Read From Memory: FFVII pt. 32

Last time in FFVII, Tifa and Barret escaped execution with help from Cait Sith and Yuffie. We finally gained the Highwind airship. The world map is now completely open to us, so it’s time to side quest in earnest.

Aboard the Highwind

Tifa is now your avatar. She seems to move faster than Cloud in the field maps, which is a welcome change. On the deck of the Highwind, you’re asked to go to the bridge to confer with the others. You can speak to Yuffie here, who’s suffering from severe motion sickness (a recurring theme for her in these sequences).

Below deck, there’s a crew member you can talk to. He explains that everyone aboard the airship decided to mutiny thanks to the poor treatment from Heidegger. Apparently Cid is an inspirational figure to them, and he encouraged the mutiny. It was just “a minor act” of employees changing management on their own, and Cid has proven to be as “warm hearted as they thought he would be.” Little bit of ironic humor there. Anyway, he’s teaching them all how to be heroic self-thinkers and doers, and they’re grateful for it. After “chewing the fat” with the crew member, I move on.

(I should mention here the Highwind theme is my favorite music in the game. By contrast, the new over world track is so damn ominous and depressing).

The rest of the party is gathered in the cockpit. Here we confer with Red XIII and Cid. Red XIII mentions that while Cloud fell into the Lifestream, he has heard of an island in the south where the lifestream comes up to the surface. Cid agrees to remain the fold, and so we will keep the Highwind for the rest of the game. But before we fly off to find Cloud, let’s do some side quests.

Yuffie’s Side quest: The Pagoda

It’s time to get to Yuffie’s ultimate limit break. We fly over to Wutai and land nearby. I can’t tell you how nice it is to be able to get there almost immediately. The pagoda is the temple on the north west screen of Wutai town, and it consists of five levels. Each level features a fight against a tough creature, representing a different stat in the game (strength, speed, magic, so on). Yuffie must face these enemies alone. There’s a brief exchange between the young ninja and the priest before the combat breaks out.

When I did this the first time, Yuffie routinely got her butt kicked. But if you’re been following along for the last few months, you know I’ve done the prep work. She’s now a bit over level 50, I have almost all of the top tier armor/weapon/accessories, and most of my spells are unlocked. In other words, Yuffie makes mincemeat of these encounters.

The final level, in a plot twist, is held by none other than her dad, Godo. This battle (with boss music and everything) is long but not interesting. Afterward, there’s a long sequence in which Yuffie and papa make up, and Yuffie gets her Wutai jingoism off her chest. More importantly, we receive her ultimate limit break, All-Creation, and Leviathan summon elemental.

Before we leave, Godo stops Yuffie for a private conversation. He reveals he’s as crooked as his progeny. I’ve spoiled everything else in this game for readers, but I won’t spoil this little gem.

Materia, Fort Condor

As always, bover_87’s excellent guide helps me pick up things I definitely missed the first time around. The room in the back of the item shop at Cosmo Canyon contains some goodies and the Full-Cure Materia. That will be useful in the battles to come.

Flying up to the northern continent, we finally can access the Chocobo sage, who’s going to be taking a lot of money in the near-future. In the meantime, we get a fourth enemy skill Materia. (I actually did this before Wutai so I could get Trine on it from Godo).

Speaking of Chocobos, a quick trip back to the Chocobo farm nets us another Chocobo Lure Materia. I couldn’t understand why we get two lures, but you know what, it does increase the wearer’s Luck stat by 1 point. So, why not?

Finally, I head back to Fort Condor for yet another battle. I’m pretty sure this is the last set piece fight I’ll have to do before this mini-game is over. I win it like I did all of the previous encounters, and receive a bunch of Elixirs as my reward.

Finding Cloud

As Red XIII told us, Cloud is in a small village on a southern island. This is Mideel, which is apparently a retirement community in a jungle. So Florida, basically. There are a lot of crystal weapons here, along with an interesting exchange with a crazed prepper. This woman is in all the shops, running around like a maniac and buying up all the inventory. The world’s about to end soon, you know. Anyway, talking to and feeding her little Chocobo, and subsequently tickling it behind its ear, nets us a Contain Materia. Awesome.

