planet's lifesource!
The end is in sight!

By Avalanche, the protectors (well, "protectors") of the planet.

Of course, how could I forget the main theme of "Humanity, in its greed, is destroying the whole planet"? This game just hits a bit too close to home, in more than one way.
 

ASandoval

Old Man Gamer
(he/him)
Of course, how could I forget the main theme of "Humanity, in its greed, is destroying the whole planet"? This game just hits a bit too close to home, in more than one way.

I don't want the conversation about this to playthrough to turn into litigating the remake (as it doesn't fit the grand experiment Felix is working through) but I recently replayed the remake on PS5 and then the intermission DLC after it and it still stuns me how much that game recognizes and embraces how relevant this particular entry is now in 2021.
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
After all, people didn't discover the problems with capitalism in the 2010s, and for that matter they didn't discover them in the 1990s either.
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
I recognized this, but actually never encountered it in the game. I only have experience with the german version, I'm playing it in English for the first time. Which, funnily enough, seems to make the translation less bad for me, as I don't necessarily recognize stuff like "This guy are sick." It doesn't help everywhere, though, as you will see in this post.

--------------------------------------

Well, time for the second part of the beginning. Cloud just met Aerith for the first time, leaving immediately, to run away from Shinras soldiers.

Uh, are these soldiers? I mean, what is the terminology here? They are, sort of, the police force here, only that they work just for Shinra, right? I just don't like to use the word "soldier" for these guys, because they aren't in SOLDIER. Work on your terminology, Shinra. I mean, come on.

Also, we are in the slums, no one cares for the protection of anyone here, except Shinras. No police required.

It's actually a nice place, where we try to run away from these guys. Seems like this was, a long time ago, a decent neighbourhood near the center of the town.

The only problem is, that these guys don't stop coming. The fights aren't hard, Cloud is pretty tough. But there is no point in killing endless people.

Should these people be judged? They just do their jobs, but their jobs include killing people, who do something that Shinra doesn't like. Are these people from the upper part of Midgar? Probably not, they would likely have "good" jobs, where you don't see blood regularly. I guess these people are recruited from outside Midgar, and from the slums? With the promise of working your way up? I imagine it is quite hard, to have a decent job in this hellhole. But...is it ok to do this work, and kill other people, for the jerks who made you take jobs like this in the first place?

Anyway, Cloud finally jumps on a train, where we meet up with Barret and his team. Uh, I thought we should meet up at the hideout? But no matter, we finally see Barrets softer side a bit - he ciritizises Cloud for making other people worry, which means clearly that he was worried himself. The others didn't show it, but they probably were too. They like Cloud.

So, let's talk characters, at least a bit. I already said a bit about Cloud, and here, we see his snarky side. He has a bit of fun with Barret, who explodes at everything. This isn't a sad Cloud, he still is in high spirits.

Barret is angry. All the people we meet (except Reeve?), probably most on the planet, where hurt by Shinra, in some way. Barret is one of the best examples. He is in so much pain, Shinra took so much from him. I don't remember the details, but I know that it was bad. And he shows that pain, nearly all the time. All this anger, it is painful to watch.

He needs to do something, but can't. Except for the terrorism. Because, what can you do, in such a situation?

People talked about the unique situation of the second half of FF VI. The bad guy has won, you lost. You missed the time limit. Yes, you still want to defeat Kefka, but only for a better tomorrow. There is no immediate urgency. You can take your time. It might get worse, but not immediately.

I feel like this here is a similar situation. Sure, there will be all the stuff about Sephiroth, and how we have to stop a comet from destroying the planet. But that has only felt like a side-story to me, for years. The main thing we are dealing here is Shinra. A company, that took over the world, and is destroying it. Sephiroth, too, is just a subchapter to all the awful stuff they are doing. Yes, we have to stop them, and the end is clearly coming closer, but we don't need to be faster than the enemy. We already weren't. Shinra won, long ago, and we can only struggle to get out of it's clutches.

So, what are our options here? Terrorism is horrible, something the game is very aware of. But what else is there to do, for Barret, when he clearly thinks that Shinra has to be stopped, or the planet will die? Is there even fighting spirit, in the people of the slums? Do they just take Shinra for granted, and are thankful for the energy? Most probably just want to get through the day, too exhausted from the grim world, they live in.

