Final Fantasy VII Recap, Ep VII: Rocket Science and Ninja Hijinks

Last time on Let’s Play Final Fantasy VII, we picked up a ninja in a random encounter and stuffed her in a Bag of Holding, cruelly refused to tell Zack’s parents what happened to him, visited Nanaki’s people and had our hearts wrenched, visited the hometown of Tifa and Cloud and had our heebies jeebied, and picked up one of Hojo’s lab experiments taking a nap in a casket. (As opposed to Morgan Freeman’s Vincent taking a bath in a casket.)

Then we headed into the mountains north of Nibelheim where—

Use Trine on this
AUUUGH I haven’t saved in an hour blammmity blam blam flail flail hack slash bite maul… oh. Oops. There was a really powerful blue magic spell that we could’ve learned from this thing, wasn’t there?

Moving right along…

We also peeked in on the Mt. Nibel Mako reactor, where Sephiroth had his epic flounce five years ago. Pods closed up, Jenova room locked, nothing to see in the *flashy MIB red laser pen* what reactor?

So. Our next stop is Rocket Town, loomed over by an unsafe rocket. I hope someone decanted the fuel from this puppy, which looks to be one lightning strike away from turning Rocket Town into Rocket Crater.

The rocket of Rocket town

It occurs to me that flammable trees and houses aren’t particularly well-placed in this spaceport.

Locals tell us that this hulk is the shattered dream of one “Captain,” the village celebrity.

The Captain was a pilot when Shinra was still interested in their Space Program.

Ow. This backstory was less painful back when my Dad’s company still built rockets for NASA’s manned space program. Remember that old thing? Yeah.

The house closest to the rocket is full of odds and ends of half-built machinery — look, it’s Cid-spoor! — and a wee plane in back. Cloud casts a covetous eye over it.

Cloud: There's a Shinra logo on it. Tiny Bronco-- this is cool.

Cait Sith is the unexpected voice of Jiminy Cricket, telling Cloud that he’ll get in trouble with his boss we’ll get in “deep trouble” for stealing it.

Before Cloud can start fondling the fuselage, a lab-coated woman named Shera hurries out of the house and says that we’ll have to ask the Captain if we want to borrow it. She also exposits that President Hair Flip is scheduled to stop by shortly, hopefully to re-fund the space program.

Rufus, eh? You know, back at Shinra HQ, Cloud told Barret that fighting Rufus was the “real crisis of the Planet.” We let him slip through our fingers in Junon and on the ferry to Costa del Sol. Maybe it’s time to tie up that loose end so we can focus on Sephiroth?

…Heck no. Acquiring a Final Fantasy airship takes priority!

So we climb the unsafe rocket to meet the Captain, who acts as tour guide by telling us the rocket program’s ill-fated history.

Cid: They chose the bets pilot in Shinra -- no, in the world -- me. I mean, come on.

Yup, he’s FF7’s Cid — surnamed Highwind, just in case we missed the fact that the old-school FF roles of dragoon and Cid have been combined in one character. Who flies airships instead of dragons. And has the best goddamn theme music.

(Fan cover of Cid’s theme)

I say “goddamn” because that’s his second favorite word. (His favorite is “^%$#!”)

By the way, Cid says that during the last “meaningless war,” Shinra was a weapons manufacturer, not a power company. That war was not long ago, since Elmyra’s husband was fighting in it. I gotta admire Shinra’s diabolical corporate ten-year plan:

  1. Attack neighboring countries and sell them weapons.
  2. Sell conquered countries Mako reactors built as quickly and cheaply as possible.
  3. OOPS Corel’s reactor blew up. And so did Gongaga’s. Terrorism, of course! Now we must raise taxes to keep our military well-funded. For your protection!
  4. (You aren’t thinking of rebelling, are you?)
  5. Meanwhile we’re testing Titan-style rockets that double as intercontinental ballistic missiles. No reason. *whistle*

Von Braun Cid seems to have been willfully oblivious to his rocket’s military potential; his dreams were all about space exploration.

