Final Fantasy VII (PSone) – Part 07 – The Nibelheim Incident

– The Nibelheim Incident –

Before we head off to Kalm, we enjoy our newfound freedom by roaming the countryside outside Midgar. Naturally, this means we end up fighting many random encounters. While most of these are uneventful, one enemy encounter in particular is worth noting, the Custom Sweeper. What makes the Custom Sweeper so special is that it has the first learnable enemy skill we encounter. With the Enemy Skill Materia equipped, Aerith was able to learn the Matra Magic attack for herself. This allows her to shoot a barrage of missiles at all enemies just like the Custom Sweeper did. This attack is fairly powerful, and relatively cheap to 44mp to cast, so it will be very useful for us this early in the game.

One other enemy to keep an eye out for are Prowlers. These enemies have the ability to steal items out of the party’s inventory. We can get them back, if we defeat them. However, if the Prowlers flee battle before we can do that, the items will be lost forever.

Once we’ve had our fill of the world map, it’s time to head to the small town of Kalm. Compared to the massive city of Midgar, Kalm feels so incredibly small, having only a small handful of building to the entire town. We don’t plan on staying long though, we just need to meet up with everyone at the Inn, then we’ll be on our way.

Small town or not, they appear to be very well informed, and clearly devoted to Shinra. As far as they’re concerned, Shinra is great for supplying them with Mako energy. It has made their lives so much easier. That’s why it’s so troubling to them when they hear that the Shinra President is dead, and his son Rufus has been injured. It’s amazing that news has already spread to them considering we literally just came from the crime scene.

Anyway, it’s about time we head to the Inn and meet up with everyone else. It looks like everyone is up on the 2nd floor of the Inn. Actually, I think we may have booked the entire building. I don’t think they get much foot traffic through this small town. As soon as Cloud walks in, he is immediately scolded for taking so long. First by Aerith and then again by Barret.

It’s understandable that they’d be mad, Cloud is the group leader after all. More importantly, everyone is gathered here to figure out what knowledge Cloud has been hiding in regards to Sephiroth.

As we already knew, Cloud had looked up to Sephiroth and joined SOLDIER to be like him. Lucky him, he actually got assigned to several missions working alongside Sephiroth himself, and eventually they became friends.

Maybe “friends” isn’t the right word for it. They never really talked about their personal lives or anything. But they trusted each other on the battlefield. So more like “War Buddies”. But that all changed after one of their missions…

Following the war, SOLDIER members were used to stop any resistance left against Shinra. It was on one of these missions that Cloud was again assigned to work alongside Sephiroth. This was 5 years ago, and Cloud was only 16 at the time. Honestly, it shows. He’s so excited and full of energy during the ride there. Apparently, he had been given a new Materia before the mission and is just itching to use it.

Sephiroth tries to calm Cloud down by giving the briefing of the mission, but it’s not very effective. As soon as Cloud heard that this is a special mission, it just riled him up even more. He had wanted to be a war hero like Sephiroth, but by the time he made it to SOLDIER 1st Class, the war was already over. That’s why he’s always so excited for these big missions. It gives him a chance to prove himself.

Eventually, Sephiroth does get to his mission briefing. Apparently they’re looking into an older Mako reactor that is acting up. For some reason, the energy is creating monsters in the area. Their mission is to first destroy these monsters before they hurt anyone, and then fix whatever was causing them in the first place.

As he goes into more detail, Cloud catches the fact that the Mako Reactor happens to be in Nibelheim, Cloud’s home town.

Before Cloud has a chance to get sentimental about returning home, one of the monsters they were looking for just so happens to crash into their truck. So that makes the first part of the mission rather easy.

Perhaps easy isn’t the right word for it. The enemy turns out to be a rather large dragon, and 5 years ago Cloud was unbelievably weak. That dragon takes him out 3 times over in just one hit. Thankfully Sephiroth was there to both revive Cloud and defeat the dragon single handedly.

Seeing Sephiroth fight was a mesmerizing experience for Cloud. But it’s also a somewhat scary thought for us as the player. We’re eventually going to have to fight Sephiroth, and 5 years ago he was already 10 times stronger than anyone in the party right now. We have a lot of catching up to do.