Barrets anger needs to go, somewhere. I don't think he sees another option. And, honestly, I wouldn't know where to start.

After jumping down once again, into another train (? I sometimes have a hard time understanding what exactly is happening), we scare away the other passengers. Here, we clearly see - we aren't heroes. People are scared of us. Except for some homeless people, who actually live here.

We learn a bit about Wedge. He has big dreams, romantic thoughts about being a terrorist. He clearly doesn't understand the implication of what we are doing here, that we have killed and hurt a lot of people, and made their lifes harder, because they are now out of energy. He wants to be a hero, but he is just a kid.

We learn a bit about Midgar, from Jessie. About the eight reactors, of which we destroyed one. Of the fact, that the wealthy people live on a plate, that makes it impossible for us to see the stars. It seems to be possible, to get up there, with enough money. So, I guess you can buy a house up there, and then just move? Probably not that easy. There clearly are jobs here (the people we scared away seem to have come from work), but they likely don't pay well. Maybe another sector is less awful, and has something like a middle class? I imagine not, below the plate, everything is likely bad.

We also learn, that the eight sectors have been single towns, at one point. But it is so long ago, that no one remembers their names. Only their numbers are used, now. Just one thing more, that Midgar and Shinra destroyed.

Next is the part, where we learn about the ID check, and that Jessie took care of this. She is right, it worked. She also say that, next time, she will give Cloud one that she made herself. Here, the translation lost me, I had no idea what "one" was. I know, by now.

Oh, right, I forgot to mention that the lower parts of Midgar are literally poisonous. The air is polluted.

Aside from the money thing, Barret also says, that people don't want to leave their beloved homes. Which, yeah, I get that. Do they remember, when the sectors were just towns? I imagine it is hard to leave the place behind, where you maybe grew up? But, while I get that, I assume it has to be this bad for a long time now. At some point, many people will realize that this isn't what they remember as their homes anymore. I don't know.

As a side thing, I like how people often have multiple things to say, instead of repeating only the one thing, every time. When getting off the train, the attendant talks about how he feels disconnected from the passengers. Quite a nice monologue, there.

He is also the first one, to mention a war.

When we get back to the hideout, a bar, people already know about the explosion. Sure, it cost Shinra a ton of money. But it also cost many people their lifes. That's the problem, isn't it? The assholes at the top of Shinra hide behind...basically most other people of the world, certainly of Midgar. You want to hurt Shinra, the guy? You will also hurt countless other people, who did nothing wrong. Which is way too close to home.

There are nice little details here. The weapon store owner threatens us, he doesn't like it when people don't buy things. And a boy offers us his bed, for either one or ten gil. I give him ten, because why not.

In the bar, we greet a little girl, Marlene. Barrets daughter. It is the first time, that we see him actually happy, which is nice. And, even though there still seems to be some yearning for better times in there, the music is, for the first time, somewhat happy.

Also, we meet Tifa, a childhood friend of Cloud.

We go into the secret part of the bar, where a news guy talks about the explosion. Is the guy human? He looks terrifying, like a weird robot.

We get some funny bits, where Barret gets angry at Cloud. Wedge tries to calm him down, and is thrown at the camera. It's funny, but it is also created through Barrets pain.

Barret still doesn't (want to?) trust Cloud, who demands his money, before going up again. Tifa follows, asking him to continue helping. She reminds us of a childhood promise, and we switch to a flashback.

We see them as kids, somewhere else. We can at least see the beautiful night sky. Cloud wants to leave for Midgar, so he can become a soldier. The best, like Sephiroth. Huh, that guy.

All Boys are seemingly leaving. I imagine, while Midgar is awful, it still focuses the ressources of the world. And other places, like Niblheim here, get left behind. You might not like the big city. But, maybe, it's the only place to get a job. How many jobs were lost, when Mako became the main energy source?

You know, even without the looming death of the planet, this giant amount of energy seems like and empty promise. Yes, you get what you were promised, but it costs you so much. Towns lose their purpose, others are eaten up. People might have a lot of energy, to use on all the artificial offerings. But they lose access to the sky and plants, to the planet. And, honestly, to their hopes and dreams. Because Midgar doesn't offer you anything.

After the flashback, Barret appears, throwing 1500 gil at Cloud. But Cloud was motivated to stay, offering to do the next job for a total payment of 3000. Barret gets angry again, as this is money for Marlenes schooling.