But because of that dumb-ass Shera, the launch got messed up. That's why they became so anal!

That’s right! All it takes to dissuade Shinra from one of its pet projects is an accident like a failed rocket launch or a genetically modified soldier wiping out a town or a reactor blowing up! Oh wait.

Cid: Then, it was all over once they found out that Mako energy was profitable. They didn't even so much as look at space exploration.

So in other words, the space program’s cancellation was actually Shinra’s fault, like everything else in this entire game. Which is why Cid’s dealt with it by blaming and verbally abusing Shera every day since the failed launch.

GODDAMMIT Shera. What are you, blind?!

“…We got guests!! GET SOME TEA! ^%$#!”

Not that he won’t extend his winning ways to guests:

Cid: Shut up! Sit your ass down in that chair and drink your goddamn TEA!

FF7 Cid’s most famous quote. I love the fact that no one finds Cait Sith the least bit out of the ordinary.

After Cid storms out for a cigarette break, Shera meekly explains that it really is all her fault — oh come on — and tells us why.

Flashback!cam takes us back to the day of the launch, when Shera decided it would be a fabulous idea to check the oxygen tanks a few minutes before lift-off. Ground control tells Cid there’s a technician in a restricted area, and he calls down to order her out of the danger zone.

Cid: It's gonna get so hot in there that there ain't gonna be SHIT left when we blast off.

*sits on hands and tries not to nitpick all the inaccuracies in this sequence from the cockpit to the… engine room?! In a rocket?!*

Shera says she doesn’t mind dying and to go ahead with the launch. I think this might be taking the submissive female role a tad far. Cid cusses her out and wrestles with his conscience.

Cid: Oh man, the moon...outer space...my dreams...

He doesn’t actually abort the launch until several seconds after liftoff. The rocket rises a story or two, then falls back down, spinning for no good reason dramatic effect.

Some real-world examples of what happens to rockets in similar circumstances:

This scene was the first snippet of Final Fantasy that I ever watched (at a friend’s house). Fifteen years later, I am still gobsmacked by the miracles of anime physics.

End flashback.

In sum, Cid saved Shera’s life in order to make it a living hell. Because this game simply does not have enough anti-heroes, flawed protagonists, and jackasses richly deserving of wasabi wedgies.

Shera: That's why it's all right. I don't care what the Captain says; I'll live my life for him.

Holy chocobo, is there no therapist on this entire PLANET?

I indulge in a brief moment of crossover fantasy.

Make your own goddamn tea

Okay, I’m done ranting. Next, the (figure)head of the space program, Palmer, drops in to announce Rufus’ arrival. Oho! Someone finally notices the tea’s getting cold!

Can I have some too? With lotsa sugar and honey and... oh yeah, don't forget the lard!

Oh, look, fat jokes. Let’s fast forward to the acquiring-an-airship sequence before I break the controller.

Cloud: We'll be takin' that Tiny Bronco.

While President Rufus is out front telling Cid, “Nah, just kidding; I’m not restoring funding to your pet project; I just want to commandeer your other pet project, that mini-airship with the goofiest name since ‘Lunar Whale,'” Palmer is out back stealing it. That makes it — and him — fair game. Boss fight!

Palmer, director of SHinra space program

At least until the hotwired plane begins to move. Palmer dodges it, narrowly avoiding an Indiana Jones npc death, and then gets knocked offscreen by a Shinra truck.

Palmer: Urgh

Oookay. So our three battle party members hop aboard the Tiny Bronco, buzz President Shinra and Cid arguing out front…

Cid running as Tiny Bronco flies over

…and pick up Cid, who proves his secret dragoon credentials by running after the plane, overtaking it and leaping aboard.

Cid running along behind Bronco

Meanwhile, the rest of the party is safely bestowed inside Cloud’s back pocket. Thank goodness for that Bag of Holding.

