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Topic: Mia Plays Final Fantasy VII  (Read 2218 times)
Permalink  •  January 17, 2016, 06:01:23 PM
Mia Plays Final Fantasy VII
« on: January 17, 2016, 06:01:23 PM »

-Introduction-

Alright, now that I have finished playing (and writing only briefly about) Undertale, it’s time to start a new Mia Plays. This time it’s another downright legendary PSX title, Final Fantasy VII.

As before, I’ll preface my playthrough by talking a bit about what I do and don't know about the game initially. Unlike the Metal Gear series, my experience with Final Fantasy games isn’t literally zero, but I’ve never exactly delved in to the series either. Most significantly, I can say that I’ve never finished a Final Fantasy game. I’ve played about half of the first one, which… sure was an early NES game; I’ve played about half of VI, which was good but I just never got around to finishing it; lastly, I played quite a bit of XIV, though that’s obviously a different kind of aminal entirely. Point is, I am familiar with a few of the concepts that are common throughout the whole series, like um… there’s chocobos, and crystals, and… magics… ok, well, that’s about all I’ve got really. It is pretty common knowledge that such elements are what tie the FF games together in lieu of a continuous storyline, with each new game in the series usually introducing a new setting and cast of characters. Thus, as far as I know, finishing VII first probably won't spoil much about previous games in the series. (Coming this summer: Mia Plays Four Job Fiesta, maybe!)

Anyway, what do I know about FFVII itself? Definitely some of the obvious stuff that you see or hear on the frequent occasions this game is talked about:
-The protagonist is a young man named Cloud Strife who… has a big sword. That’s about all I know on him.
-I know the names of most of the other characters that join your party: Aeris, Tifa, Barrett, Yuffie, uh… I think that “Cait Sith” thing was in this game? ...and- not Sora, he was in a different game, same for Squall.... anyway,
-The antagonist, or one of the antagonists anyway, is a dude named Sephiroth who also has a big sword, and of course….
- As the spoiler that practically defined the concept of spoilers for an entire generation of gamers, Sephiroth uses his big sword to kill Aeris, eventually, maybe near the end. I don’t know the context. I’ll try not to let my foreknowledge of Aeris' imminent doom affect my perception of her character!
-Lastly, I’ve seen that the setting of this game centers around a dark, gritty, techno-punk city environment, in a way extrapolating the concept of Magitek-driven industrialization that was introduced in FFVI. Can the guy with a sword beat the guys with guns?? We’ll find out soon… on Mia Plays Final Fantasy VII!
« Last Edit: January 18, 2016, 02:37:16 PM by Mia Kris »
Permalink  •  January 17, 2016, 06:04:16 PM
Re: Mia Plays Final Fantasy VII
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2016, 06:04:16 PM »

Looking forward to this. I have actually played this game so I can read the thread and know What The Hay you're talking about! :(9):
In west Goomba Village born and raised
Rick
  • In west Goomba Village born and raised
Permalink  •  January 17, 2016, 06:07:13 PM
Re: Mia Plays Final Fantasy VII
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2016, 06:07:13 PM »

cloud killed dumpledor
Permalink  •  January 18, 2016, 08:07:15 AM
Re: Mia Plays Final Fantasy VII
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2016, 08:07:15 AM »

I'm excited to hear the play by play on this game. I have a suspicion that it has aged very strangely.
Permalink  •  January 18, 2016, 02:36:12 PM
Re: Mia Plays Final Fantasy VII
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2016, 02:36:12 PM »

-Part 1-

[A couple more notes. I’m using the default names for all the characters, to avoid any confusion on my end. Also, I’m playing the PC version of the game. I tried emulating the PSX version, but ran into some graphics glitches in the first couple minutes. Rather than y͞o͘͝͡u͟͟ ͝sḩ̛ou̡l̀d҉͠ ̢tr̕y ̡ad҉̵j̕u̷ş́t̡͝in̡g̴̀ ͝y̸̢͘ou͝͡r̵ ͟͢pl̴̴͞u͝g͝i̸ņ̀s, I decided to just use the PC version that I already had from a Steam sale anyway. It looks fine! I don’t think there are any major differences in the game, but if there are, feel free to give me a heads-up when it’s relevant.]

The opening cutscene of the game is quite simple: A young lady dressed in pink (hint: it’s Aeris!!) is looking at like a doorway or something that’s really sparkly, and then the camera zooms out to show that she’s in a dark alleyway, with bustling pedestrians and mid-20th-century-looking cars busying the nearby street. This makes it clear right away that we’re not in the series’ usual quasi-medieval fantasy setting anymore. The camera then zooms aaalllll the way out to show the entire city; a gigantic machine or factory of some sort sits in the center, looming tall above everything else, so whatever it is it’s sure to be important.

