Night in the Woods - Part Five
The opening segment with Bea as the player character was pretty short. It opened on her, Angus, Gregg and some other guy holed up in Gregg and Angus' place having fled a man in a hat and coat. They realised at the end of the segment that there was someone listening to them at their door and then the game cut back to Mae wounded and in a forest. I'm honestly unsure if this was a dream sequence or not since Mae passed out and was then shown lying there in a church and later in a room that could have been a hospital while people around her talked. Eventually though, Mae woke up in bed - still in pretty messed up shape.
She headed in to town regardless, hoping to figure out what had happened. She managed to stumble over to Gregg and Angus' - much to the alarm of the assembled people - and passed out on their couch for a while. They hung out for a bit after that but nothing major happened and soon Jeremy was leaving and those in deep muk were heading to bed. Mae did stay up and talk to Bea for a bit though. She explained why she attacked that guy years back and why she couldn't handle college - it was some really heavy and deep stuff that mostly comes down to some sort of anxiety and depression, maybe even agoraphobia. God damn. Explained implicitly why she takes so many dumb risks too.
Mae couldn't get back to sleep after that so she left the apartment and went back to the woods... because of course she did. She encountered the ghostly figure - who is definitely not an actual ghost again - and ranted at him and was going to attack him. However, her friends arrived before she could get hurt and Gregg shot the guy with a crossbow. The group gave chase into a dark mine. Eventually they found the man they'd been chasing... and all of his friends.
Their leader - not who the gang chased - revealed that they were basically a cult. They had been feeding people (39 thus far to be exact) to a mysterious entity down a hole to preserve the prosperity of the dying Possum Springs. Instead of immediately attacking though, they invited Mae and her friends to join their cult. They even let them leave to think about it (so long as Gregg left his crossbow behind). Granted, there was also a threat involved since none of their identities had been revealed while they knew everyone in Mae's group.
It wasn't to be the safe exit they were hoping for though as most of the way up, one of the cultists appeared out of nowhere and grabbed Mae. In the ensuing struggle, Mae's attacker was killed by the mine lift and the mine caved in on itself. The attacker also lost their hood/hat/whatever. At this point, it was unclear if the group saw who it was... besides they had other troubles. Like being stuck in a caved in mine. They had airflow at least. Soon enough, they found a way that seemed to lead to an exit. During the walk, Mae had an out-of-body experience where she realised that a lot of her anger was actually sadness and fear and told the entity in her head (and in the hole) to pretty much kill her or psyduck right off. It seemed to work because she came back to reality with her friends... and the exit just ahead. Mae, resident risk-taking climber, volunteered to climb out and get help and started the treacherous ascent despite her messed up state. Half-way up though some kickass emotional post rock came in for the background music and I knew she was home free. It was quite a moment. Soon enough, thanks to some help from Germ, they were home free. They even got Germ to agree to blow up the well they'd climbed out of to block off the exit behind them and probably trap the cult down behind them.
Eventually, Mae went to bed and the next morning came. Mae had a quick talk with her very reasonably concerned mum and agreed to explain why she'd left college when she was back at home that night. First though, she had to go see Bea, Gregg and Angus. Mae met up with Bea first and they had a long discussion about why she could empathise with the cultists and they decided to take a roadtrip in the future. Then Angus and Gregg arrived back and it was time for practice, pizza and the rolling of credits. Game over.
So, this is a good game. I admit, I didn't expect the mystery to end with actual legit cosmic horror. I figured the truth would actually be more mundane. But nope. It was a murder cult and a mysterious ancient entity down a hole. Weirdly though, this felt pretty fitting. Because ultimately this game is about time. It's a story about time's prescience, the inevitable change in relationships and life and the fear of the unknown. That was what unified Mae and the cult. Mae couldn't handle college because it was different and it scared her. Because the life she had known was over. The cultists sacrificed townsfolk to an entity they didn't understand because it seemed like it preserved the old status quo to them. But, the message of the game is clear: change is inevitable and time is always moving forward. You can't do anything about it, so you have to enjoy what you have while you have it. It's a beautiful message from a game with a dorky sense of humour and animal people for characters. Night in the Wood really excels in sending that message and creating a weirdly melancholic atmosphere even when things seem happy on the surface. Because that force of change is always there.
The actual gameplay is pretty lacking. It's a lot of walking around and talking to people. However, your choices in those discussions do influence how things play out to an extent and there's plenty of mini-games to keep you engaged. Honestly, the mini-games are really solid. Probably because they're basically legit full games stuffed inside Night in the Woods in the case of the rhythm mini and the hack-and-slash game on Mae's laptop. The little platforming segments are nice too, even if they are really easy.
The art style for the game is kind of quirky, but I like it. Things can get a bit weird sometimes though because everything is very flat and 2D, but characters sometimes move in three dimensions anyway. This can make some of the platforming, or even just moving around places, feel kind of weird and janky.
The music/background noise was solid. Mostly it didn't really add anything much but in Mae's dreams and a few more pertinent scenes, it does step up a notch to add something to the feeling.
Final Fantasy VII - Part One
After discovering the PC port crashes every time you tab out, I spent the next thirty minutes setting up an emulator to play that way. So I was off to a great start with this game. Once that was dealt with though, I went in through the unskippable opening cinematic I had already watched today and it was time to invade a Shinra facility and blow it up with Barret, Biggs, Wedge and Jessie. Cloud set the tone for his character pretty fast - by that I mean he's an asshole in it for the money. I can already tell he's going to have a solid character arc though because while he claims Shinra isn't his problem, he did leave them and side with Avalanche, even if it was under a financial pretence.
Anyway, they went through and slaughtered a bunch of mooks before setting up the bomb and fighting their first boss. Like most "tutorial" bosses, it was easy enough to kill. Especially because I knew machines in Final Fantasy are tyically weak to lightning magic - and Cloud comes set up with some. I still don't like the ATB, but with it set to wait it's not so bad. My main gripe with the combat so far is that it seems like you can't save Limit Breaks for later if you're using the base attack command. That's kind of a pain in the ass. So far so good though.
With ten minutes to escape, Avalanche made it out with plenty of time to spare and then split up to rendezvous later. On his way to meet back up with everyone, Cloud ran into Aerith (but we don't know she's Aerith yet, shhh) and bought a flower from her because even though he's an asshole, I'm a nice guy (really, I promise). After they parted ways, Cloud fought a small army of Shinra soldiers and then made a dramatic exit via train surfing to get back to the avalanche hideout.
Naturally, being the edgy boy he is, Cloud tried to take the money and bail from there. However, Tifa stepped in and played the "childhood friend" card, convincing him to stay for the next job... under the pretence of higher pay. The next day, I stocked up on some gear and equipped it to Barret and Tifa. From there, Cloud and co. set off and boarded the train to their next target. Unfortunately, thanks to the intervention of a pickpocket, the party was forced to jump out the train and continue on foot when they couldn't avoid a lockdown. It wasn't too hard for the party to fight their way through the underground tunnels to the next reactor though.