Unfortunately, the president’s guards overcome their Stormtrooper gun training and score a hit on the plane’s tail.

Cid: There's gonna be a big splash. Hold onto your drawers and don't piss in 'em!

We splash down and have a lengthy strategy session with Cid dangling upside down as if puking.

Cloud: Can't we use it as a boat?

Right. Because when you crash a car or a plane in the water, it makes a PERFECT boat. Wait, what am I saying? This is Final Fantasy, in which a diving helmet with no oxygen tank allows three people to cross an entire ocean under water. Carry on. (But I still think Puny Bronco is the most pathetic excuse for a vehicle in any Final Fantasy, and that includes Balamb Garden wallowing like a leaky rubber duck.)

Cloud queries Cid about his plans. What about Shera?

Cid: Wife? Don't make me laugh! Just thinkin' 'bout marryin' her gives me the chills.

Which means, in FF speak, they should be married within two years. Well, at least we can spare Shera his delightful company for the remainder of our journey.

Cid throws in his lot with these “numbskulls” to get back at Shinra. He also mentions randomly that Rufus was going after Sephiroth at the Temple of the Ancients.

So of course we head to Wutai.

Yes, I know, the Temple of the Ancients has the NAIL BAT weapons that require no materia, handy for the Wutai sidequest. But I’m putting off the Temple of the Ancients as long as possible. You know why.

Final fantasy 7 world map

We put in near the southern tip of Wutai continent, since our Wimpy Bronco can only flounder across shallow water and land on sandy beaches.

As my chosen party begins to explore this land of fantasy rope bridges and rocky hills, Yuffie makes a break from the Bag of Holding where she’s been stuffed since the start of the last playthrough. “Wait wait wait!”

She insists that the road ahead is difficult and dangerous — unlike, say, the Cave of the Undead Gi or Mt. Nibel’s 1001 Dragons and Icky Bug Things — so we need her l33t ninja skillz to guide us. Vincent sees nothing particularly dangerous-looking on the path ahead. Like other dead Final Fantasy blokes, he’s developed a healthy posthumous dose of skepticism.

Vincent: Also, there's something unnatural in the way Yuffie's acting.

Says the man who turns into a slavering demon as his overdrive.

Yuffie’s wheedling is interrupted by an ambush of Shinra soldiers who are looking for someone else entirely. “Hey, that’s not them! These are the other guys from before,” they say cryptically. But they’re pissed at Cloud for outclassing them in the gun-twirling minigame, so they attack us anyway.

Vincent is so unconcerned by Shinra regulars that he continues talking to Yuffie.

Vincent: So what does this mean...You will explain this later.

Don’t bet on it it, ex-Turk.

(Cloud, why do you clutch at your fly when startled? Or is that a personal question?)

Yuffie: I didn't know! I have nothing to do with this one!

Vincent/other PC: “What do you mean, ‘This one’?”

The convo is cut short by battle swoosh, and Yuffie makes herself scarce.

[I tried this same scene with various PCs, most of who express suspicions along the same lines as Vincent. Cait Sith’s dialog is a little different. His first reaction is, “You serious? I can’t trust a person like you…But, I guess I’m not one to talk.”  When the Shinra troops appear, he says, “Not bad, Yuffie, not bad at all.” Yet another hint that the Wutai sidequest is meant to happen later.]

The redshirt fight is made more challenging by the fact that our materia-based magic, summons, and special skills have inexplicably vanished from the commands menu.

Shinra infantry in Wutai

Yuffie has stolen all our materia and run off. Aha, almost all. The pockets of her teeny tiny shorts were slightly too small to hold our entire inventory, so Aeris gets left with a Fire materia. This nearly offsets our lack of Nail Bat.

We random battle our way north to the Village of Wutai, which is a caricature of old-school east Asia from its musical theme to its architecture. (I would say old-school Japan, but “Wutai” is Chinese, and some of the residents have Russian names. Go figure).