We focus in on a train pulling into a station, and then Pow! Blammo! Some people wearing headbands hop from the train and get into fights with the station guards. One of these people is our protagonist, Cloud, whose first battle does two things: gives you a heads-up that you are in fact playing a JRPG with an ATB battle system, and establishes Cloud as a real tough guy because he can one-hit-KO these guards after only taking like one or two points of damage from their machine gun attacks.

The headband crew continues toward their destination, and the ongoing dialog between Cloud and the group’s apparent leader, Barret, provides the basics on what’s going on in the setting here. There are three major factions at play:
-Our group, "AVALANCHE" (which I am not going to fully capitalize in the future) is a ragtag resistance group that’s currently trying to blow up one of the city’s Mako Reactors, which Barret explains are machines siphoning the planet’s “Mako Energy” to generate usable power. He’s concerned about how, y’know, the planet’s dyin’, implying that some sort of ecological crisis is at hand as a result of this energy being drained.
-"Shinra Corporation" is the company who owns and operates the Mako Reactors, and by extension, basically controls the whole economy of this city - Midgar.
-"SOLDIER" (if these are acronyms I haven’t been told yet) is a military organization cooperating with Shinra. Cloud is a former member of Soldier, but defected for as-yet-unspecified reasons. His dialog with the other Avalanche members suggests that Soldier only employs very powerful fighters, so they’re not to be taken lightly.

As Avalanche (which includes our regularly-scheduled dose of Biggs and Wedge) progresses deeper into the reactor, it becomes clear that Cloud isn’t exactly “one of the gang”. This is his first mission with Avalanche; his dialog is consistently terse and unfriendly, and while the other members are reverent of his combat skills, they’re apprehensive about Cloud’s reasons for being here. Cloud does little to reassure them when he explicitly states that he doesn’t care about the planet or whatever, he’s “just in it for the money”. To be fair, this is more information than I myself expected to get from Cloud - honestly, I didn’t even know that he wasn’t a silent protagonist! Still, he’s gonna have to explain that ‘tude of his sooner or later, if he expects me to play as him for the whole game.

Once Cloud and Barret reach a sufficiently deep level of the reactor’s structure, they plant a time bomb. This summons the game’s first boss, a scorpion mech, which… well, it’s the first boss, so it ain’t exactly tough. It just has a “don’t attack it under X condition” mechanic, pretty straightforward stuff for an ATB system, but it works as a refresher on the concept that the timing of attacks can sometimes be important. At this point I'm also getting familiar with the Limit Break system, something I haven't had in my previous JRPG experience. For the time being, all it seems to do is give you a slightly stronger basic attack when the bar is full, but I'll keep an eye out for it to become more complex later.

The Avalanche crew escapes from the reactor just as the bomb goes off. There’s a wide shot of the city, showing that while the destruction of this Mako Reactor is impressive, there’s seven more of them left around the outer edges of the city. If Barret’s wanting to blow up all of them, that may very well take the equivalent of three PSX CDs. Avalanche splits up as they escape to a train, and Cloud briefly runs into Aeris, though they don’t seem to know each other yet and no real dialog takes place between them. After running from some more guards, Cloud meets up with the others on the train. There’s then some dialog that explains a bit more about Midgar itself. The city has two levels; the wealthier residents live on a huge, floating metal disk, which blocks all sunlight to the slums below. That’s about as on the nose as you can get when establishing that your story’s setting is highly classist, but the sci-fi aspect of the disk thing is kinda interesting. Maybe Barret’s just blowing stuff up so he can get that dang disk out of the way??

We end up at a run-down bar in the middle of the slums. There we meet Barret’s daughter, Marlene, as well as Cloud’s childhood friend, Tifa. The two of them run the day-to-day operations of the bar, which is a front for Avalanche HQ in the basement. The group has a meeting to follow-up on their successful bombing operation, though most of the conversation consists of Cloud saying “gimme my money” and Barret saying “Are you going to stay on with us?” and Cloud saying “gimme my money”. Afterward, Tifa shares some heartfelt (for her, at least) reminiscences with Cloud. When they were young, Cloud expressed a desire to leave the slums and join Soldier (mentioning their most famous member, Sephiroth). In response, Tifa had Cloud promise that he'd always protect her. It’s questionable whether that promise was intended to include aiding her when she joins an industrial sabotage group, but this convinces Cloud to stay anyway - provided that his fee be doubled for the next mission.
“It’s- it’s not like I’m helping you because I want to or anything!!” ~Cloud
« Last Edit: January 18, 2016, 02:43:44 PM by Mia Kris »
Permalink  •  January 18, 2016, 06:26:56 PM
Re: Mia Plays Final Fantasy VII
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2016, 06:26:56 PM »

I think the PC version is the same as the PS1 version, but I haven't played it so I don't know for sure.