We also find a “beat up key” which we attempt to use on the mysterious door in the weapon shop. It’s actually a dummy door, and telling the shopkeep the truth about breaking the key gets us a super rare Curse Ring accessory. Always tell the truth kids.

After all that, we finally find Cloud in a small medical shack. The doctor informs us that he has severe Mako poisoning, probably as a result of falling into the life stream. He’s never seen a case this bad, and is surprised that he didn’t die from the exposure.

Tifa runs over to him and tries to talk to him, but it’s no use. She decides to remain there, to take care of him and be by his side. In other words, we’ve lost yet another party member.

Huge Materia Quest

Back aboard the Highwind, Barret is in the cockpit. Cait Sith, now a double agent for us instead of Shinra, lets us eavesdrop on a high level management meeting. President Rufus is surprisingly pragmatic here, outlining two objectives: destroying Meteor and stopping WEAPON. To achieve the first goal, the plan is to gather all of the Huge Materia, strap it onto a rocket, and send it straight into the oncoming celestial body. The Huge Materia has already been located in the Corel reactor and Fort Condor.

Naturally, we will oppose this effort. With Cid nominated as the new leader of the group (since he’s the Highwind’s captain), we head off to North Corel. And that’s where we leave off for today.

Up Next

Tomorrow is the Fantasy Baseball Update, and so far I’m in line for a win. Keep your fingers crossed for me. Afterward, we continue powering through Disc 2. Thanks for reading!

Read From Memory: FFVII pt. 31

Last time in FFVII, we lost Cloud, and a whole lot more happened. We awaken as Tifa in a very white washed room.

The Execution

Barret is with us in this room, and after he explains to Tifa that she’s been out cold for seven days. Cloud is missing, and presumed dead. The unleashed WEAPON now rampages around the world, but the Shinra are doing what they can. Sephiroth has summoned Meteor, which hangs ominously in the sky. Barret expresses some admiration for Rufus, which is surprising. But the guy in the white suit shows up and dashes that when he informs them both that they’re to be publicly executed. He explains that people are angry with the state of things, and that the heroes need to be killed so people can get satisfaction at revenge.

Damn.

Now as Barret, you’re led down to a gas chamber. Scarlet is there with a presscorp to broadcast the gruesome proceedings. Tifa is locked in there first with Scarlett, who preps her for gassing. During the commotion, WEAPON attacks. In the ensuing confusion, Cait Sith helps Barret disperse the journalists and fight the guards.

Inside, the struggling Tifa needs grab the key Scarlett dropped to escape. This results in a mini-game puzzle, where you have to press the right buttons. Annoying but creative, I admit. Meanwhile, Barret and Cait Sith make their way tot he airport, where they pick up Yuffie (who was posing as a reporter). They make their way to the Highwind (yes!).

Escaping Junon

Before taking a MAKO cannon round to the face point blank, Sapphire WEAPON manages to tear a huge hole in the building. Tifa escapes through this hole, and gets chased along the immense cannon until finally she’s cornered by Scarlett. At last you get to slap her down, and when you jump off the cannon, ala The Fugitive, the airship is there to pick you up.

Thrilling!

The whole world map is open to us now, but that’s all I have time for today. Next we begin the search for Cloud and take care of some side quests. Thanks for reading!

Read From Memory: FFVII pt. 30

A brief placeholder summary today, until I have to time to fully write out my notes. In the last post I had reached the Whirlwind Maze, and some confronted Jenova: DEATH.

In this post, I got major plot reveals about Cloud’s identity, a huge plot twist concerning Sephiroth and the Black Materia, and of course the famous appearance of WEAPON.

Next time will be the Search for Cloud.

