"Oh hey, would you look at that? It's another episode of that there Enduring Final Fantasy VII, in which Giant Bomb user dankempster seeks to determine whether or not this incredibly divisive JRPG is still worth playing today through a series of half-nostalgic, half-cynical blog posts. Let's settle down and see what he has to say this time."
Episode Thirteen - The Rocket Man
There really isn't anything amazing to report about Mt. Nibel. Remember navigating dungeons in Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI? The mix of mountain exterior and cavern interior environments? The myriad dead-end paths, occasionally leading to treasure? The persistent random encounters? It's all here, just with pre-rendered backdrops and 3D models instead of sprites. In that respect it's very much by-numbers JRPG. The one thing that redeems Mt. Nibel is the way the developers manage to make you feel like you've been here before. Remember the Kalm flashback all the way back in Episode Four? A significant amount of that was spent retracing Cloud's steps across this treacherous mountain range. Much like the time spent in Nibelheim and the Shinra Mansion last episode, coming back to Mt. Nibel fills me with a sense of deja-vu - a familiarity with the landscape and the route that serves to echo Cloud's own memories. Very clever.
I guess my speedy run through Mt. Nibel is a testament to how well this foreshadowing works. Either that, or my memory of this part of the game isn't quite as hazy as I'd initially believed. Whatever it is, nothing on this mountain poses too much of a problem. Part of that is probably down to the Materia system continuing to expand and open up to me with every new piece I find. My latest acquisition is a Counter Attack Materia which I quickly attach to Cloud, who's rapidly becoming the dependable Tank-figure of my party. The Counter Attack Materia works very nicely in tandem with Cloud's HP Plus and Cover Materia - Cover protects the other party members, Counter Attack gives a chance of a retaliatory strike from the Cover, and HP Plus helps him to soak up the damage he's dealt. Now that the Materia system's strengths are finally beginning to shine through, I'm starting to remember how rewarding it can be.
The newly-assigned Materia combination works wonders in the end-of-dungeon boss battle against the Materia Keeper, who doesn't stand a chance against my team of seasoned combatants. Defeating the boss brings with it a level-up, and it suddenly dawns on me just how thick and fast the experience points have been coming. Cloud is currently at level 35 - that's a whopping three level increases in this dungeon alone. Episode Twelve also saw my characters' levels increase many times, now that I think about it. Unsure if I've been grinding unintentionally or the game is trying to prepare me for some tough fights ahead, I head for the "dungeon exit" and emerge on the other side of the Nibel mountain range. Just up ahead is an enormous rusted rocket towering over a small settlement - Rocket Town. Time to go investigate!
Walking into Rocket Town, the first thing that strikes me is the music. Mainly because it's blatantly recycled - the tune is the instantly recognisable theme from Wall Market. I don't remember this from previous playthroughs, but hearing it now is kind of a disappointment for me. The music is synonymous with the crazy events of Wall Market in my mind, so hearing it in this sleepy town is a bit of a mismatch (thankfully, the game will soon redeem itself with Cid's Theme). The people in town mention that Rufus is due to make a visit very soon, and suggest I pay a visit to The Captain in the rocket. The Captain turns out to be the game's final playable character - Cid Highwind. A retired Shinra pilot, Cid was touted to be the first man in space at one point, until Shinra pulled the funding for their Space Program and left him grounded. The experience of having his dreams crushed has left Cid bitter towards Shinra. Admittedly, it's not quite as compelling a motive as that of Barret, but it still serves its purpose of providing a reason for Cid's involvement with the party.
Cid directs the party back to his house in town, and orders his assistant, Shera, to make some tea while they wait for Rufus' arrival. Shera takes this opportunity to tell the party that she's somewhat responsible for Cid's shattered dreams - he was forced to abort an earlier launch attempt in order to save her life. Cid believes that Rufus' visit is to announce the re-establishment of the Space Program, but his theory turns out to be misplaced. Rufus has actually come to Rocket Town hoping to borrow Cid's plane, the Tiny Bronco. Apparently Sephiroth has been sighted to the north, and Rufus wants the Tiny Bronco in order to track him. It's beyond me why Rufus needs to commandeer Cid's private plane for this, considering he has Shinra's entire fleet of helicopters at his disposal, but hey, who am I to argue with video game plot logic? Understandably, Cid is pretty pissed off by Rufus' impertinence and refuses to let him have the Bronco. While all this is going on, Shera advises Cloud to head into the garden.
Shera was clearly on to something. While Rufus keeps Cid busy in the house, Palmer is trying to steal the plane! Cloud and the crew are able to stop Palmer, but not the Tiny Bronco itself. Clinging on to the runaway plane, the party are carried away over the trees with Cid in tow. Unfortunately, Rufus' entourage manages to shoot down the plane, bringing it down in the coastal waters just off the shore nearby. Stranded in water and with the Bronco useless as anything other than a boat, Cid agrees to join the team in their attempt to stop Shinra and track down Sephiroth. Armed with a new party member, a new means of transport, and new intel, Cloud and co. set sail for the shores of Wutai...
So at the close of Episode Thirteen, my current vital statistics are:
- Current Party - Cloud (Lv 36), Aerith (Lv 35), Red XIII (Lv 35)
- Current Location - Wutai Region, World Map
- Time on the Clock - 19:23
The Story So Far...
Looking for the next episode? You can find Episode Fourteen - The Great Materia Heist here.
Right, now that's written, I'll do what I probably should have done in the introduction. Yes, Enduring Final Fantasy VII is back! Episode Fourteen is currently in the works, and should be ready as soon as this file move is complete:
In all seriousness, if everything goes to plan, it should be back on a much more permanent basis this year. That's right, I've come back into this with something vaguely resembling a plan. Given that I'm now completely free on Fridays, save for the occasional shift at work, I plan to devote my Friday afternoons to writing new episodes of this series. This means that from now on, at least for the next eight to ten weeks, I'll be pushing out new episodes of 'Enduring...' on a weekly basis. With that said, be sure to join me next week, when Cloud and the gang will be making a little excursion to the town of Wutai. In the meantime, thanks very much for reading, guys. I'll see you around.
Currently playing - Final Fantasy VII (PSP)