Pagoda of Wutai

According to locals, Wutai is a popular tourist destination, although this seems to be the off-season. So, like a tourist, I’m going to take lots of gratuitous photos of the kanji for stealth_noodle to translate spiffy backgrounds.

No, Gramps! This isn't anyone you know! This is just some stranger who barged into our house!

Careful with the fourth wall, kid. Hey, at least we didn’t steal any of your stuff!

Final fantasy cats

This house is entirely filled with cats. And a materia we can’t reach, because Cloud is afraid of picking up cats and moving them out of the way. Oh, well, at least they mew instead of jingling like the cats in FFVIII.

Sorry, but we're entirely sold out now.

This shifty shopkeeper insists that all the sharp pointy things on display are samples only, not for sale. Note to Cloud: wearing SOLDIER duds in Wutai is about as diplomatic as an American visiting Vietnamese tourist sites dressed in a U.S. air force uniform.

We find the Turks knocking back alcoholic beverages in the “Turtle’s Paradise” pub, whose adverts we’ve seen everywhere on our travels. Elena’s eager to fight Cloud and his invisible posse…

Elena: Get ready to die!

…but Reno and Rude remind her that the Turks are here on vacation, and it’s not cool to bring work along.

Jamming her back onto her barstool, Reno and Rude toast the Turks, each other, and exciting job opportunities.

Reno: I even get to meet a bunch of wing nuts like you.

…or kill thousands of innocent civilians; YMMV.

In the main square, a villager exposits about Da-Chao, the Water God [Leviathan, where aaaare you!?], and the Five Mighty Gods of the pagoda who traditionally protect Wutai.

But in the last battle, we didn't fare so well. I guess our beliefs were based on nothing more than legends.

Yup. Ask Yuna about religion sometime.

(Note the open structure with the gong and knocker hanging on the left; it’s a puzzle that opens up a hidden room underneath, mentioned later in this walkthrough.)

Upon entering the house at right, I decide to abandon our quest and take up residence. Two gardens, including a koi pond, and lots of nifty sliding Japanese screens and wood paneling.

Interior in Wutai

Drat. First we have to get rid of its occupant. He insists that he doesn’t know Yuffie, noway, nohow; he disowned her six months ago. He grows progressively more testy as I keep mashing the X button to make him keep talking.

If you're in trouble with the Shinra, I'm going to have to ask you to leave.

At this, Yuffie pops out of her hiding place like an enraged ferret. She and Crusty Samurai Dude (named “Godo”) get into a shouting match.

Yuffie: You get beaten once, and then that's it?

She’s calling him a coward, he’s calling her a miserable daughter, etc, etc. After she stomps off, he explains that Wutai “can’t afford” to honk off Shinra, so he orders us to bug out.

We finally corner our materia thief outside the pub.

Yuffie: Oh, okay. I know. I was wrong.

She promises to give us back our materia, if we’ll just follow her into a trap. Meanwhile, some Shinra soldiers dash into the pub like they’re in desperate need of a bathroom. Stalling, I direct Cloud to follow them and learn what’s up.

Shinra soldier: So our reports were right! He IS here on vacation!

They’re begging the Turks for backup. Reno’s response? “What a drag.” (There are only three people on my flist who will understand why I’ve unconsciously conflated Reno with Shiguri “What a pain…” of Suikoden V.)

Miffed at Reno’s refusal, the blueshirts vow that HQ will hear about this, and they’ll capture “him” themselves. They run out again.

Elena is also miffed. She’s an ambitious up-and-comer, and this will hardly look good on her resumé.

Elena: I mean is that the way a professional, a Turk would act?

Reno attempts to coach her in the ways of sloth:

Reno: A pro isn't someone who sacrifices himself for his job. That's just a fool.

Sacrifice? I suppose Reno meant that metaphorically, but it almost sounds like the quarry is a highly dangerous individual. Maybe Sephiroth decided to follow up his visit to the Gold Saucer with a Wutai sabbatical? I wouldn’t put anything past a game that’s featured Hojo in a beach chair and President Shinra Sr. engaged in exposition bondage at the Honey Bee Inn.