Read From Memory: FFVII pt. 29

Last time in FFVII we defeated the two headed dragon Schizo, and made the final climb from Gaea’s Cliff to view the Northern Crater. This whole section is rather heavy on the cut scenes and dialog, so I’ll be condensing for this post.

The Crater

There’s a cool CGI sequence when you first view the crater. There’s an inner structure with swirling green mists, and northern lights overhead. This also is where Sephiroth most likely is. We descend down into the crater, and soon Tifa joins us. I have to reform, so I decided to leave Cid in and tell Vincent to stick around.

Read From Memory: FFVII pt. 28

Last time in FFVII we reached the base of Gaea’s Cliff. We continue on (and up) from here.

Climbing Gaea’s Cliff

Here’s another mini-game. Your body temperature is displayed at all times while you’re on the cliff face. It’s set to roughly 38 degrees, which I assume is centigrade. If you drop below a certain number, I think it’s 28, you pass out (like in the Great Glacier) and end up at Holzoff’s again. Then you have to start the climb over. To avoid that unhappy fate, merely push the square button repeatedly to warm up.

As should be needless to say, it’s a good idea to crush that square button at every interval.

There are numerous orange-red flags set up on platforms above. There are also decently tough enemies around here, including the iconic “Marlboro” monster. (Aside: according to legend this enemy’s name and flavor came from a designer who was constantly around a guy sucking down cowboy killers). When you reach a flag, you often have to choose which way to climb again (Right, Up, etc). It’s best to always be climbing up, in case you were wondering.

At the top of this first section, there’s a cave which we enter.

Gaea’s Cliff Cave One

I’m also a little ashamed to say I got stuck navigating this area. I don’t know if this was intentional with the art direction, but I have to say Square did a fine job of creating an illusion of confusing exploration.

In the first screen of the cave, you’re funneled into this narrow area that slopes and curves upward. Our way forward is blocked by some stalagmites. So we head down and around the path, which leads us to a hidden room containing a Ribbon (fist pump!). Once we get to the top of this room, there’s an option to kick a boulder down. Doing so will clear the aforementioned stalagmites so we can continue. So we do this and leave this first cave.

Gaea’s Cliff Cave Two

Now we’re back to the climbing mini-game. This section is longer than the last and it’s possible to climb to dead ends. I navigated this part successfully mainly by staying left and going up as much as permitted. There’s yet another cave here, so we enter it to explore.

Like the first cave, our progress is blocked by obstructions. There’s an elixir here in this large room and an exit to the north east. The exit plops us in an outside area, with no body heat meter (thankfully). This narrow ledge wraps around right and leads us back into the upper portion of the complex. Here, there are four massive icicles and two treasure chests on either end of the long ledge. Approaching any of the icicles triggers an encounter, usually with obnoxious blood sucking bats and a gigantic icicle. Casting a heavy fire spell (Beta or Fire3) gives you the insta-win, and causes the icicle to crack and fall down. This will clear the obstructions below.

We get a Fire Armlet and Megaelixir (Last Elixir?) from the chests for our troubles. Backtracking to the main room, the fallen icicles have cleared the way to a chest containing a speed source and save point. Not to mention the exit to the north.

Gaea’s Cliff: Last Cave

The final climbing section is more or less linear. As before, there’s a cave at the top. This one is also short and straightforward, so I gather we’re getting close to something…There’s a save point here and a pool which restores your health and magic. Yes, there’s definitely a boss coming up.

Not that we really need to rely gamer’s intuition here, with the ever helpful guide from bover_87. He advises that the next boss has several elemental attacks, and it’s a good idea to farm Dragon Armlets from the blue dragons that appear here. These are tough guys with a lot of HP, but at this point Cloud is level 60. I fear nothing this game throws at me. But I’ll take the XP and AP all the same.

I got one Dragon Armlet off the bat, but had to wait a while before the encounter tables reshuffled. With that, I save once again and continue on the narrow tunnel east and south. In this long tunnel, we “hear” a groan and see one of our black cape wearing friends get ejected from the bottom of the screen. His body blinks out of existence as we approach, and the party breaks out of Cloud for a dramatic pause. Cue the boss fight music.