Barret's %!&$ censoring is dumb best of localization decisions, by the way. I wonder if they'll have some equivalent in the remake (probably not).
Permalink  •  January 23, 2016, 01:52:51 PM
Re: Mia Plays Final Fantasy VII
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2016, 01:52:51 PM »

-Part 2-

After just one night’s rest, Avalanche is ready to commence their next mission. Barret’s determination is noted, though I do have to wonder if these guys have day jobs - the income from a run-down bar can’t be enough to cover even Jessie’s computers and bombs, let alone the exorbitant fees Cloud is now demanding. At least said fees end up being reinvested in the group, as I’m actually allowed to spend the cash from the last job at the nearby weapon and item shops.

Materia is briefly introduced, and I like the way it works so far. The concept of per-item stat customization hardly raises an eyebrow by today’s standards, but the system is pretty cool for the time this game came out. Like with LBs and combat in general, it’s very simple this early on; the only Materia I have access to currently just add simple damage and healing spells to the characters’ magic lists. I’m hoping the stat bonuses and penalties are weighted really heavily later so I can do distinct “builds” for each character. We’ll see!

The party - Tifa included this time - hops on the nearest train out of the slums. They run into a nondescript Shinra employee who Barret immediately yells at, and then even punches the poor guy. I don’t think this one particular salaryman is truly responsible for the planet dying, Barret! This scene does at least have the effect of making me curious just why Barret has such a deep emotional investment in his crusade against Shinra. We don’t have any backstory for him yet, but something significant must have happened in his past to cause his current zealotry.
There’s some tension when the train’s ID scanners activate unexpectedly early, causing an “intruder alert!” situation that forces the Avalanche group to jump from the train. Barret then claims that everything is going according to plan, which um, seems like not what just happened? Maybe he was referring to the fact that we jumped from the train just a few feet away from a sort of ventilation shaft that leads to this mission’s target, the Sector 5 Mako Reactor. It’s a fairly quick climb (frequent random battles notwithstanding) down to the reactor’s base. It wasn’t lost on me that the environment textures for the reactor here are almost all copy+pasted from the previous reactor. I’m not tremendously surprised to see this, limitations of the hardware and storage medium and all that, but it seems odd from a pacing standpoint that they would repeat an environment so soon after its predecessor.

At the bottom of the reactor, Cloud briefly faints and experiences a flashback. It’s Tifa, standing over the body of her apparently murdered father, cursing Shinra and Soldier and especially Sephiroth. Ah, that… that would certainly explain some of her motivations! It’s unclear why Cloud is seeing this, since he doesn’t seem to have actually been present at the time, but it looks like the event took place at this very spot (or… possibly one of its seven identical twins).

The party then makes their way out of the reactor, but near the exit, are caught in an ambush. A portly man in a business suit enters and is introduced as President Shinra, presumably the um, president of Shinra. He preemptively gloats about Avalanche’s capture, and taunts Cloud that he vaguely recognizes him from Soldier based on the traces of Mako energy in his eyes. This is a good bit of information to have; initially I thought the Mako energy was just being used for like, municipal electricity, but it’s revealed that members of Soldier are somehow infused with Mako to make them stronger. The president flies off in a helicopter, but not before summoning a Soldier-constructed robot to finish off Avalanche. This robot is… it just looks weird, like I don’t know what it’s supposed to look like, and its janky animations don’t help much. The combat still doesn’t give me a lot to talk about; the only mechanic with this guy is that he counterattacks after, well, every attack that I make, making the fight boil down to using a cure spell after every second or third attack.

Defeating the weird robot causes it to explode, destroying part of the bridge the fight took place on. Cloud is left dangling on the edge opposite Barret and Tifa. A choice is offered to either “be strong” or ask for help; I figured Cloud is still kinda the tough-guy loner at this point, so I picked “be strong”, which turned out to actually mean “slip and fall like a total doofus”. I’m really curious if picking the other option would have led to Cloud escaping with Barret and Tifa, but that’s not for me to know now. Rather, Cloud falls straight out the bottom of the reactor and into the Sector 5 slums below. He lands in a conveniently-placed bed of flowers in a cathedral, tended by… it’s Aeris! Hello again Aeris.