So, what schooling? There are certainly no public schools, at least not anymore here in the slums. Does he want her to move up? Are there people here, who offer lessons for money?

Next morning, the next mission awaits, another reactor to explode. Tifa comes along, this time, and we get a tutorial for Materia. It's cleverly done - Barret doesn't explain it to Cloud, like one would expect, but he asks Cloud to explain it to him.

At the train station, there are two people who have "had it". Then they fall down, and grown. Are they dying? What is happening?

On the train, we again scare the regular people away. The train attendant is frustrated, probably the same guy as during the night. Barret doesn't like that (come on, calm down you jerk), and screams at the attendant. Who actually breaks down, crying. Tifa stops Barret from being more of a jerk than he already is.

Also, our fake ID's don't work anymore, and we are detected. In every train car, there is a time limit, and we have to get further forward, so we don't get stuck in one of the cars. Which seems pretty lame, why the wait? Just close us in. But Shinra isn't an actually competent company, if I remember correctly, so that probably fits.

Anyway, we run to the front of the train, and jump, landing in a very boring tunnel. Which we can leave pretty soon (if you aren't an idiot, like me, and decide to look the other way, because there might be something there - there isn't). We find Jessie, who clearly has a crush on Cloud. She made a special ID for him, which was the very thing that got us found out.

Jessie isn't particularly old either, is she? Still in her late teens? I wonder what her motivation is, for being in a terrorist organisation.

The reactor looks, of course, exactly like the first one. I use my first tent, and it's the first time in the series, that we don't see it visually used. Which would be silly, of course, to camp inside a Mako reactor, but it's worth mentioning.

Also, Setzers special ability hasn't been forgotten. Tifas Limit Break is Slots, just one for now, though. I like it.

When we get to the center of the reactor, Cloud hears voices again, and has a flashback. We see Tifa, kneeling near her dead(?) dad, saying "Sephiroth?" She screams, hating him, Shinra, Mako, and basically everything. With a sword, she runs into the next room.

Sephiroth again. I think, if I didn't know what happened there, I would be very intrigued.

Back in the present, we attach the bomb, and run. To get outside, we have to play our first minigame, where we have to press a button at the same time as Barret and Tifa. It's pretty clumsy, as there is no indicator when you have to press. Just some trial and error.

We continue, but are met by Shinras soldiers. And then, President Shinra himself appears. It's a really weird scene. Why is this guy even here? Sure, we are a problem, but maybe you could stay away, and not meet up with guys who probably want to kill you? Why does he care? He has people for stuff like us.

Also, Cloud talks like he knows this guy. Is this a bad translation, or was it part of an earlier draft, where Cloud and Shinra had some connection in the past? Probably not the latter, because Shinra doesn't know Cloud. But he heard about the guy who quit SOLDIER.

We learn, that cloud was exposed to Mako, or is, at least, supposed to have been. Shinra also mentions Sephiroth, who was brilliant. Emphasis on "was".

But that's it, Shinra says, he is bored, gets a helicopter and flies away, after sending a death robot at us.

What. This game does many things very well, but it's main antagonist, for now, is a cartoon villain. He knows that he is evil, and he totally has to meet up with us. I guess he sleeps in a bed made out of gil bills, or something. Just, why are you so lame? Just die and send Rufus, who is way better done than you.

The robot is another boss fight, slightly gimmicky, but not too hard. A tutorial for being surrounded, only that we did surround the robot. After the fight, he explodes, and Cloud falls. Barret is unable, but also clearly unwilling, to help him, when he hangs on, before finally falling down.

--------------------------------------------

Well, that's it for now. There would still be a bit left, but because I just can't help myself and always go onto some tangents, it's already very long, and I'm starting to get tired. Also, it's a very good place to stop.

I hope I'm not going too much on tangents, but I did warn you. There is just so much to talk about, with this game.
 
Uh, are these soldiers? I mean, what is the terminology here? They are, sort of, the police force here, only that they work just for Shinra, right? I just don't like to use the word "soldier" for these guys, because they aren't in SOLDIER. Work on your terminology, Shinra. I mean, come on.
Like Bongo said, Remake distinguishes them better from SOLDIER, but the original game does sometimes call them soldiers, in lowercase. I assume it was a localization issue, where the Japanese text uses a word that literally translates to "soldier" for those guys and the English word "soldier" for Shinra's elite military organization, which is clearly different from the Japanese word, but had to be distinguished somehow in English, so they put it in all caps. Incidentally, how was it handled in German?