Boss Fight: Schizo

Schizo is a two-headed dragon with fire and ice breath weapons (one per head). It also has an Earth based attack and when one of its head’s croaks, it performs a lighting based attack.

Prior to the battle, I equipped the dragon armlets which reduce fire/ice/lighting elemental attacks by 1/2 damage. I also equipped Cloud and Vincent with protection against Earth attacks (sorry you’re SOL Cid). The boss has 36,000 HP total, so it’s a bit of a beater. But like I said before, Cloud is so OP at this point – and Vincent and Cid aren’t slouches either – that I just resort to pummeling the creature.

I cast Aqualung twice to hurt it badly, and repeatedly attacked it with Cloud and Vincent. Cid casts Slow and and Regen on the party as the healer, and hits for the occasional limit break when that’s available. Before long, both heads are dead and the way forward is clear.

To the Whirlwind Maze

We have finally reached the precipice of Gaea’s cliff. There’s a cool CGI in which the camera pans out and over the ledge so we can see the crater for the first time. There’s swirling green energy here, which is the lifestream of the planet (I think?), deployed to heal the damage from the “crisis from the sky.”

Tomorrow we’ll get through this maze and advance the story even more. Thanks for reading.

 

Read From Memory: FFVII pt. 27

After a long lay off from FFVII, we’re back at it on disc two. Last time we left off back at Fort Condor to participate in another battle. That done, I headed north north to the Snow Fields.

Leaving Corral Valley

For some reason I couldn’t get skills onto my Enemy Skill materia. I don’t know if it’s a bug or what. But after trying for a good 10 minutes, I decided to cut my losses. Passing through Bone Village and Aeris’ final resting place one more time, I take the East path leading out of the city. Here, there’s a strange shell-like structure to climb and some loot lying around.

Past this, there’s a cave with more loot and Materia. It’s a slight puzzle room, with you having to choose the right paths to climb. Foreshadowing for later mechanics…

The whole journey is rather uneventful, and at the top of the cave, we emerge into a colder location on the world map.

Icicle Inn

We head south, leaving foot prints in the snow (making me nostalgic for Metal Gear actually) and then west around the mountain range. Cutting back north, we come across a picturesque village. We get some significant plot reveals here about Aeris, her real mother, and Dr. Gast. In the weapons shop there are a bunch of powerful weapons, each costing something like 12,000 gil. I bought something for everyone, and finally sold my MASTER All materia for a cool 1.4 million gil. Don’t think I’ll have to be worrying about money for the rest of the game.

In the other houses, we receive a map of a glacier and some local talk of a yeti or snow woman. Or something like that. Anyway, once we speak to a woman at the top of the screen, the Shinra appear. Elena leads a squad of SOLDIER straight to Cloud.

She tries to assault Cloud for hurting Tseng (referring to the latter’s injury from Sephiroth at the Temple). It’s a quick mini-game where you have to dodge her punch. Do so and witness a comical scene where she turns into a human bowling ball.

Afterward the Shinra men have blocked the town exit. So in order to proceed, we visit the center house and receive a snowboard from an injured lad. We can now get down the mountain.

Snowboarding Down the Mountain

It’s been a long time since we played Arcade FFVII. The first time was in Midgar with the bike chase sequence. I hated doing this in 1997, and I haven’t improved twenty years later. Heuristic: most things don’t get better with age, especially anything involving reflexes. 6 minutes or so later, having gotten maybe 5 balloons and hitting 500 objects, I’m at the bottom.

I wound up in a forest location. Cid confirms my above heuristic, whereas the undead Vincent is OK. My patience and pride will get over it too.

I hesitate to call this next area a puzzle dungeon, but it is. With the map we received in the town, we can see our objective. It’s a small hut to the north, marked by a red check. You navigate somewhat confusing screens to get there. If you want to get all the treasure, you have to go multiple times, since you “pass out” from the cold after a few minutes.  Welcome to the Great Glacier.

