Final Fantasy VII (PSone) – Part 02 – Sector 5 Reactor

-Sector 5 Reactor-

The next morning, Cloud is the last one to wake up and Tifa kindly checks in to see how he slept. To this, Cloud can either take an early jab at Barret, claiming his snoring kept him up all night, or he can casually flirt with Tifa, because who wouldn’t sleep well next to Tifa. Thankfully for Cloud, Tifa doesn’t appear to catch the comment. Ex-SOLDIER or not, Tifa could probably beat the crap out of him if she really wanted to.

Anyway, it looks like Tifa is going to be joining us on today’s mission. Barret informs us that we’ll be hitting the Sector 5 Reactor today, but refuses to tell us any further details. He plans to fill us all in while we’re on the train there.

Before we leave, however, Barret pulls Cloud aside, swallowing his pride for a second so he can ask Cloud how to use Materia. Despite it being a common tool in this world, he simply never learned how to use them. If we agree to teach him, he says he’s willing to give us the Recover Materia we picked up the other day.

Honestly, using Materia is very simple. Every weapon or piece of armor has slots on it for Materia. Just pick the slot you want to fill, pick the Materia you want to fill it with, and that’s pretty much it. There are of course some extra things to worry about. The equipped Materia have various stat changes if you care to pay attention to them. Also, there are single slots as well as linked slots available on the different pieces of equipment. Linked slots allow you to attach modifier Materia to the other equipped Materia, such as the “All” Materia which allows us to target everyone instead of just one person/enemy. I personally use this a lot with the Restore Materia to heal the whole party at once rather than just one person.

Barret seems satisfied with the explanation, it really is a pretty easy concept. Once we’re done, Tifa informs us that the Weapons Shop man upstairs has something he wants to give us. Actually, I think this might be another mistranslation. There is no weapon shop upstairs… there is no upstairs at all… so she must have meant something along the lines of “The man above the weapon shop…”

Regardless of what she meant to say, we’re all ready to leave now. However, Tifa coming with us means we’re leaving Marlene alone to run the bar until we get back. I don’t remember if it’s ever explicitly mentioned in game, but additional material confirms that Marlene is only 4 years old. And here I thought Barret was doing well as a responsible father. Now he’s just casually leaving his 4 year old daughter alone to run a bar in the slums. Shame on you.

So, seeing as Child Protective Services are definitely going to be showing up to take Marlene away before we get back, we might as well spend that school money on some Materia and equipment. I try to keep Restore Materia on everyone, I’m a bit paranoid like that, but some better equipment could be good right now too.

We do eventually make our way to the room above the weapon shop where we find the Beginner’s Hall. Here, we can learn all kinds of useful information we might want to know before we rush ahead into the rest of the game. But we’re hardly beginners, so we won’t be spending much time here.

While here, we do get to pick up a helpful All Materia though, so it’s not a complete waste. Likewise we get an Ether while being taught to keep an eye out for treasure chests.

Before we leave, there are a few other people in the beginner’s hall. There are 3 strong men doing muscle poses in the back which will ask Cloud to explain some more details about the game. There are also a pair of children fighting who demonstrate the Limit Breaks system.

Finally, there is a woman marveling over the fabled Save Point. She comments about how we can use tents and save the game at save points. She also has a minor 4th wall break which hints to the fact we will eventually leave Midgar and see the overworld. On the overworld, we can save anywhere and won’t need to go looking for a save point.

With all of that out of the way, we finally head towards the station and climb aboard the train back up to the main plate. Curiously, Barret tells everyone to split up as soon as we board the train. I find this very odd since he had claimed he was going to explain the plan once we were all together on the train…

To make matters worse, Barret told everyone to slip up because it wasn’t a private car. However, all the other passengers had once again left the car at the sight of them, making that a pointless comment. All except for one Shinra Manager who simply makes a snide comment about his bad luck. Of course, Barret can’t stand anyone talking bad to or about him, and he quickly confronts the lone worker.

Amazingly, this Shinra Manager stands his ground against Barret, commenting on how AVALANCHE has threatened more bombings, and that only devoted workers like him would still go to work under these conditions. Barret immediately flips out, pointing his gun arm at the man and demanding to know if he works for Shinra. Still, the man doesn’t back down. He cowers at the sight of the gun arm, but he stands firm in his refusal to give up his seat.

Lucky for him, Tifa saw what was going on and was already on her way to stop Barret from doing anything stupid before the mission even begins.

