Best Bits: Cosmo Canyon - FINAL FANTASY VII

Caution: This article contains spoilers for FINAL FANTASY VII.
By Duncan Heaney

In Best Bits, the Square Enix Blog team looks at some of our favorite moments from Square Enix games, and why we think they stand out. To be clear, we’re not declaring them to be the pinnacle of the game, merely one of many moments that stand out. So don’t get cross at us if you disagree, okay?

With Red XIII front and center in the latest FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE screenshots, we thought we'd take a look at one of his greatest moments from the original game...

FINAL FANTASY VII’s story really moves.

It’s something that jumped out at me on my most recent playthrough. Cloud and company are almost always pushing forward, both metaphorically and literally - there’s always a new location to explore, a new threat to deal with or a new vehicle to steal, and it’s what gives the game such a memorable energy.

But every now and then, FINAL FANTASY VII does take its foot off the gas, and let the pace, and the central narrative, slow down a bit. When it does, the effect can be remarkable - and nowhere is that more apparent than in Cosmo Canyon.

What happens at Cosmo Canyon?

Still on the trail of Sephiroth, Cloud and the rest of the party stop off at Cosmo Canyon to drop off Red XIII who hails from the town. It’s also a chance to take a break in a distinctly more relaxed environment than the previous Gold Saucer.

When they arrive, Red XIII explains a little of his backstory - he’s from a line of warriors that protect the Canyon - and introduces the gang to his ‘grandfather’, Bugenhagen.

The floaty sage explains to the team the role that the lifestream plays in the cycle of life and death - and drives home the dangers that Shinra’s energy-sucking machines pose to the natural order.

After that (and possibly a spending spree at the weapons shop), the party gathers round the campfire to take a break and process what they’ve learned. Red XIII bitterly reveals some serious daddy issues - his father was a coward who brought dishonor to his family.

Bugenhagen hears this (was the nosey old man eavesdropping?) and won’t let this stand. There’s more to the story and it’s time our hairy hero learned the truth.

He leads Red XIII and a couple of friends into a sealed cave. As for what happens next… well, if you’ve played it you know, and if you haven’t I don’t want to spoil it. I will say this though - if you don’t get a little moist around the tear ducts, you’re a stronger fan than I.

So that’s what happens, but why is it such an affecting section? Here are a few of the reasons:

It’s a welcome shift in focus

Most of FINAL FANTASY VII features on the central conflict between Cloud and Sephiroth. But as compelling as that is, some of FINAL FANTASY VII’s finest moments come when the game takes a long look at some of the other party members. Cosmo Canyon is Red XIII’s time in the spotlight - and it’s one that’s welcome.

Until this point in the game, Red XIII is something of a mystery. He’s intelligent, articulate, and extremely likeable but we don’t know all that much about him.

Cosmo Canyon changes that. We finally get insight into the character, his conflicts and his backstory. We see the place who grew up and the people he loves. We see the lingering resentment he has for his father and the fusion of pride and sorrow he feels when he discovers the what really happened to him.

When the party finally departs Cosmo Canyon, we know exactly who Red XIII is, where he comes from, and what makes him tick. He has become a fully-formed character and a key party member for the remainder of the adventure.

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It adds thematic depth

All through the game, we’ve been told that Shinra’s power-sucking machines are bad. We believe it - we see some evidence to support it, and if nothing else, everyone on the executive board seems to be utterly despicable.

But Bugenhagen and his unnecessarily extravagant planetarium drive home why harvesting Mako energy is bad. Once of the central themes of the game - mankind vs the natural order - comes sharply into focus, and it makes the continuing conflicts with the nefarious energy company even richer as a result.

The Cave of the Gi is excellent

When our heroes enter the Cave of the Gi to find out what happened to Red XIII’s father, they don’t realize they’re stepping into a nightmare.

The cave is infested with the restless spirits of the Gi tribe, who launched a failed offensive against Cosmo Canyon many years before. Those enemies are dangerous, casting spells that can KO a party member within a minute, or taking off three quarters of their HP in a single attack.

To navigate the cave, the team has to use switches to open paths, navigate treacherous spider webs - it truly feels like a hostile environment. Heck - even the floor can hurt you in some spots. Not helping matters, the music has turned full-on sinister, giving the location a truly unsettling vibe.

Eventually, the party makes their way through the cave, where they’re ambushed by a particularly nasty boss. It’s a tough fight (although the experienced will know there’s a trick to it), and a satisfying capper to a grueling journey.

Not as satisfying as the story beat that follows, of course… but as mentioned, that’s best left unspoiled.

FINAL FANTASY VII is a game with so many amazing moments, we could easily fill 20 ‘Best Bits’ articles. Cosmo Canyon is definitely a standout though - it’s full of great character moments, fascinating plot developments and satisfying battles. Plus the music for the area is fantastic.

But that’s just my opinion. Do you agree, or is there another part of the game you’d highlight instead? Share your thoughts in the comments and on social media: