So, following the thoroughly depressing back story of how Sephiroth murdered a whole town over mother issues, the game lets the player loose to continue forward in the veritably insane quest of catching up with that black caped man (it’s more of a coat, but Final Fantasy VII does not have the most elegant of translations).
In order to follow Sephiroth, though, we need to cross the marsh of the Midgar Zolom, a giant snake that attacks unsuspecting marshwiggles and kills them dead.
I should probably stop for a moment and just go ahead and point out what all my readers who are also Norse mythology enthusiasts have undoubtedly figured out (I know you’re out there!). Final Fantasy VII borrows a lot of place names from Norse mythology. Already we’ve come from Midgar, the world suspended between heaven and hel (even if technically we spent most of our time there underneath Midgar), visited in memories Nibelheim, the land of mists or, in certain interpretations, the dead (Niflheimr is both the realm of primordial ice and the home of the death goddess Hel, depending on the configuration of the cosmology), and we now have to evade the Midgar Zolom (or Midgardsormr–literally, the World Serpent) which, at this point in the game, will kill the party with a swipe of its massive tail. There will be other locations that follow this same naming scheme later, but it’s interesting right here at the outset because all the mythological naming serves to tie events up to this point together thematically. Cloud’s a refugee from the land of the dead who’s wandering aimlessly through the underworld when he finds an opportunity to ascend from his ignominious death when he and the party go to rescue Aerith. They encounter Sephiroth’s handiwork, which begins Cloud’s journey to confront this guy who really did ruin his life. On the way, the party finds a Midgar Zolom impaled on a tree by Sephiroth, just to emphasize how dangerous he is (he single-handedly killed the serpent whose death is one of the signs of Ragnarok–the end of the world).
This is some heavy stuff.
So to counter that, the way to get across the marsh is with the help of a chocobo.
I can honestly say I don’t remember chocobo catching to be as irritating as it was on this playthrough (it may have something to do with my game settings, but that’s a minor thing that no one’s going to be interested in reading about). I spent over an hour the other night just trying to catch one chocobo so that I could get across the stupid marsh. Of course, the fact that the end game features a highly involved side quest that revolves around catching and breeding chocobos in order to obtain special versions that can traverse various types of terrain does not have me terribly excited, but I’ve done it before, and I suppose I’ll do it again (although I doubt that will be a whole lot of fun to write about, so perhaps I’ll skip talking about it in my retrospective).
Nonetheless, I bagged that bird and avoided fighting the giant snake, and my reward was arriving on the other side of some mountains where I was promptly attacked by a teenage ninja.
More on that next time.