Also, we are in the slums, no one cares for the protection of anyone here, except Shinras. No police required.
In Remake, there are a few Shinra soldiers (not SOLDIERs) in the slums, but it's clear that they're only there to keep the people living there in line, not to protect them.

Also, Setzers special ability hasn't been forgotten. Tifas Limit Break is Slots, just one for now, though. I like it.
Tifa's limits are weird. Sabin has directional inputs like you would see in Street Fighter, Zell in FFVIII has button combos that are more similar to Tekken, and in between, Tifa has timed hits represented by slot machine reels, which is not like any fighting game I'm aware of. They all have some of the same moves, though. Tifa's first limit break is supposed to be Sabin's first Blitz, Pummel, but they don't have the same name in English, so the connection is lost, and I think Zell's version of it has yet another different name. Oh well.

We learn a bit about Midgar, from Jessie. About the eight reactors, of which we destroyed one. Of the fact, that the wealthy people live on a plate, that makes it impossible for us to see the stars. It seems to be possible, to get up there, with enough money. So, I guess you can buy a house up there, and then just move? Probably not that easy. There clearly are jobs here (the people we scared away seem to have come from work), but they likely don't pay well. Maybe another sector is less awful, and has something like a middle class? I imagine not, below the plate, everything is likely bad.

We also learn, that the eight sectors have been single towns, at one point. But it is so long ago, that no one remembers their names. Only their numbers are used, now. Just one thing more, that Midgar and Shinra destroyed.
I've had an idea kicking around in my head since I first played FFVII that with eight sectors and top and bottom areas in each one, the whole game could have taken place in Midgar, and maybe been better off for it, since it's a really cool setting that goes mostly unexplored. The first few hours of the game are always my favorite, largely because of Midgar. Once you leave, FFVII's world turns into more of a standard JRPG world, with such classic locales as "desert town with a cave nearby", "snowy town with a cave nearby" and "Asian-themed town with a cave nearby". There is certainly something to be said for a standard JRPG world with a huge dystopian cyberpunk city in the middle of it, taking over everything, though.

Remake delivers a full game set entirely in Midgar, but it still leaves most of the city unseen. It does show off a few areas that weren't in the original, though. In particular, one of the sectors on top of the plate is basically a suburb full of prefab houses, where Shinra's middle managers live. So yeah, there is a middle class, but not in the slums.
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
Like Bongo said, Remake distinguishes them better from SOLDIER, but the original game does sometimes call them soldiers, in lowercase. I assume it was a localization issue, where the Japanese text uses a word that literally translates to "soldier" for those guys and the English word "soldier" for Shinra's elite military organization, which is clearly different from the Japanese word, but had to be distinguished somehow in English, so they put it in all caps. Incidentally, how was it handled in German?
Good to know, thanks, you two. In German, they basically do it the same way, just translating SOLDIER to the German equivalent: SOLDAT.

I've had an idea kicking around in my head since I first played FFVII that with eight sectors and top and bottom areas in each one, the whole game could have taken place in Midgar, and maybe been better off for it, since it's a really cool setting that goes mostly unexplored. The first few hours of the game are always my favorite, largely because of Midgar. Once you leave, FFVII's world turns into more of a standard JRPG world, with such classic locales as "desert town with a cave nearby", "snowy town with a cave nearby" and "Asian-themed town with a cave nearby". There is certainly something to be said for a standard JRPG world with a huge dystopian cyberpunk city in the middle of it, taking over everything, though.
Yeah, many people seem to think so, and I understand why. Midgar is very interesting, and it's a shame how little of it you get to explore. The main thing I want to do is visit the upper part of the city, to find out how people live up there. Is it a police state? Is everyone so well off, that no one cares for the bad things Shinra does? Do people up there know, how bad the live for people in the lower parts is? Are they controlled by the constant fear of having to move down there, if they don't behave?

But yeah, I get the idea. That said, I always thought it was a good idea to show us the whole world. If we spent all our time in Midgar, we would learn a ton about it, but, as you said, having this city (or, more precisely, this company) have an iron grip on the whole world is important. If it's just Midgar that is controlled by Shinra, you might just move. Maybe, on a different continent, live would be still nice. But, as it is, there is no escaping Shinra. I always found that very important.

