Read From Memory: FFVII pt. 13

Last time in FFVII we got to North Corel, a run down mining town. It’s in rough shape thanks to Barret, for reasons we don’t know. We’re heading to the famous Gold Saucer next.

Exploring Beautiful North Corel

North Corel is an impoverished tent city. There are a couple of shops here and some NPC conversations for local flavor. But the place is small and desolate. There’s a loose Ether to we can loot in one of the houses though, the home of a senile old man and his granddaughter. Outside, there’s a ring of shop stands, one of which has a Force Stealer. At last, Cloud has a double growth weapon. At some point, he could have upgraded his sword to a Mythril Saber. That is, I could have looked at my inventory and given him a better weapon. The buster sword is so…iconic! Anyway, heading left a screen; you enter into at trolley station. Or Rope Trolley. It’s a gondola that will take you up to the Gold Saucer. One of the locals reminds us of how poor they are, noting the station isn’t busy these days. Barret is still angry, so we leave him be for a moment and get on the trolley.

Gold Saucer

When we take the trolley, there’s a CGI sequence that actually still looks decent for being 20 years old. The sequence takes you through the entire entry into the theme park. I got hit with a wave of nostalgia as the car comes through the moogle’s mouth and parks. Can’t recall how many times I must have seen that cut/loading scene. I spent a lot of time at this level, sometimes to listen to the theme. (Oh go ahead, revel in the awesome stage music for a while before reading on. )

Amazing how it all comes back to you.

Exiting the car, we see a fat Chocobo mascot hopping around like an idiot. If you speak to him, he’ll give you an enthusiastic Welcome message. There’s a save point here, but you have to pay 5 “GP” to use it. Now that’s a bummer. They were going for the authentic nickel-and-dime-you feel with these theme park. The hostess at the door explains that the Gold Saucer uses an alternate currency called GP. You can only use GP at the place, and you can only get it by playing games in the arcade and Chocobo racing. Fine. The door pass to get in costs 3,000 gil and a lifetime pass costs 30,000. I’m down to about 9,000 gil, so I fork over the cash for a single day pass and head in.

Once you’re in the lobby, there are tubes you jump into to go to any of the different zones in the place. Barret is still angry with life and lets Aeris know this when she tries to cheer him up. She acknowledges the gravity of the situation but she “wants to have fun for a while.” I agree with her, so that means that’s what we’re going to do. Barret reminds us of the mission and then jumps into a tube going to Wonder Square. For the heck of it, I decide to take Yuffie with me and explore the Saucer. She expresses her surprise at the choice but doesn’t put up a fight.

Exploring the Gold Saucer

With Yuffie, I head to Chocobo Square first. I spent a lot of time here back in the 90s. Before we get far, Cloud tells Yuffie to hold it – there’s a squad of Shinra troopers at the entrance to the races. Wonder who they’re looking for. Anyway, I can’t do anything at the moment, so next, we go to Ghost Square. It’s a kind of like Disney’s Haunted Mansion, except there’s a gift store here. Since I don’t have any GP, I can’t buy anything. So next we go to Speed Square, which I visited once during my original playthrough. We’re greeted by a man in a speedo who calls Cloud “boy” several times, to our avatar’s chagrin. This is Dio, the owner of the Gold Saucer. He’s a very busy man, but he’s nice. He asks Cloud if he has a tattoo on his hand, since “all the kids his age seem to be doing it these days.” He explains he met a guy with a “1” tattooed on his hand. So Sephiroth is around huh.

Once Dio departs, I go inside to take a look. Speed Square contains some sort of interactive ride, but I don’t have the time to try it out this session. Next up we go to Battle Square, but it’s currently closed for “renovations.” Well, so much for that. Time to follow Barret to the arcade.

Wonder Square

Upon getting to Wonder Square we’re greeted by a large animatronic beast that offers to tell us our fortune. Why hello there, my old friend Cait Sith. My least favorite character of all time across the entire Final Fantasy franchise. Comic relief ensues when Cloud asks Cait Sith to give him his fortune. After a couple of duds, the bot finally produces an ominous fortune. Foreshadowing the grim things to come for the party. Cait Sith is incredulous at the result. He swears he never got that before, and then demands to go with the party to find out “what the fortune means.” Apathy wins the day and Cloud allows the walking fortune teller to join in.

Moving on into the arcade and blow most of my remaining gil on the basketball game and the arm wrestling game. I got an elixir out of the claw machine for 100 gil, but I was out of money before I could play the motorcycle game. It’s a rehash of the escape scene from Shinra HQ, way back in Midgar. This is how I got most of my GP – and will again when the time is right.

Out of money, I leave the place and go to Battle Square.

Murder at Battle Square

Well, this is unfortunate. Somebody came in and shot up the entire arena, killing the Shinra soldiers and the attendants. And they had almost finished the renovations! Sephiroth isn’t the culprit since he never would use a gun to kill, according to Cloud. Since Barret is the only one we know of in the whole place who carries a gun, it’s clear he’s the prime suspect.

Hey, I’m reporting the plot as it unfolds, I didn’t come up with it.

At that moment Dio shows up with his private security and tries to arrest you. Cait Sith urges Cloud and Yuffie to escape into a dead end. For reasons I never understood, you follow into the building. There’s not a lot of time to discuss, and about 20 seconds later Dio and his men capture you with some odd looking mechs.

The screen fades, and we transition to an undisclosed time later. Cloud is about to meet some horrible fate. Cait Sith and Yuffie were already punished, and now it’s Cloud’s turn. He tries to reason with Dio one last time. But the owner dismisses him, and the “door to Heaven” portal opens in the ground. The mech jumps through with Cloud in its clutches.

