I had a chance to play for about an hour today. Where we last left off Cloud had just escorted Aeris from the church to her home in the slums of sector 5.
Sector 5 slums is really a small area, and a dump as the name implies. Interesting tidbit is meeting a sick man with a number 2 tattoo. He says gibberish and I thought you could get some items in a small side quest to cure him. That was my memories of the upcoming sidequest blending in. I also never knew that you could interact with one of the NPC’s television sets. If you do you’ll get a breaking news broadcast that updates you about your recent bombing mission in Sector 4. Once again painting AVALANCHE as terrorists.
Anyhow, you meet Aeris’ mother, Elmyra Gainsborough, once you reach their house. It’s quite nice for a poor area with a big yard. Aeris has promised to escort Cloud to the Sector 7 gate, past Sector 6, and her mother, apparently not into strong parenting at all, gives her ascent. However, as Aeris goes to prepare the spare bed for Cloud, Elmyra asks Cloud to leave in the dead of night. Mentioning something about him being in SOLDIER and her not wanting Aeris’ heart broken again.
When Cloud goes to bed, he has a brief conversation with the disembodied voice. It’s not clear if its him or somebody else. The voice mentions that the bed was nice, “like last time” or something, and then Cloud has a flashback to a similar scene. A woman is expressing her worries about him, and then suggests he needs to date somebody older. “To take care of him.” Cloud replies: “Not interested.” When I was younger I always assumed this woman was Cloud’s mom. If that’s the case, this conversation got a whole lot creepier…
Cloud manages to leave unnoticed but Aeris has already teleported to the exit to Sector 6. After deliberating and acting tough, Cloud agrees to bring her with him to Sector 7. The market place in Sector 6 and the road to get to it gets talked up like it’s an epic adventure. The road ends up being one screen with an obnoxious path and bizarre enemies. You reach a playground with huge cat playscapes and Aeris takes out a minute to reminiscence, Cloud dutifully playing the listening party. The sector 7 gate is visible, and it actually opens. A stage coach pulled by a chocobo exits and as it turns to your right, you see Tifa on the back. She’s wearing a dress of some sort. Puzzled by this Cloud and Aeris go to investigate.
Sector 6 Wall Market
The Wall Market is a cool looking area. There are five screens total and lots of NPCs to talk to. You’re not given any clue as to where Tifa might be, nor is it obvious where that stagecoach managed to squeeze through the narrow alleys between shops, or where it parked. You have to investigate the area and talk to people. As others have noted, it’s pretty comical when Aeris tells you that you have to find Tifa soon because a place like the Wall Market is “pretty scary for a girl.” As if neither of them can handle themselves after living in the slums for a while.
After you explore the starting area if you head east you’ll come to the Honey Bee Inn. This was one of the scenes I mentioned in my overview that feels like a subtle jab at Nintendo; both its history and its censorship of “edgy” themes. (Though I have to say the whole game feels like a middle finger to the Big N.) There’s a crowd of socially retarded guys trying to get in. But the doorman will tell you to scram if you don’t have a Membership card (quest item). The chubby middle aged man right in front of him will tell you about Tifa, after he insults you of course. He explains that she’s the newest girl but she’s being “interviewed” by local strong man Don Corneo. The Don apparently “interviews” all new arrivals since he “wants to settle down.” Seems to me that if this is true then he’s not serious about it, as aspiring prostitutes aren’t marriage material. But it does help cement Don Corneo as a buffoon. And it’s just a game, right?
Anyway, if you head back to the start and then north, you’ll get to the mansion of Don Corneo. The door man here will tell you to beat it, since the Don is not into men. Foreshadowing! As you go to leave, Aeris tells the man that she’ll come back with a cute friend. Yes, it’s time for the Cloud crossdressing experience.
Cloud in Drag
All you really need to advance the quest is a dress and a wig. There are multitudes of FAQs and guides that will explain how to proceed and get the necessary items if you happen to come across this page looking for a walkthrough. There are two possible paths: either dress up so well that the Don picks you for the “interview” session, which I believe is the canonical story, or do the bare minimum and he picks Aeris. A few points of this quest that I thought were interesting, or I missed/forgot about.
Honey Bee Inn
If you explore the Honey Bee Inn, there are two occupied rooms and two empty rooms to enter. You get some inner thoughts of the madam(?) as she’s guiding you through the process. None of them are flattering to Cloud, as you can imagine. I never explored the occupied rooms before. You’re given the choice of listening or peeking through each room’s keyhole. If you peep, you’ll see in one of them (the Queen Room) that there’s a satanic ritual going on (yes really). Apparently this is what Shinra executives like to do on their down time. It also provides some plot foreshadowing. The other room (Lover’s Room) has two old people in it who call each other grandma and grandpa. Apparently their son rented them this room in an attempt for each other to spice up their relationship. I don’t know about you guys, but I wouldn’t rent a room at a brothel for my folks. Ever.