Also, I wonder if the way president Shinra is introduced, and how Cloud seems to know him (a plot thread that goes nowhere, and isn't even picked up ever again, if I remember correctly) is just a relict from earlier, when the game was supposed to play just in Midgar. I vaguely remember reading that this was the plan, at the start, anyway. Giving Cloud and Shinra a connection there wouldn't be a bad thing. But then, it could just be a bad translation, maybe Cloud just said something like "What is that guy doing here?" Dunno, I really wished there was a better translation of the game out there.

Remake delivers a full game set entirely in Midgar, but it still leaves most of the city unseen. It does show off a few areas that weren't in the original, though. In particular, one of the sectors on top of the plate is basically a suburb full of prefab houses, where Shinra's middle managers live. So yeah, there is a middle class, but not in the slums.
From what I heard about the remake, I thought it was often just padding things out with very long dungeons. I heard about the player visiting part of the upper plate, but it always sounded like Square still didn't use the full potential there. A shame. But at least you learn something about how people up there live.
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
After Clouds fall, he wakes up in a church, with Aerith at his side. Flowers, and the roof of the church, cushioned his fall. Soft, calming music plays, and we are finally in a place that promises something good, something more. And Aerith is here.

The game makes it pretty clear - Aerith is life, Aerith is the one who promises a bit more out of this sad and tired city. She is our hope.

Apparently, she has a Materia from her mum, that doesn't do anything. Huh, interesting. Also interesting is the fact, that Materia seems to be everywhere. So, is it just some kind of garbage, that is left from Shinras abuse of the planets energy? It's weird - these little balls of power give us fantastic capabilities. Not just for battle, but they allow people to create fire, steal effectively and even heal wounds. And they grow stronger. Everyone can use them.

But regular people probably don't, or at least not much. Or, maybe that's wrong, there are shops that sell Materia. Honestly, even the weapon shops seem sensible here - these are slums, there certainly are uncountable poor people (just think of the guys who live in a train), who might use violence to get their food.

Still, these amazing things are just a part of life now. As is the big amount of energy, the gives you infinte, disgusting green light, and maybe toys. I guess the cool stuff is reserved for the middle and upper classes. For the people here, these were only empty promises.

After some talking, a few guys appear, and Aerith asks Cloud to be her bodyguard. It's Reno, the first of the Turks we meet. We lead them away from the flowers, they are precious. There is a fun bit, where Reno steps over them, and then tells his goons to not step on them, themselves.

It's an interesting introduction, of this dangerous group. The Turks want Aerith, and have wanted her for years, but they don't use force (or at least, they didn't up to now, I assume) and have a certain respect for Aerith. Reno also is basically without any stress, he probably enjoys life in this world. But he probably also gets out of Midgar often enough, and is likely part of the upper class.

Next up is a weird minigame. We can tell Aerith from the top where to go, so that she avoids the goons, and have some barrels to throw down, if Aerith is in the right place. Or, I guess that's how it works, because I couldn't interact with the barrels, except in examining them. Didn't matter, giving her an attack spell Materia makes Aerith more than capable of defending herself.

At the top of the church, we learn about the Turks, and that they look for new SOLDIER recruits, aside from doing other dirty stuff. We hear Reno call Aerith an Ancient, but she doesn't talk about this here.

So, the Turks are basically the recurring villains of this game, similar to Ultros and Gilgamesh, right? We fight them a few times, and they are way more relaxed and enjoy themselves, than most other people on the planet. They are also assassins. Even the recurring villain, who was used for jokes in the last two games, is a good bit darker (textual, not only subtextual, as it was with Gilgamesh).

We flee through the whole that Cloud made, when falling from above, and get away easily. For that, we jump over rubble, which shows us again stuff from old times. There is even a Greek pillar, but also other stuff, that talk about a better past.

Cloud and Aerith work really well together, with him making good-natured fun of her condition, which they both laugh about. It's the first time that Cloud isn't on a job, and it's also the first time where he can actually let loose. Aerith seems to relax him.

Before going to Aerith' place, we visit the Wall Market. There is a sick guy, with a tattoo with the number 2. Huh. It's also where "this guy are sick" comes from. Good to finally find out.