Cloud and Aeris share introductions and some frankly disjointed dialog that doesn’t really seem to go anywhere, but are nonetheless alarmed when they’re interrupted by a shady-looking guy in a suit entering the cathedral. He’s brought a number of armed men - all in Shrina uniforms - with the intention of kidnapping Aeris. Naturally, Cloud helps her escape, though the gameplay event in climbing out of the cathedral went kind of strangely. When given the choice of having Aeris flee or fight, I found that fighting was extremely easy, as these are pretty much the same Shinra guys from the beginning of the game who can only ever do 1 damage with their guns.
As Cloud and Aeris proceed to flee across the rooftops, Cloud confirms that he knows who those people were - the sketchy guy was Reno, one of “the Turks”. They work for Shinra to “recruit” people with the potential to join Soldier, whether those people want to join or not. It’s not made clear why they’re after Aeris - she’s not forthcoming about that herself - but I now know to file Aeris under “more than she appears to be”.
Permalink  •  January 30, 2016, 08:58:22 AM
Re: Mia Plays Final Fantasy VII
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2016, 08:58:22 AM »

-Part 3-

Truly, I was not prepared for this next part!

Cloud and Aeris seem to be free of the Turks for the time being, so Aeris leads Cloud to her home. They meet Aeris’ mother Elmyra, who is a gracious host, but understandably concerned for her daughter’s well-being.
Cloud explains to Aeris that he needs to get back to Tifa’s bar in Sector 7, and Aeris is immediately like “Ooohhh, is Tifa your *girlfriend?*” Ok, I made a crack about this kinda thing with the gals in MGS, but I think this game actually does want me to choose a GF for Cloud? This is reinforced when, that evening, Cloud has a dream where he remembers his mother prompting him to find a nice girlfriend. I don’t want to just assume that’s gonna happen, but historically, things that JRPG protagonists A) hear in their dreams and B) hear from their mothers tend to be plot-significant!

Anyhow, Cloud tries to sneak off before Aeris can try to follow him back to Sector 7, but she manages to, um, I guess teleport to the Sector 6 entrance before I could get there. Perhaps this power is why the Turks want her for Soldier?? Either way, Aeris has made it clear that she wants to follow Cloud around for as long as she can, so we start off on the “rough road” through Sector 6. When some NPCs said it was a “rough road” I thought they meant bandits or maybe those weird tentacle-dog things, but nope, I was immediately attacked by A HOUSE. And then another one. Two house. Whatever Shinra did to these slums, it was not only mean, but *weird*.

That aside, we soon reach an old playground, where Aeris suggests we take a break and chat. She asks briefly about Cloud’s history with Soldier, and mentions that her ex-boyfriend was Rank 1 just like Cloud. She didn’t actually reveal who it is, but I mean, I could count the high-ranking Soldier members the story has mentioned so far on less than half of one hand, so…
They’re interrupted when a visually noisy chocobo-driven cart rolls by, with… Tifa on board?? We quickly follow after her, though she’s soon lost in Sector 6’s bustling “Wall Market” (is that… a pun?) Some asking around reveals that Tifa has joined up with Don Corneo, a wealthy “dilettante” who, though the game dances around any explicit statement of the fact as persistently as I myself would, runs a house of ill repute. Cloud is naturally concerned about getting Tifa the heck out of there, but there’s one snag: literally nobody is allowed into Corneo’s mansion unless they’re a pretty girl. Wellllllll,
To make a long story short, a fetch-quest and a weird mini-game later, Cloud’s disguised as a girl. Aeris giggles about this from the moment she suggests the idea up through the eventual reveal of Cloud’s new appearance, which I understand to an extent but it does seem to be brushing off the inherent risks of the situation they’re heading into. The disguise does work well enough to get them into the mansion, and they quickly locate Tifa in the… well, I can only describe it as the dungeon, yikes this is getting gross. Tifa explains what she’s doing here, which is good, since both Cloud and myself were more than a little concerned. Soon after escaping from the Sector 5 reactor, her and Barrett learned that Don Corneo has ties to the higher-ups in Shinra; there’s a rumor that Shinra’s planning to finally retaliate against Avalanche, and Corneo is their only lead.
The three of us head upstairs to meet Corneo himself so he can, ugh, choose who to spend the night with - he picks Tifa, and I do wonder whether this is based on dialog choices I made previously. Regardless, Cloud draws the short straw (...so to speak) and gets sent to a room with like eight guys. He of course chooses this time to ditch his disguise, and a few quick fight scenes later, we’re on our way to retrieve Aeris and Tifa.
Tifa shows evidence that she’s more than capable of taking care of herself when alone with the Don; it’s plausible to think that she really would have been able to corner him and get the information that she wanted without Cloud and Aeris’ help. The three of us carry out a… colorfully-worded interrogation together regardless, and Corneo fesses up. Shinra’s plan is to blow up the support structure holding the Disk above Sector 7 - i.e., they’re going to crushinate the entire Sector just to wipe out Avalanche. Turns out Corneo has a surprise for us, though - he opens a trapdoor into the sewer.

The sewer segment is essentially random-encounter filler, but it is punctuated by our first cutscene that’s not from Cloud’s point of view. We meet more of the higher-ups in Shinra. Heidegger, the head of “peace preservation” (that title obviously being used in a 1984 kind of way), is the one directing the Turks on their upcoming demolition of Sector 7. We also meet Reeve, head of “urban development”, who speaks up against the plan, and seems to be framed as a genuinely good guy who is thus very much out of place in Shinra. Having a multifaceted variety of characters working for Shinra, rather than it being 100% evil corporate badguys all the way down, is promising for the storytelling - I mean, it did a lot to make Foxhound memorable!
Meanwhile, Cloud Aeris and Tifa fight Ganon in the sewer. Like, that’s pretty much the boss of this chapter? Except it’s the special edition Surfin’ Ganon… his giant wave attack that damages the whole party was an excellent opportunity for Aeris to debut her first Limit Break, a party-wide heal, and I think those things coinciding was done deliberately as a pretty nice touch. Well, we  better get out of here so we can stop Sector 7 from getting destroyed.. ironically Avalanche would probably be the safest in that scenario since they're the only ones who seemed to have a basement, but, ANYWAY.
Permalink  •  January 30, 2016, 05:50:39 PM
Re: Mia Plays Final Fantasy VII
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2016, 05:50:39 PM »

I gotta wonder what the Don Corneo stuff will look like in glorious HD in the remake.

Anyway, keep it up!
Permalink  •  January 30, 2016, 08:49:35 PM
Re: Mia Plays Final Fantasy VII
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2016, 08:49:35 PM »

-Part 4-

The scene that takes place after Cloud’s return from Sector 5 is really impressive to me, as it’s probably the most impactful thing to happen story-wise thus far. Upon exiting the sewer, we briefly traverse an abandoned trainyard - and I do still wonder where all these scrapped remnants of industry came from! - and immediately find Sector 7 in chaos. The Turks’ attack on the pillar has already begun, and the other members of Avalanche are fighting a losing battle against them. Though the strike force consists of goofy-looking propellermen (noting that describing any enemy design in this game as “very goofy” is rapidly becoming redundant), they’re no pushovers, and have already defeated Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie by the time we arrive. Aeris is sent to find Marlene while Cloud and Tifa ascend the support pillar to try to help Barret. Once there, Reno appears and attacks.
The fight with this guy was the first boss battle to really have an interesting mechanic so far. He uses a “pyramid” that locks down a random party member, and one of the others has to attack the pyramid to break it. I’d noticed earlier that you could choose to attack allies, so this sort of mechanic answers the question of why. Reno’s also got, as far as I can tell, the highest speed stat of any enemy I’ve fought thus far, further making up for the 3v1 nature of the fight. Once defeated - he’s weak to ice magic! - Reno flees. Another badguy named Tseng (don't remember if we've seen him yet) shows up on a helicopter, gloating that it’s impossible for us to disarm the bomb, and revealing that he’s captured Aeris. She’s referred to as “the last of the ancients”, which certainly sounds important enough to have the Turks pursuing her as they have been.

Though Cloud, Tifa, and Barret manage to escape, it’s truly a catastrophe when the bomb goes off and the pillar collapses. A massive section of the plate above falls, crushing the entirety of Sector 7. The emotion of the scene that follows, where our three survivors struggle to come to terms with what has happened, is clear. Not only is this the first major defeat for Avalanche, it’s also the first time they’ve had to face the consequences of their actions against Shinra. The reason this is so significant is that Avalanche’s hands are far from clean. Jessie said in her final moments, “because of our actions, many people died” - previously the characters had glossed over the fact that their demolition of the Mako reactors had also resulted in the deaths of innocent people, just like what's happened here. Was it easier for Barret & company to ignore that loss of life because it was the people from above the disk? Will that perspective change now that a similar disaster has occurred at their own home? Barret and Tifa have some dialog to that effect. Tifa is starting to question her commitment to the battle against Shinra now that she's seen the terrible consequences the conflict can bring about. Barret stays resolute that Shinra is the problem, and if nobody tries to stop them, things will only get worse for people and for the planet. And you know, both of them have valid points! Although Shinra is basically evil, there are a lot of shades of grey involved in fighting them. It’s for this reason that I kind of appreciate when Cloud decides not to participate in the philosophizing at all, and just keeps moving forward toward the things they definitely must do - first confirming Marlene’s safety, and then, presumably, going to find Aeris.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2016, 08:54:28 PM by Mia Kris »
Permalink  •  February 06, 2016, 06:16:33 PM
Re: Mia Plays Final Fantasy VII
« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2016, 06:16:33 PM »