Now that Barret is reined in and brought back to the group, Cloud wants to know what the actual plan is for this next mission. Barret mocks him a bit for being too serious, but eventually starts talking about the security check points, knowing full well Jessie mentioned them yesterday during the ride back. Point being that they upgraded the system and now we can’t use our fake ID’s anymore.

Right on cue, an announcement is made that we will be arriving at Sector 4 Station at 11:45, exactly 3 minutes from now. Hearing that, Barret tells us that we’ll be jumping off the train in three minutes, before we hit the Security Checkpoint… And that appears to be the whole plan… After that he just sits down and waits until we need to jump off the train…

Since the mission briefing is apparently over already, Tifa rushes over to the Railway Map and calls Cloud over to look at it with her, much like Jessie did the other day. Tifa can tell Cloud had already seen it, but she seems happy just to be able to be close to him for a minute. Unfortunately, the alarms on the train start going off all around them.

An announcement is made that there are unidentified passengers and a search is going to be conducted. While the three of us try to gather our thoughts, Jessie rushes into the car and tells us we need to hurry to the next car, no time to explain now.

With that, we’re given 15 seconds to get out of this car and into the next before this car goes into lockdown. However, if we rush to talk to the homeless man in back, he will reward our efforts with a Phoenix Down. Even with that detour, we manage to make it out of the car in time.

We keep moving up the cars, but the alarms never stop. The scanners can see that we’ve moved to Car #2 and are preparing to lock it down as well. Once again, we have only 15 seconds to make it through the car and out to the next.

The alarms shut off as we make it to Car #3. Barret asks if it’s all clear now, but Jessie quickly informs us that they’ll start another scan soon. Thankfully, our strategy of moving up the train car by car should be enough to keep us out of danger.

Seconds later the alarms start up once again. The 3rd car gets locked down just like the cars before it. Not long after the 4th car is locked down as well. By the time we make it to the 5th car, the security alert has been raised to maximum level and we have nowhere left to run.

Thankfully, the security guard and well-dressed man at the front of the car are actually Jessie and Biggs in disguise. With their help we get the door open and start to jump off the train like we originally planned to do.

After some initial hesitation, Tifa ends up being the first to jump off the train. Cloud then asks Barret if it’s ok for him to go next. Channeling his role as leader, Barret proclaims it is a leader’s job to stay till the end.

… He then immediately ignores this statement by jumping off the train after Cloud, leaving Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie behind to “Take care of the rest!” However, Barret still claims everything is going as planned. I fail to see how nearly getting caught is according to plan. Then again, the only part of the plan he has actually shared with us so far is the fact that we’re going to jump off the train. So in that regard, yes, everything is going as planned.

So with Phase 1 of the plan complete, it’s time to move onto Phase 2. Apparently Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie are going to get something ready for us at the Sector 5 Reactor. All we have to do is follow the train tracks and it should bring us right to it.

Naturally, we ignore Barret’s advice and head down the tunnel in the exact opposite direction.  After several screens of winding train tracks, we eventually find ourselves at a security station with a few guards. We can fight them of course, and they are easily defeated. However, Shinra employs an infinite number of guards capable of replacing them, so this path is a dead end.

After slicing through a few waves of security guards, we finally turn around and make our way down the train tunnel like we should have done to begin with. Eventually, we find out path blocked by a set of light beams. Turns out these are the security sensors that got us in trouble on the train. For obvious reasons we can’t go any farther down the tunnel in this direction either. Thankfully, there appears to be a maintenance hatch just to the side of the tracks that we can use to bypass the scanners. If Barret can manage to fit his large frame through the tiny hole that is.

Climbing through the opening, we find ourselves slightly lost on a series of platforms with a variety of storage crates scattered around, and multiple ladders leading to god knows where. Thankfully, we find Wedge waiting by one of the ladders showing us the way. I guess everything really is going according to plan like Barret said.

We follow Wedge’s instructions and climb up into the vents where we find Jessie waiting for us. She takes this opportunity to apologize to us for what happened on the train. Apparently she tried really hard to make Cloud’s ID special. Unfortunately, being special just made it stand out during the scan, which set off the alarms. We can forgive Jessie for her mistake. Everything seems to have worked out in the end anyway, so no harm done.

Continuing along the path we quickly find Biggs waiting for us, the last Member of AVALANCHE. Acting as the last guidepost, Biggs informs us that he and the other members will be pulling out back to the hideout since we’ve been shown the way and their part of the mission is over. Everything is riding on Cloud, Barret, and Tifa now to blow the reactor.