Upon reaching the reactor, Cloud had a weird vision showing Tifa morning her dead father, saying Sephiroth (who he apparently idolised) did it. Once he was recovered though, they set the bomb as per usual and made for the exit until the next boss appeared - courtesy of a trap set by Shinra's president. The boss was uh... not very impressive. It died before it even got to attack thanks to two limit breaks and a bolt spell. The following explosion was a problem though as it sent cloud plummeting through the resulting hole.
He woke up later in some church being tended to by Aerith. They talked for a while before some Shinra people showed up and they had to flee. I left it at that.
So far, I'm having fun but it's early days and I haven't seen anything spectacular yet. Sometimes the environments suck to navigate, but that's just how it is with the game being so old I suppose... granted other games of the era with less ambitious backdrops were no trouble. I look forward to seeing more.
Final Fantasy VII - Part Two
With the Turks - part of Shinra - on their tails, Cloud and Aerith made their escape over the roof tops and eventually made it back to Aerith's house in the slums. Cloud met Aerith's mum and spent the evening at their place before heading out to go back to Sector 7 and Tifa's bar the next day. During the night, Cloud started hearing voices and seeing flashbacks for the third time, so that's weird. The voice in his head seems pretty chill though. Regardless, morning soon came and Cloud tried to make a stealth getaway without Aerith.
Naturally, this didn't go as planned. Somehow, Aerith actually beat Cloud there and made it pretty clear she was going to show him through Sector 6 to get to his destination. They stopped part way to hang out in a park and talk about stuff... only to see Tifa being quite literally carted off somewhere by a Chocobo pulling a carriage. Aerith decided for the two of them that they'd be going to see what the hell that was all about and they gave pursuit. They followed the cart through Wall Market to a mansion of sorts... where men were not allowed to enter. Naturally, this was the origin of the infamous cross-dressing Cloud as he disguised himself as a woman so he could get inside with Aerith. Soon thereafter they... yikes... recued Tifa from a torture chamber and then went to confront Don Corneo (the owner of the mansion) in his room. They used the chance to get some information - apparently some dude called Heidegger from Shinra was after Barrett. He also revealed a plan to quite literally crush Avalanche. As that plan began to get underway, Corneo set off a trap and dumped Cloud, Aerith and Tifa into the sewers where they were soon thrown into a boss fight against Aps.
The party escaped the sewer and rushed through the train graveyard to reach the Sector 7 slums tower where a battle was already underway. After watching Wedge plummet to his death, Tifa and Aerith go to take care of Marlene (Barret's daughter) while she and Cloud went to help Barret and the remaining Avalanche members. At the top of the tower the party fought Reno of the Turks and droe him off but failed to stop him from detonating the tower and destroying Sector 7... wiping out Avalanche and any innocents. Also, because he's truly a dick, he managed to kidnap Aerith - apparently "the last ancient" too.
While everyone rightfully freaked out, Cloud had another weird vision-thing and heard Sephiroth's voice. Seeking answers, the remaining part headed towards Aerith's house to question her mother about all this "ancients" stuff. Aerith's mother, Elmyra, explained that Aerith was actually adopted after she lost her birth mother and Elmyra herself lost her husband. Apparently Aerith and her bio-mum had been captives in a research facility and fled. Aerith often displayed mysterious abilities - like hearing strange voices that knew things they shouldn't - and was frequently pursued by Shinra for her Ancient abilities. She had agreed to be taken this time to ensure Marlene's safety, leaving the kid with Elmyra.
With Barret and his kid reunited - albeit briefly - the group rested up before leaving Elmyra and Marlene behind to mount a rescue mission at Shinra HQ. The party made a death-defying climb up to the HQ's level and then decided to take the stealthy approach in. While Barret's preferred strategy of shooting our way in sounded fun, it also did not sound like the best plan. So the party climbed up the world's longest flight of stairs and infiltrated at one of the higher floors. From there on, it was a series of looting, fighting and ascending. There was also a puzzle given by an irate mayor that I save-scummed through because I couldn't be bothered lmao.
Nearing the top, the party overheard a Shinra meeting that mentioned that an ancient like Aerith was needed for their experiments to "reach the promised land" or something like that. Their chief science guy, Hojo, said Aerith was inferior to her mother though so they would need a backup plan... like breeding her. Yikes. Naturally, the party were not standing for that muk. They followed after Hojo and overheard more of his experimenting. Here Cloud stumbled on the word "Jenova" which triggered more weird visions and talk of Sephiroth. There was more pressing things to deal with though.
On floor 68, the party found Hojo experimenting on Aerith and some animal. They broke the experimental container and freed Aerith as the creature broke out and mauled Hojo... and then it introduced itself as Red and agreed to help Barret and Cloud fight an incoming boss experiment while Tifa got Aerith to safety. The fight wasn't exactly hard, but it was annoying because it spammed poison at me. Soon enough though, it was defeated. Unfortunately, the subsequent escape attempt went poorly and everyone was captured and thrown in prison. The resulting meeting with Shinra's president did explain their motives though. The energy they're draining from the planet can be found in abundance in this rumoured fertile promised land that the Ancients, or Centra, can take them too. More Mako Energy, more money and power. God damn. These villains are a little too real sometimes lmao.
I'm really liking the themes present in FF7 and how grounded it feels despite its fantastical elements.
Final Fantasy VII - Part Three
Breaking out of prison proved to not actually be difficult... sort of. Everyone went to sleep and woke up to the doors being open and everyone else in the building being dead. It was an absolute bloodbath. The party followed the trail of blood and corpses to the President's desk only to find he was dead too, impaled by a sword that was left behind. Cloud and Tifa both recognised the sword as being Sephiroth's. A survivor tried to bolt, but the party grabbed him and interrogated him. Apparently Sephiroth had said something about not letting Shinra have the Promised Land when he attacked. That was as far as things got before Rufus, the Shinra VP and son of the President showed up and the survivor made a break for it. With many questions in need of answering the party gave chase.
The plan then changed when Rufus announced his intent to take over from his father and rule with fear instead of money. Cloud and Tifa stayed behind to deal with him while Aerith, Barret and Red made a break for it fighting through a mini-boss gauntlet down the lifts to do so. Meanwhile, with Tifa downstairs, Cloud took on Rufus solo on the roof - declaring that he knew Sephiroth was an ancient like Aerith and that he'd let neither Shinra nor Sephiroth get the Promised Land. Cloud emerged victorious, but Rufus managed to make his getaway. Cloud met back up with Tifa and the two of them headed down to the others. Taking a truck and a motorcycle (because Cloud needs to be extra) the party made a break for it with Shinra forces in tow. They managed to deal with the bikers on their tail, but the big mech tank was more of an issue - turning into a boss fight. Cloud, Aerith and Red took it on, bombarding it with spells and limit breaks until there was nothing left. The party continued their escape, fleeing Midgar and heading into the world beyond to search for Sephiroth - and answers.
The next destination was set for a place called Kalm, with the group splitting into two factions (Cloud, Aerith and Tifa in one team and Barret and Red in the other) for safety. A short trek across the depressing grey overworld later, everyone got to the rare patch of greenery where the town was located and met back up in Kalm's inn. Not before I did a few overworld battles... including one where my psyducking elixir got stolen. Once everyone was properly gathered and ready, Cloud explained his (and Tifa's) history with Sephiroth.
