– The Chocobo Farm and Fort Condor-
Following our only clue, our party heads east from Kalm and though a small valley between the mountains. It is in the grassy fields on the other side that we come across a Chocobo Farm. Seeing nowhere else to go, we decide to see what clues we can find inside.
As we approach the farm, we interact with some of the Chocobos penned up outside. They seem quite excited at the sight of visitors and actually do a little Chocobo dance for us. Also, as a reward for watching their dance, we are given the Choco/Mog Materia. This is the first summon Materia we obtain, and just so you know, I LOVE using summons. I don’t care that their animations take forever, I would use them every battle, even if it’s overkill.
When used in battle, the Choco/Mog Materia summons a Mog riding on the back of a Chocobo. The two crash into the enemies, causing a comical explosion to take up the screen and inflicting damage to all enemies. The Choco/Mog Materia is a bit special though, even for a summon Materia. It has a secondary summon that happens randomly. Instead of the usual Chocobo and Mog, occasionally a fat Chocobo will fall from the sky and squish the enemies instead. Either way, it does significant damage to all enemies. And this early in the game, it can 1 hit kill many of the random enemies we encounter.
Anyway, heading back to the farm, we actually go inside the house this time to find the farmer, Choco Bill. He immediately asks us if we are planning to cross the marsh. We weren’t planning anything, but now that he suggests it, I feel like we should. Now that we ARE planning to cross the marsh, he suggests it would be safer if we had a Chocobo.
If we had a Chocobo, we could zip through the marsh and avoid being attacked by the Midgar Zolom. What is the Midgar Zolom you ask? Well, it’s just a 30 foot tall snake that lives in the marsh and attacks anyone that tries to walk through it.
So, to avoid becoming snake food, we should get ourselves a Chocobo to ride. Lucky us, we are on a Chocobo Farm. All we have to do is head over to the stables and talk to his grandson, Choco Billy, about purchasing one.
Taking Choco Bill’s advice, we head out to the stables to buy one of their Chocobos. But we’re out of luck apparently. Even though there are plenty of Chocobo outside, it looks like they don’t actually belong to the farm. They’re only looking after them for another client. They currently don’t have any of their own Chocobos left.
We’re not out of options though. Choco Billy suggests we can simply catch a wild Chocobo ourselves. There’s a catch however, actually there are several. First, Wild Chocobo only appear in patches of the overworld where there are claw marks on the ground. Thankfully, there are patches like that just outside the farm.
Second, unless we have a Chocobo Lure, which is a special Materia, they won’t show up even if we are in an area with the claw marks. And then, even if they do show up, they show up with other monsters and will quickly run away because they’re very easily scared. But, if we feed them “Greens” they will be distracted, and not run away long enough for us to kill the monsters.
Then comes the sales pitch, I knew it. Choco Billy just so happens to have a Chocobo Lure Materia, and he’s willing to sell it to us for 2000 gil! We really have no choice right now, from the sounds of it, we NEED this Materia to progress further in the game.
He’ll also sell us the Greens, but he notes that the type of greens we buy will determine how long the Chocobo is distracted. After spending all our money on the lure, we only have enough money to buy a single Gysahl Greens, the cheapest of all the greens.
So, after equipping the Chocobo Lure, we head outside to catch ourselves a Chocobo. It doesn’t take long before we find one. Unfortunately, the stupid thing ran away before we could throw the greens. But not before we already selected to throw the greens. So instead of throwing it at the Chocobo, we threw it at a random monster, and wasted our only greens…
What now, we’re out of greens and out of money. Well, how bad can the Midgar Zolom really be? We’re the heroes of the game destined to save the world. OH MY GOD IT’S A MISTAKE! The Midgar Zolom does 451 damage to Cloud in a single attack. He is clearly way out of our league right now, and we need to escape this battle FAST!!
Well then… I guess we’re just going to have to do a whole bunch of random battles until we have enough money to buy some more greens… On the plus side, that means we get to watch the Choco/Mog summon some more!
After a handful of battles, we have enough money to buy 10 Gysahl Greens. We also manually move them to the top of our item list so we can throw them right away without having to search for them. Finally, we capture the Chocobo and can cross the Marsh without being eaten.