Pressing forward, we make our way into a familiar settings as we enter another of the Mako Reactors. It appears to have been built using the same blueprints as the previous one, lack of safety features and all. I guess when your company is also the government and the military, you really don’t need to worry about things like employee safety.

Our team makes their way down to the bridge leading to the reactor core, and once again, Cloud is crippled by his PTSD. This time, we get a vision of what happened in Cloud’s past to cause such trauma. We see what must have been an older model reactor with exposed gears everywhere. So I guess they have improved safety over the years after all. We also see a younger Tifa crying over her dying father. Whatever happened before the beginning of this flashback, it appears as if Sephiroth is responsible.

In her grief, Tifa starts lashing out at everyone. Sephiroth, SOLDIER, Mako Reactors, Shinra, she hates them all. With her emotions out of control, she grabs the nearby sword, and rushes off out of sight.

Cloud quickly pulls himself together and is back in the present. He seems as if he wants to tell Tifa something, but holds back. This isn’t the time or place to be bringing up something like that.

Moving quickly, Cloud places the bomb, this time without setting off the alarm. Because of that, we don’t have to deal with any giant robot guard scorpions. We also don’t have to worry about a time limit before we’re caught in the blast. Still, we want to get out quickly before anyone notices us, and we’ll just have to kill anyone who does.

Once we make it to the top floor, we quickly remember why the other members of AVALANCHE joined us for the whole mission last time, particularly Jessie. Without her help, we can’t get through the doors and out of the reactor. Thankfully, she thought ahead and told Barret of a work around to our problem. Apparently there are three switches on a control panel to the side of the doors. If we press all three of them at the same time, it will override the door lock.  My problem with this is that Barret and Tifa give no indication at all for when they plan to press their buttons. We simply have to FEEL when the right time is. Needless to say, this took several attempts before we somehow got in sync.

Unfortunately, none of it mattered. As soon as our group steps out of the reactor and onto the bridge, we are cornered by a large group of Shinra Soldiers. To cap it off, even the Shinra President is here to rub the failure in our faces. Although really, we shouldn’t have announced our attack beforehand. It’s not much of a surprise that we got caught.

While the president starts belittling our group, Cloud steps forward to confront him. Right away, the President seems to know who he is, at least by reputation. The look in Cloud’s eyes shows he was exposed to Mako energy, one of the clear marks of a SOLDIER member. So obviously Cloud must be the traitor who quit and joined AVALANCHE.

The Shinra President continues to talk down to Cloud, calling AVALANCHE vermin, and mock apologizing for not being able to remember his name. He can’t be expected to remember every member of SOLDIER. Not unless they become another Sephiroth. But Barret had heard enough at this point and cuts in. He is proud to be the one blowing up the reactors. Shinra is killing the planet, and that makes the president King Vermin!

However, Barret’s words fall on deaf ears. The Shinra President doesn’t care at all what AVALANCHE is doing. He’s a very busy man, with very important things to do. He does however want us stopped, and so he has arranged for a special “Playmate” to keep us occupied.

With that, the techno-soldier “Airbuster” rushes in to stop our group. Satisfied with the situation, the President boards his helicopter and leaves us to our fate. Cloud rushes to stop him, but there is nothing he can do to prevent the helicopter from flying away.

Even if he could catch the president, Tifa and Barret are still in a bad situation. Tifa starts to panic, and questions if this is from SOLDIER, but Cloud quickly reminds her it is just a machine. Barret on the other hand doesn’t care where it came from, he’s going to destroy it.

Due to the lead up to this battle, our group is split up on both sides of the Airbuster. This actually gives us a small advantage in this battle. When we manage to attack it from behind, we end up doing significantly more damage than when we attack from the front.

Thanks to some powerful Limit Breaks, the Airbuster is quickly cut down to size. In defeat, the massive robot explodes with enough force to destroy a section of the bridge, as well as knock Cloud clear off his feet.

Cloud manages to grab some of the exposed rebar and save himself from falling. However, he’s not exactly in a safe spot, and the others are too far away to do anything to help him. But Cloud is Ex-SOLDIER, he can take care of himself, and so he instructs Barret to get Tifa out of here.

With those words, the reactor explodes and he loses his grip. Tifa reaches out for him, but there is nothing she can do at this point other than watch as Cloud tumbles helplessly to the surface below…