So Cloud’s rejoined the rest of us in the land of the nominally sane and the Huge Materia are safely stowed away in Cosmo Canyon’s observatory where they can uselessly collect dust for the remainder of the life of the planet (even with all of my diligent materia leveling, I still couldn’t get a complete set of mastered materia to turn into Master Materia, a single materia that can be equipped to give all of the skills associated with either magic, summons, or battle commands on a single character). Clearly, I have further endangered the planet in my useless quest for knowledge when perhaps that materia nuke that Shinra was planning on throwing at Meteor might have worked when fully powered (these are the lies I think Cloud and friends tell themselves so they can sleep better at night with the end of the world looming).
We’re at the darkest hour now, with Meteor threatening to strike in only two weeks, when things really go south for Shinra.
With the Huge Materia no longer an option for a power source, Shinra comes up with the brilliant plan to relocate Junon’s gigantic cannon to Midgar, where it can be powered by the seven remaining reactors, and the big gun can be pointed at the Northern Crater.
Surely nothing can go wrong with this plan.
Unfortunately for Shinra and their massive egos, the Diamond WEAPON decides that an artificial WMD that draws its energy from the planet (which is totally different from an organic WMD that was created by the planet) is the largest detectable threat to Gaia, and attacks Midgar.
Yeah, I think the planet might have self-loathing issues. Also, the writers are really laying it on thick here that humans might be a real danger to the planet, since our resident sage Bugenhagen explains to the party just after they all go to visit
Aerith’s grave the Ancient City that Holy (the ultimate White magic, intended to protect the planet from all hostile forces) was successfully summoned by Aerith before her death, but Sephiroth’s blocking its activation, and there’s a good chance that since it’s a spell designed to protect the planet from anything that could do it serious harm, that humanity may be wiped out along with Meteor.
This was pretty heady stuff back in the day for a video game. Plenty of sci-fi stories before Final Fantasy VII have suggested that humanity’s actually a blight on the earth, but to suggest that the end of this story, in a genre that up to this point pretty much always revolved around successfully saving the world (and by extension, humanity), might involve saving the world at the cost of the human race was a big deal. Our heroes, being heroes, accept this in rather stoic fashion, but I can totally see all the average citizens of the world utterly despairing over this news. What’s the point of stopping Meteor if people are going to be killed by Holy instead?
Of course, we’re following the adventure of a bunch of ecoterrorists, so they make the noble decision that even if humanity is doomed either way, it’s better to do what they can to protect the planet.
For all my ribbing of our heroes, I do think this decision is genuinely heroic.
Anyway, WEAPON attacks Midgar, and lots of people die, including Rufus (except no, because Advent Children). Despite the heavy casualties, Shinra manage to fire off a single shot from the newly dubbed Sister Ray (except when Tifa escaped from Junon after waking from her coma, we saw pretty clearly that this name had already been stamped on the barrel of the canon, so clearly Shinra’s head of weapons development Scarlet was already planning to use this name for a while), which pierces Diamond WEAPON, killing it, and passes on to the Northern Crater, where it destroys Sephiroth’s barrier.
This would be the opportune time for everyone to go after Sephiroth, but first we find that Professor Hojo’s gone crazy and is planning on firing the cannon again so that Sephiroth can absorb the blast’s Mako energy.
There’s a dramatic air drop into Midgar, and Cloud and friends rush to stop Hojo before he causes a meltdown that could blow the city up. Along the way, we encounter the Turks for the last time (who, in a rather touching nod to that one time everyone worked together, the player can choose not to fight one last time if the Wutai sidequest has been completed) as well as Scarlet and the head of Shinra’s military division Heidegger, who have decided a crisis like the imminent explosion of the city’s reactors is a good opportunity to seize power (they’re both kind of idiots, but they make really dangerous weapons).
When the party confronts Hojo (protip: if you bring Vincent along for this segment, he has some choice words for Hojo, who was the one who experimented on Vincent and turned him into everyone’s favorite immortal brooding vampire) he confesses that he is Sephiroth’s father (I kind of forgot that that’s a plot point that doesn’t get revealed until so late in the game, so sorry to anyone who was bothered by that spoiler way back when I first introduced Vincent).
Anyhow, we kill Hojo and all his genetic horrors, and Midgar is safe once again (for about two weeks). With all the immediate crises resolved, it’s finally time to head into the Northern Crater and face off with Sephiroth once and for all (until the inevitable sequels).