Mt. Nibel’s actually a breeze now, because at this point it’s little more than a pass-through dungeon. That’s not to say that it isn’t a windy maze of death and destruction filled with all the leftover genetic horrors that started getting generated when Shinra built the reactor on it, but a swift player can move on from here in about half an hour.
I am not a swift player.
Actually, funny story about this playthrough: I remembered that Mt. Nibel has a room that’s filled with one-way pipes that drop you in different sections of the map so you can pick up items before backtracking. I forgot that there’s a ladder in that same room that you have to lower first, or else you get stuck in the bottom portion of the room with no way to go but forward through the boss and out onto the world map.
It was an agonizing decision as to whether I should reset and do the dungeon over after I’d realized my mistake, but I decided to press forward because I knew I’d be getting the ability to come back through this dungeon very shortly. Of course, I first had to fight my own personal That One Boss from my first playthrough of Final Fantasy VII, the Materia Keeper.
It’s not a particularly hard boss, but I think when I played through my first time I was moving along quickly, so I was likely under-leveled and over-equipped with materia (this was a frequent problem I remember having my first time through). It was definitely the first point in the game where I remember stopping and deliberately grinding levels.
That’s a tangent, though. On this playthrough I did my grinding way back at the Gold Saucer so I could go ahead and buy the lifetime pass, which put me considerably ahead on the level curve; I beat the Materia Keeper on my first try, and I learned its Trine attack on both of my Enemy Skill materia (FFVII‘s version of Blue Magic).
After moving ahead with the plot a little bit (I’ll cover more of that next time), I doubled back to finish exploring Mt. Nibel.
Like I said earlier, the player can pass Mt. Nibel in about half an hour if they move swiftly. That’s because about two thirds of this dungeon are an optional side path that takes you past the reactor where Cloud fought with Sephiroth (there’s nothing interesting there now, though you can go inside and look around just to remind yourself of the horror show that happened in Cloud’s flashback) into an obscure part of the mountains that I had honestly forgotten about. It’s full of nifty things like an extra Elemental support materia and some fancy weapons for various party members.
Of course, if you aren’t in an exploring mood, you can totally miss a good portion of this area just by not trying to walk past the reactor.
Nonetheless, once Cloud finishes his trip down memory lane, the group can move on to our next destination and our final party member.