Corel Prison

You land in a desert prison, surrounded by quicksand so nobody can escape. At least, that’s what one of the denizens tells us. Your party is with you and Barret is here too. He’s standing over a dead body, but he ignores you and walks south. I spend few minutes in this area, but there’s not much to explore. There’s an odd well you can climb down into that has an empty treasure chest. There are some random encounters with jerks who steal your money and stuff.

Heading south, there’s a whole town of convicts. Some NPC follows you around in an obnoxious manner. He’s insane, not that I can blame him. There’s a row of three guys who lie all the time, according to one of the other criminals. They’ll tell you that “the boss” headed southwest along with some other nonsense. The riddle – such as it is – is that you should believe the exact opposite of whatever these guys tell you. I don’t loiter here long, and to the east, there’s a house. I go there.

Barret’s Story

While you’re standing around in the house, Barret comes in. Cloud tries to interrogate him, but in a tense moment, Barret points his gun arm at the party. He shoots some hoodlum who was hiding behind the couch. At that, Tifa, Aeris, and Red XIII enter. Barret reiterates that he told us all to stay out of it, but nobody is listening to him. So instead, we get story time with Barret.

To make this short, four years before the events of the game, North Corel was a prosperous coal mining town. Shinra offered to install a Mako reactor, and everybody – including Barret – wanted it. Scarlet gets a cameo in all this, acting as the saleswoman. One man named Dyne was the sole holdout. But the village “headman” and Barret persuade him to go along with the upgrade.

Well, the reactor blew up shortly after its completion. So as Shinra is wont to do, they came in and leveled the entire town, killing all the villagers. Barret and Dyne had been away from town during all this. Returning via the railroad tracks we traveled on last time; they saw their home in flames. They also witness the village elder gunned down by Shinra troopers. The duo tried to help their friends and neighbors, but the Shinra goons interdicted. These guys have horrible aim, and Scarlet mocks them. But finally, they get close to the mark and knock Dyne off the cliff. Barret scrambles and holds him with one arm, which the Shinra guys pump full of lead. Dyne plummets to his doom.

So that’s how Barret got into the Eco-terrorist trade. He took up a vengeance quest against the Shinra and discarded his old prosthetic for a gun arm. When he got the operation, the doctor told him somebody had the same work done, which clued him into Dyne’s survival.

Leveling in the Desert

There’s a touching exchange between the party members as they pledge to support Barret. Cloud refuses to let him go it alone, so we have to pick a third person. I go with Aeris, and finally, take out a few minutes to get everybody’s Materia and equipment in order. The inventory system in FFVII doesn’t scale too well once you start accumulating stuff.

The three liars in town told us to head South West to find “the boss,” so that means we’re going to go North. After a few screens, there’s an endless loop in a desert map. I spend a good amount of time here killing the Landworms for 400XP and 40AP a pop. Bagged two Cactuars too for a cool 20k gil haul. I got Barret up to level 26 and made big dents in the Materia levels, thanks to the double growth weaponry.

If you go to the left screens, a guy in a Chocobo wagon will stop and offer you a lift. When you take his offer, you’ll end back up at the perimeter fence right before the endless loop. There’s a criminal milling about here, and he tells you that the boss is in a rotten mood. Proceeding past him, we find ourselves in a junkyard. One more screen, and we finally meet Dyne.

Boss Fight: Dyne

Aeris expressed her hope that Dyne would join their party, but the man is insane. Barret confronts him about the murders in Gold Saucer, but he replies that he wants to watch the world burn. Or something like that. When Barret tells him that his daughter, Marlene (remember her?) is still alive, Dyne blows a gasket. Since he assumed that his dead wife Elanor had Marlene to keep her company, he and Barret need to fight to the death. That way, she can have company. The logic of a madman.

The boss fight doesn’t give me too much trouble. It’s a solo encounter between the men with the gun arms. I take bover_87’s advice and cast Sleepel on him to start, and then cheese him to death with spammed Fire2’s. Afterward, Dyne slinks over to the two crosses he set up, presumably for his wife and daughter. He implores Barret to take care of Marlene, and as the sun shines on the headstones, he jumps off the cliff. This time, we can assume he’s dead.

Dramatic.

Racing out of Heaven

We’re back in bandit town with an elevator operator. Now that Dyne is out of the picture he’s a little more receptive to us, but he can’t allow us to leave. Dio gives criminals a chance to earn their freedom by competing in the Chocobo races. IANAL, but none of this sounds legal to me. But hey it’s a way out of here. An attendant named Esther volunteers to aid us, and she’s our in-game tutorial on how to race Chocobos.

Much like the Moggle cinematic, I got hit with a ton of nostalgia on the race track. I spent a lot of time racing chocobos. In the jockey room, there’s a Ramuh summon materia lying on the floor. It’s like these guys don’t even know what they’missing. Chocobo racing is yet another mini-game, but I’m OK at this one. I gassed my first Chocobo so lost the first attempt. Nut Esther gives us another Chocobo and enters us into a second race. I win this time, and we’re finally done with Gold Saucer, for now.

Esther hands us a letter from Dio, which is a sort of apology non-apology for all the trouble. He tells us that he met with Sephiroth, who “must have a lot of fans of boys your age” and we get the man in black’s next target.

At that, our PHS rings and Aeris is ecstatic. We got a buggy from Dino to drive around in! “Isn’t it great!” she says. I wouldn’t know since I haven’t gotten there yet. Anyway, we have our first vehicle of the game. Now several areas of the world map are open to us, thanks to the buggy’s ability to cross rivers. We’ve got a bit of exploration and leveling to do now. But I’ve spent too much time on this session, so I’ll end this week’s week’s installment. Thanks for reading.

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