– Gongaga and Cosmo Canyon-
Now that we have the buggy, it looks like we’re capable of driving over the quicksand of the desert as well as being able to drive across small rivers. The tutorial screen also mentions that we can hitch a ride on the cargo ship to go between Junon and Costa del Sol, so we decide to do just that before we move on. I actually find it quite remarkable how readily the crew is willing to help us cross the ocean. It’s one thing to knowingly allow stowaways on the ship. They probably won’t cause any harm. But we are Shinra public enemy number one for crying out loud. On top of that, they’re ALSO loading a car onto the ship for us. That requires quite a bit of coordinated effort from multiple people. You can’t really feign ignorance in that situation if the higher ups ever find out.
To make matters worse for the lower ranking Shinra employees, once we make it to Junon, we are offered a private helicopter ride to the edge of town. Can you believe that? The buggy is even waiting for us when we get outside of town. So not only did we get a personal helicopter ride, not only did we have people unload our car for us, but we also had someone personally drive it through town and deliver it to us so we can happily continue our journey. SOOOOO many people are going to be fired and or killed when the higher ups find out about all this.
Anyway, we head east from Junon and cross the river to reach the cave we saw earlier. Inside we find a sleeping old man who for some reason will sleep talk various stats about our playthrough. How many battles we’ve fought, how many we’ve run away from, that kind of thing. Generally speaking, he’s kind of useless for being so inaccessible.
However, the internet has a much different opinion of him. Apparently if we talk to this sleeping old man when our total number of battles ends in a number where the 10’s and 1’s are the same number (in our case the next instance of that would be at 222 battles) then he will wake up and give us a reward. If the numbers are an even number, we will get a random accessory (We got a Bolt Ring). However, if the numbers are odd, he will give us a very rare Mythril. Mythril is, at the moment, completely useless to us, but will eventually become very important, so it’s worth it to grab it now. But that’s all ignoring the question of how ANYONE was supposed to figure that out on their own during a normal pre-internet playthrough.
Moving on. While we’re on this side of the ocean, we might as well check in at Fort Condor again. They have battles fairly regularly and we are just in time to participate in another one. We have plenty of money at the moment, so we win quite easily by simply overpowering them with sheer numbers.
One final thing I want to do while we’re over here is to head back to the Chocobo Ranch. I’m not sure if we’re allowed to raise our own Chocobo this early in the game, but considering we just raced our way to freedom, I thought it would be worth checking out. Unfortunately, that means we have to cross the marshlands again and we’ll most likely run into the Midgar Zolom. But we’re a lot stronger now, maybe we can actually take him on.
3 – Character Deaths & 0 – Game Overs
At first, things looked like they would be ok. Our attacks were hitting pretty hard, and it wasn’t dealing any damage we couldn’t recover from. Then the unthinkable happened. With one swipe of its tail, he hit Tifa so hard she was actually thrown out of the battle. But even that seemed like it would have been ok. It was down to about 20% health already, Cloud and Aerith would be strong enough to finish it off. But then the Midgar Zolom cast Beta. This attack was so powerful that it did more damage than either Cloud or Aerith’s maximum health. There is no way they could possibly survive that attack.
5 – Character Deaths & 0 – Game Overs
Thankfully, Tifa being ejected from the battle saved us from having a game over. Also, we learned a lot from that battle. We were really close to killing it too. If we just hit a little faster, we might just make it. Unfortunately, the second attempt went nearly identically to the first. Tifa got ejected from battle while Cloud and Aerith got killed from the Beta attack. Then just to mock us, a message shows that we learned the enemy-skill Beta for ourselves. This is of course a lie. While the skill can be learned, we have to actually survive the battle to learn it. I guess we’ll just have to give up on returning to the Chocobo Ranch just yet.
Since we have nothing else to do over here now, we head back to Junon and try to cross the ocean again. Along the way, we find even more instances of Shinra employees and soldiers simply not caring about what we’re doing. First a guard allows us to use the company freight elevator for a measly 10 gil. Then we find a platoon of soldier training in one of the transport tunnels, and they don’t even care.
I even manually set off the alarm on the wall next to them, and they don’t even break formation. At least the automated response units still work, because we’re attacked by a few of them shortly after the alarm goes off. What’s more, these death machines are actually kind of tough. They do give a good amount of experience though, so it might be worth it to stay here and train on them a bit.
7 – Character Deaths & 0 – Game Overs
In the end, we decide not to stay here long and simply continue on our way back across the ocean. We then start heading south and make a small detour towards North Corel. I want to head back up to the Gold Saucer really quick so we can check out the Battle Arena before we move on. We didn’t really get a look at it before since everyone there was dead, and we were thrown in prison. Before we get there, though, we encounter a rather annoying enemy called Joker. Jokers are relatively weak, and aren’t all that much trouble, but it’s their special ability that is annoying. They will send a playing card flying at one of the party members. If it is a heart, it will actually heal them. However, if it is a joker card, it will instantly kill them. I hate cheap shots like that. Instant death should not be a mechanic.
Anyway, we make it up to the Gold Saucer and over to the Battle Arena. We find out from one of the staff members that none of the staff actually died during the attack before, so that’s good, only a couple Shinra soldiers died. So clearly Shinra armor is actually weaker than just regular clothing, because the soldiers all died, but the employees were fine.
Whatever, that’s very interesting news, but it doesn’t really help us to understand what to expect here. Thankfully a random guest is more helpful. Turns out we will be able to fight up to 8 battles back to back in the arena. Each battle will get progressively harder, but we will get more battle points for every battle we win. If we quit, we can keep whatever points we have earned, but if we choose to fight and lose, we lose everything.
Also, every battle will have some sort of handicap added to it to make the battle harder, but we won’t know what that handicap is until after we’ve already agreed to fight. All of that seems fairly reasonable so far, if not a little stacked against us. However, the last thing he said really seems unfair. The battle points we earn are only valid as long as we stay in the battle arena area. If we leave for any reason, we forfeit all unspent battle points we’ve collected. Considering how expensive some of the prizes are, that seems very unfair.
Even with those warnings, we decide to try our luck anyway. We pay the 10 GP to participate and see how far we can get. The first couple battles were easy, with Cloud one hit killing the enemies. But then the handicaps started. First Cloud was leveled down by 5 levels, then his health was cut in half. Next we lost the use of independent Materia, but I don’t think cloud even had any of those equipped anyway. It wasn’t until Cloud’s health AND magic were cut in half going into the 6th match that we felt it was too much. We won the battle but called it quits, earning 405 battle points.
Taking a look at the prize exchange, it looks like we’d have to compete in the arena about 100 times at the current rate in order to claim the top prizes. Before we can even attempt to enter 100 times, we’d first have to win 1000 GP for all the entrance fees. We simply don’t have the time for that right now, we’ll come back later when we’re stronger. For now, we trade in our few points for a potion and a shrapnel.
Before we leave the Gold Saucer again, I wanted to check out a glitch I had heard of. Apparently, the fighting game in the Wonder Square is bugged so you will eventually lose. The first 2 fighters are easy to win against, even with it being random. The 3rd fighter on the other hand is rather difficult, and the 4th is downright impossible. However, if you do somehow manage to get past him, there is no 5th fighter. I guess they forgot to program him in or didn’t link to the asset correctly or something. This means there is no way to actually win the fight, since there technically isn’t anyone to fight against. The only thing you can do is find out which attack causes Cloud to take damage, and basically kill yourself. On the plus side, you’ll earn 300GP by doing this, which I quickly spend buying the Gold Ticket, rather than spend the 30,000 gil to buy the lifetime pass at the entrance. Now we can come and go as we please.
So, with all that out of the way, we finally leave and head south like we were originally told to do. As soon as we cross the river, we spot something in the middle of a trees. It looks almost like something huge exploded there. We get out of the buggy to take a closer look, but right away we sense we’re not alone.
Turns out Reno and Rude from the Turks are already here. Since they haven’t spotted us yet, we get to hear a little of what they’re talking about. Unfortunately, it is incredibly childish talk about what girls they each like. Surprisingly, Rude admits to have a thing for Tifa. Well, we can’t just ignore that, now can we?
Reno seems a little shocked by that answer, but also feels bad for Elena. I guess he thinks she likes Rude. But Rude claims she actually likes Tseng.
Tseng on the other hand seems to have a thing for “that Ancient”, by which I believe he means Aerith. This whole conversation is becoming so stupid, as echoed by Elena.