However, there was quite the sight waiting for us on the other side of the marsh. It would seem that there used to be TWO Midgar Zoloms lurking around in the water. Unfortunately for one of them, they foolishly attacked Sephiroth and paid the price for it. Just outside the cave, one of the massive snakes has been impaled on a large tree that has been stripped bare. As terrifying a sight as that is, it once again puts into perspective the immense power difference between our party and the enemy we are pursuing. We couldn’t put a scratch on the other Midgar Zolom, yet Sephiroth not only killed one, but did it in such a brutal way that it remains on display for all to see.
Not letting the sight slow us down, our party enters the cave and continues their chase. Inside, there isn’t much to see, just a small natural staircase to the right that leads nowhere, and a short winding path to the left that would be hard to get lost in. There are a couple things to note though. First, we happened to learn another enemy skill from the Ark Dragons with their flamethrower attack. Also, we find a Long Range Materia on top of a ledge to the right. This allows the user to enjoy the defense benefits of the back row, without any of the attack penalties that come with it.
Heading deeper into the cave, we quickly find our path blocked by the Turks, who have somehow managed to get ahead of us. Rude originally starts explaining what they’re doing here, but quickly gets tongue tied. He’s simply not one for speeches. Thankfully Elena, a new member to the Turks, quickly takes over what Rude was trying to say.
Elena is much more talkative, informing us that they are trying to figure out where Sephiroth is heading. At the same time, they’re trying to stop us every step of the way. Or perhaps, prevent us from stopping them. She’s not really too clear on the wording she wants to use.
With neither of them being able to properly form their thoughts into words, we’re surprisingly grateful to see Tseng show up and save the conversation. Or rather, try to end it. As far as Tseng is concerned, we don’t need to know the details of their orders.
Seeing Rude and Elena basically just standing around, Tseng orders them to continue their original mission as well as file their status reports. Elena takes this a bit too literally, and fills us in on exactly what their mission is. Rude and Elena are currently following up on a tip that Sephiroth is heading towards Junon Harbor. This is good news for us, because we have a new destination, but unfortunately Elena gets scolded again for talking too much.
With that, the three of them start to leave, surprisingly without any kind of battle. However, Rude passes on a message from Reno. He hopes to see us again, and also he has a new weapon that he wants to try out on us. So yeah, he’s kind of mad at us…
Tseng on the other hand has an almost touching message for Aerith. Now that Sephiroth is back in the picture, Shinra is no longer after her at the moment. Ideally, they won’t be seeing each other much anymore, so he tells her to take care of herself. It’s odd to hear such sentiments coming from someone who was trying to kidnap her. But at the same time, Tseng knew where she was for the last couple years and never just stormed her house to grab her. So maybe he’s not as bad as we thought. Either way, it looks like the Turks are going to be trouble for us moving forward, even if we have left Midgar behind.
Once outside the other side of the cave, we head straight towards the first location we see, which is a tower with an impressively large golden bird perched on top of it. Before we are allowed to enter the location, we are stopped by a guard stationed outside. He informs us that the people inside have been fighting Shinra for quite some time and could use some help. After getting directions to Junon, basically just head north up the coast, we agree to help him with his own fight.
Heading inside, we find a small network of tunnels dug out inside the mountain to act as a base. In what is essentially the living quarters, one of the locals fills us in on the situation. As we saw, there is a rather large Condor roosting on top of the mountain. What we couldn’t see however was that it just so happens to be roosting on top of another Shinra Reactor. Shinra obviously isn’t too happy about this situation, and has been sending waves of troops to get rid of the bird.
However, this condor isn’t just resting, it is warming its eggs with the help of the reactor. Giant Condor eggs only hatch once every few years, so it would be a real shame if anything happened to this one. Because of that, the locals have taken up arms to protect it from the Shinra Soldiers.
As noble of a cause as that is, the locals simply don’t have the manpower to hold off Shinra forever. That’s why they have been hiring anyone they can to fight alongside them. Naturally, we offer to help them in whatever way we can.
Climbing the ladder to the lookout point, we get a wonderful sight of the Condor and her egg. We also get filled in with more detail about how exactly we can help. I’ll spare you the full details, because it’s practically another game in itself. But to summarize, we will fight waves of Shinra Soldiers in basically a Tower Defense style mini game. There are multiple units we can hire, some are better than others against different enemies. It’s actually fairly complex. What isn’t so hard to understand, however, is the key to victory. MONEY! If we have enough money, we can hire more than enough soldiers to fight for our side and win the battle. So we’re going to take some time to make LOTS of money before attempting this battle and moving on. Also note, this is an ongoing minigame throughout the game. After various key points in the game, a new battle will become available and every victory has its own special reward.
