So this is it.
Shinra’s a shambles, the WEAPONs have been neutralized (well, the ones that actually do stuff to threaten people; I’m content to let Ruby and Emerald just chill out in the wilderness because they don’t seem that interested in terrorizing the masses–also, I’ve never beaten them and I’m not going to start now), all the fancy chocobo materia is in my possession, Meteor’s a week away from landing, and the shield over the Northern Crater is broken. It’s time to go face off with Sephiroth.
Before our heroes go to do that, Cloud tells them to take some time and go see their friends and family. Confronting Sephiroth is most likely a suicide mission, and even if they succeed the human race may still be wiped out by Holy, so it’s best to take care of these things ahead of time.
Everyone disperses to get their heads straight, and Cloud and Tifa watch the Highwind since all the people they loved are dead (nice consolation prize). If Tifa was the player’s date at the Gold Saucer earlier before visiting the Temple of the Ancients, then there will be some extra dialogue in this scene suggesting that the two spend the night together. The following morning everyone shows up, even Yuffie (whom Barret was sure would skip town).
Cid pulls a lever that he’s been wondering about on the Highwind‘s dashboard, and all the propellers fall away to be replaced by jet engines (because where we’re going, we don’t need roads?) and our heroes race off to the Northern Crater.
The trek down to the center of the planet is largely uneventful (Final Fantasy‘s final dungeons are historically uneventful with virtually no story until the player reaches the final boss), though there are a couple of opportunities to split the party up, which operates as a way to get the loot that’s strewn about on the various branches of the path without having to backtrack (unfortunately, this isn’t explained in the game, so I totally went and did all the paths to get free stuff). There are a lot of really strong enemies in the Northern Crater (obviously), but nothing that’s really that difficult to deal with.
The real fun comes when we reach the Center of the Planet (yeah, we’re apparently traveling several thousand miles down while on foot in the space of a few hours) where we encounter first Jenova (the whole thing) and then, finally, Sephiroth.
Now, I may have mentioned this a while back, but until this playthrough I’d never beaten the final boss without cheating. This time, I did fine (although there was a very close call during the final fight when Sephiroth used his attack that reduces everyone’s HP to 1 and I nearly flipped out because I had forgotten he was going to do that).
The fight with Sephiroth is broken up into two stages. The first is kind of a gimmick fight, because depending on the player’s performance in the final dungeon, this fight can be done with up to three separate parties attacking different parts of the boss (I can’t remember exactly what the conditions are for getting the three party formation, but I didn’t do it because I had to fight with two parties–no big loss because it meant I didn’t have to bother with equipping Cid and Cait Sith). In this stage, Sephiroth’s in some weird kind of larval stage where he’s all purple and green and appears to be melded with Jenova’s body (the boss is called Bizarro-Sephiroth, which is a mistranslation based on the romaji of his Japanese name, Ribasu-Sefirosu–Rebirth-Sephiroth–the localization team thought it was supposed to be Reverse-Sephiroth, and went with Bizarro as a synonym; I’d just like to take a moment to acknowledge that FFVII has an accidental Superman reference, and it is way more awesome than anything about stubborn gorillas). It’s not a difficult fight.
The second part of the fight is with Sephiroth in what I think of as his Christ-pretender/Divine ascendant form. If you’ve played Final Fantasy VI, then you’ll be familiar with the final boss of that game, Kefka, who has a similar pseudo-divine motif (presumptive gods are a common feature of the series overall). Anyway, it’s this form of Sephiroth that was the start of the one black wing design feature that I think is so loathsome (in this version the wing’s actually replaced his right arm; though I’ve not noted it before, Sephiroth’s a southpaw). The name of this version is called Safer-Sephiroth, which has a more complicated background than other weird translations in this game. Safer may be a corruption of Savior (sticking with the false Messiah theme) or a mistranslation of Seraph (Sephiroth’s final form has six wings where his legs would be, echoing the description of Seraphim found in the Book of Ezekiel) or even a transliteration of the Hebrew word for book (because Sephiroth’s name is derived from the Sephirot, the 10 aspects of creation in Kabbalah, this suggests that the final boss’s name is intended to be understood as Hebrew for “Book of Numerations”). No matter what you think the name is supposed to be, it’s clearly one that was chosen in order to have a ton of layers and echoes of the presumptive god motif. He’s a moderately difficult boss (see above re: my freakout over the instant critical HP attack), but I beat him.
So with Sephiroth defeated, things can finally wrap up hap–
Oh right, there’s one more stage of the fight.
Beating Safer-Sephiroth wins you the game, but following that knockdown drag out, we have one more fight that’s more or less a glorified cut scene (this last duel between Cloud and Sephiroth even uses special, higher poly-count character models to emphasize the cinematic quality of it). Cloud gets sucked back into the Lifestream one more time to confront Sephiroth, who’s ready to end this thing. Except that Cloud’s limit gauge is full (it’s always full for this battle) and he knows his ultimate limit break Omnislash, regardless of whether you actually bothered to learn and set it. Cloud lets loose with a flurry of impossible blows (or he just attacks regularly as an instant counter if you let Sephiroth go first) and somehow only manages to give Sephiroth a bloody face (limitations of the technology, I suppose), signalling his victory.
After this, Cloud gets ejected from the Lifestream, and it’s time for everyone to run for their lives.
We’ll wrap this up next time.