Essentially, on a mission to repair the Mako reactor near Cloud and Tifa's hometown (with Tifa as guide) back when Cloud was in Soldier under Sephiroth, Sephiroth learned that the planet had originally been "taken" from the Cetra by those who didn't wish to continue their way of life. Thousands of years later, Professor Gast of Shinra discovered a frozen Cetran, Jenova, and started using her for experiments. One such experiment was the creation of Sephiroth. Sephiroth went crazy after finding this all out and killed everyone in the town except for Cloud and Tifa who managed to survive somehow. Unfortunately, Cloud couldn't remember how they made it out.
While exploring Kalm and doing some shopping, the party heard rumours of a man matching Sephiroth's description being nearby. So next time it's off in pursuit of him.
Curious to see how things continue from here now that Shinra seem to be secondary and I'm out of Midgar. The environmental and capitalistic themes have been really great so far and I hope they don't take too much of a backseat to Sephiroth's insanity and the mysteries around him, Aerith and the Cetra - although that is all interesting too.
Final Fantasy VII - Part Four
The party left Kalm and headed south, eventually coming across a rustic Chocobo Ranch. Unfortunately for them, none of the birds were for sale but they dd learn how to catch some of their own... and spent a small fortune on the required materials. After buying said goods, they headed out into the grasslands to nab some Chocobos so they could cross the marshes without getting eaten by a 30ft long serpent called the Midgar Zolom. Once the Chocobo had been captured, the party crossed the marshes with a Zolom in pursuit but unable to catch them. On the other end, they came out in an area where a second Zolom had been pretty brutally killed - assumedly by Sephiroth.
Beyond that, they entered a cave where they did a mini-grind session before running into the Turks who accidentally revealed Sephiroth was heading to a place called Junon Harbour. The party fought a few monsters and then followed the Turks out of the cave. Not too far out, I came across a place called Fort Condor where some people were preparing to defend themselves and a rare bird against a Shinra siege. I signed-up to help but they decided I was too poor to immediately help and had to go grind enemies for cash first. So I did that and... encountered Yuffie and recruited her to join the party. Didn't see that coming lmao. From there on, it as back to cash grinding and then the tower defence began.
The tower defence game that followed was... slow... and long. I made it out with 900ish Gil left and a Magic Comb for Red to use as a weapon. The party left Fort Condor behind and continued their journey towards Junon Harbour. The party was surprised to find the place was extremely run-down, but there wasn't much time to ponder that because they immediately ended up in a fight with a giant sea-serpent to save a girl's life. I had to do a CPR mini-game too, so that happened. The party were rewarded for their efforts though, gaining access to the Shiva summon materia. Shortly after, the party learned that Rufus would soon be arriving and that Sephiroth had probably crossed the ocean already. Cloud headed up the airport and the city above to see what could be done about that situation, disguising himself as a Shinra soldier to do so.
This was frankly an awful segment of the game. It was a lot of meandering around and really dull and annoying mini-games. The loot and shops were pretty solid, but it just went on and on and on. Finally, after all that bullmuk, Cloud managed to sneak everyone onto a cargo ship. Once everyone was reunited, there was a sudden alarm call on the ship. Sephiroth appeared and sicked Jenova on the part before psyducking off somewhere. Theparty dealt with this early Jenova form with ease but judging by what it was doing, the next time they see it might be a bit tougher. With that out the way though, the part arrived in Costa del Sol on the next continent over.
I'm pleased that the themes around Shinra are still fairly prevalent, but god I wish that middle segment of todays play session hadn't come with them. The Jenova fight was cool though. So far my party is:
Cloud lv 19
Aerith lv 18
Red XIII lv 18
Tifa lv 17
Yuffie lv 17
Barret lv 16
Right now, Red is by far the strongest - especially cause he's equipped with the Enemy Skill materia making him a Blue Mage right now but Cloud and Aerith are close behind. I haven't used Yuffie much yet but she seems pretty solid and she has Throw which is always powerful. Tifa is good too, she went from having the worst Limit Break to the best damaging one lol. Barrett... yeah. He's the weakest. His attack is technically higher than Cloud's but he never seems to do as much damage regardless and his magic stats are awful so he doesn't get much in the way of cool Materia right now. He's also just kinda... boring as a character. He dropped off so much after Midgar.
Final Fantasy VII - Part Five
The party did some exploring and shopping around Costa del Sol before hitting the beach... where they ran into someone on the phone to Hojo. I didn't see that coming, but it did my next destination. It was onwards to Mt. Corel. There the party simply followed a long and winding path past a Mako Reactor and over some railway tracks to eventually reach the town (ish) of North Corel. The locals there did not seem fond of Barret at all, blaming him for the abysmal wreck the place had become. At first it seemed like some sort of accident ruined the place and Barret took the fall for it. The truth of the matter was that there was an explosion at their (at the time) new Mako reactor and Shinra troops burned the town down and killed almost everyone within to cover it up. Barret was blamed by many because he had been pro-reactor at the time since it would make it easier to provide for his family. This was a very well-timed development given how much his character had been dropping off - he's better in battle right now too after picking up a new gun along the tracks.
After that, it was onwards to the cyberpunk Vegas on steroids that is the Gold Saucer. The blinding casino lights will have to wait for next time though.
I didn't end up getting much done today, but progress is progress and compared to the previous segment I played, I have no real complaints about today. Barret got a much needed boost character and power wise, some Shinra-Yuffie history was implied by her harshness towards Barret and I'll hopefully be able to make some money at the Gold Saucer tomorrow before continuing the hunt for Sephiroth.
Final Fantasy VII - Part Six
Cloud and Tifa went off in pursuit of Barrett, running into this weird thing called Cait Sith who... joined the party because they had nothing better to do apparently. Of course, not before giving a fortune that foreshadows that unfortunate thing that happens later that we probably all already know about given that this game came out in the 90s. Anyway, with Cait Sith now in tow, the party continued exploring the Gold Saucer. Shortly after, Cloud and co met the owner of the establishment, Dio, who told them he'd seen Sephiroth around. He couldn't be more specific though... naturally.
Still looking for Barret, Cloud gave the casino a try and... Christ it is so not worth it. I get that it's meant to be a casino and therefore a scam, but from a gameplay perspective the mini-games here are just not worth the effort. I'm not playing thousands of rounds for one item. Psyduck that. FF7 really does have the worst chocobo mini game too, holy muk.
Anyway, with it becoming quickly apparent that the mini games were a waste of time, the party continued their search for Barret. Upon reaching the arena part of the casino though, they found something altogether more alarming. This part of the Gold Saucer was just littered with dead guards. Assuming Sephiroth was behind it, the party investigated further into the area. They quickly came to the realisation that Sephiroth wasn't the killer though as the victims had been shot not attacked with spells or a blade. A survivor implied Barrett had been the killer and before the party could follow up on this, more security arrived and arrested everyone.
