A wild Mystery Ninja attacked!
Cloud used Passive Aggression.
It’s super effective!
You caught Mystery Ninja!
After crossing the marsh with the evil giant snakes, the party passes through a small cave to emerge on the Junon side of the eastern continent. This is one of the most abundant areas on the world map, because in addition to the party’s next destination, the coast city Junon, there’s also Fort Condor, where we can play an RTS minigame to protect a giant condor from invading Shinra soldiers, as well as our first opportunity to frolic in forested terrain.
The forest terrain’s important because it offers the chance to acquire a new party member. At this early juncture the encounter rate is low (only about 1 in 12 random battles) but it’s possible to be attacked by a Mystery Ninja who really presents no threat to the party at all.
After she’s defeated, the party appears on a small map screen with the ninja, whining over how she was beaten unfairly.
This exchange is great, because like all the other little touches I’ve pointed out along the way, the game is playing with the player’s perception. This Mystery Ninja is actually one of the two optional characters in Final Fantasy VII, Yuffie Kisaragi (she hails from the mystical land of Wutai, far to the west on the world map). Yuffie is an indefatigable thief, and her poor defenseless act following her defeat is intended to throw the party off guard so she has an opportunity to rob them and run away. The way this plays out is through a dialogue tree whereby Yuffie continues to try to goad Cloud into a rematch. If at any point before the dialogue’s over you take your eyes off of her (meaning you, the player) then she snatches some of the party’s gil and runs away, leaving you to wait until you encounter her again. The way you take your eyes off of Yuffie is by going to a menu screen (a fun reversal since the menu screen is typically the way a player pauses the game’s action).
The only way to combat this insidious mechanic is to be as mean and passive aggressive as possible to the poor child. Ironically insinuate that she’s a genuine threat to your party, sarcastically boost her ego, suggest that she might be a little useful to you in your quest, and then when she’s ready to come along, just walk away without even asking what her name is.
This is how you win friends and influence people.
I kid though, because I actually really like Yuffie as a character. She’s tenacious, creative, and maintains an unyieldingly light tone throughout the story (I’d probably classify her as a dedicated comic relief character, even over the much more absurd one that forces his way into the party further down the road). As a result, I always liked to include her in my party when I was younger. On this playthrough I’m still planning on using her regularly, but that’s mostly for practical purposes; her weapons (absurdly oversized throwing stars) are all long-range, which means that she has excellent defensive capabilities being able to nestle in the back row without giving up any physical damage output. Barret also has this capability, but for a man with a gun grafted to his arm, he has an even split between long and short range weapons (the fact that he has a significantly higher HP count compared to everyone else suggests that he’s supposed to work in the party as a meat shield).
At any rate, after adding Mystery Ninja to my roster (I named mine Yuffie!) and fighting off the Shinra at Fort Condor, it’s time to make way to Junon, the mini-Midgar by the sea.