We were told they only needed a donation of 3000 gil to be prepared for the battle, but I want to offer up 10 times that just to be sure. So we’re going to be grinding away at enemies for quite a while. Obviously, I’m not going to bore you with the details of ALL that grinding. Just enough to say it was a good excuse to get everyone’s levels up for the fights ahead. I do want to point out a few things that really caught my attention though. First, are these Capparwire enemies we found in the wooded areas to the north. They aren’t particularly strong, but they show up in rather large groups which make them a handful. Of course, we could use the attacks that hit them all at once, but Tifa can steal Ethers from them, so it’s worth it to try to kill them slowly. The other thing that caught my eye was another cave entrance on the side of the mountain. At the moment, I can’t seem to find any way over to it, so we’ll just have to make a mental note to come back here later.
After nearly an hour of fighting random battles, the most unusual random encounter occurred. We entered a battle with a Mystery Ninja, an enemy we had so far never seen. Enemies with low encounter rates are nothing new, but what was truly unusual is what happened after the battle ended. Instead of heading back to the world map, we actually found ourselves in an open field with the Mystery Ninja passed out in the grass.
Talking with the Mystery Ninja actually starts a complicated dialog chain with the character. If at any point we say the wrong thing to her, she will run away from us. Generally speaking, any response that seems dominant, or would send us into the menu screen is a wrong response. Likewise, trying to use that save icon in the top left will also result in her running away. However, if we give the correct responses for the whole conversation, we will actually gain the Mystery Ninja, Yuffie, as a new party member. Since she’s an optional character, she won’t have any major impact on the main story, but it’s always nice to have more party members.
Eventually, we gather up all the money I had wanted on donating to Fort Condor. Originally, I had decided to donate 30,000 gil as just an arbitrary number of 10 times the minimum required. However, it turns out 30,000 gil is also the maximum amount we are allowed to donate, so it works out I guess.
Unfortunately it is in this moment that I realized I had made a terrible misunderstanding. Even after donating 30,000 gil to the war funds, I’m still being told they are short on cash. If I could just donate 4,000 gill they would be fine. That’s because the money we donate doesn’t get used to pay for the battles we actually participate in. It’s only used for the battles we miss. When we actively participate in the battles, the money has to come directly from our own pockets. And since we just handed over nearly all our money, we don’t have enough on hand anymore to actually participate in battle. So I guess it’s back outside for some more fighting…
Since it’s the first battle, we don’t spend much time gathering more money, we shouldn’t need it. Finally, we can start the battle, and amazingly the graphics for this mini-game are actually a downgrade from the already limited polygon overworld sprites. These look like they were thrown together in just a few minutes by an intern. Anyway, there are only a few options to choose from, so it’s not that important what they look like. All we have to know is that we’re at the top, the enemy is at the bottom, and we can only place units on our side of the red line.
So, first thing first, we set down a few units and make them rush down towards the few enemies already coming up the mountain. This is as simple as selecting the unit and assigning it a target enemy. After that, we just sit back and watch them engage the enemy on their own. Of course, this is all happening VERY SLOWLY! It looks like there’s a speed control, but I’m not sure how to use it yet, so we’re just going to have to deal with it for now.
As we defeat enemies we also manage to move our line farther down the mountain. This is where having a lot of spare cash really comes in handy. We don’t need any kind of complicated strategy if we can simply swarm the enemy with our men. But since we’re a bit short on cash, we try to keep it within reason for this battle.
Eventually, the enemy commander will join the battle. We can tell it’s him because he’s quite a bit bigger than most of the other enemies. He’s also a lot stronger than the other enemies we’ve been fighting. However, rushing him with our own units is enough to take him out. After the fight, we get a little bit of money back for any ally unit still alive on the field as well as a special reward for winning the fight. For this first one, we got the Magic Comb, which is a weapon for Red XIII. With the battle won, there’s no reason to stick around any longer. We’ll have to check in from time to time to help with the other fights, but for now we should head north to Junon like we originally intended.