It takes her a second, but it finally clicks with Elena that we’re the ones they’ve been looking for. She then rushes past us to break up the pillow talk and warn Reno and Rude that we’re here. Looks like we’re heading for a fight.
Elena ends up running off to report to Tseng, so we only have to fight Reno and Rude. Before we start, Reno ends up trash talking us about how this will be payback for Sector 7. However, I don’t remember us doing anything bad in sector 7. I remember that being entirely his own doing. Sure we roughed him up a little, but he left that fight under his own power.
Not that it really matters, there isn’t going to be any payback. They each have some decent attacks, landing around 200 damage. But they both have a rather low 2000 hp max health. Plus, we have powerful attacks that do around 1000 damage to both of them at the same time. This battle is basically over as soon as it began.
Just like before, we don’t actually kill these two. Reno ends up shouting some nonsense about how they might be retreating, but they’re actually the winners. Rude on the other hand simply checks his watch and walks away without a word.
We may have beaten them easily, but the fact we ran into them at all leads to its own problems. There was no sign that we were being followed, in fact, they got here before us. That can only mean there is a spy in the group… or, you know, they’re ALSO following Sephiroth like we are, and we just happened to bump into each other… No? We’re going to assume there’s a spy. Ok. I guess now there’s a spy in the group.
After wandering through the Jungle, we eventually make our way to the small town of Gongaga. We quickly learn the truth about the massive crater we saw on the world map. There used to be a Mako Reactor here, but three years ago it suddenly exploded, killing many people in the process.
As we explore the town, we end up coming across an older couple that instantly notice the glow in Cloud’s eyes. Apparently, their son Zack had gone off to join SOLDIER 10 years ago, but they haven’t heard from him in quite a while. They just want to know how he’s doing, and hope maybe Cloud knows who he is.
Cloud doesn’t seem to know who he is, but Aerith seemed to react to the name. The couple quickly jump at the thought that she might know him. He mentioned once that he found a girlfriend. Could Aerith be that girlfriend?
Without saying another word, Aerith quickly rushes out of the room. Tifa also seems to remember the name and likewise rushes from the room, leaving Cloud alone in the couple’s home wondering what just happened.
Cloud heads out of the house after the two girls. We decide to talk to Tifa first, since she seemed like she’d be easier to talk to, and I want her there to help talk to Aerith. Cloud asks if Tifa even knew Zack, to which she denies. He presses, since it seems like she’s lying, but that only makes her more defensive.
When she finally opens up to talk to us, she admits that the story just sounded a lot like Cloud’s story. Young man leaving home to join SOLDIER. A lot of people probably had the same dream. She’s kind of amazed that Cloud managed to make it into SOLDIER with that many people trying to do the same thing.
With Tifa calmed down, the two of them go to talk to Aerith. She actually did know Zack. In fact, he was her first love. I can’t say I remember her saying that exactly, but I do remember there being hints at some other SOLDIER before Cloud.
He was apparently the same Rank as Cloud, but curiously, Cloud doesn’t remember him at all. There also weren’t a lot of people that made Soldier First class, which makes it even more puzzling that Cloud doesn’t at least recognize the name. Turns out he’d been missing for a while now, and Aerith had been worried for him.
She claims he went missing about 5 years ago after a mission. Bad things can happen to the best of them, but she claims he was somewhat of a lady’s man, and probably just ran off with some other woman. Not that she minds, but she feels bad for his parents, not knowing where his is and all.
It’s all in the past now, and Aerith rejoins the party. Unfortunately, this town doesn’t seem quite as capable of moving on. Talking to the few remaining villagers, they all give a similar story. Shinra showed up and built the reactor without a single though of safety. Then when it exploded, they simply abandoned the area without ever looking back. Seems to be a running theme with the company.
After hearing what everyone says about the reactor explosion, we can’t help but take a closer look at it for ourselves. Unfortunately, our timing couldn’t have been worse. Just after we arrive, a Shinra helicopter lands just outside the reactor, trapping us inside.
As the two Shinra Employees approach the reactor, we take cover around the corner. Once they’re close enough, we can tell it is Scarlet, head of Shinra weapons development, along with Tseng. Obviously, she is displeased to see the reactor is destroyed, but has no interest in the lives it cost. She only cares about the weapons they were supposed to create. This particular reactor was a failure from the start in her eyes. As she puts it, “You only get junky Materia from junky reactors.” What she’s looking for is huge Materia. What she means by that is unclear, but Tseng responds that he hasn’t seen any.
