After catching my wild Mystery Ninja and saving the condors from extinction, it’s time to continue forward with the main story. Our next stop is the port city Junon, which I mentioned previously is more or less just a smaller version of Midgar.
Junon has the same structure of Midgar with a poor fishing village (the original Junon) on the ground and a great hulking monstrosity floating above it with multi-tiered levels so that the wealthier inhabitants can all get a nice view of the ocean. Unlike Midgar though, Junon has a more festive air about it, primarily because we arrive just as they’re ramping up inaugural festivities for Rufus Shinra, the new company president.
Of course, not just anyone is allowed into Junon, so Cloud has to sneak into the city via dolphin jump (just go with it). Once he gets inside, he gets mistaken for a Shinra grunt, and is forced to don the ubiquitous Shinra uniform that has become synonymous with expendable crewmen in this game (seriously, if you see someone in blue with a helmet, he is probably going to die very shortly–if he isn’t dead already). After putting on his disguise, we proceed through a series of minigames that revolve around Cloud trying to blend in with the crowd as he navigates the parades and ceremonies that are happening for Rufus. Depending on how well Cloud does, the player earns some item rewards after each minigame, and also gets to explore Junon proper where a bunch of shops sell things that you probably can’t afford (if you’re like me and ended up giving all your money to save the condors). Eventually Cloud reaches a ship in the port that’s leaving for the western continent, and somehow everyone else has already arrived and stowed away. Ignoring this strange impossibility, Cloud hops aboard and everyone sets out on an overseas journey to keep chasing Sephiroth.
Throughout the Junon sequence, we get several callbacks to Cloud’s flashback story about Nibelheim. The most apparent one comes after the party spends the night at the inn in Junon village, and Cloud’s odd inner voice suggests to him that he should ask Tifa about that trip to Nibelheim, since she was strangely quiet about the whole thing when they were all in Kalm.
Conveniently, Cloud awakes to find Tifa watching him sleep, so he asks her what she remembers about the Nibelheim incident. Tifa fumbles around with an explanation that doesn’t really tell us anything, and is conveniently interrupted by a little girl being attacked by a sea serpent.
Yes, the game throws a boss fight at us out of nowhere just to keep from explaining what’s going on right now.
In all the excitement following, Cloud forgets to ask Tifa about Nibelheim, which I’m sure she’s grateful for because she seemed really uncomfortable with the pointed questions.
Besides that mysterious bit of Cloud’s past, we also get a throwaway line when Cloud’s putting on his disguise so he can wander around Junon that he hasn’t worn this uniform in a long time. Naturally Cloud had to have started as a lowly grunt when he first joined Shinra, but considering he was 16 when he returned to Nibelheim as a SOLDIER First Class, it can’t have been too too far in the past for him. At the same time, it makes you wonder just how Cloud managed to attain First Class by the time he was 16 when while wandering around Junon you come across another Shinra grunt who’s diligently studying for the SOLDIER aptitude tests. Cloud must either be quite exceptional (not too far-fetched; he is the hero of the story) or something about his story must be off.
At any rate, those are thoughts for later; right now, we have a boat ride with Sephiroth.