Great Glacier

From the forest area I head right and eventually end up near a semi-frozen lake. The enemies around aren’t especially tough (they’re more bizarre if anything else) but I foolishly infused Cloud’s weapon with the Ice elemental. This led to one battle being stupidly long as his counter-attacks healed the enemy for 1600+ HP each time. After a quick rearranging of the Materia to correct that, I continue to the lake puzzle.

The lake puzzle involves jumping to the correct ice islands that appear as grid of sorts. There’s an island at the center of the ice floe, with a hut containing the safety bit accessory.

I then backtracked west, and ended up in a strange iced over locale with a igloo-like structure. There’s an Elixir here, and apparently there’s an infinite item glitch which I choose not to exploit. With that, Cloud passes out from the cold.

Holzoff’s House

We awake at the goal anyway. The man here, Holzoff, tells us a quick story of how he and his compadre tried to climb “the cliff” only to be turned back. And his friend had cut his rope and plummeted to his doom without him even knowing it.

It’s cold out there on the cliff face see. Really, really cold.

Anyway, we can rest and save here, so I do that. I’m not quite finished with the Great Glacier yet, so after conferring with the rest of the party at the base, I head into the snow fields again.

Snow Fields Side Questing

I suppose this counts as side questing? I’ve already picked up a Mind Source, Safety Bit, and Elixir. When you enter the snow field, it’s similar to the world map but you’re not quite on that. You can leave poles as markers, which I guess is useful? Every once in a while, the snow gales whip up and the map starts to rotate slowly. This does a wonderful job of screwing up your sense of direction.

Heading due south, and keeping my orientation as well as I could, I come across a small cave. There’s an All Materia in here, so I nab that. From there I head right (east) as best as I can, and finally come to a mountain pass. Here I pick up an Added Cut Materia, which adds a physical attack to magical ones.

Along the way, I discover a hot springs. Thanks to bover_87 I know I need to interact with this scenery for a brief fight scene ahead. Heading north east from here, I come to another cave with a woman inside. She knows I touched the water, which really sets her off and she attacks me. With boss music and everything!

I’m not going to count this as a boss fight, despite the musical cue. I crush this strange woman in two melee attacks, and receive the Alexander Materia as a reward. This woman, by the way, was the mysterious snow women the bar patrons at Icicle inn were referring to.

Making the Climb

That’s all there is to see and get in the Great Glacier, so I return to the snow field once again and strike out for Holzoff’s cabin. Once there, I head north up the slope and to the cliff face.

Gaea’s Cliff awaits us next, and that’s where I’ll leave off for today.

Fantasy Baseball Update Week 18

How frustrating is a last day loss for a team that’s in 11th place? I’m not surprised by it, but to lead for most of the week against the second place team, only to punt on the last day…well, that’s the 2017 Makers for you. The final score was 348 to 413. The team is now 6-12 with three left to play.

The offense did admirably this week, putting up 252 points. The pitching wasn’t quite the non-factor it was in last week’s embarrassment, but 96 points just ain’t enough. My opponent came out respectably on the first day, but then inexplicably faded for the next few days. But as predicted, he came back strong on the weekend, scoring 195 points to my 92. I have no idea how he’ll do in the playoffs. But I can’t find myself rooting for him quite yet.

This week I’m up against the former league champion, who coincidentally is coming off a shellacking from the last place team. (We’re now tied for that dishonor by the way). I have no idea how my team will do, coming off two straight losses. I wouldn’t have guessed at the beginning of the season that I would only be two games behind this team. But this has been a very weird year. Out of pure hope and guessing, I’ll mark the Makers down for a win this week.

The final two games are against my cellar-mate. I’ll have a chance to avenge last week’s loss on him. But if the last two games are an indication, his team is getting hot at the precise moment mine is fading. Cross your fingers for me that I can win at least one of these games to beat last year’s dismal record.