Thrown in prison once again, the party soon encountered Barrett. Barrett decided not to explain anything and be edgy instead, running off to handle the problem on his own. This went as it usually does with the party giving chase. The party caught up to him quickly and he revealed that the killer was probably Dyne, who had a gun arm just like his. With that sorted, the team split into two groups again with Cloud, Barret and Tifa going after Dyne. The not-so-shocking reveal that Dyne is Marlene's real father came out in a tense confrontation... and then Dyne decided he had to 1v1 Barret... because he'd completely lost his mind and wanted to kill his daughter to reunite her with her mother. Barrett defeated Dyne, who came to his senses but killed himself because he couldn't handle his guilt.
With that resolved, the party was still left with the issue of escaping... with only one option to get out... entering one of the awful psyducking chocobo races. There was just a little tonal dissonance on that one but at least the race was pretty easy to win. For my troubles I got a buggy for crossing rough terrain and, more importantly, details about the direction Sephiroth was heading. At said location, Goganga, there was no sign of Sephiroth himself but the party did run into the Turks... who were summarily dispatched earning the party some loot and the unnerving thought that there was possibly a spy among them given how easily they had been found. The party entered Goganga itself soon after. There they watched Scarlet of Shinra observe a destroyed Mako reactor (and looted her Titan materia ayyy). The party did some shopping in the village itself, heard about a guy named Zack who was apparently in Soldier (I'm sure that won't ever be relevant) and then continued on their way.
The next place the party reached was Red's home with the best music in the game so far. Coolest location too. There Red - known as Nanaki to his people - introduced the party to his grandfather who showed them his planetarium and explained that souls returned to the planet the same as biological matter did. These souls flowed around the planet as something called the Lifestream. Those souls would eventually reincarnate, die and re-join the Lifestream in a cycle. This was the true nature of Mako energy and explained why its use was quickly killing the planet. Soon thereafter, while sitting around a bonfire, Red said his father had left his mother for dead during an attack by some people called the Gi tribe. Apparently the truth was more complicated though, so Red's grandfather took Red, Cloud and Aerith into a cave system to show them.
The cave system was long, winding and sprawling which meant that Cloud, Red and Aerith did a lot of levelling and the rest of the party has some catching up to do. They did eventually reach the end though where they were thrown into a boss fight. After we won, we learned that Red's father (to the shock of none) was not a coward but a certified badass who defended their home single handedly against the Gi tribe even as he was stabbed, poisoned and turned to stone. More amazing music played here too.
Anyway, Red resolved to remain with the team, do his father proud and save the planet. The party headed off towards their next destination.
This has been my favourite segment thus far. The best visuals, the best fights (and also the worst... psyducking frogs), the best music and the best character development. The twists might have been obvious, but it didn't lessen their impact.
Final Fantasy VII - Part Seven
I started off with a little grinding and then the party was off to their next destination, which turned out to be Cloud and Tifa's hometown of Nibbelheim. What was weird was that despite being meant to be a burned out husk, the place seemed completely fine. The party explored a bit, seeing no sign of the expected destruction. The weird numbered people in capes were... well weird. But they gave no indication as to what was going on. To try and figure out what was going on, the party headed to the Shinra mansion. Inside, the party learned that a former Turk had been locked up in the basement and set about rescuing him. First they had to get a key out a safe though... which triggered a boss fight though and this one was actually pretty rough. It hit like a truck. After the pain in the ass that was opening the safe to begin with, that felt kind of unfair ngl. Soon enough though, they had the key and some other good loot too.
Actually down in the basement, things got a bit intense. There was no fight, but the group did encounter Sephiroth. He talked about resummoning Jenova and raining calamity from the skies in what he called "the reunion" and invited the party to follow him past Mt. Nibel to see what he meant for themselves. Then he yeeted a materia at Cloud's head and flew off. The party then rescued edgy boy Vincent from the coffin he was locked in... but he was reluctant to join the party. With some prodding though, he revealed that he had once been a Turk and that he had loved the woman who gave birth to Sephiroth - a former researcher for Shinra. He had failed to stop her from taking part in the experiment and blamed himself for the results. After a little more poking, he joined the party at last and everyone headed out in pursuit of Sephiroth. Along the way the party fought a huge bug-like boss thing but kinda trounced it and stole all its muk before heading out.
From there, I did a little grinding and then the party visited Rocket Town. There they did some looting and some shopping - hearing Rufus would be in town soon in the process - before climbing up the eponymous rocket to meet this game's Cid. He explained he was set to be the first astronaut before Shinra axed the space program to focus on Mako. The party then went back to Cid's house and he shouted at his wife (assistant?) and them for no good reason before going out the back to work on his crappy old plane. Meanwhile, Shera (the person in question) explained that she had put her life at risk and Cid had cancelled the launch (which turned out to be his last chance) to save her life - resulting in his mukty attitude. Shortly after, Rufus and one of his followers, Palmer, arrived, Cid went out to see Rufus and the party followed. Rufus was not there to restart the space program like Cid had been led to believe, but to take his plane. While Cid and Rufus argued, the party went to stop Palmer grabbing the plane. Palmer was easily defeated and summarily run over by a truck. In the aftermath, the Party (now with Cid as a member) made their escape on the plane... which was rendered a boat in the process. After they "landed," Cid told everyone Rufus had mentioned Sephiroth was headed towards the Temple of the Ancients across the ocean. That made that the next major destination.
Final Fantasy VII - Part Eight
The party visited a place called Bone Village where they heard Sephiroth had passed by and also got the location of the Temple of the Ancients to the south. As an added bonus, they heard that they needed a keystone to enter, a keystone in the possession of "some rich guy." Figuring that might have been why Sephiroth was seen at the Golden Saucer, since Dio is the richest guy they knew, the party headed back that way. What followed was... a tedious mess. I cannot decide if it was my fault or the fact the game tells you psyduck all about how to get to your destination lmao. I made the error of trying to go directly to the saucer - having to back through Mt. Nibel and Nibelheim to reclaim the buggy and cross the desert. Unfortunately, the desert is an endless loop and you can never get back to the saucer that way. So I went back through the psyducking mountain again and reclaimed my planeboat, circled back around to outside the saucer and eventually found that the way in was to go via the cable car in Corel like your first visit. Good job me.
At the Saucer, Dio told Cloud that if he entertained him in the arena solo, he could take the keystone. Cloud obliged and made it three rounds through some absolutely bullmuk restrictions before he got psyducked over by Stop shenanigans. Apparently that was enough though because Dio let him take the stone. Unfortunately, they couldn't leave the Saucer just yet because the tram out was out of order and wouldn't be repaired for a while. Cait Sith suggested they stay at the Saucer's hotel in the meantime and the party, with no other real option, obliged.
Everyone hung out for a bit and then retired to their rooms. That night, Cloud and Aerith took the reprieve to spend some quality time together around the Saucer (which for some reason involved getting roped into a play). Why yes, I did set myself up for maximum pain just to get the most authentic ff7 experience. Aerith said some real interesting things during date night, some foreshadowing things you might even say. But there was other muk to worry about because on the way back they caught Cait Sith in the act of running off with the keystone and, after chasing them around the Saucer, caught up to him just in time to see them give the stone to Tseng of the Turks. Tseng got away with the stone and Cait Sith revealed they were remote operating the cat body from Shinra. What's more, they had captured Marlene and (probably) Aerith's mother and used their safety to blackmail the party into... keeping them around because they were curious about them. Well, Cait Sith just got much more interesting lmao. This was a twist I didn't know about in advance either.
