The situation had taken a radical turn for Tom. After barely surviving his experiences in Contra and Super Mario Bros., he had been deposited by IDEAS in Final Fantasy VII as the game’s protagonist, Cloud Strife. Now, not only was he in three dimensions, blocky though they were, he also found that he could communicate with other people in the game. Villagers and non-playable characters would only say the same few phrases to him over and over again, but he was surprised to find that he could have actual conversations with the members of his party. Rick was also amazed by this turn of events and, despite Tom’s protests, he spent hours documenting this peculiar phenomenon.
Fortunately, Rick had managed to find a way to save the game and put the system into sleep mode, allowing both of the guys to take a break. For Tom, sleep mode meant being knocked unconscious and awakened in the same instant. He could never remember any time passing, but, according to Rick, it was four, eight, sometimes even twenty-four hours later. The latter case scared him, making him a little afraid that one day Rick would forget about him and leave him in the game for eternity, but for the moment he decided to push back his fears and trust his friend.
So far it felt like he had been stuck in this game for a couple of months. However, in stark contrast to the system’s previous behavior, he had been inserted very close to the end of the game and was tasked with, of all things, defeating the game’s final boss. After his brush with death in Contra, Tom decided the best course of action would be to become as powerful as possible before facing Sephiroth, so he was completing every sidequest, collecting every item, and power leveling every character. It was a long process, and Rick, once he was done collecting data, assured Tom that his characters were more than strong enough to beat the game. Tom, however, was not taking any chances. Only after every weapon, every piece of armor, and every material had been collected, and all the characters had been leveled, did he finally feel ready.
“You know, Rick,” Tom said cheerfully, “if there’s one thing I love about videogames, it’s that they can be really predictable at times.”
“What do you mean?” Rick replied.
“Well, that Meteor thing has been hanging in the air for what feels like, oh, two months in here, and it never gets any closer. Sephiroth could destroy me at any time, but he hasn’t. Hell, I could just call it quits here and the world would be safe.”
“Well, I think the Meteor would come down eventually….”
“I don’t think so. As I see it, this game is perfectly happy to let me take my sweet time. Actually, it would probably be more risky for this world if I actually went to go fight Sephiroth.”
“How do you figure?”
“Let’s face it, Sephiroth is a big, flaming, oedipal drama-queen. He’s not actually going to do anything with this chunk of rock until he can get some attention from me out of it. So if I never go to face him, we’re all pretty much safe. Sure, there’s a giant piece of malevolent space-rock in the sky, but who knows? It could be the best thing to ever happen to this place. Maybe it’ll make the crops grow better or make chocobos more delicious or something.”
“Chocobos? Wait, you didn’t….”
“Where do think all those chocobos I raised trying to get the gold one went? I had so many I managed to open a restaurant in Midgar. Besides, where do you think I came up with the money to buy all these items?”
“You’d think that, but apparently the monsters don’t just drop the money. You have to…explore if you want to find it most times. And frankly, I can do without rummaging through the innards of some tentacled horror.”
“When did all this happen?”
“Mostly when you were busy taking notes. And when you were eating. And that time you left the machine on when you went to bed.”
“Tom, I think you might have a problem here; you sound like an addict.”
“Well excuse me if I don’t want to DIE. In this game, if the party is wiped out, you get a GAME OVER. We still don’t know what that means, so I’m not taking any chances.”
“But you’re ready now?”
“Yup. I just finished stocking up on items and we’re all set. With any luck I should be out of this hell of plot holes and melodrama within a couple hours.”
Deep within the North Crater, Tom was glad to find that his party of himself, Cid and Barrett was making quick and easy progress. As he had hoped, all his efforts proved to make his party nigh invincible. Tom was feeling pretty good about himself…until his team was ambushed by a group of Master Tonberries. The deadly yet adorable foes quickly dispatched Cid with their instant death attack, though Tom was able to defeat them in the end.
“Yo! One Life spell comin’ up!” shouted Barrett excitedly after the battle.
“Woah, woah, woah, we’re conserving our Magic Points here,” said Tom strictly. “Use one of the Phoenix Downs to bring him back.”
“Whateva you say, man.” Barrett pulled a small bunch of glowing, red feathers out of his pack and went over to Cid. Now, despite the fact that he had been in the game for quite some time, Tom had never actually used any of his items, preferring magic whenever possible to avoid spending precious gil on more items. This was why he was understandably surprised when Barrett pulled down Cid’s pants and lined his arm up for what looked to be a very invasive action.
“Barrett! What the hell are you doing to Cid?!”
“Givin’ him the Phoenix Down, what the hell does it look like?”
“It looks like you’re about anally violate our teammate!”
“Yeah, that’s how you give ’em Phoenix Downs. Doncha’ remember it’s a suppository?”
“Since forever, man. Geez, you have been acting weird lately.”
“Hunh? Oh, right, it’s a suppository,” said Tom, suddenly fearing what would happen if his teammates started to suspect that he was not their friend Cloud. “I was just messing with you man. Why don’t you hurry up and…help…Cid so we can keep going.”
“All right man.” With that, Barrett went back to his grim task, while Tom looked away. After what seemed like an eternity of rude and thoroughly embarrassing noises, he heard Cid leap to his feat and hoist his pants back up. Turning around, Tom saw that Cid looked happier than ever, and swallowed as he realized that he would never be able to play a Final Fantasy game again.
“Hey guys, about my ‘no Life spells’ rule,” said Tom. “Let’s just forget about that one, OK?”