Word on the street is a lot of you are playing Final Fantasy VII Remake, Square Enix’s dramatization of An Inconvenient Truth. And if you are, you know it’s mostly linear. Sure, some sections let you direct Cloud and friends off the main plot for a sojourn into side-quest suburbia. But Final Fantasy VII Remake is largely on rails—that is, until you reach Chapter 9.
Make no mistake: Create a backup save before you delve too deeply into Chapter 9. And if you don’t want any spoilers, take that advice and leave. Shoo! Get out of here! But if you’re curious about how, exactly, Chapter 9 shakes things up, read on.
Chapter 9 sees Cloud and Aerith visit Wall Market, the neon- and liquor-soaked bar district of Midgar’s lower level. (If you’ve ever seen Tokyo’s Shinjuku Golden Gai, you know what to picture.) They’re there to rescue Tifa from the worst character in the game, a repulsive man who thoroughly deserves to get Falcon Punched directly into the sun: Don Corneo. Thing is, the only way to reach Corneo is to “audition” for a spot as one of his potential mistresses. And the only way to do that is to score a stamp of approval from one of his three closest confidants: Andrea Rhodea, Madam M, or Chocobo Sam.
For the purposes of Chapter 9’s side quests, you needn’t worry about Andrea Rhodea. He’ll pop up later in the chapter (in one of the game’s great moments, to boot). The diverging side quests come from Madam M or Chocobo Sam. Each offers a different questline, but you can’t do both in one playthrough, and the one you get depends on a series of seemingly arcane decisions you make throughout the early stages of your Wall Market venture.
You face the first choice fairly early on. On the walk to Corneo’s mansion, you’ll see Johnny, that inexplicably shirtless guy with blinding red hair, sprinting past. If you follow you’ll end up in front of the Honeybee Inn, where he’ll wonder out loud as to whether or not he should enter. (To bee or not to bee?) He’ll ask if you understand. Your choices: yeah or nope. You could also just not follow Johnny in the first place, which is wise, considering how often he uses the word “bro” as a conversational crutch. Whatever your approach, this encounter with Midgar’s Pauly D affects how the chapter plays out.
Another choice comes from Chocobo Sam. After Corneo’s chateau first turns you away, Cloud asks Sam point blank if he can get Aerith into the audition. He’ll counter with a coin toss. If you win, sure, she’s in. If not, sorry, find another way. You get three options—heads, tails, or “no deal”—but you’ll lose no matter which you choose as Sam, a Red Dead bit player down to his bones, cheats by using a trick coin. So, since the outcome is fixed, you really only have two options: playing along (choose “heads” or “tails”) or refusing to partake in his game (letting Aerith choose).
The third choice comes from Madam M. At her massage parlour, she offers Cloud a choice between three massage packages. There’s the luxury course, for 3,000 gil; the standard course, for 1,000 gil; and the poor man’s course, for 100 gil. Again, this is another binary decision masquerading under the guise of three options. As with housing in America, your real choice is between luxury and not-luxury. But rest assured that whichever you choose, you’ll witness an extremely suggestive cutscene.
Simple: The choices you made determine which of the two Corneo cronies will give you their quests.
To ensure you get Sam’s side quests, agree with Johnny outside the Inn, play along with Sam’s little coin toss, and pay for the poor man’s course at Madam M’s parlour. (Bonus tip: Mute the TV for the ensuing cutscene.) However, if you want Madam M’s quests, do the opposite: Disagree with Johnny (or don’t follow him), refuse the coin toss, and splurge on the luxury course. Splitting up your choices two for three will lean you toward one mission-giver over the other, but the choice in massage seems to carry extra weight; if Madam M becomes your quest-giver, she’ll explicitly mention that “extra-special treatment” from earlier.
Unlocking Chocobo Sam’s series of quests opens up “The Party Never Stops,” a tedious, multistep fetch quest in which you run errands around Wall Market. The worst part of this quest, though, is that Johnny tags along for most of it. The best part is that it ends. Eventually. Sam will also give you the side quest “A Dynamite Body.” This one’s fairly straightforward: a special fight at the colosseum against two Bombs. Don’t use fire attacks!
Madam M’s questline, for what it’s worth, is a bit more interesting. She’ll give you “The Price of Thievery,” which sends you on an expedition back to the Collapsed Expressway. There, you’ll re-pummel Beck and his gang of backup dancers. Madam’s other quest is “Shears’ Counterattack,” which is also a special fight at the colosseum. In this one you’ll go up against a Jury-Rigged Cutter. Use electric attacks!
At the end of the day, my advice, again, is this: Create two saves early on in Chapter 9—specifically, right before you go into Wall Market. This chapter is one of the game’s meatiest sections. Completionists who want to experience all of Remake’s side quests will need to retread the Collapsed Expressway dungeon, the three Colosseum matches, and that horrid Hell House boss battle. Only then will the split side quests open up. Creating a backup file in the early steps of Wall Market, at the very least, saves you from having to replay the Collapsed Expressway.
Or don’t. Whichever questline you follow, you’ll earn the same prize: Aerith’s ridiculously powerful Arcane Scepter.