The next morning, Cait Sith made good on a promise made the previous night and gave the party directions to the Temple. The party boarded the Tiny Bronco and set off. That's all for today though.
Final Fantasy VII - Part Nine
The party entered the Temple's antechamber to find Tseng laying there severely wounded. Evidently, it was Sephiroth who got him because he revealed to the party that Sephiroth was searching for something other than the Promised Land and gave the party the keystone so they could go after him. They activated the keystone and were transported into the MC Escher nightmare world of the temple's interior to begin their pursuit. The party made their way through Escher hell and into a place that was actually unpleasant - a hallway where they had to duck under falling rocks with perfect timing - barely making it through all with the spirits of the Ancients talking to Aerith all the while. The spirits showed the party what happened when Sephiroth attacked Tseng - including his monologue about using the temple to straight up merge with the planet itself. The party continued on, more resolute that ever that they had to stop Sephiroth.
The next obstacle they had to fight through was a clock-themed puzzle and just... so many enemies. Another puzzle followed too. Eventually though, the party reached the area where they had seen Sephiroth in the vision earlier. There they found Sephiroth still in the room. Sephiroth explained he was going to use the Meteor spell to damage the planet so severely that it would start absorbing loads of spirit energy to heal itself, and that he would place himself at the centre of the wound to absorb that power, merge with the planet and become a god. Yikes.
Sephiroth then flew off and Cloud started getting weird and glitchy and talking about a black materia - the meteor materia. Cloud came to his senses soon thereafter... just in time for the party to get jumped by a big psyduck off red dragon. This was alarming but not actually that hard to beat. Aerith paralyzed it immediately with her Seal Evil limit break and then Yuffie and Cloud both dropped their damaging limit breaks on it. It didn't take much more after that to down it and it barely got a handful of attacks off. Soon after, the party learned that the black materia was the temple itself, or rather, it was contained in the centre of the temple in such a way that they were effectively linked. Trying to take the materia would involve solving a puzzle that gradually shrank the temple as you progressed to reach the materia at the centre... crushing you in the process. Cloud decided they still couldn't leave the materia there though, which was a problem. Until Cait Sith chimed in, pointing out their real body was miles away so they could afford to be the sacrifice. Reluctantly, the party agreed to trust them.
Cloud, Aerith and Yuffie made their way to the exit so the plan could be put into action... but the door turned out to be another boss fight. This thing hit way harder than the dragon, but Hasting the whole party made it much easier to deal with. Aerith easily kept Cloud and Yuffie up and they were able to bombard it with Limit Breaks thanks to all the damage it was dealing out. Cait Sith was let in and obtained the black materia but things got problematic thereafter. Even as a backup Cait Sith was arriving, Sephiroth appeared and brought out the weird glitch Cloud again - the voice he'd been hearing - and the glitch gave the materia to Sephiroth before going mad and passing out.
Cloud proceeded to have a vision where he was in the Sleeping Forest near the Bone Village with Aerith, who claimed the City of the Ancients was beyond it and she was leaving for there to go stop Sephiroth - because only she could as the last Cetra. Sephiroth also appeared soon after, saying that they would have to stop her soon as she was becoming a problem. Cloud woke up in bed after with Tifa and Barret nearby. They were quick to inform Cloud that Aerith had truly left. Cloud was seriously shaken after that but a... pep talk(?) from Barret was a rude enough awakening to snap him out of it and the party headed towards the City of the Ancients to catch up with Aerith.
The party (with Cloud, Red and Vincent active) headed through the forest and the valley beyond to reach what was now called the Forgotten City and began their search. The party scoped out the city and found nothing, being forced to rest for the night. Later that evening though, Cloud sensed the presences of both Aerith and Sephiroth. The party rushed to begin their search anew, following Aerith's voice into a strange structure by a lake at the back of the city, entering and traversing down a path that led beneath the lake. They soon found her seemingly in prayer or meditation. Cloud approached... but started getting weird again. He drew his sword and prepared to attack her... but he couldn't. He shook off Sephiroth's influence and pulled back... only for the moment we all know happens to happen. Sephiroth descended out of nowhere, killed Aerith and then set Jenova loose against the party. With no time to mourn yet, the party went into battle. Fortuitiously, I had picked up on the strong hints (loads of water absorbing item drops) that a water boss was coming up and equipped said items to this Jenova was a push over. In its defeat though, it mocked Cloud, saying his feelings were false since he was merely a puppet.
The party put Aerith to rest and Cloud resolved to finish what she started, defeating Sephiroth and keeping the black materia out of his hands. He asked the party to continue along with him, realising that there was a separate entity within him interfering with his actions and asking them to prevent him doing anything terrible. The party continued north across the snow and ice to reach a small town but that's where I called it for today.
So, I finally reached the (in)famous perma-death. Honestly, this is the first FF death I've experienced since the end of FFX that felt like it had real impact. It was a solid gut punch for the characters and the player and was executed really well. The boss fight immediately after, keeping the sad music going was a nice touch.
Final Fantasy VII - Part Ten
The party moved about the town exploring and picking up items. It appears that this is actually Aerith's hometown, or at the least her mother's. That's an oof. She was so close to seeing it. Anyway, the party went to move on and continue the chase, but were interrupted by the appearance of Shinra troops. Elena, blaming the party for Tseng's death, knocked Cloud the psyduck out and headed onwards but that doesn't seem to have delayed things really. Cloud woke up again soon after, grabbed a snowboard and the chase through the frozen north resumed.
One snowboarding course later, the party found themselves in a frozen forest and had to utilise a map to find their way through - solving a frozen lake puzzle in the process. Unfortunately, the cold did eventually take its toll and the party passed out, waking up in a hut being cared for my a guy named Holzoff - where the party can rest and recuperate. Once they were healed up, they headed out to try again. Eventually the party (Now Cloud, Red and Yuffie) made it to their next destination, climbing up a steep cliff to find an icy cave they had to traverse. At the end of the cave... more mountaineering. As it turned out, there was going to be a few rounds of this. Part way through, Yuffie tagged out for Tifa and then the party ascended the final cliff to reach a boss battle. This boss is a twin-headed dragon that does mukloads of fire and ice damage usually and sometimes earth damage just to spice things up. Not knowing this in advance psyducking hurt cause none of my fire or ice nullifying stuff was equipped and it kicked my ass. Round two was a little different since I knew what to expect and had the appropriate gear equipped. The party reached the peak soon after, a huge crater called the whirlwind maze where the planets energy was clustered - evidence of a previous impact, smaller than the one Sephiroth planned. Rufus also arrived at about the same time, all the major players converging on one place.
