We last left off on the outskirts of Costa del Sol. Previously, we crossed the ocean from Junon and while on the ship confronted Sephiroth and Jenova. While in the resort town we met Hojo, who told us to “go west.” So that’s what we’re doing today.
From the Coast to the Mountains
I used PHS to swap out Aeris and Red XIII for Yuffie and Tifa. This is the first time I’m using the secret character and the first time with Tifa since…the Shinra building? Anyway, I want to level them a bit and unlock their Limit Breaks. They also both are packing Double materia growth weapons now and it’s time to lay the groundwork for some better spells. After some equipment rearrangement, I’m back on the grind.
Somewhere in the abyss of Buzzfeed, there’s an article floating around about the “bizarre enemies of FFVII.” Or maybe I glanced at that on IGN. In any case, the sentiment is right, FFVII does have some really weird enemy models. I encountered a lot of “Grangalan” enemies in the immediate area around Costa del Sol, and all the way up the mountain path. It’s basically a JRPG version of a Matryoshka doll. Words can’t do it justice so here’s a screen cap of it.
I wasn’t paying close attention but if you beat on it enough that it spits out all of its little dolls, you get a lot more XP and AP. Compared to the nickel and diming I did on the other side of the world, 368 XP and 36 AP (doubled for Yuffie and Tifa) for one enemy is a nice change. These guys are pushovers too, so I grind about 20 minutes to get Tifa up to Level 25.
Eventually, I head West as Hojo suggested and also because it’s the only way you can go. I have to say; it’s a breath of fresh air to get some different terrain after spending hours on the greenish plains in the old spot. Soon we’re in the mountains and we cross over a bridge. While doing so, we encounter some new (and weird) enemies, this time a bird of some sort and mushrooms with caterpillar-like bodies. They drop lighting plumbs and their XP and AP is decent.
Crossing the Corel Range
After crossing the bridge, there’s a cave we can enter from the world map. Since there’s nowhere else to go, that’s what I do. Soon we come to a man just relaxing on the rocky ground. Stopping to chat for a few minutes, he tells Cloud he tried to warn “a man in black” about the dangers of the path ahead. But the guy just ignored him! Can you imagine? Anyway, Cloud mutters “Sephiroth…” which prompts some disquiet from Yuffie and Tifa. We can continue now, but I don’t remember this little exchange, so I activate the rest of the dialog tree with the man. He tells us it’s dangerous ahead and to be careful. Sadly he doesn’t offer us any wood swords. The final dialog is a reminder of etiquette on the road when meeting strangers. Good to know.
The vistas are quite nice for the next few screens as we auto jump up the hill. Soon the music changes and there’s a huge Mako reactor in the center of the screen. Our sprite is now Tiny so we can get the Huge Scale sense from the place. Have I mentioned that I find this really annoying? We get some more random battles to boot. There’s a new guy here, a six-legged dinosaur who is apparently immune to Fire attacks. Since I have a Fire Materia linked by Elemental in Cloud’s buster sword, his physical attacks are useless. A couple of Ice2’s from Yuffie and Tifa do the trick though.
I wander around the Reactor but I can’t go into it. There’s no treasure chests or freebie Materia’s either. Guess I should have consulted bover_87’s guide to save myself a few minutes here.
The Railroad Tracks
Leaving the reactor area, we come to some stairs and a track heading offscreen. I take the path up and circle back to the overlook in the reactor area, and again there’s nothing there. Ok? Going back to the stairs, I take them down and follow a ridge that also contains a whole lot of nothing. Mapping for the sake of mapping, I suppose. It’s here that I encounter my first Bomb enemy. If you’ve played Final Fantasy before these guys should be familiar to you. There are two of them and one of them explodes himself, doing some hefty damage even to Cloud who’s just breached level 29. Happily, nobody was Downed and we got a lot of AP for that.
Though I equipped my empty Enemy Skill Materia on Tifa, she hasn’t picked up any skills, to my disappointment. Somewhere around here though Cloud got his Meteorain Limit Break so, the leveling is not a total bust. Continuing along the tracks…
We’re now Small Scale in the next area which looks like a rickety wooden roller coaster. There’s a save point at the start of the trail which I elect to use, along with a Tent to recover the party’s depleted HP and MP. At last there’s some treasure here, including a Double Growth weapon for Barret. Everybody’s getting in on that action save for Cloud.
On the tracks, there are some weak spots which break. It’s a random mini-game where you can get some treasure if you hold down a direction button and tap O. I do this three times but each time Cloud doesn’t budge, simply catching himself in the middle and free climbing back up several stories. I’m just not good at these FFVII mini-games.
On the Way to North Corel
On the next screen, we find Aeris, Barret and Red XIII hanging out in front of a raised drawbridge. Somebody points over to a shack on the other side which may contain the controls. The game GUI comes alive and helpfully reiterates this for us. I’m not entirely sure why none of them thought to cross over and lower the bridge since that’s all Cloud is going to do, but when in Gaia, right? We have the option of changing party members with PHS but I’m happy with my company at the moment.
Anyhow, Cloud crosses over the expanse on the upper tracks and gets over to the shack. Aeris shouts “good luck” to us as we pass over them. Thanks Aeris. In the hut, the party talks about tight fits and being used to it. If the writers wanted to you to feel awkwardness and discomfort, it worked. The game then prompts us to hit the button. Or not. Deciding not to take my chances with the dialog tree I hit the button and the drawbridge lowers for our friends. Excellent. Now we backtrack once more to where we met the others. They’ve gone on ahead instead of waiting for us. Fine.
On the next screen the track winds down and there’s a junction. Remembering all the other dead ends on this journey, I almost don’t go down but the game rewards our persistent curiosity. There’s a cave hidden behind the tracks. Inside there’s a fellow who will tell you all about North Corel, the town we’re heading to and his employment status. North Corel has seen better days; I take it. But he has a Tent for us along with a Mind Source and Power Source, so I nab these and exit.
Finally we come to the end of this area. We go back to Tiny Scale once more as we cross an immense rope bridge, spanning the chasm.
The unemployed cave dweller we just looted wasn’t kidding. North Corel isn’t a shanty; it’s a tent city. Upon entering the place, we get an in-game cutscene. A group of men berates Barret, and one of them plants a hard one right on his kisser. The assailant demands to know why he’s returned and theorizes that Barret must have ruined another town. They’re about to mob him but Barret is so cowed that they decide he’s not worth the effort. As they disperse, they call him a “techno-freak” in a shocking display of ableism.
What a brutal world Square dropped us into.
Once we have control again, Barret walks toward Cloud. He’s dejected but when Cloud asks him why he just took it on the chin like that, Barret acknowledges that the angry mob was right. He did ruin North Corel. I find this hard to believe but we’ll soon get a chance to explore Barret’s back story. Though there are NPCs to interact with and potential shopping to do, that’s all the time I have for the game today, so I head back to the World Map and save my progress.
The save file says we’re in the Gold Saucer area. Next time that’s where we’ll go to. We should be picking up a new character and advancing the romance story between Cloud and Aeris (spoilers…) and we’ll find out more about the man with the gun arm. Thanks for reading.