Shortly after the battle with the dragon, the group finally reaches Nibelheim. Right away Sephiroth starts encouraging Cloud’s excitement, asking him how it feels to be back in his hometown. But then he lets his guards down, revealing that he wouldn’t know the feeling because he has no hometown of his own.

Cloud jumps at the opening, trying to get Sephiroth to talk more about himself. For a moment it works, Sephiroth recalls that his mother is Jenova, but she died after giving birth to him. He starts to talk about his father as well before catching on to what he was doing. He’s a good spirit about it, laughing to himself a bit before brushing off any further questions. They have a mission to worry about after all.

Turning away, Sephiroth starts to enter the city, but none of the rest of the group is following. Cloud seems to have distracted them for the moment. Apparently Cloud and one of the guards have because kind of close and have been doing special training on the side. Victory Pose training specifically. So that answers that question. Everyone DOES practice the pose they do after a battle, it’s not just something they chose to do on a whim.

Anyway, Cloud tries to continue to the more important parts of his flashback, but he is stopped by Barret in the present. Jenova. He’s heard that name before. It’s the headless creature we all saw back in the Shinra Building.

Barret probably would have gone on for some time, but the others were quick to shut him up and get Cloud back on track with his story. The town was quiet. No doubt everyone was staying inside because of the monsters. But then again, they might be staying inside because Sephiroth was there…

It’s too late today to make the trip to the reactor, so the plan is to spend the night at the Inn and head out first thing in the morning. Since they have the free time, Sephiroth has granted Cloud permission to go see his family and friends since he’s in town anyway.

First stop, Cloud header over to Tifa’s house. He wasn’t sure if she was home or not, but he thought he could check anyway. This comes as a bit of a shock to Tifa. She had no idea Cloud stopped over while he was in town.

Since Cloud didn’t see her on the first floor, he heads upstairs to her bedroom. He starts looking around for her, but still doesn’t see her. Just for fun, he starts tapping some random keys on the piano in her room. (Side note, I’m vaguely aware that there is some hidden reward if you play some song on the piano, but I don’t know what that song is or where you even get the hint to play it.)

Having not found Tifa anywhere else in her room, Cloud thinks to check her dresser drawers. In case… she’s hiding then them. He doesn’t find her, but he does find a pair of Orthopedic Underwear. Cloud decides to hold onto these… In case he finds Tifa… And she’s not already wearing underwear… Maybe he should have skipped this part of the story…

Aaaaanyway… Having been unable to find Tifa, Cloud decides he should head home and see his mother. This seems to be a painful subject for Cloud to talk about, but the others manage to talk him into sharing. Turns out Cloud’s dad died when he was very young. Because of that, his mom had been living alone ever since he left for Midgar. But she was still an energetic and vibrant woman.

Cue the doting mother montage. Cloud, you look so handsome. Cloud, is this the SOLDIER uniform. Cloud, the girls must never leave you alone. Cloud, I’m worried about you. Cloud, are you eating enough? Cloud, you need a nice older girlfriend to take care of you. Cloud… Cloud… Cloud…… As painfully embarrassing as this interaction must have been, it holds a special place in Cloud’s memory, because sadly, his mother died just a few short days later.

The memory starts to become too much for Cloud and he needs to move on. After seeing his Mother, he returned to the Inn. Sephiroth is standing by the window taking in the scenery. He comments that it looks familiar for some reason, but brushes it off. We need to get up early tomorrow, so we should sleep while we can.

The whole group wakes up early and is getting ready at the edge of town. All they’re waiting for now is for their guide to show up. As it so happens, there guide is actually Tifa!

Cloud tries to stop her from coming. It’s too dangerous with all the monsters. However, Sephiroth is ready to go, so he assigns Cloud to personally keep her safe along the way.

Before they go, one of the locals insists on getting a picture of Sephiroth. It takes some convincing, but he reluctantly agrees to do it. Little did he know the memories this picture would hold.

Now that everyone is here, they headed out to the Mako Reactor. Apparently it was built on top of Mt. Nibel outside of town. I’m sure there was a reason it was built in such a dangerous location. Maybe that was the highest concentration of Mako energy or something. But I can’t ignore that rope bridge. Why is it built so steep? That’s can’t be safe. Also there is no reason to go to the top of that particular mt peak. Just build it across the gap to the wide landing the Reactor is built on. Also, how did anyone get all the parts for the reactor across that bridge in the first place? And especially then having to somehow drag it down off that mountain peak the bridge leads to. Nothing about this makes sense.