The party hurried on to the end of the path where they watched as Sephiroth sacrificed the remaining cloaked figures that followed him. He then unleashed another Jenova boss. Luckily though, I had not thought to change the party's equipment since the previous boss and this turned out to be a fire form of Jenova. This meant this fight was actually extremely easy since it couldn't hurt me. The party simply nuked it to muk while taking no damage. Once the fight was done, Jenova was gone and the black materia remained. Cloud left it with Barret to guard and then he, Tifa and Red continued on to search for Sephiroth. What followed was 20 minutes of me trying to time dashing past obstacles that triggered unskippable fights because despite having done the same puzzle twice already, the timing on this puzzle was way more finicky for no clear reason. So that was psyducking annoying. Eventually though the party made it past the bullmuk and to the end of the road... and ended up in... Nibbelheim? Somehow Sephiroth had created an illusion and the party walked right into it. The party watched Sephiroth arrive in the village as he had once before... but the person who should have been Cloud was someone else. Tifa assured Cloud not to worry about it... which was honestly just even more suspicious. The illusion continued as the party watched not!Cloud goig through the same actions as Cloud once had. Sephiroth taunted Cloud, telling him he had been created as a failed clone of Sephiroth after Nibbelheim was first destroyed and given someone else's memories and boy was Tifa's discomfort damning.
Meanwhile, Rufus, Hojo and Scarlet found the "Promised Land," a giant source of materia and a monster sleeping within, something he called weapon, a creature (or creatues, it wasn't super clear) that would reduce things to nothingness in defence of the planet.
The scene skipped forward again, showing Barrett isolated all of a sudden after being engulfed in shadows. Someone who was very obviously not really Tifa approached and told him Cloud was in danger and the others had already reconvened. This was all an illusion set up by Sephiroth as well of course. The party had been there all along, knocked out, and he was taking the black materia right into Sephiroth's hands.
Back with the Shinra group, Cloud and co appeared suddenly in their midst. Cloud told the Shinra people they should leave as they had reached the sight of the Reunion, things were soon to get very bad. Cloud, thoroughly out of his mind, took the black materia from Barret and flew up in the materia-tree-thing. Hojo, far too happily, explained that Jenova was rebuilding it true self there - instigated by Sephiroth who had actually did five years prior and kept himself physically present through sheer force of will. Encased in crystal, Sephiroth's true body appeared. Cloud, under his control again, gave the true Sephiroth the black materia and all hell broke loose as the weapons escaped and the party (minus Cloud) and Shinra made a hasty escape. There was then a cutscene showing how the false Cloud and Tifa met each other.
A week later, Tifa awoke from a coma in Junon. Barrett revealed to her that they didn't know where Cloud was, that meteor was in effect and a huge meteor (or a planet/moon even) was rapidly closing in on the planet and that the Weapons were causing chaos everywhere. Rufus and Shinra were fighting the monsters, but they hadn't exactly turned good either because they soon appeared and told the pair of them they were to be publicly executed as scapegoats for the causing of the apocalypse. Well then.
A lot happened this time but I'll have to pick up the rest later because it is weirdly hot for this time of the year in this room and I'm suffering lmao.
Final Fantasy VII - Part Eleven
As Tifa was stuck in a gas chamber to expect a slow and painful death, an alarm went off signalling an attack by Weapon. As the personnel present rushed to their stations, Cait Sith dropped their super obvious surprise and knocked Scarlet out with a mild dose of her own gas before helping Barrett defeat his guards and attempt to free Tifa even as Shinra engaged Weapon. Unfortunately, Tifa was thoroughly trapped in the chamber. Luckily, Cait Sith had a plan B. That plan B seemed to be a wrong turn as the party ended up at a dead end at the airport. Meanwhile, as Shinra seemed to defeat Weapon, Tifa managed to escape on her own because she's a badass like that. Tifa slapped the muk out of Scarlet and made a diving escape onto the party's newly acquired Highwind airship and reunited not just with Barret, Cait Sith and Yuffie but also Red, Vincent and Cid. The gang was all together again and set off in search of Cloud.
The party flew all over the place to no avail, eventually stumbling into the town of Mideel. At Mideel, the party found a comatose Cloud who had washed ashore there. He was in a bad state because of his mako exposure though, so in the end Tifa stayed with him and the party moved on without them for the time being. Shortly after, thanks to Cait Sith, the party were able to listen in to a Shinra meeting and hear their plan to deal with Meteor... smashing a bunch of giant materia into it. This seemed like a bad idea, so Cid was appointed the interim leader as the party prepared to intercept Shinra at Corel.
The party (Cid, Barret and Red now) got to Corel and the nearby reactor but were too late to stop the extraction of the huge materia, leaving them no choice but to chase down the train it was being moved on. In a very intense sequence, the party had to fight through a bunch of enemies while also battling a timer because the train was going to plough right through Corel and wreak havoc. Luckily, they managed to stop the train and claim the materia. The next stop was Fort Condor where the party fought off an encroaching Shinra army to once again protect the condor nest and secure the second huge materia. The new condor was born as the old one passed in light of the victory and the party also got one of my favourite summons, Phoenix, for their efforts. The party the recuperated and headed back to Mideel to check in with Tifa and Cloud.
There was little time to spend on hospital visitation though as while the part were there, the Ultima Weapon attacked. This was a rough fight that I was not at all ready for and the first attempt didn't go well. The party wiped pretty fast. The second go was still rough, but I played more defensively having Cid drop buffs first while Red focused on healing until the party were all set to unleash hell. Ultima Weapon wasn't defeated, but the party did manage to drive it off. In the aftermath of the fight though, the quaking only got worse and everyone was forced to evacuate. Most of the party could escape, but Tifa and Cloud were too slow to get out and were subsequently dumped into the lifestream. Within, Tifa found herself inside Cloud's mind (or something like that anyway). Together, she and Cloud were able to finally piece together his memories and identity. Five years prior during the incident at Nibbelheim, what we had seen before as Cloud's memories actually were those of Zach from Gongaga - Cloud instead was one of the masked pleb soldiers. When Tifa confronted Sephiroth at the reactor and was wounded, Zach had been killed by Sephiroth and Cloud had leapt in and killed Sephiroth in defence of Tifa. When both had come too on the Highwind, Cloud explained that all members of Soldier were injected with Jenova's cells which is how he had essentially been made into a Sephiroth clone/puppet body. He couldn't resist that influence. The party, reinvigorated and all together again, readied up and made their way towards Junon to take the last huge materia from the underwater mako reactor.
With that, the party began their attack on Junon. I'm planning to come back to this more tonight but for now I need a break.
Final Fantasy VII - Part Twelve
The party fought their way through Shinra troops and entered the underwater reactor. Continuing to carve through Shinra soldiers, they soon reached the sight of the huge materia, to witness it being moved to a submarine by a crane. Naturally, they gave chase. Unfortunately for them, they ran headfirst into Reno of the Turks who subjected them to a boss fight against a big robot. With no time for bullmuk, the party unloaded all their best attacks on the machine and eventually, by the skin of their teeth, felled it. The submarine was gone though, so they had to commandeer one of their own to go after it. This meant another unpleasant but blessedly quick mini where the party had to shoot down the sub with the materia in it. With their new sub, the party searched for and collected the last huge materia. That's all for today.