It would seem that since Hojo left the company, much of his funding has been shifted to her department. That’s good for her, but ultimately pointless if she can’t get her hands on some huge Materia to power her weapons. Even if she does manage to find some, she questions if Heidegger would even be smart enough to use it.
At this point it obvious that they aren’t going to find what they want here, so they leave just as quickly as they arrived. But they’ve given our party a lot to think about. What exactly are they trying to build that they need “Huge Materia” to power it?
We’ve clearly learned as much as we’re going to from this reactor as well, and follow their lead shortly after. Once we get back to the buggy, the obvious choice would be to continue along the southern coast of the continent. However, a small cabin to the east catches my eye and I wish to investigate it quickly before we move on. Sadly, no one is home at the moment, and we aren’t even allowed to look around. We’ll just have to make a mental note to come back here later.
Crossing another small river to the south, we quickly find ourselves driving through a rocky canyon area. It isn’t long before we see a strange structure built into the side of one of the cliffs. Getting out to investigate, we learn that this is Cosmo Canyon, the former home of Red XIII. At the same time, we learn that Red XIII actually does have a given name, even if he was unwilling to tell us earlier. Turns out his real name is Nanaki, but I think I’ll just keep calling him Red XIII.
Red XIII quickly runs off to see Bugenhagen, who I can only guess is the leader around here. The rest of the party is unfortunately stopped at the gate. We’re informed that this is a place of gathering for anyone wanting to study planet life. Even though we only find about 10 people living here, we’re told the small town is at capacity and we will not be allowed to enter.
Thankfully, Red sees us being hassled at the entrance and comes back to vouch for us. Hearing that, the guard is more than willing to welcome us with open arms. Don’t know why that had to be so hard.
Following Red XIII up the staircase, we finally get to hear some of his backstory. His people were once the protectors of the canyon. Sadly, his mother died is battle here, whereas his father was a coward who abandoned them both. Ever since then, he has been the last of his race.
Now that we have brought him back, Red XIII claims it is his mission to continue to protect these canyons, and he will no longer be joining us on our journey. Not that I really brought him into battle much, it’s still sad to see him leave. We’re also given no time to talk him out of it. As soon as he tells us this, he runs off to see his grandfather.
After Red leaves our party, Tifa and Aerith both decide maybe they should take a moment for themselves as well. So, while they go find a place to relax for a bit, Cloud continues after Red XIII until we get to meet Bugenhagen, the spiritual leader of Cosmo Canyon and Red XIII’s adoptive grandfather.
Bugenhagen expresses his gratitude towards us for taking care of Nanaki, he’s still just a child after all. To which Red corrects him that he’s actually 48 years old already, making him easily the oldest member of the party. However, Bugenhagen explains that because of how long his species lives, 48 would be equivalent to about a 15 or 16 year old human. So, kind of the reverse of normal dog years.
This actually starts to annoy Red a little. At 48 years old, he wants to be treated as an adult and be allowed to protect the village like his ancestors. But Bugenhagen stands firm that he simply isn’t mature enough for the task. I can only imagine a similar conversation in the past is what caused Red to leave in the first place and ultimately get captured by Shinra.
Bugenhagen is confident that when the planet finally dies, Red will understand how little he actually knows. When exactly that will be is still a mystery, but he is confident that it will be soon. Well within Red’s natural lifespan, if not our own.
That isn’t just some hippy nonsense he’s preaching either. He is quite serious when he says the planet doesn’t have much longer. It told him so itself. From this observatory, he listens to the sounds of the stars and planets as well as the cries of our own planet, and they told him the end is near.
The cries are coming though so clearly here that even we can hear the planet screaming in pain. Bugenhagen has clearly given up hope already when red interrupts him saying we are actually here to save the planet.
Red argues that if we were allowed to see his machines, we might learn some way to better save the planet. Bugenhagen is reluctant, but ultimately agrees. There is room for 3 people in the room, not including himself, so we might as well invite someone else up to see it. Hearing that, we head off to find Aerith. If anyone would appreciate talking to the planet, it would be her.