-Part 5-

Well, Marlene is indeed safe and sound at Aeris’ house, which is great not only for her sake but also because it sets us up in a position where Cloud, Tifa, and Barret don’t even need to discuss that their next move will be rescuing Aeris. Like, even though Tifa and Barret have hardly even met Aeris, they all have this shared understanding that saving her is the obvious thing to do, and it’s great.
There is a bit of time taken out for a flashback from Elmyra, who explains that she’s really Aeris’ mother by adoption. I may not be parsing this 100% right, but it seemed like Aeris and her original mom escaped from a Shinra research lab, where they were being studied due to their status as Ancients - though I still don’t know what that means, at all. Shinra’s been trying to get Aeris back ever since, though it’s only recently that they’ve tried resorting to outright kidnapping. I do have to wonder if something is making them more desperate to capture Aeris now than they were in the past.

Cloud and company travel to the Wall Market, where a discovery has been made - the demolition of Sector 7 made such a mess of Midgar that there’s now a pile of junk that can be climbed all the way to above the disk. It’s kind of convenient that that climb takes Cloud right to the outside of Shinra HQ, but hey, we’ll take what we can get when trying to rescue a friend.
Barret and Tifa offer the choices of barging in the front door and taking a quiet side route respectively, and I chose the latter. This led to an unexpectedly long climb up the Shinra building’s emergency stairwell. The unabbreviated depiction of all sixty flights of stairs was bold, and while Barret and Tifa’s dialog was a bit irreverent, I appreciate the intended metaphor for the towering stature of Shinra’s authority and power in Midgar.

The progression through the final 9 floors of Shinra HQ was enjoyable. Having stealth, exploration, and mild puzzle-solving, it’s pretty much the closest thing to a “dungeon” the game has had so far. I was a little surprised when I met, with very little fanfare, the mayor of Midgar hanging out in a tiny office. I’d suspected that, given Shinra’s totalitarian control over Midgar, they might be sustaining some kind of puppet democracy. It was unexpected, though, that an encounter with the Mayor would be so abrupt and nonchalant. A nice touch, though, that he was very clearly pro-Avalanche - there would have very few ways of framing a man in that position such that he wouldn’t feel like both a figurative and literal prisoner of Shinra.

Sneaking through some air ducts allows us to witness a meeting of Shinra’s top executives. This naturally leads to a healthy chunk of exposition. The head of Shinra’s space program is shown to be a shallow, greed-driven toadie, and I mention him only because, really, Shinra has a space program? Of more immediate importance is the introduction of Hojo, chief scientist, the man behind the experiments on Ancients. He is a brilliant but utterly amoral mind, as evidenced by the way he speaks of Aeris and her late mother in their capacity as test subjects.

We follow Hojo out of the meeting, and find him planning an experiment on a canine-looking animal of some sort. When he leaves the room, Cloud peeks into another sealed chamber, and what he sees inside - um, what was that thing? - gives him a massive case of, well, tinnitus. He calls the thing “Jenova”, throws in another vague-as-usual reference to Sephiroth, and the gang carries on their way. That thing seems kinda important Cloud, I hope you tell us more later!

On the top floor, the party is able to interrupt Hojo just as he’s putting Aeris and that dog thing in a sealed glass tank together for, um, some purpose. When the door is opened, the dog immediately attacks Hojo. Whether Hojo was killed or escaped somehow is kinda unclear to me, because we’re quickly thrust into a boss battle with a weird mutant, and wait what this talking dog is in my party now??
Regardless, Aeris seems to be safe and sound now, so the only thing left is to escape the building.
Permalink  •  February 07, 2016, 05:07:17 PM
Re: Mia Plays Final Fantasy VII
« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2016, 05:07:17 PM »

-Part 6-

Turns out escaping from Shinra HQ wasn’t so easy. The Turks corner the party in the elevator, and we’re delivered straight to President Shinra’s office on the top floor. He gives a monologue explaining why they’re after the Ancients, aka the Cetra - it’s because legend says the Cetra can lead the way to the “promised land”, which isn’t explained very well but Shinra’s assumption is that it’s a fertile region full of Mako energy.
The party is thrown in jail - Aeris not being locked in any glass tanks this time, thankfully. She’s not the only one who’s tired of being a science experiment, too. In the middle of the night, the prison is opened and the guards are all killed. Following the trail of bodies leads back to the tank that held Jenova, now torn wide open. Whatever this thing is, it’s rampaged through the building, killing everyone all the way up to the top floor. In Shinra’s office, we find that he’s dead with a sword in his back, which Cloud identifies as Sephiroth’s.
Sephiroth seems to be a real wildcard at this point. Obviously he’s not a fan of Shinra Corp if he’s murdered their president, but I know very little else about him. He was in Soldier. He was presumed dead for some reason. If he’s got a vendetta against Shinra, he didn’t go out of his way to align himself with Avalanche. Most importantly, Cloud decides right away that Sephiroth must be trying to beat Shinra to the promised land, though he’s making that conclusion based on information I certainly don’t have yet.