As if to prove my point, the bridge breaks almost as soon as they group steps on it. That just goes to show that you shouldn’t make a rope bridge that long and that steep for no reason.

Following the fall, everyone seems to be miraculously unharmed. Well, everyone with a name that is. One of the random guards is completely missing and probably dead. Luckily for the rest of us, the caves on the mountain are all interconnected, like an ant farm, so we should be able to make it back to where we were without much trouble.

As the group starts to make their way through the caves, they stop to wonder at the strange color of the cave walls. Clearly more informed than the rest of the group, Sephiroth explains that the strange color is due to the abundance of Mako energy in the area. That’s probably why the reactor was built there in the first place.

Further into the cave, they happen to see a rare sight, a natural Mako Fountain. When large amounts of Mako collect in an area, they can sometimes form these pools and fountains of Mako energy. If you’re really lucky, they’ll even produce natural Materia crystals like the ones here.

This sparks Cloud’s curiosity. If it’s just a random rock, why does equipping Materia allow you to use magic anyway? Sephiroth scolds him for managing to join SOLDIER without knowing such basic information, but decides to teach him anyway. Apparently “the knowledge and wisdom of the Ancients is held in the Materia.” So anyone that equips it can tap into that knowledge and use it to cast magic.

Of course, even this simplified explanation is too much for 16 year old Cloud to grasp. Cloud’s naivety is so bad that it actually gets a rare laugh out of the otherwise serious Sephiroth. Tifa on the other hand simply hangs her head in shame for having known Cloud…

Hearing this, Sephiroth can’t help but recall his own experience being taught about Materia. Sephiroth was once scolded by a scientist to never use such unscientific terms as “mysterious power”. Technically, they shouldn’t even be calling it “magic”. That scientist was Dr. Hojo of Shinra.

Following this, the group presses on and eventually make it to the old Mako Reactor. Sadly for Tifa, she is going to have to wait outside, Shinra employees only. She’s clearly upset about this, she came all the way out here and she doesn’t even get to see inside. Poor Tifa.

Inside, we discover that even when you enter through the main entrance of the reactor, you still end up running across narrow pipes and having to climb down chains. More importantly, we discover a locked door labeled “Jenova” in the back of a room full of strange glowing pods.

Looking around, Sephiroth quickly identifies the source of the problem. One of the pods is apparently leaking. Cloud replaces the broken part without incident, but Sephiroth is curious why it broke in the first place. Trying to find a cause, he pulls himself up to the viewing window and takes a look inside the pods.

However, even Sephiroth wasn’t quite prepared for what he saw inside. Right away, he knows this must be some of Hojo’s handywork. Some kind of attempt to make a name for himself and get out of his predecessor Professor Gast’s shadow.

Normally, this unit would be used to condense and freeze Mako energy. Now pop quiz time Cloud. What do you get when you condense Mako energy? That’s right, you get Materia. And that’s what these pods would usually create.

Hojo, however, seems to have added an extra ingredient to the concoction. CHEMICAL X!! Wait… Wait, no, that’s The Powerpuff Girls. Hojo seems to have trapped a person inside the chambers, and it turned them into monsters.

Members of SOLDIER are showered in Mako energy. It gives them enhanced abilities and has the side effect of making their eyes glow, as several people have commented on. But they’re still fundamentally human. These people have been bathed in an incredibly high concentration of Mako and have now turned into monsters.

It was at that moment that something finally snapped inside Sephiroth. Cloud barely manages to jump out of the way as he starts slashing wildly at the pods in front of him. Is this how he was created as well?

Those were once humans inside those pods. They’re all hooked up to Jenova inside a Mako Reactor. His mother’s name is Jenova, and even among other members of SOLDIER he has always felt special. It all makes sense now.

After being assaulted by Sephiroth, one of the pods further malfunctions and opens. As the pod door falls off, the creature inside come falling to the ground, writhing in pain. Is this how Sephiroth was born as well?

For some time after this, Sephiroth continued to question his humanity. At the time, Cloud didn’t fully understand what Sephiroth was talking about. Furthermore, he couldn’t understand why Shinra would be intentionally creating monsters like this.

