Monday, July 14, 2014

Final Fantasy 7: Rocket Town

I believe the town is actually called Shinra No. 26, but I think I've always just referred to it as Rocket Town. Like many towns, there's two distinct experiences there: a disc 1 experience, and a disc 2 experience. I might as well go through them both.

After the harrowing journey through Mt. Nibel, having left your blessed Buggy behind, it's a relief to find any new civilization.

Having visited almost every town in the game by this point, it's wroth noting that every town is impressively unique, both visually and tonally. Midgar is a noir-feeling industrial nightmare. Kalm is a calm, inoffensive town, yet memorable as the place where Cloud relates his Five Years Ago story. Junon has a massive cannon. Costa Del Sol is a beach resort. Gold Saucer is a theme park. Gongaga has a blown up reactor. Cosmo Canyon is on the side of a canyon. Nibelheim is absolutely thick with memories, mysteries, and tension. Looking to the future, Wutai is overtly Asian. Icicle is frozen. Mideel has the only doctor in the world.

And Rocket Town has a huge, leaning rocket just begging to be asked about. And, of course, everyone in town is willing to talk about it: a failed experiment from Shinra.

Interestingly, the program was scrapped, not because of the launch, but because the company discovered how profitable Mako was and turned it attention to that instead. Apparently this happened in between the time that Cid aborted the launch before they could get the rocket prepped for another launch. I'm going to be generous and say that getting the rocket ready to launch again would take a month, meaning that Mako was discovered during that crucial month.

So, how long ago was that? Cid's 32 years old during FF7 (and people keep referring to him as old!?), and both he and Shera don't seem to have aged much in the meantime.

However, Shinra's timeline is wacky. Mako was a cause of the war with Wutai, which apparently lasted 9 years, and the war with Wutai was over before the Nibelheim incident five years ago. If we're generous and say that the Wutai war was started within a year of discovering Mako, then Cid was 17-18 when he was first set to launch Shinra No.26, which... actually sounds plausible in a Final Fantasy setting.

Anyway, the rocket is now all rusted and moldy. You escape the town with Cid and his Tiny Bronco, which is a welcome addition to the team since it's your first permanent vehicle that doesn't provoke random encounters. Screw that Buggy.

The party seems entirely blasé about having Cid around. He just kinda realizes that his career with Shinra is over and is willing to do whatever, particularly something crazy like what Cloud's team is doing. Perhaps if it was anyone else the party might have been more enthusiastic, but Cid is clearly abusive, rude, and questionably dedicated to the cause. Regardless, his addition to my team, along with Cloud, Vincent, and Cait Sith, brings the total number of current or former employees of Shinra, Inc. on the team to four.

Later, when Shinra is using the rocket to attack Meteor, Cid makes one of the coolest speeches in the game. (Actually, he makes several of the coolest speeches in the game, which makes sense since he's actually a natural leader.) He actually defends Shinra's actions here, which echoed what I was thinking when we began assaulting the rocket.

In short, I was confused as to why we needed to stop the rocket at all. In the other Huge Materia situations it made sense: protect Fort Condor's condor, protect Corel from a runaway train (though it's unclear why the train was out of control in the first place--also, what happened to that other train they used to catch up to the first one?), and simply stealing the materia from an enemy reactor. All of those were, if not heroic, at least justifiable given our antagonism toward Shinra.

The rocket, though, is intended to blow up Meteor! That would be more than worth the cost of a Huge Materia!

Cid put it even better: it's a matter of having faith in science. Or, more accurately, it's having faith in the power of technology and human achievement. Technology is a creation of humanity and the development of civilization, and if technology could overcome that eldritch horror in the sky it would prove once and for all that technology has won, that humanity's ingenuity could overcome even an earth-shattering crisis.

Whether you get the huge materia from the rocket or not, after you eject from the rocket and watch it collide with Meteor you can't help but root for Shinra's plan to work. It's kind of tragic that the plan fails.

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