And yes I’ll be deciding at the end of the season if I’m staying in the league for 2018. Thanks for reading.

Intermission Continued

Yes I decided to extend my break from FFVII another day. Tomorrow I’ll post the Fantasy Baseball Update, right now – to my surprise – I’m leading my opponent by about 20 points. I still don’t expect to win, but at least if I do lose it won’t be a lopsided defeat like the last time I faced him.

On Tuesday I’ll resume the RFM series with Disc Two.

Intermission: FFVII

It took me just a few minutes shy of 45 hours to get to the end of Disc One of FFVII. If I had an operable PlayStation still, I could actually check my original timestamp from 1997 (assuming the memory cart still worked). My gut feeling is it took me about 25 hours to get there the first time around. Now that we’re on Disc Two, I have some leveling to take care of. I already went to Fort Condor for the next battle. I may make another stop or two before I head back to Corral Valley, and the Snow Fields beyond.

So while I take care of those errands, I’ll be taking a break from Read From Memory. I may post part 27 before the Fantasy Baseball Update. But more likely I’ll be back in the swing of things the day after. Thanks for reading the series so far!

Read From Memory: FFVII pt. 26

We last left off in FFVII in Corral Valley, a sea-bed like place between the Sleeping Forest and the Forgotten Capital. This is the end of Disc One, and for those of you who’ve played FFVII before, you know what we’re in for. I shouldn’t have to do spoiler warnings for a twenty year old game (I’ve spoiled much of it already) BUT, if you don’t want the plot twist spoiled, don’t read on.

Run back to Fort Condor

Thanks once more to bover_87, I know I have to go back to Fort Condor again. These battles are getting a little tedious, but it should be worth it in the end. I definitely missed this the first time around. This battle features 40 enemies, and 5 X potions as the reward. Not bad.

The Forgotten Capital

This dungeon is a small maze, with three directions you can go: East, West, and North. I’ve swapped in Cid and Vincent into my party, and equipped them with Earth based Materia, in anticipation of the boss fight ahead. The stage music, Listen to the Cries of the Planet, is pretty ominous. On the east path, there’s a place to rest – and doing so prompts Cloud to wake up in the middle of the night. He can sense Aeris is here. He confers with the others, and they all agree that “something terrible is about to happen.”

Blunt foreshadowing, but ok.

After this point I head back to Fort Condor, fight the battle and win. You know the routine by now.

Back at the Forgotten Capital, the music has changed to Aeris’ theme. On the west path there’s a save point which I use. Having gathered all of the treasure in the place, I head into the building with Aeris.

(Final Warning: major spoiler ahead)

Aeris in Prayer

We take a long surreal stairway down to what looks like a moon pool. Aeris is in the center of this place on a platform/shrine, praying. There are a bunch of pedestals that you have to hop on to get over to her. Cloud tells his party to wait, and he hops over to her.

Once there, Aeris doesn’t acknowledge Cloud right away. He starts to wig out again, much like he did at the Temple of the Ancients. Your controls get all wonky, and you have to stop him (sort of) from splitting her head open with the Buster Sword.

She finally looks up and smiles at Cloud, right before…well. I could type it all out, but why don’t you just watch what happens next, as played by A-M-D. Behold “one of gaming’s most famous and historic cutscenes” as bover_87 put it.

Aftermath

And with that, we have the perma-death of a major character in a console RPG. There may have been other instances in other games, but back in 1997 I wasn’t aware of any. My teenage self was shocked, as I’m sure a lot of other gamers were back then.

Afterward, you’re back at a house in near the rest area. Cloud has a moment of doubt, and decides to push on. He will never forgive Sephiroth, and now he definitely must stop him. He asks Vincent and Cid to do him a favor, and stop him him from doing something terrible again. Vincent replies “I guess so…”

There’s one way to lighten the mood. Lousy writing.

With that, we insert Disc Two. And that’s where I leave off for today.