It’s a lot to take in, but it makes a lot of sense. Ever since Shinra started making those Mako Reactors, there has been a noticeable increase in monster activity. Especially in areas close to the reactors. But no one would have thought Shinra was actually the ones making the monsters.

At this point the story has been going on for quite some time, and the game is nice enough to offer up an opportunity to save and come back later. But you’re not playing the game, so no break for you. FINISH READING!

Back to the story. Following the discoveries at the Mako Reactor, Sephiroth became very reclusive. Refusing to leave the Inn or even talk to anyone. Then one day, he simply disappeared.

Eventually, someone spotted him inside the largest building in town, The Shinra Mansion. Some time ago it used to be the home of some Shinra Officials. However, it had been mostly abandoned in recent years.

Even knowing he’s in the mansion isn’t enough to find him. One of the guards spotted Sephiroth entering one of the upstairs bedrooms, but when he looked inside, Sephiroth was gone. Turns out, there is a hidden door in the corner of the room. Not very well hidden. It has an obvious door outline, and a red arrow over it. but for that guard it was hidden.

Heading inside, we find YET ANOTHER SECOND FLOOR BASEMENT STAIRWAY! Following it down, we discovery a hidden library / laboratory. We also find Sephiroth intently reading the various books, trying to find out what the previous researchers had discovered here.

We walk in just in time to watch him discover the research on the Jenova Project. Slowly, the pieces all start to fit together, and it’s clearly weighing very heavy on his mind.

Cloud tries to approach him, to give him any comfort or reassurance at all, but Sephiroth quickly rejects him. From then on, everyone simply let him process things at his own pace. He stayed in that library reading for days. It became an obsession for him to read every book on the shelves.

Eventually, people couldn’t ignore the crazy anymore. Sephiroth had clearly changed since coming here. Cloud once again heads down to talk with him, but Sephiroth once again rejects him. This time laughing at the very idea of accepting help from a traitor. Of course, this accusation catches Cloud off guard. He has never once betrayed Sephiroth or Shinra. What makes him a traitor?

But Sephiroth isn’t referring to Cloud. Not directly anyway. Instead he means Cloud’s entire ancestry betrayed his. Long ago, the Cetra were nomads, travelling from planet to planet until eventually they would find the Promised Land. It was a long and hard journey, and eventually there were those who were no longer willing to continue. They would rather settle down and lead simpler lives than to continue chasing after the Promised Land. Those are Cloud’s ancestors.

The remaining Cetra may have been able to continue their journey, but sadly a disaster fell upon the world. Sephiroth doesn’t go into detail what this disaster was. But he does say that Cloud’s ancestors survived it by sacrificing the remaining Cetra members.

So what does all of that have to do with Sephiroth? Well, it really has more to do with Jenova. She was a Cetra, one of the ones that would have continued on to the Promised Land. The Jenova Project was Shinra’s attempt at creating creatures that would have the power of the Cetra and be able to continue that journey. Sephiroth believes that he is the result of that project, and it is now his destiny to journey to the Promised Land.

If the research notes are to be trusted, this is what Professor Gast had wanted. But why trust notes when he can go see his mother personally. With those words, Sephiroth rushes out of the room and back to the Mako Reactor.

Cloud races after him, but it is too late. By the time Cloud makes it to the front door of the mansion, Sephiroth had already set fire to the entire town. Nearly everyone in town was killed that night, including Cloud’s mother.

As Cloud looks for survivors, he spots Sephiroth on the edge of town, killing anyone that comes near him. We then witness what is perhaps the most defining moment of the game. Sephiroth, calmly and slowly turning away from Cloud, walking into the flames, and embracing the monster he truly is.

Cloud gives chase once again, following Sephiroth all the way to the Mako Reactor. Somehow Tifa and her father managed to make it ahead of us, and have already confronted Sephiroth. It didn’t end well. Tifa’s father is now dead on the floor and Tifa cries over him. This scene may be familiar, because it was one of Cloud’s PTSD flashbacks from earlier in the game. Clearly it meant a great deal to Cloud to see Tifa in this much pain.

Tifa rushes off, sword in hand, to find Sephiroth seeking Jenova at the back of the reactor. Now enraged, she rushes at him with the sword, intent on killing him right here and now.