Aerith' place is basically the prettiest thing in the whole city, I imagine. The church also was a nice place with a calm atmosphere (and, I guess, a commentary on how religion fell to the wayside, when people started getting more enjoyable lives through the use of Mako). There is a small garden with a lot of flowers, a waterfall and even the sun is shining. This is more symbolic than it makes sense, but it's nice to find a place like this here.

Aerith mum thanks us for helping her daughter. Cloud shares his plans, to get back to Tifas bar. For the record, it's the first time that I realized that the Seventh Heaven is called that, because it is in sector seven. Aerith offers to show us the way, it's dangerous. Which, when Aerith is upstairs, her mother asks us to ignore, and to go during the night. She doesn't want her daughters heart to be broken again.

There is also the weird stuff about Aerith asking Cloud, if Tifa is his girlfriend. I don't care much about this weird love triangle, that isn't really one, I think? I mean, there is no antagonism between Tifa and Aerith, and not much about romantic feelings in general. Dunno, a bit more comes up later, but I will ignore it. Those three work as friends well enough.

Cloud tries to slip away during the night, but Aerith awaits him. She doesn't care about the whole "too dangerous for girls" nonsense. Good for her, though no one should have to deal with Hell Houses, which are still one of my favourite enemies in any JRPG. Such a weird monster.

Soon, we get to the gate of sector 7. There is a playground, which looked a bit sparse, but still nice. Except now, the stuff is old and rusty. Aerith likes this place. I guess her mother went here from time to time, to play. There are a few hints that Midgar didn't become the hellhole it now is over night, which makes sense. So, maybe the way from the house to the playground wasn't always horribly dangerous.

She asks Cloud about his rank in SOLDIER. A flash of light - he was first class. Just like Aerith first boyfriend. Intriguing.

I really like, how the game not only does a lot of good world building, but also drops these hints of interesting stuff. It is a pretty good mystery game. If I didn't know the story, I certainly would want to learn more.

Suddenly, the gate opens, and a carriage with a Chocobo appears. Chocobo! Considering they have cars here, that is probably just some luxury nonsense of Don Corneo. Tifa is inside, so we follow, and get to one of the weirder parts of the game.

Tifa was brought to the Honeybee Inn, or more precisely, to Don Corneos place. When trying to get in, Cloud is not welcome. Only women! So, Aerith comes up with the plan of dressing Cloud up as a woman, and to get inside together. Which starts a bit of an Adventure game part.

First, we need a dress. But the boss of the clothes shop is in a slump. We need to find him, which we do at a bar, where he is drinking his problems away, I guess. Granted, the demand for interesting clothes is probably not that high, here in the slums.

First, he is not interested, but when Aerith tells him that Cloud always wanted to dress like a girl, he gets his motivation back. Which is actually pretty nice, I think. No judgement, the guy just accepts that there is this dude who wants to dress like a girl.

We even get to decide on the finer points of the dress. We choose for it to be soft and shimmering. The dress is soon ready, and Cloud changes. He has a bit of trouble (I can only assume that some dresses might be hard to put on, without experience?), which makes Aerith look. Because she loves it, when Cloud squirms a little. Still, feels like it is in good fun. That's the general mood, that I get from their interactions.

But the dress isn't enough, we also need a wig. Which we might get in the gym. Which is a weird place to get something like this, but that's fine. Which leads to a funny scene, where someone asks Cloud, if he is the one who wants to be cute. Which seems like a sweet question? And, while there is no judgement, there are the broest of all bros in the gym, who challenge Cloud to squats. Which leads to another minigame, very easy this time. But first, Aerith asks the challenger if he is the "Beautiful Bro". What. Should I know this guy? Why does she know? Is he popular? I want to know more.

Big Bro, presumably, would also love to look cute, but can't win. He is very mad, but the person with the wig just punches him against he wall, telling him to shut up.

This was a beautiful and weird scequence. I enjoyed it a lot.

With the full outfit, we go back to Don Corneo, where we get in and find Tifa. And here, we get the first clear proof, that Cloud is just a dork. He runs up to Tifa, but feels to embarased, and so turns around and just stands there. Aerith just talks to her, introduces herself and then tells Tifa that this is Cloud.

