Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Final Fantasy 7: Leaving Midgar and Sephiroth, Professional MacGuffin

When you finally leave Midgar, you finally reach the world map. Up to now, the story has been focused on Shinra and their use of Mako. The story has been subtly hinting at something else going on via Cloud's visions, headaches, and, of course, the murder of President Shinra, but the main villain still seems to be the mega-conglomerate. In fact, it even seems like you owe Sephiroth for your escape.

The story at Kalm shifts the game's focus entirely, adjusting not only the goal of the game but the feel of it as well.

I'm actually not sure what happens if you try to just skip past Kalm and continue your adventure. I ought to try it some time, but I'm interested to hear about it if anyone else had tried to do so.

The fact is, when you reach the world map the amount of apparent freedom is almost frightening after the railroading of Midgar. You're so used to clear goals that when Barret recommends heading for that one town, you kind of obey without thinking. It's a relief to have a goal in this massive-feeling world with weird new enemies around.

It doesn't take long for the game to start toying with you on the world map, though. After the Mithril Mines, for instance, you're supposed to be looking for Junon, but the first thing you see is Fort Condor--an optional side quest--while Junon itself is almost difficult to find, hidden behind a hill. I've known several people to get frustrated looking for the town.

But anyway, Kalm does as its name implies: you're being overwhelmed by the size of the world map, so here's a place to calm down and experience a bit more railroad.

I've talked a bit about the Nibelheim flashback already, particularly in regards to Cloud's mental health. There are a few other things to note, however.

The apparent purpose of the flashback is to convince the rest of the party that Sephiroth is a bigger threat than Shinra. It illustrates how a once cold, calculating mind broke, leading to the destruction of a town and mass murder.

The fact is, though, that Sephiroth is not the bigger threat. Cloud's story only demonstrates that Sephiroth's actions affected Cloud personally, which makes it seem like the bigger threat to Cloud and, by extension, the player.

The fact is, even if Sephiroth does, in fact, just want to destroy the world somehow, there's no evidence that he has any way of doing so. To all appearances he is at best a fellow enemy of Shinra and at worst a mass murderer, though there's no evidence that he's going around murdering people without cause. The people you have found dead have all been Shinra employees and soldiers, which makes him really no worse than Cloud and his crew.

The game even toys with your perception a bit later on, when you find the Battle Arena at Gold Saucer filled with the dead bodies of civilians. However, you quickly learn that this wasn't the work of Sephiroth; it was Dyne.

Meanwhile, Shinra's still actively killing people and the planet. Rufus vows to take control of the company with the specific intention of using fear tactics to keep people in line. The monsters, results of their experiments, are running around everywhere, terrorizing people. Time and again you see how Shinra is hurting people: in Junon, Fort Condor, Gongaga, Corel, even Sephiroth himself.

And while Cloud and Tifa have a personal stake in defeating Sephiroth, everyone has a personal stake in defeating Shinra: Cloud and Tifa for the Nibelheim incident, Barret for destroying Corel, Aeris for tryign to kidnap her all her life, Red XIII for getting experimented on, Yuffie for subjugating her people, Vincent for destroying his life, and Cid for stealing away his dreams.

There's no reason for most of the party to care about Sephiroth. Barret even says explicitly that he doesn't really understand it, but they go along with Cloud because they trust him.


  1. That's interesting. Sephiroth turns out to be the bigger threat, but the party definitely doesn't know that at first.

    I guess this is more of Cloud just choosing to do what he wants to do. Or is this just Cloud being pulled back for the Reunion in a more psychologically subtle way?

    Either way, AVALANCHE seems pretty fucked at this point, so it's not too much of a surprise that Barrett agrees to drift for awhile. I think it's not until Cosmo Canyon that he finds the resolve to keep fighting Shinra.

    1. Sephiroth only become the bigger threat BECAUSE Cloud focuses on him. That Cloud's obsessed with Sephiroth is definitely the work of Jenova, but the weird thing is how everyone else is just going along with him.

      I guess it's just a charisma thing: everyone's so preoccupied with how "cool" Cloud is that they follow him regardless of his logic.