Sadly, Tifa is no match for Sephiroth. He quickly manages to get the sword out of her hands, and then uses it to slash her across the chest. The impact sends Tifa falling down the stairs, and collapsing near the bottom. Cloud arrives in time to hold her for what they both felt at the time may be her last words.

After moving Tifa out of the way, and propping her up against one of the pods, Cloud follows after Sephiroth. As the only other SOLDIER member in town, Cloud is perhaps the one person strong enough to stop Sephiroth’s madness.

The first sight we get of Jenova is quite disturbing. It looks almost like an angel, but made of creepy hoses and machinery. But Sephiroth sees only his mother. Together they will take back the planet from those who betrayed them.

Cloud busts into the room, interrupting Sephiroth’s monologue with his mother. He demands to know what Sephiroth was thinking. How could he destroy the whole town, and kill everyone in it. But Sephiroth ignores him. Once again, these lesser beings are speaking to him as if they matter. But it is the Cetra who are the rightful rulers of the planet.

Slowly, Sephiroth approaches Jenova, reaching his arms out as if to caress her face. Then without warning, he rips the metal body in half. Sparks begin flying everywhere as fluids rush out of every opening in the body. HE HAS GONE INSANE!

As Sephiroth discards the broken body, we discover a mysterious vat that was hidden away behind it. Inside, is the real body of Jenova that Sephiroth was after. So it’s a complete mystery what that metal angel thing was. It doesn’t appear to have served any actual purpose in this reactor.

At this point, Cloud has heard and seen enough. Sephiroth killed his family and destroyed his hometown. What does Sephiroth even have to be upset about? He didn’t even know about his ancestry until a few days ago. But it doesn’t matter, Sephiroth is so far gone already that he has proclaimed himself the new leader of the planet.

It’s clear that they both feel strongly about their situations, and talking it out is no longer an option. So both draw their weapons and decide to fight it out.

And that brings Cloud’s story to an end. Obviously more happened after this, but Cloud can’t remember any of it. By Cloud’s own admission, it’s unlikely he was strong enough to have actually killed Sephiroth. However, official records following the incident stated that Sephiroth was dead. Then again, Shinra owns the newspapers, so they’re hardly a reliable source of information in this case.

While the story did clear up Cloud’s backstory, it also opened up several questions. Sephiroth could have easily killed Cloud during their fight, but he didn’t. For that matter, Tifa didn’t die either, even after Sephiroth sliced her across the chest and threw her down a flight of stairs. Then there’s the fact that Jenova’s body was somehow moved into the Shinra Headquarters. All except for her head, which is a mystery in itself. It was also missing when our group made their escape, so someone must have taken it somehow.

All of this is simply too much for Barret to process. He throws his hands up in the air and decides to leave all the thinking to Cloud. All he’s going to worry about is the big picture. Shinra and Sephiroth are both heading for the Promised Land, and if either of them make it, it’s not going to be good for anyone. So he is going to stop both of them, and that’s all there is to it.

As Barret storms away downstairs, Tifa wants to know how bad her cut really was. At the time, Cloud thought it was deep enough to be fatal, and he was sad to think she was going to die. Aerith likewise reflects on everything she had heard about the Cetra and the Ancients, since she is one as well. Red XIII, on the other hand, seems to be the only one unphased by the whole thing, simply commenting that it was a fascinating story.

The group ends up following Barret downstairs and everyone gets ready to head out. Before they go, Barret hands Cloud the PHS. I’m not sure what PHS stands for, but it is basically a cellphone that will allow the two parties to stay in touch, and swap out party members as needed. Now that we have this, and therefore full control of the party, I just want to say one thing. There are several points in the game when you as the player are FORCED to use characters other than what may be your normal party. Because of this, it’s a good idea to keep every usable party member at a reasonable level. Otherwise those instances will be a nightmare trying to fumble through with weak characters.

After Barret and Red XIII leave, our party is left with somewhat of a problem. We currently have no definitive plan, or even a hint of where to go next. We can always just wander around until we stumble onto something, but that’s not exactly a plan. Thankfully, someone outside the Inn gives us just the hint we need. Apparently, someone in a black cloak with a long sword was seen heading east towards the grassy fields. That’s a close enough description for Sephiroth, and we have no other leads, so we decide to head east as well and hope for the best.