Something fun I've noticed in the latter part of the game is that a lot of the generic enemy plebs have started fearing the party which is cool. It gives you a real sense of progress that enemies now flee on site or panic when they fight you compared to before when they gladly rushed in to face you. It's a nice touch.
Final Fantasy VII - Part Thirteen
The part intercepted a concerning call and quickly made their towards Junon's airport once again. There they watched as an aeroplane loaded with the remaining huge materia took off bound for Rocket Town and borded the Highwind to pursue them. The party reached the eponymous rocket, Red tagging out for Cid part way through since he took Shinra's presence on his rocket quite personally. They reached the top where they fought Rude (a Turk) and his squad of soldiers. Although calling what they did to them a fight is being generous.
Once the party were on board and in the cockpit, Cid dismissed his crew and prepared to send the party off to take control himself with the auto-pilot down. Unfortunately, the auto-pilot was repaired before he could take further action and the ship was launched with the party still within the cockpit. The party managed to, with some rapid and desperate button mashing, retrieve the huge materia and prepared to bail out in the escape pod. There was a malfunction along the way and a tank exploded, trapping beneath some metal. However, Shera appeared having been on board double-checking the escape pod still and helped them free Cid. Cid acknowledged Shera had been right about that tank being defective before as they disembarked.
As planned, the rocket crashed into Meteor... but this was no ordinary asteroid. Even though it was partially destroyed, it began to reform and everyone was back to square one. The party, after some inspiring words from Cid of all people, decided to go back to talk to Red's grandfather in Cosmo Canyon, deciding he was their best hope for finding a solution. After talking to Bugenhagen, they realised that Aerith likely had some sort of plan given how confident she was she could stop Sephiroth. With that in mind and the old man in tow, the headed for the Forgotten City once more. There they learned that the black materia and meteor have a white magic equivalent, the white materia and holy. The party pieced together that Aerith had the white materia and that it had sunk beneath the water when she died. Good thing they had a submarine. The party set out to retrieve the white materia. Beneath the waves, the party retrieved something called the Key of the Ancients and took it to Bugenhagen back in the Forgotten City.
Final Fantasy VII - Part Fourteen
With the key, Bugenhagen activated a device that showed the party a projection. It showed Aerith's death and what became of the white materia... and also that she had already used it. Holy was already in effect, but Sephiroth was managing to hold it back. That was a problem, but it also meant that Sephiroth's defeat would also save the planet from Meteor. A nice way to tie all these distinct plot elements back together. As the party exited the projection room, Cloud got a call from our friendly double agent, Cait Sith, They revealed that the cannon from Junon, the one that runs on huge materia and was being used to fight off the Weapons, had been moved to Midgar to be powered by their mako reactors there. They planned to use it against Sephiroth whatever the cost. Another problem the party needed to solve.
Things only got worse from there though. As the party returned to the Highwind, one of the Weapons emerged from the ocean and began heading towards Midgar itself. Yet another problem for the party to deal with. They prepped themselves and headed to confront it. Along the way, because this was clearly the time, Cait Sith got into an interesting argument with Barrett, who was focused only on the fate of Marlene. They pointed out that Avalanche destroying the mako reactor before, even if they had good reason, had killed lots of people and that he was kind of selfish in a way, only thinking about what was right by him. Tifa suggested that Cait Sith couldn't leave Shinra because they were trying to protect people. It was an interesting turn of events that I hope gets explored more.
This thing hit hard as hell, but ultimately it couldn't keep up with the heavy damage and recovery the party was capable of. They defeated the Weapon and gained a psyduckload of exp. This wasn't the end though, the Weapon was still heading for Midgar... but Shinra's cannon was ready. Shinra fired the cannon, piercing through and defeating the wounded Weapon... and continuing right through to destroy the barrier around Sephiroth's cave. Not before Weapon, in retaliation, rained hell down upon Shinra HQ and Weapon - seemingly killing Rufus.
Concerned, the party went to investigate the Northern Cave, now unimpeded by the barrier. While the party were surveying the damage though, Cait Sith (now revealed to be operated by Reeve, one of Rufus' top three) realised something was off and warned the party/Shinra that the cannon (I will not call it psyducking Sister Ray) was no longer under Shinra control and was operating (apparently) on its own, refusing to shut down. Cut to Hojo, the crazy scientist tampering with the cannon to send mako energy to Sephiroth. Shutting down the reactors powering the cannon wasn't an option, it result in a detonation that would destroy Midgar just the same as if Hojo finished his plan. The party had no choice but to double back around to Midgar and deal with Hojo directly. Of course, Heidegger and Scarlet wouldn't side with Reeve and, for personal petty reasons, decided to stand in the party's way. Just the same, the party couldn't sit by and do nothing, so they parachuted into Midgar.
Following Reeve' lead, the party headed into the underground to avoid Heidegger. The party made their way through a twisted series of tunnels, fighting behemoths and robotic sentries until finally they faced the Turks once more. The Turks had their orders, to hunt the party down and kill them (even if Elena wasn't thrilled about it) and the party had their mission. The fight was on: Cloud, Red and Tifa vs Elena, Reno and Rude. This fight was hard. Easily the first in a while to make me really work and the first ever to take more than two attempts. On my third attempt, I went "psyduck it" and equipped anti-elemental muk to negate the heavy fire and lightning damage I was taking. It was cheap, but desperate times call for desperate measure lmao. The party set up Haste and Regen and proceeded to unload on the Turks, Stealing their muk as they did so. The Turks still put in work, even with their elemental attacks largely negated, but eventually were defeated. As the Turks fled, the party healed up and carried on... directly into another boss fight. This time against Heidegger and Scarlet inside an enormous mech.
The mech, naturally, packed a punch. However, it had nothing on the Turks. Tifa set up Haste and Regen and the party pelted Heidegger and Scarlet with powerful attacks, Red healing everyone up as needed. They were quickly dispatched. The party carried on and came face-to-face with Hojo at the cannon soon thereafter. He claimed he was doing it because Sephiroth, who was actually his son, needed the power. In the past, he had given his wife and child over to Gast's Jenova experiment. He attacked and the first multi-phase boss fight began.
Hojo's fight was long, but it wasn't hard. While each phase did more and more damage, he couldn't keep up with Tifa and Red's healing - especially with Cloud having barriers up weakening his damage anyway. Witht he party all Hasted, it was as simple as hitting Hojo with all their best attacks. Every iteration of Bahamut, Kjarta, Phoenix, Odin, Ultima, Limit Breaks - all of it. To his credit, while he couldn't take the party down, they did have to spend everything they had to keep him down too. It was one hell of a slugfest. His defeat was inevitable though, and soon he fell.
With Hojo defeated and his interference stopped, the party assembled on the highwind. They established the truth of the matter, they all had personal reasons for what they were doing. They weren't just saving the planet, they were in it for their own vendettas too. This wasn't a bad thing though, it just gave them even more reason to fight. With seven days left before the fall of Meteor, the party dispersed to put their affairs in order and then all returned to face their final battle. It was onwards towards Sephiroth.