We end up finding her down at the bar with Tifa. I hadn’t really considered who else would be invited, but with Tifa sitting right here, I can’t NOT invite her as well, that would just be rude. So, the three of us head back up to the observatory to see what the planet has to say.
Following Bugenhagen into the next room, he quickly dims the lights as the floor raises up to the observatory area. Here, an elaborate holographic display is showing all the planets as well as other celestial objects like shooting stars and black holes. If real planetariums were capable of this detail, I think more people would actually be willing to go.
Anyway, Bugenhagen gets to the point and starts teaching us about the flow of life energy. Everyone already knows that when a person dies, they decompose and return to the earth in the physical sense. But what happens to their soul?
According to him, the soul also returns to the planet as energy. And not just for humans, the life energy of every plant and animal will eventually return to the planet, merging with one another, and becoming the “Lifestream”.
This spirit energy is what allows all living things to be, well, alive. Even the planet itself needs this energy to maintain itself. So, what would happen if all that energy suddenly disappeared?
It’s obvious. Without this spirit energy, the planet would no longer be able to support life and would die. Taking everyone and everything on the planet with it.
So long as the flow of spirit energy is maintained, everything will be fine. But if that energy is somehow extracted from the planet, it can’t fulfill its natural purpose. This is what Shinra is doing with their Mako energy and Materia. They’re siphoning out the energy from the planet and using it for things it was never meant to be used for.
Having learned so much from Bugenhagen, we all retire to the bonfire out by the entrance. We all need a moment to reflect on what has happened so far, and what we plan to do going forward.
As we make our way around to talk to Red XIII, he starts talking about his parents. The night the village was attacked, and his parents died, he was so proud of his mother and how bravely she fought. But he can never forgive his father for the way he ran off on them.
Bugenhagen happens to come out in time to hear the tail end of Red’s reflection, wondering if he could ever forgive his father. But that seems impossible. He ran off by himself and left not only his family to die, but all the people of Cosmo Canyon. There is simply no excuse for such a cowardly act.
Hearing this, Bugenhagen asks Red to follow him. It’s time he saw something for himself. The place that they’re going is dangerous, so he asks that we come along too. Since Aerith is our main healer, we invite her along as well.
We follow him to a strongly secured door in the back of the canyon. Pressing a hidden button, the door opens and he instructs us all to enter. What he wants to show us is at the far side of this cave, but it’s very dangerous, so we’ll have to fight our way through.
This is the Cave of the Gi, and just like Bugenhagen said, it is full of some dangerous enemies. Our party is fairly strong, so they aren’t too difficult to handle. However, many of them have instant death attacks like Death Sentence that make them significantly more deadly. Well, maybe Instant death might not be the right term. Death Sentence actually starts a 60 second countdown timer before the target dies. So as long as we finish the fight quickly, we can keep everyone alive. So I take back what I said, I guess they aren’t all that dangerous after all.
Initially when exploring the cave, it appears as if there really isn’t anywhere to go in it. Shortly past the entrance the path simply loops back around to itself. There are a few smaller cave entrances, but none of them actually lead anywhere. There are however odd rocks inside them that we are prompted to break if we so choose. Doing so will simply result in instantly being thrown into a battle. That is, for all the rocks except for the one in this cave towards the top. Breaking that rock will open a secret passage to the rest of the cave.
Pressing forward, we find that the cave itself may be just as dangerous to us as the monsters. We discover this out the hard way when we slipped on some substance on the floor and went sliding straight into some jagged rocks on the wall. But that won’t be enough to stop us. Not until we find out what Bugenhagen wanted to show us.
Up ahead, our progress is stopped by a pair of rather large spider webs spanning the entire pathway. We have no other choice but to fight our way through them. But these spiders are the most dangerous monsters we’ve faced so far in the cave. They have a rather large amount of health and their Sting Bomb attack really packs a punch. If we’re not careful it could easily take any one of our party members out of the battle.
As we near the end of the cave, Bugenhagen starts telling a story of a strong warrior who fought his way through this cave all by himself. Red starts to ask for more detail, but Bugenhagen doesn’t even listen. We’re almost there anyway.
Unfortunately, there seems to be something blocking the path that even Bugenhagen wasn’t expecting. This massive face appears to be the ghosts of the Gi warriors. Or at least that’s as far as Bugenhagen was able to explain before the face sprang to life and attacked us.