There’s not a whole lot of time to ponder all that, though. A helicopter descends carrying Rufus, Shinra’s son and now the new head of the Shinra corporation. He’s a notable new villain, as not only does he give Shinra Corp the face of a slick twentysomething with an overwrought hairstyle (thus catching them up to the game’s other factions), he also makes it clear that he’s planning to rule Midgar with an even tighter grip than his father had.
Aeris, Barret, and the dog battle robots on an elevator ride out of the building, which… well, the fights were ok, they sure must have been proud of the descending elevator environment they built since I had to fight not one but two beefy robot bosses on the way. Cloud briefly fights Rufus, but the guy quickly escapes on the helicopter that brought him in.

It’s at the ground floor that things get really action packed. Though I’m trying to reserve as many expectations as possible about any Mia Plays game, I have always wondered why the mention of FFVII causes friend Rick to smirk. it’s scenes like this - Cloud jumping on a motorcycle and driving it out a window while the rest of the party follows in a pickup - that give me hints as to why. Goofiness aside, the minigame here was actually pretty fun. Swatting the Shinra motorcyclists aside while rushing down a highway behind Cloud’s friends handled well and was ultimately satisfying. The giant spike-truck boss at the end was quickly dispatched; using the “Sense” materia to determine his elemental weakness was a good move and is kinda giving me the strategic depth I’d been hoping the game would develop.

Cloud announces that, as of now, Sephiroth is the real threat to the planet, and we’ll have to leave Midgar to find him. I- I dunno if he’s giving us enough info at the moment to just go with that (like, how does he know where Sephiroth actually is?), but it seems to be good enough for the rest of the party. We’re setting out for a small town called Kalm (the name of which sounds a little on the nose), so I guess we’ll start our search there.
Permalink  •  February 11, 2016, 08:20:34 PM
Re: Mia Plays Final Fantasy VII
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2016, 08:20:34 PM »

-Part 7-

The next segment was really unexpected for me. Cloud’s been extremely reluctant to discuss his history with Soldier and Sephiroth prior to now. I figured, now that our party’s mission is to pursue Sephiroth following his departure from Midgar, we’d just get little bits and pieces of information about him during the process of tracking him down.
What happens instead is that, at the inn in Kalm, Cloud finally agrees to tell the story of the last time he worked with Sephiroth, giving us a lot of important info up front. Does it cover the full story of everything that’s happened between Sephiroth, the Cetra, and Shinra? Probably not. However, it’s as good an explanation as Cloud’s POV allows, and does give us a lot of perspective on the current situation with a few different characters.

Cloud
Although Sephiroth is the focal point of this flashback, we also learn a bit about Cloud himself. Five years ago, when this all took place, teenage Cloud was upbeat and idealistic. He put Sephiroth on a major pedestal for his combat prowess, and relished every opportunity he had to go into battle at his mentor’s side. Youthful idealism in the context of battle can, of course, be a recipe for disaster. Watching Sephiroth’s descent into madness and, eventually, acts of wanton violence must have done a lot to make Cloud into the short-spoken, stone-hearted character he is now.

Tifa
I’d forgotten that Tifa hadn’t grown up in the slums of Midgar, and was instead raised in Nibelheim very close to Cloud. Like Cloud, her carefree life (apparently as a mountaineer of sorts) was brought to tragedy when Sephiroth murdered her father. I’d definitely misread the flashback Cloud had earlier. It wasn’t Cloud getting a vision of a Mako reactor in Midgar at all, he was actually present for what happened at the Mako reactor near Nibelheim. Tifa’s attachment to Cloud and insistence on him joining Avalanche makes a lot more sense now - the two of them both lost family and friends to Sephiroth at the same time.