Elena can’t stand her co workers’ company a minute longer and charges outside to do her bleeping job. Reno and Rude shake their heads.

All right, I’ve got to give in, as I really don’t think we can slink back to the Pissant Bronco without our materia.

Yuffie: I know, the materia, right? I have it stored in a safe place. Follow me.

Following Yuffie to the basement of a dojo (?), we hear her sob story about how Wutai’s come down in the world.

Yuffie: After we lost the war, we got peace, but with that, we lost something else. Now look at Wutai...

“You saw what it looks like now, right? JUST a resort town…”

Her plan is to stockpile enough materia to strike back at Shinra and restore Wutai’s former glory.

That’s a lame excuse, I think. She’s just a klepto who gets her kicks — waaaaaitaminute, haven’t I heard this story somewhere before?

“There was a time when this whole quadrant belonged to us! What are we now? Twelve worlds and a thousand monuments to past glories. Living off memories and stories, and selling trinkets. My god, man! We’ve become a tourist attraction. ‘See the great Centauri Republic – open 9 to 5 – Earth time.'”

— Londo Mollari, Babylon 5.

Oh.

OH.

I take it back. Stealing materia is a fairly innocuous response to Good Old Days syndrome. (Also, I suspect Yuffie’s complaint has a certain resonance in the real world, in any country that’s had a go at being an empire and/or has a lot of historical sites.)

Cloud is back to being Mr. I-Don’t-Care. “Listen, Yuffie, I don’t care about the history of Wutai or your feelings. You’ve got our materia and I want it back…now.”

Yuffie: That...sniff...switch...the lever on the left...materia's...sniff...in there.

VINCENT, SAY SOMETHING. YOU HAVE A BRAIN. Like, say, “You pull the lever. We’ll stand in the doorway and watch.”

Sigh. I try the lever on the right, just to be contrary, but they both do the same thing. Mog damn it.

Aeris: Eyaaaah!

Fortunately for Yuffie, Mr. BigAss Sword and Mr. Gunslinger are too soft-hearted or soft-headed to take a swing/shot at her before she gloats and runs away.

Poking the lever again releases the cage. Oh lovely, we have to comb the entire village again for Miss Neener Neener NinjaLet’s overlook my use of gameFAQs to locate the secret room under the gong.

Yuffie: Let go! I SAID let GO!

Uh oh. Why are Sephiroth’s Bells of Doomy Doom playing? I don’t think that’s one of his black-caped groupies, but the polygons aren’t doing us any favors.

This scene abruptly takes a turn for the repulsive as Sephiroth’s Gongs of Goth are replaced by the theme of Wall Market’s molester-in-chief, Don Corneo.

Don: I've finally got a new chicky!

Ew. Also, his goons have captured Elena. Someday, I am going to find the motherlode of Distressed Damsel Materia and shoot it into the sun.

We chase Corneo upstairs where some dimbulb Shinra blueshirts attack.

Shinra Soldier: There he is! It's Corneo! Don't let him get away!

Don Corneo scampers aside, so the Keystone soldiers attack us instead. Cheesebrains, the lot of ’em.

The fight gives Don Corneo and his goons time to make their escape. Outside, we bump into Rude and Reno, who have bestirred themselves now that a teammate is in trouble. They’re not about to join forces with us, but agree to a truce for now. (Not that they seemed all that interested in a showdown earlier.)

We follow some helpful npc “I just saw Yuffie going that way, all tied up!” signposts to a cliff with fantastic stone statues.

Rude: ...

No, not Rude.

Aha, here’s the creeper. Creative use of superglue?

Elena: Hey, I'm one of the Turks! Don't think you can get away with this?!

Elena, I’m sure Reno would lecture you about overly tentative punctuation. Wield that exclamation mark with pride.