Again, no judgement. Honestly, most of this is just goofy and fun, which I didn't expect. No one has a problem with Cloud putting on a dress. Dunno, maybe I'm wrong (please tell me, if you disagree, I'm curious), but it seems to treat the subject surprisingly well. For the most part.

Aerith stands on the side, so that Cloud and Tifa can talk about what happened. Basically, she and Barret overheared someone saying something about the Don, and Tifa decided to invastigate. Which became problematic, because the Don will now choose a bride.

At this point, Aerith stops pretending (you can see her look, from time to time, and Cloud and Tifa, because she obviously does not respect their privacy. Which is not ok, but it's really nice, seeing a character who has actually a lot of fun in her live. Cloud tries to argue again about them not getting into danger, because they are GIRLS, and is totally ignored. Not gonna lie, it feels really good, and reminds me a bit about the end part of FF IV, where Rosa and Rydia decide that Cecil is an idiot. Except here, they don't care about what Cloud has to say at all. He goes along with their plan, not vice versa.

At this point, we are called to Don Corneo. He looks at all three, with Cloud always looking away. Corneo decides to take Tifa, and gives over Cloud and Aerith to his goons.

Well, I said for the most part, this was handled surprisingly well. But Cloud, being slowly chased by zombie-like guys for gross reasons is, well, gross. And, while there is some nice physical comedy in Aerith, stopping the guy from chasing her and making him fall down the stairs that way, it's not any less gross.

So, we enter Corneos bedroom, where we force him to tell us what he knows. Which he does, though everyone threatens to do something painful to "them". It's just really goofy and weird, and also really funny.

He tells us - Shinra wants to destroy the whole sector 7, by dropping the upper plate on the lower one, by destroying the support beam. And then, blaming AVALANCHE for it.

Which seems like a bit extreme? I mean, sure, you will make everyone hate AVALANCHE, after that. But maybe don't be so cold to the people who live on the upper part of the city? But then, Shinra (person or company) doesn't care about anyone, except for himself, I guess. Still, what about next time someone stands up to Shinra? Just drop another plate?

But we don't get out, to warn anyone. Corneo activates a trapdoor, and we find ourselves in the sewers.

First, though, we change to the Board of Directors of Shinra. It's the first time, that we see the main scumbags of the company, including the loser Heidegger and the one with the complicated feelings, Reeve. Heidegger ordered the Turks to destroy the pillar. Reeve says he has a bad feeling about this, thinking the reaction is over the top. The mayor seems to be against it, too, but that guy doesn't seem to have any say anymore.

I did find interesting, that Shinra would send a rescue operation. I honestly can't imagine them to have something like this, here, in this hellhole of a city.

So, Don Corneo has a lot of money, and could probably buy his way into the upper parts of the city, right? Why doesn't he move? Probably a dumb question, up there, he couldn't do stuff like he does here. And he wouldn't feel like a king, or whatever he thinks of himself.

Also, as we learn later, while there once was a train that connected the upper and lower parts of Midgar, that train isn't working anymore. Is there an official way, to get to the upper parts? Or are we at a point, where people are mainly stuck below? Would anyone from below be accepted above?

So, we get our first glimpse of Heidegger, who is basically the worst. Completely incompetent, I would assume? Reeve, on the other hand, seems to actually care, not only about the city, but also the people? Maybe? He certainly cares about the city itself, which might be based on him being the head of the Urban Development Department. Even aside from any people, seeing parts of his planned out city destroyed probably hurts him.

Maybe that is a cynical read, and he does care a bit about the people. But there can't be much of this, as he needs his time as Cait Sith to learn about us, before coming around. Dunno, his position makes the interpretation of him only caring about the destroyed city, his baby, viable, I think.

When switching back to our heroes, we find ourselves in the sewers. Which are, thankfully, just on screen long. Before getting out, we fight another boss, some weird monster that can attack us all with a Tsunami. Very straight-forward boss, though. Fitting, though, to have a Tsunami attack in a sewer. Also, very gross.

Interestingly, we meet Sahagins again, for the first time since...FF I? I'm not sure, but I think we haven't seen them in a good while. They were actually decent oponents, with their resistance to physical attacks. Also, the Steal Materia is down here.