Sephiroth and Jenova
The disaster of Nibelheim’s destruction was sparked, of course, when Cloud and Sephiroth are sent to investigate what sounded like a simple mechanical failure at the nearby Mako reactor. I have to wonder if whoever issued that order was aware that having Sephiroth investigate something so close to Jenova and the other Mako-infused humans would be a bad idea. Regardless, it’s Sephiroth’s discovery of these Mako experiments that sends him to the Shinra mansion’s basement to research the history of Jenova. He discovers that the Cetra and humans share common ancestry, but he’s directly cloned from Jenova, the only known sample of the former. This revelation about his origin drives him mad, and it’s a pretty damn violent for an existential crisis. Declaring himself an objectively superior being and burning down the whole village is a pretty drastic turn to take even considering the sort of information he just discovered, and I have to wonder if there’s not some piece of info we don’t have yet. The conclusion of this incident is certainly left in the dark, as Sephiroth presumably fled with Jenova in tow but mysteriously allowed Cloud and Tifa to live, with both of them being unable to remember how or why.
There’s bound to be more to this, and I’m of course very curious about Jenova itself - is it just a Mako-rich fossil as Shinra seems to think, or does it still have a will of its own? Only way to find out, I suppose, is to catch up to Sephiroth.
Permalink  •  February 15, 2016, 01:54:31 PM
Re: Mia Plays Final Fantasy VII
« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2016, 01:54:31 PM »

-Part 8-

My lingering question at the end of my last session with this game was, “How are we gonna go about searching for Sephiroth?” Even with the extra backstory Cloud provided, we still don’t know anything about his destination or goals other than he wants to “find the Promised Land”, which is still basically a myth as far as anyone other than Sephiroth or the Shinra executives are concerned.
I tried asking around Kalm and none of the townsfolk really had any leads, so I resorted to, well, heading for the nearest unexplored dot on the minimap. This was, of course, a Chocobo farm… of course. The proprietor suggested that if I wanted to cross “the marsh” (I mean, sure, why not) I’d have to ride a Chocobo… and to ride a Chocobo I’d have to catch one. Now, those of you who  have played this game before may already be aware of this, but catching a Chocobo was a huge hassle! First of all, buying those “greens” was difficult since I’d just spent most of my gold on extra potions in Kalm (if you’ve played any Square RPG before, you’ll know that buying 50 to 99 of the cheapest Potion item is the most efficient way to sustain your party). Going out to catch a Chocobo with just two of the cheapest-tier greens was not so efficient, though; most of them ran away before I could zap-splode the other monsters around them, if I even got as far as dropping the greens in the first place.
Anyhow, once I had grinded out enough gold to buy decent greens and then caught a Chocobo, I was ready to cross the marsh. The marsh, see, had this huge snake monster in it, and upon crossing there was a second giant snake impaled on a huge stick. This suggested that Sephiroth had already passed through I guess - to be fair there hasn’t been anyone else so far in this game that woulda been capable of that. I certainly can’t imagine Sephiroth taming a Chocobo; I doubt he’d be able to get past the music.

In the cavern beyond the marshes, the Turks appeared. We’re introduced to their newest member, an unusually not-evil lady named Elena. She lets slip that Sephiroth was last seen heading for the nearby Junon Harbor. Thanks, Elena!

Junon is, in many ways, a smaller version of Midgar. There’s a small fishing village, which seems to have been there for many generations, and Shinra’s built a huge city / military base right over top of it. The most unfortunate side effect of this is water pollution, which leads to Cloud and friends having to rescue a small girl from a giant mutant shark. And I mean, goofy as the execution was, this sort of thing does provide some reinforcement for Barret’s position that Shinra is ruining the planet’s ecosystem.
After an announcement that Rufus will be present in Junon for an inauguration ceremony of sorts, Cloud splits off from the group to investigate whether Shinra is any closer to tracking down Sephiroth than he is.
Infiltrating the ceremony, disguised as a Shinra soldier, was kinda fun, though the minigames involved were a bit of a hassle. Somehow, it really isn’t explained, the rest of the protagonists manage to sneak onto Rufus’ outgoing ship ahead of Cloud, which is convenient enough since Sephiroth is supposedly heading toward the as-yet-unnamed western continent as well.
The rest of the party being in disguise was cute - Aeris and Tifa are somehow the most convincing, while the dog walking around on two legs is a visual gag that cannot possibly carry over as well in the upcoming remake, I mean…
But then, sound the alarms, turns out Sephiroth is on the same boat with us!! He seems to be literally possessed by Jenova at this point, not even recognizing Cloud when confronted. After he… flies away(?) we have our first with with Jenova, sorta, it’s this thing called “Jenova birth” that bears very little resemblance to any Jenova we’ve seen previously. It isn’t really that tough - I had a harder time with mutant shark, Sephiroth shoulda teamed up with that thing.
We soon land on the western continent in the sunny beach resort of Costa Del Sol, from which we’ll continue chasing after Sephiroth, presumably by randomly wandering the overworld map again. Wish me luck!
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