Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Let's Play Final Fantasy VII (Part 4): Things go wrong

One thing I failed to mention in the last update (mostly due to its length) is that the game blatantly tells me that I'll be leaving Midgar in the tutorials.

Also, I really like how the game has integrated my party members thus far. It spends a great deal of time characterizing Cloud, Barret, and Tifa.

Cloud is a cold and professional mercenary, but he's not completely heartless and has complex motivations. Barret is a simple guy with a direct approach to problems and believes that Shinra is destroying the planet. Tifa we don't know a lot about yet, but we do know that she has good domestic skills, that she grew up with Cloud, and she also believes that the planet is dying. All of these characters are given time to develop, giving us feelings for each of them.

A few citizens in Sector 7 claim that they saw Cloud and Tifa talking together in the bar, and that they appear to be more than "childhood friends." I don't know about that, considering Cloud and Tifa never touch in the scene. It's possible that they meant that they slept together (though clearly without having sex) since Cloud can mention that sleeping next to Tifa caused him to sleep soundly.

Shinra soldiers near the pillar comment that Midgar is under martial law due to the bombing. We also overhear that AVALANCHE has threatened to carry out more bombings. It's understandable that the other members of AVALANCHE aren't shown, because they want to build empathy for Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie. However, none one mentions additional AVALANCHE membership. It's possible that Jessie made the threats on the internet, but that doesn't explain the posters/graffiti/whatever. It's a bit of a plot hole. Still, it seems unlikely that the five AVALANCHE members we have met plus Cloud are acting alone.

Also, Biggs has had a bit of a beef with Barret in earlier scenes, which sort of suggests that Barret isn't so much the leader as he is just the strongest personality among this group.

Either way, these soldiers also state that it's been a while since SOLDIER was mobilized. At this point they really feel like Marines or Rangers; elite infantry units. It's not too unheard of for elite infantry units to be deployed in cases of domestic terrorism, especially when the attack is as significant as the No. 1 Reactor bombing was.

We board the train and Barret tells the team to split up. He picks a bit of a fight with a Shinra salaryman on board the train. There is a bit more worldbuilding here. This guy is some sort of government employee, and he's actually named "Shinra Manager." He doesn't seem like a typical government employee in that he behaves and acts like a normal businessperson (who is really upset by Barret's loud and brash nature).

The picture is starting to come together a bit. Perhaps we're looking at more of a communist government, perhaps Stalin-like, where the government controls business and industry?

It would make a lot of sense to think of President Shinra as Kruschchev and SOLDIER more like a cross between Spetznaz and the US Army Rangers. It's also fairly appropriate, since the Cold War ended only a few years before FFVII was released (and probably around the same time that the game began development).

The plan is that the team's fake IDs are no longer good, so they must jump off the train before the train reaches an ID check point. Once in the train tunnels, the team will travel on foot the rest of the way through Sector 5 and attack the reactor.

That doesn't work out though, because for some reason Shinra has set up an ID check point further up. The team goes into an emergency panic mode, and races up the train as the train systems scan each individual car. Of course, this makes no sense, but it's an excuse for some gameplay.

While we're racing up the train, one of the people we met in Sector 7, Johnny (who told us about the pillar), pickpockets us for some gil. We make it to the front of the train, and since it's still moving we get close enough to our target destination to jump out.

Barret drops another metaphorical line on us as we get ready to leave. He instructs us to jump first, and that "A leader always stays until the end." Again, I'm sure that will be a thing later on.

Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie will remain on the car, disguised as either legitimate passengers or train operational personnel. I'm not sure how their IDs work but ours do not, but whatever.

Now I'd have to say that any reasonable espionage agency would abort the mission. There's really no reason to continue. The authorities knows that there were suspicious people on the train car, and they will have a good idea of where those people might be. At this point, I would probably abort and relocate everyone, as there are eyewitnesses that saw us board the train in the Sector 7 slums. Continuing the mission is probably going to be suicide and there will probably be Shinra officers combing Sector 7 for us when we get back.

The best option is at this point to rendezvous somewhere on the Plate in a safe house and skip town at the earliest opportunity. Because the Plate is only 50 meters up, it's reasonable to say that we could find a way to rappel down and get the hell out of town.

Of course, we're not going to do that because terrorists do not have reasonable operational protocols or fallback plans.

There's actual enemies here in the tunnel, and we explore a bit since there's no chance of getting hit by trains. The enemies are pretty easy, though they can take a lot more damage than the enemies guarding the No. 1 Reactor.

We find that Tifa is more of a frontline fighter, as she attacks with punches and kicks. Still, her lower level and weaker weapon means that she is nowhere near as effective as Cloud or Barret.

Speaking of Barret, the Lightning + All materia combo works really well here. It's not necessary at all, and mainly serves as a way to save time. We could easily just use attack commands, which would probably be better since we'd get more limit breaks (from taking damage) and save a lot on MP.

Still, the All + Lightning combo makes these enemies easy and we still have plenty of MP. Even if Barret ran low, I could just swap over to Cloud or Tifa.

Each party member is kind of interchangable at this point, though Cloud is a bit stronger overall, and Barret has a gun so he can attack at full power from the back row. It's sort of a drawback with the Materia system; characters are more differentiated by their weapons and limit breaks, rather than Job abilities. Even FFVI had unique abilities for each character (even though they could all use the same magic and relics), which gave characters a bit of uniqueness. In FFVII there doesn't seem to be any difference between Cloud and Tifa except that Cloud is better.

We meet the rest of our team in the ducts near the reactor, and Jessie admits to making a mistake with the IDs that allowed Shinra to find us early. They head out though, leaving us to take out the reactor.

What a sec, what? Why did we send all six people if they weren't even going to do anything on the operation? All they did was get on the train, tell us where to go, then leave?

What happened to decoding the doors at the reactor?


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