Anyway, if you follow the madam to one of the two unoccupied rooms, you advance the quest. The Group room and the “&$#%” room. If you choose the “&$#%” room you’ll have a bizarre out of body experience and meet Mukki. If you go to the Group room, you’ll get a homoerotic “bath” with Mukki and a group of his pals. Having always chosen the “&$#%” room in the past, I went with the Group room for fun this time. Cloud doesn’t go psychotically haywire like the other room but he does get very…uncomfortable. Either way you’re not getting out of it without meeting Mukki. For your troubles you’ll either get some lingerie or bikini briefs, and if you go to the staff room you can ask one of the “honey-bees” to give you make up.
Once you exit, all of the dudes outside are fawning over Aeris. She’s managed to rebuff their advances and collect some gil from them in exchange for flowers. I wonder if that gil goes to the party fund…doubtful. A bizarre sequence, in any case. You can read more about the Honey Bee Inn and what didn’t make the cut in the English version here.
Gathering the rest of Cloud’s outfit involves getting a drunk tailor out of his stupor long enough to fashion you a dress and convincing “big bro” to give you a wig. You can also obtain a tiara from a lazy shop owner if you’re willing to spend the money. The encounter with big bro is a mini game at the gym that involves Cloud doing as many squats as he can against one of big bro’s disciples. Getting pretty involves pain, I think is the game’s message here. Big bro will say something to that effect. If you win you’ll receive a blonde wig, making Cloud more desirable over a fairer haired maiden, I suppose. After you pick up the dress from the tailor, Aeris will also select a dress and doll herself up for the occasion.
Heading back to Don Corneo’s mansion, the doorman will now be very complimentary of you both and allow you in. The receptionist inside will instruct you to wait while he notifies the Don that you have arrived. I take it that Corneo practices formidable OPSec by not permitting phones in his home. You’re free to look for Tifa.
This will lead you down some long, candle lit stairs to a temple where human sacrifices are performed. Or a sex dungeon, depending on how you look at it. Either way it’s a weird room, but Tifa is here. After her initial shock at your get up, she’ll firmly cement you into the BFF-zone for Aeris’ benefit. They share in common amusement at your discomfort and beta male status. Tifa then reveals why she’s at the mansion: the Don has been sniffing around the bar, looking for evidence of AVALANCHE. Barret roughed up the PIs and considered the matter closed. But Tifa was uneasy with it all so she decided to come meet the Don herself to see what he had found out about their terror cell. In order to do that she has to get “interviewed” by the man. Aeris then proposes that since they are three of them, and the Don views three ladies at a time, they can get the information no matter what. Tifa readily agrees to this plan, and the assistant finally returns, bemoaning “women nowadays” “who don’t listen.”
Meeting Don Corneo
At last, your group is brought before the Don. The Don Coreno character model looks a little like the President Shinra model, but with a cigarette, monocle, and Mohawk. Despite his girth he gleefully hops onto and over his desk to evaluate you. If you got all the correct quest items, he’ll choose Cloud as his interviewee for the evening. The other two are given to his minions.
In his bedroom you get several amusing dialog trees to choose from. Eventually Cloud will reveal his true self, and Tifa and Aeris will bust in. Threatening the Don with castration several times, he will reveal that Shinra is planning to destroy Sector 7 entirely in order to eliminate AVALANCHE and send a message to any other lower city dissident groups. The plan is to bomb the pillar holding up a “plate” above the slums. That way the incident can be blamed on AVALANCHE. Devious, right?
Well as you go to leave, you get one last dialog choice with Corneo. He asks why you think he was willing to tell you about the Plan. The distraction gives him enough time to activate a trapdoor to send you to your doom. Not unlike Jabba the Hutt, really. You fall down to somewhere even lower than the slums, and the game fades to black.
Shinra Executive Meeting
The game goes into exposition mode in which President Shinra meets with his henchmen, Heidegger and Reeve. I’ll have more to say about the villains of Final Fantasy VII in a later post. It’s unclear at this point if Heidegger is related to existentialist and Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger. In any case they simply reiterate what Don Corneo told you: they play to destroy Sector 7 entirely with a bomb, which will be blamed on AVALANCHE, and Shinra will come in and handle the clean up, getting a PR boost presumably. Reeve is adamantly opposed to this plan, but is shut down by the president, who suggests he take a few days off. It’s an unexpected level of depth from what could otherwise be cardboard cutouts, and perhaps because I’m paying more attention this time, I appreciated it more.
Boss Fight: Abs
Back to our heroes, Cloud checks on Tifa and Aeris, who have survived the drop. You are now in the sewers, and are soon attacked by a creature named Abs. It has some relatively powerful attacks but I was able to defeat it without too much trouble. Tifa despairs a bit, saying they have no time to stop the bombing, but Aeris cheers her up. Heading two screens up and beating off a few random encounters, you eventually make it to the Train Graveyard, where I stopped for the moment.