Final Fantasy VII - Part Fifteen
Psyduck the Northern Cave. Filling a dungeon with a load of monsters that can hit you with an instant death effect isn't making the game challenging, it's making it unfair. Luckily, I had enough anti-instant death stuff with me that once I figured out what I had walked into I was okay. With that bullmuk out the way, the party continued their descent down the crater. Through this, I did encounter an actually tough monster a few times - the black dragon. This thing has powerful attacks and the ability to cast freaking Ultima. Not a single boss fight as of yet has been as fearsome as this random encounter monster. Comparatively, without the ability to instant kill, most of the other monsters were pushovers.
Finally, after a gruelling descent, the party reached a fork in the road and were forced to split into two teams. Cloud, Tifa and Yuffie took the left path while everyone else (with Red covering their asses lbr) went right. A large amount of cave ward travel ensued, fighting through many obnoxious enemies (psyducking Tonberries). Finally though, the party were able to reconvene at the centre of the cave system, distribute the loot and prepare for the final battle. Before much could be said, enemies started approaching from behind. The group couldn't all stay together for long. Cloud, Tifa and Red descended to face Sephiroth while Barret, Cid, Yuffie, Cait Sith and Vincent stayed behind to hold off the incoming threat.
Of course, it wasn't so simple as just walking up to Sephiroth. The party had to descend down a glowy path of floating broken stone as the Jenova music played (I wonder what that could possibly signal...), all the while fighting through ludicrously powerful foes. Until, sure enough, Jenova stood before them once more. Jenova, as per usual, went down easily, but it wasn't going to be as simple as that for Sephiroth. The party descended deeper still when suddenly they found themselves before Holy. A moment later though, the remaining party members were abruptly teleported in and Sephiroth appeared before them. The fight began with Cloud, Red and Tifa facing Sephiroth down.
This fight was brutal. Sephiroth's damage output was insane - the man's Supernova attack straight up ruined the solar system and the party on multiple occasions with the trio just barely scraping through thanks to their barriers and regen. His longevity was even worse. He had a few billion HP and kept putting up his own barrier that needed repeated dispelling. The party hammered him with Limit Breaks, their best E-Skills and Spells and even the odd regular attack for well over an hour until finally, after one last confrontation with Cloud 1 v 1, he had been taken down three times and this time stayed down. Holy activated and, just barely, defended the planet against Meteor thanks to the freeing of the Lifestream. They barely made it through but, in the end, the world was saved.
So, Final Fantasy VII. The overwhelmingly most popular game in the franchise. The game that got a generation of people into Final Fantasy. Probably one of the most definitive titles of the PS1 era. I liked it! I can definitely see why it means so much to so many people.
The story itself is very ambitious and complex compared to earlier Final Fantasy titles. The only other one up to that point that really goes that hard on the scale of the story is FFVI which is one of my favourite games and I think FFVII continues the trend of a vast story well executed. The characters all felt very grounded in their setting with their own motivations for doing what they do and, by and large, were very compelling. Some characters started off slow or had dead patches, but nobody was boring the whole way through. I suspect I might have missed a lot of stuff for Yuffie and Vincent given their optional status, but they still felt like a part of the cast in full despite that - especially Yuffie. Most of the cast had solid character arcs and those that didn't generally had something else that kept them interesting.
The villains were a bit of a mixed bag. The Turks rarely felt threatening and usually felt more like comic relief. I don't think that was really the intention going by how they came off later on, but that's just how it is. I really liked Shinra as a whole though. In fact, while Sephiroth was very imposing as an antagonist, I think Rufus was a lot more compelling. It was cool having three factions all at odds with each other though (the party, Shinra and Sephiroth). It made for some very interesting character dynamics and sometimes left you questioning just what was going to happen at the end. I appreciated the environmentalist themes with Shinra too and I was pleased that, while they got muddied a bit towards the end, the story mostly continued to factor them in. Hell, even Sephiroth himself was a bi-product of the hubris of Shinra which was a nice touch to keep everything tied together. Comparatively though, Sephiroth himself was thematically lacking give the rest of the narrative. You could argue his refusal to die tied him in to the narrative of natural v unnatural, which makes sense, but the link felt tenuous at best. He felt less like an entity of his own and more like a mistake created by Shinra, which was a little iffy since he clearly had agency and relished in what he was doing. I'm not sure how I'd fix that myself to be fair, but something felt lacking and I think it is because of the final bbeg's tenuous link to the thematics of the story.
Speaking of the story though, I do like that consequences felt prevalent - something other Final Fantasy games sometimes lack. Aerith's death felt like it mattered and it continued to reverberate throughout the story even after the fact. Shinra flew too close to the sun and rained hellfire down upon the world as a result, even unleashing the nightmare creation that is Sephiroth. Even the party had to face the consequences of their action, Reeve struggled to earn back the trust he lost and Barrett had to face up to his own death toll. Consequences should matter in a story and I'm pleased FFVII realised this.
Mechanically, the ATB still sucks and it would be impossible to enjoy the game without wait mode (for me anyway). I like time to make choices and to enjoy the game rather than having to race against the timer. The fights never felt unfair but were rarely too easy to be fun either - especially towards the later half of the game. That being said, Northern Cave's insta-death enemies are hardcore bullmuk and that is a terrible way to manufacture difficulty. It's just bad game design. Also, Sephiroth's boss fight was really fun but I feel like it was starting to draw on way too long. It just went on and on and it was starting to wear thin by the end. It wasn't obscenely hard (although it certainly wasn't easy), just obscenely long. It didn't quite overstay its welcome, but it was pushing its luck. It definitely didn't help that he used Supernova like five times and every time I had to watch the entire damn solar system-destruction cut scene and the fallout. The only other thing to say about the gameplay is that, as is Final Fantasy tradition, the mini games were terrible and I was thoroughly peeved by how many of them were a mandatory part of the gameplay experience.
Visually, I was really impressed. Obviously the graphics in a PS1 game do not hold up for the most part. Everything is janky and polygonal. That being said, you can tell that it was cutting edge for its era and that some of those cut scenes probably pushed the PS1 to its limit. The cutscenes with Aerith and Cloud at the Gold Saucer were especially pretty. Musically, we're well into the era of Final Fantasy music being iconic as hell with FF7. The overworld music was pretty meh, but the character themes and battle music were all top-notch and the music always fit the mood of the story really well. Sephiroth's theme (of course), the Jenova theme, the Forgotten City theme, Aerith's theme, the Cosmo Canyon/Red XIII theme and The Great Warrior were all really good pieces of music with the latter being my favourite from the game.
So, how does FFVII stack up to the other Final Fantasy games in my ever growing list of FF games? Pretty well! It doesn't top FFX and I think VI just barely edges it, but it's strong competition for FFIX's third place spot. I'd say I'd give a tentative ranking of X, VI, IX, VII, III, IV, XIV (ARR) and then V with XII out of the list until I replay it and reassess my thoughts. It's a tough call for places 2-4 though. I can definitely see why FFVII does top so many lists for other people though. It's a fantastic game.