And so, we are thrown into battle with Gi Nattak and his two Soul Flames. Obviously Gi Nattak is the main threat here. However, the Soul Flames are quite annoying as well. Almost as soon as the battle starts, the Soul Fires end up possessing the bodies of our party members. In this state, we are completely incapable of attacking them. They, however, are fully capable of casting Fire2 on our party with no way for us to retaliate.
8 – Character Deaths & 0 – Game Overs
Since there isn’t much we can do about the Soul Fires while they’re inside our bodies, we’ll just have to focus all our attention on Gi Nattak. Truth be told, it is actually a rather difficult enemy that we may not be fully prepared for. On top of its normal attacks do some pretty heavy damage, Gi Nattak is also capable of draining both Health and Magic from our party to heal itself with. Ultimately, we underestimated him, and Cloud ended up dying.
The party regroups, and lucky for us the Fire Souls choose now to leave our bodies. We waste no time and focus all our attention on the two of them in hopes of taking them out before they can possess anyone again. Thankfully, they don’t have a whole lot of health, and we succeed in destroying them both.
9 – Character Deaths & 0 – Game Overs
Now all we have to do is finish off Gi Nattak. Unfortunately, our MP is quickly running low between all our magic attacks and Gi Nattak draining our MP. What’s worse, while trying to restore some MP with Ethers, we neglect to keep Red XIII’s health up, and he ends up falling in battle.
We quickly revive Red and patch everyone up. With one last push, we manage to defeat Gi Nattak and clear the path forward. Seeing us battle, Bugenhagen comments on how strong Red has become, and that he’s now sure it was not a mistake to bring him here.
At last we come to what Bugenhagen had wanted to show us. Red XIII’s father Seto. When the Gi tribe attacked the village, Seto didn’t run off to save himself. He ran off to defend the rear entrance. Had the Gi managed to get through the cave, the village would have been surrounded, and everyone would have died. But Seto fought them off by himself. Even after being poisoned, and turned to stone, his spirit continued to protect the canyon to this day.
Hearing this, Red questions why he was never told. Did his mother know about this as well? Turns out she did. The two of them had been the ones to ask Bugenhagen to seal the cave in the first place, and to never tell anyone about it. Though this seems to have unintentionally caused Red to grow up hating his father.
Bugenhagen then asks for Cloud and Aerith to give him a moment alone with Red. He tells Red that he should continue to join us on our journey. Even though it is probably an impossible mission to actually save the planet, if they can help at all, it’s worth trying.
Considering Bugenhagen is now 130 years old, he is glad Red came back in time for him to share the truth about his father. But now it’s time for Red to go out on his own and protect the planet himself.
Filled with pride for his father and his legacy, Red proclaims he will save the world, and do it in time to share the details with Bugenhagen before he passes. The spirit of Seto was clearly listening, as the stone body begins to cry crystal tears upon his son below.
Back at the campfire, everyone seems to be getting ready to leave, unaware that Red XIII has been advised to stay with us a bit longer. Luckily, Red catches up to everyone right as they’re about to leave the Canyon. For some reason, Cloud is hesitant to accept Red back into the group, but with Bugenhagen’s blessing he is once again under our care as we say goodbye to Cosmo Canyon for now.
However, we have no clear destination to go to next. The obvious choice would be to continue west along the southern coast and hope we find something. But once again, I’m going to take a quick moment to backtrack instead. First, we’ll stop at Fort Condor again and take part in another easy battle, winning ourselves a Megalixir.
After that, we’ll try one more time to get across to the Chocobo Ranch. This time we actually managed to time it right to run all the way across the marsh before the Midgar Zolom could catch us. Sadly, it is too early to be coming back here, and no one has any new dialogue that would allow us to raise our own Chocobo yet. Oh well, at least now we know.
On our way back, we decide to take on the Midgar Zolom one more time. Amazingly, we actually manage to kill it this time. It never used Beta on us, so we didn’t learn that skill, but at least we know we can kill it now. However, the Midgar Zolom respawns instantly after being defeated. So as soon as the battle is over, we were almost immediately thrown into another battle with it. This was annoying, to say the least, but it will come in useful when we come back later trying to learn Beta. For now, let’s head back to Cosmo Canyon and see what we find on the western side of the continent.