Next up, Final Fantasy VII descends unexpectedly into Scum and Villainy with a side helping of burlesque. I will also attempt to explain the Mysterious Voice in Cloud’s Head.
But first, we need to meet the third corner of Cloud’s pointy little love triangle. Whom I love, despite Squeenix dropping heaps of overhype on her tombstone. Did I mention this walkthrough would have spoilers?
Which brings me to the most difficult and challenging, thorny and complex issue of this entire game. No, it’s not Cloti versus Clerith, which sounds like dueling nasal sprays. This issue is much more challenging, and has riven fandom to the core…
Into Midgar we go! I hope I don’t bore you with my Maechen imitation, but I’m seeing so many things now that I didn’t understand the first time I played FFVII. Warning: there will be spoilers referring to events later in the game.
The opening FMV is still a lot of fun, with retro CGI graphics transitioning smoothly into live gameplay.
While I’ve been enjoying my 8 month sojourn in 16bit/retroland, it feels luxurious to come back to a PS1 game with backgrounds detailed enough for storefronts. (I briefly misread “Goblins Bar” as “Goblins Ban[k]” and was thinking, “Gringotts” even though this game predates HP.) And yep, there’s Loveless, a play that’s referenced in most of the FF7 spinoffs. Someday I need to get my hands on Crisis Core.
Aeris’ etherial appearance contrasted with urban grunge is a startling juxtaposition, reminding me of my own experience moving from green countryside to the big city (which I’ve since fled). She walks the old-school players out of the shadows and into the Brave New World of FF7, where the visual setting is now a major (if not the dominant) character in the story, as it will be for all future FFs.
Old-school fans playing Final Fantasy VII: *squealing brakes* Hold everything! When does Final Fantasy start? I bought a frickin’ Final Fantasy game, and you’re foisting SF on me? Where the heck is this coming from? What does this have to do with Final Fantasy!?
Mythology major: Gee, I’m glad you asked that question.
Well, I’ve come to the game that launched a thousand spin-offs, FFVII. To my surprise, I’m really looking forward to replaying it again, although like VI it has some draggy bits where I’ve gotten stuck and abandoned it on previous playthroughs.
My history with VII is convoluted. It’s actually the first Final Fantasy that I ever glimpsed. At the time, I was absorbed with Marathon and Tomb Raider 2 and (especially) MYST fandom. I visited friends who were playing FFVII, and they showed me the rocket launch sequence.
At long last, I’ve got all my party members together, and it’s time to take on
Joker the Evil Clown!
But wait! Since a major portion of this game is devoted to rounding up and then re-rounding up a cast of fourteen, let’s get some sound bites from our assembled war band! I’ll be slipping in some wrap-up game commentary and character analysis; I hope I don’t bore you.
Whew! I got bogged down rounding up all my scattered party members — seriously, we just lived through the end of the world and everything, but did they have to be difficult and run off and join weird cults and get themselves lost on mountaintops, in the depths of monster-infested catacombs and so on? — so this playthrough is once again tardy.
Hey, it wasn’t that long since my last post.
So, last time in my Let’s Play Final Fantasy VI, the world went to Hades in a haversack. Miraculously, the crustal ruptures we saw in that exciting end-of-the-world cutscene did not result in Siberia-sized lava outpourings, a planetwide blanket of sulfuric acid fog/rain, or other Permian-Extinction-style armageddon. (Geology porn… bookmark for later!)
Instead, as this is Final Fantasy, Celes awakens in a blasted world that’s creepy and sad and fragmented. FFXIII-2 riffed on this trope again 17 years later, and the music from its Dying World fits nicely:
Yeap, it really is that bad.
Last time on “Let’s Play Final Fantasy VI,” Emperor Gestahl, baby snatcher, ravager of towns, enslaver of Espers, told us that, “After all I have put them [the Espers] through, it is up to me to set things right. That is why… I need to borrow Terra’s power.” So he’s asked us to take him to the Espers to apologize.
This screencap is boring, apart from the unusual combination of lobster and sushi rolls and roast turkey, but I just want to stress that he said we.
Because…well, you’ll see shortly.
And we’re off! We head to the southern continent (map) to infiltrate the Magitek Research Facility in Vector, capital of the must-be-evil-since-it-has-no-name Empire.
Our goal is to rescue the Espers who are being drained of their power as fuel for Magitek.
I love seeing how Final Fantasy rings changes on its ever-accruing mythology from game to game. The draining-Espers idea evolved from Cid’s innocent mistake in FFV, in which the machines he created to amplify and collect power from the Four Crystals of Light inadvertently damaged them. FFVI fuses the concept of crystals, which existed right from the start of Final Fantasy, with the separate FF concept of summons, originally a job class ability like geomancy. We’ll see beings turning to crystal again in FFXIII’s L’Cie, while ShinraCorp, Odine Enterprises and Draklor are all spiritual successors of FFVI’s Esper-juicing factory.
Before I jump in with the next segment of the walkthrough, I need to back up and reiterate something that commenter inked_compass observed about the last scene, when our scattered party reunites in Narshe: “More of the Returners talking about Terra rather than to her. Good job guys.”
It’s also true of Celes. Locke bursts in to report that Celes told him there’s an Imperial army marching on Narshe. Celes doesn’t say a word then or when Locke, Cyan and Edgar argue over whether she’s an Imperial spy:
The ex-general’s silence raises an intriguing question: Has she joined the Returners? All she’s said in-game is that she is, or was, General Celes, now “nothing but a traitor.” Those could be the words of a loyal soldier smitten with shame or sorrow at having been cast out. And Locke strikes me as the sort to assume the best of people.
Whatever Celes is thinking, I hope to see her and Terra speak up for themselves and display more autonomy soon.
Before I launch into the next leg of my Let’s Play Final Fantasy VI playthrough, I’d just like to note that FFVI’s washed-out chocobo design is redeemed by its music of pure techno awesome:
I defy you not to bob your head while listening to that with headphones. Or, to quote a couple commenters on the above video:
question: What is it about riding giant chickens that restricts random battles? ~ The Zeldaniac
Picture this, if you’re an enemy and you hear this song, are you going to interrupt it by attacking the guy riding the chicken, or are you just going to dance? ~ hoodedbro1001
Now back to our regularly-scheduled playthrough.
So, in our opening FFVI sonata, our heroes Edgar, Locke, Sabin and Terra had reached the rebel hideout of the Returners. We had just imbibed our first Backstory Dump courtesy of Banon, the rebel leader, when news arrived that the town of S. Figaro was under attack and that imperial forces were headed our way.