As I’ve mentioned before, things really start to speed up after Cloud goes cuckoo. The next major sequence gives us a break from the Sephiroth chase (we know where he is now; we just can’t get to him) and instead turns the focus back on the megacorporation that everybody loves to hate while being hopelessly dependent on it, Shinra.
Following our acquisition of the Highwind, it’s time to do some major world exploration, character grinding, and chocobo breeding (fortunately for you, I did all that and don’t plan on going into excruciating detail about the process; needless to say, the past few weekends have involved a couple of marathon gaming sessions to get most of the extra, non-plot-related junk out of the way). The world has opened up considerably, because we’re now able to go pretty much anywhere (ironically, getting the Highwind now only opens up access to one brand new location; all the other fun stuff requires fancy flightless birds and a submarine) we’ve previously been without any hassle (also, the Tiny Bronco and the Buggy are mysteriously missing from the world map, which makes me slightly sad). This is important, because it’s now time to start acquiring the Huge Materia.
The Huge Materia are Final Fantasy VII‘s nod towards a recurring plot element in the series at large: giant magical crystals that are important to the well-being of the world. This element goes back to the first Final Fantasy when the four heroes of light (who could consist of whatever party makeup you wanted) came forward to restore the inner light to the four elemental crystals that keep the natural forces of the world in balance. In keeping with this theme, our heroes in FFVII want to capture the Huge Materia from Shinra in order to make use of the stored up knowledge of the planet inside them (remember that all materia is just crystallized Mako, which is a distilled form of Lifestream energy) to help figure out a way to defeat Sephiroth. Shinra wants to take all the Huge Materia, which apparently have 330 times more energy inside them than regular materia, stick them in a rocket, and launch it at Meteor to try to blow it up (this plan, naturally, is doomed to fail).
Since there are four Huge Materia (to correspond with the series’s original four crystals) Cid and company have to take off on a globetrotting adventure to collect them from Mako reactors all over the world while Tifa nurses Cloud out of a vegetative state in the spa town of Mideel (for such a sparsely populated world, there are a lot of vacation spots; I think there might be more places to go on vacation than there are regular towns where people just live and work in this game). All of these missions involve some kind of challenge or mini game that has to be completed successfully, or the party loses access to one of the Huge Materia permanently (failing to recover any of the Huge Materia isn’t the end of the world, but it’s inconvenient for purposes of powering up the party).
Regardless of what happens, this portion of the game closes with Cloud and Cid hurtling through space on a rocket destined to crash into Meteor (Cloud gets better halfway through the Huge Materia plot, but I’ll discuss his recovery more in depth in a future post). While our heroes escape to safety, the rocket collides with Meteor, and regardless of how many Huge Materia are loaded on board, the resulting spectacular explosion does nothing but cosmetic damage to the giant rock. Looks like Shinra’s last ditch effort to save the world themselves has failed.
Oh well, at least they still have their great monument to human achievement, Midgar to comfort them. The world’s only city should be absolutely fine, right?