Corneo makes more disgusting comments that don’t bear repeating. He’s just picked out “the cheerful one” (“GROSSNESS!” yells Yuffie) as his first victim, when Cloud and friends barge in. Don Corneo sidetracks them by whinging about how much he’s suffered since they got him in trouble with Shinra. “It’s a long story…” he begins. No, I do not need to hear the backstory of a sexual predator. Thank all that’s Holy, Tifa tells him to put a sock in it and release the captives.

Instead, he pulls a boss out of his butt.

Rapps in Wutai

Oh come on. Bad enough that we’re stripped of materia, but it’s an aerial boss out of the reach of all but Barret’s gun arm and Vincent’s revolver, and I had just swapped party members for leveling purposes. We make good use of all the stolen offensive items that I usually wind up forgetting.

You’d think Don Corneo would use this diversion to sneak away, but instead he sticks around after the boss fight to exchange more tedious banter. Also, he’s somehow found time to attach a switch to the Buddha Da-Chao statues.

Don Corneo: If I push this button, they'll fall upside down, and we'll have a SQUASHED TOMATOES!

Damn you, grammar gravity! Come to think of it, does Yuffie have gravity immunity when she’s not in the party menu? I’m confused.

Commence more lip flapping. Come on, this scene was over five minutes ago!

Corneo: Now, give me your women too!

Fast forward. Rude and Reno show up, Rude throws something that knocks Corneo over the edge, Reno stomps on his knuckles with a bit more speechifying about how the Turks get the job done [except when they don’t, eh, Reno?] and we are DONE with this slimeball.

Corneo: aaaaaaaa...p

That was refreshing.

I start to head for the bathroom, but Reno’s cellphone rings. Old fashion ringer from the 90s, awww. HQ tells him that Cloud’s in the area, and the Turks are ordered to apprehend us. Reno says he’ll get right on it, hangs up and announces to Rude that they’re off duty. Once again, I can see why it took them so long to catch Aeris.

On the whole, a tiresome adventure, but at least there was pretty scenery. And despite the fact that everyone except Cait Sith said that what Yuffie did was “unforgivable,” she simply joins the party again after returning our materia.

Yuffie: Phew, perfect. Now the materia is back in its rightful place.

In fact, she’s scrambled our materia so thoroughly that it takes about five minutes of Towers of Hanoi to untangle it. (Finding clever new materia combos amuses me almost as much as programming gambits in FFXII. My Deathblow + MP Absorb on my buff caster, or my Added Effect + Slow/Stop weapon on my thief, let me show you it.)

We hit the local weapons shop (which Yuffie had earlier instructed to stonewall us), move cats for fun and materia, take another swing by Fort Condor for the umpteenth minigame that I haven’t bothered to recap, grind up Aeris’ and Cloud’s ultimate limit breaks, and realize that we’ve exhausted all forms of procrastination.

Okay, okay, Temple of the Ancients it is.

Temple of the ancients on overworld map

Aeris collapses to her knees outside the entrance. This time, she’s the one hearing voices. “You could become one with the Planet, but you’re stopping it with the strength of will,” she says. “For the future? For us?” In other words, this whole area is guarded by unsent spirits of the Ancients who have not yet rejoined the Lifestream.

They’re glad to see Aeris, although they know that when a PC party rolls in, it’s usually a bad sign.

Aeris: You're uneasy...but happy?

Just inside the entrance, we hit an impasse. Cloud doesn’t know how to get past this solid wall.

Stuck inside the Temple of the Ancients

Oh, good, I get to procrastinate a little longer! Actually, I knew we’d get stuck, as we’d heard various npcs dropping Plot Hints about some “Keystone” recently acquired by Dio, but I wanted to see what would happen if we came here directly.

Namely: You Can’t Go There Yet. Okay! This means we have to tromp/swim/tramway back to the Gold Saucer.

And I think I’m going to pause here, as this write-up is already getting long.

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