Out of the sewers, we find ourselves in a train graveyard. Not much to say, except that it's another sad place that remembers the past and morns it's death. It is slightly hard to find the way forward, though. It is actually part of the regular train station, where we find the attendant again. He heard the rumors about the plate being dropped. He doesn't want to leave, though, as he loves his station. Well, Barret was right, I guess.

Which means, we have another theme here: Home is special and important. Considering that the planet is the home of us all, this works very well.

Behind the train station, we find the entrance to the pillar, where people are fighting. So, the whole adventure with Don Corneo was basically pointless, Barret found out anyway, and Cloud, Aerith and Tifa just lost time. Because the other members of AVALANCE are already fighting.

Wedge falls from the top, surprised that Cloud remembers his name. He tells us, that Barret is fighting, at the top. I think he died, afterwards. Tifa asks Aerith to take care of Marlene. Which is a very good reason to send her away. Also, she isn't part of AVALANCHE, and this is, kind of, it's last mission.

On the way to the top, we also meet Biggs and Jessie, who all seem to be near death. Jessie has realized that what we did killed countless people.

Finally, we find Barret, who tries to shoot a helicopter, which doesn't work. Reno jumps out, and pushes a button, which sets a bomb. We need to disarm it, but Reno is in the way. So, we fight.

I remember watching this fight, when my friend did it. The Pyramid technique seemed really overpowered - I'm not sure if we realized, that we could just attack it one time, and it's gone. Still, Reno hits hard, and if he had stayed for a bit longer, he would have been actually challenging.

It's a fight, that we can't really win (because Reno just runs), but where we still have to do a specific amount of damage. I like these versions of unwinable boss fights - you still need to achieve something, so you don't just waste ressources.

Disarming the bomb doesn't work. Another helicopter, with another Turk named Tseng, appears. He tells us, that only Shinra executives can set the bomb, and also only they can disarm them.

Which, ok, this means that Shinra build a self-destruct button into their supporting pillars. I honestly can't think of a reason to do that. Shinra had probably not gone too immoral, when setting up the plate. I assume, the company wasn't even all-powerful, back then, and he sold the idea to the mayor. Nice, simple living places below, better ones above. But everyone would get infinite energy. So, why include such a self-destruct button? I mean, I don't have an answer for this, in general, it sounds like a very dumb idea.

Anyway, Tseng got Aerith, and will bring her to the HQ. Just before the detonation. Cloud, Tifa and Barret can barely make it out, in a pretty cool cutscene plays (must have looked amazing, back in the day). And with that, we lost.

AVALANCHE certainly did. Most of it's member, probably all idealistic children, just died. Together with countless others. Barret screams for Marlene, but also for his team. But they are all dead. Shinra is more powerful, they defeated us. The terrorism is over.

It's pretty brutal. Sure, we cost Shinra a lot of money, but that probably doesn't matter much. Whatever we did, up to now, was pointless. We didn't hurt the evil empire. It didn't really care, and will use our actions against us, to build up the public opinion of itself.

Could we even win, if the stuff with Sephiroth wouldn't happen? Or the Weapons? It's the first FF that deals with an evil empire on the height of it's power, being under it's thumb.

Tifa also asks the uncomfortable question: How much of what has happened is our fault? Had we done nothing, all these people wouldn't have lost their lives. Barret disagress, blaming Shinra for everything. We, as Cloud, don't even get a chance to say anything.

The game clearly knows, that terrorism isn't the answer. But it also doesn't feed us the correct one. The situation, like the one in FF VII, is just too complicated.

The problem is, powerful entities always have hostages. If you boycott a big company, and the company makes less money, the first one who will pay for this are employees who will lose their job. If workers go on strike, aside from them, the customers of the company will suffer, because they don't get their (maybe essential) goods or services.

It's sensible and moral to assume at least part of the responsibility. But if there is a problematic entity, especially as powerful as Shinra, part of the blame is always on them, too. That isn't an answer - AVALANCHEs actions still lead to the death of people, who wouldn't have died, without them. But it is important to fight. That said, terrorism is very likely not the right call. It certainly wasn't here, because it didn't help, and it cost so many people their lives. Even just the explosion of the reactor, which was straight-up on us.

Shinra has to be stopped. But terrorism isn't the answer. Here, the game seems pretty clear. From the start, our actions cost other people their lives. There has to be a better way.
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
Took a look at a wiki, you are right. They just didn't register with me, I guess, because they don't have the classic pose from FF I.
 
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