The next segment of Final Fantasy VII is important because it introduces Aeris. But first, Cloud, Tifa, and Barret go on another mission to blow up Mako Reactor #5. The scenery is exactly the same as the first mission, though getting to the reactor is a bit different because the gang triggers the alarm system on the train and has to jump off, ending up in some sewers. On the way in, there’s the first of many goofy and badly-explained minigames: in order to open the door to the reactor (the same door that Jesse hacked last time), Barret, Tifa, and Cloud all have to hit buttons at the same time; this requires the player to time a button press so that Cloud raises his arms and then hits the button at the same time Barret and Tifa do. It was an annoying and nonsensical attempt to add variety to the gameplay.
Once at the reactor itself, Cloud has his first freakout. There is a short flashback to a scene where Tifa, dressed like a cowgirl, discovers that her dad was killed by Sephiroth and declares, “I hate them all!!” (referring to Sephiroth, Shinra, and SOLDIER). This is the first actual glimpse of the Nibelheim Incident we get in FFVII, and I was surprised at how early on it happens. It’s shown very early on that something is not right with Cloud, and it adds a layer of mystery to the story. When he regains consciousness, Cloud just says, “… Tifa?” It seems as if this was either not a memory of his, or something that had been deeply buried that he had forgotten. But why?
Cloud shakes it off and the team set the explosive and escape from the reactor–this sequence relies on the player’s memory of the first mission in order to get out–but it turns out it be a trap laid by President Shinra, who shows up on a helicopter, laughs diabolically, and sets a murderous robot on our heroes. When they defeat it, the machine explodes, causing Cloud to be separated from the group once again, this time by falling off the plate into the slums. While he’s out, he has a conversation with a disembodied voice that doesn’t really make any sense. Luckily for him, he awakes to find that the blow was softened by a flower bed in a church. It’s one of the sillier things that have happened so far.
Of course, it’s in the church that Cloud meets the flower girl, Aeris. She’s immediately intrigued by him, but their conversation (in which she mentions that she has her mother’s materia, but it’s “good for nothing”) is interrupted by some Shinra agents bursting in, led by Reno, who seems to know Cloud.
He orders his minions to get “The Ancient”–referring to Aeris, of course–and this kicks off another annoying and unexplained little minigame where Cloud has to try and prevent Shinra soldiers from getting to Aeris by pushing conveniently-placed barrels down from the rafters. I completely fail, and Aeris has to fight some Shinra hounds on her own.
Eventually, Cloud and Aeris escape through the roof and there’s a cute scene where they are talking, learning more about each other as they hop along the rooftops. Aeris asks whether Cloud was ever in SOLDIER: “I used to be.” She asks what class, and there’s a weird flash of light before Cloud answers, “First Class” (There’s Something Wrong With Cloud). She mentions his glowy Mako eyes, “Just the same as him,” and he asks how she knows about that. “Nothing!”
Cloud and Aeris make their way to Aeris’s house, where he meets her mom, Elmyra. We get another hint at Aeris’s relationship with Zack when Elmyra says, once Aeris is out of earshot, “SOLDIER… The last thing Aeris needs is getting her feelings hurt again.”
At this point there is another short flashback, this one about Cloud back home in Nibelheim, his mom bugging him about getting a girlfriend. It’s a little weird since it’s completely out of context, but it shows that getting a girlfriend isn’t one of Cloud’s priorities (although I imagine most teens would say something like “ugh, whatever, MOM” no matter what their actual interests are). Of course, this could also be a fake memory, but I don’t remember.
Anyway, Elmyra asks Cloud to leave in the middle of the night, without telling Aeris. He does, but she catches him near the entrance to Wall Market. Already we can see Aeris’s mischievous side.
The next segment is Wall Market (“This place is scary in a lot of ways. Especially for a girl.”), which has already been covered very well by Denis, so I won’t be writing about it. The next post will likely wrap up Midgar.
By the way, as mentioned in the comments on the last replay post, commenter Bel is running a Final Fantasy VII group replay over at the ff7_oldschool LJ comm, so if you’re interested in more discussion (or want a faster pace!), check it out.