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trnad53 script
TRNAD53 is a cut scene file from the original Final Fantasy VII. A map, at the North Cave, where Sapphire Weapon sleeps, Sephiroth waits, and Aeris' theme plays. Discovered early on in leaks of cut content, TRNAD53 has garnered all kind of wild theories over the years. In this video I want to dig into the data and uncover the truth
I've been into the FF modding scene for a while, but Final Fantasy VII has always fascinated me. It's a weird game in some ways, halfway between the classic 16 bit era and the modern, cinematic era. It's development process was turbulent: originally FFVII was about a New York detective chasing an elusive man; but somehow this became cyberpunk mercenary Cloud Strife chasing Sephiroth through Midgar and beyond.
TRNAD53 also has had a turbulent history of rumours and fan theories. Was it an early version of where Cloud gives Sephiroth the Black Materia? Was it an early script where Aeris dies at the North Cave? It *was* known Aeris has post death dialog files, files that come before North Cave.
And, of course, there were always some fans who figured it had something to do with bringing Aeris back to life
We can access TRNAD53 through the Debug Room, but we can't do much: Cloud isn't properly placed on the walkmesh. Fix the transition and you can see that the mesh is kinda broken: it has some weird curvature and you can even walk off the map completely. But if we add a scene script to pan the camera, we can see much more detail.
At the bottom is Sapphire Weapon, who you'll remember from Junon. At the top is Sephiroth's pod, where his torso ended up after Nibelheim. The tree isn't documented as far as I know, but magic trees show up all the time in Final Fantasy, like Exdeath in V or the Iifa Tree in IX. Sephiroth's name comes from Kabbalah, and Kabbalah features a "tree of life", the source of all creation.
Dating the map is imprecise, but the music can help us. You see, every map embeds it's own version of any music it uses, along with character models and other assets. This means everything can be loaded in one seek of the CD-ROM, reducing latency. These music files, stored in a format called AKAO, each start with a timestamp.
TRNAD53 embeds one music file, EARIS.AKAO, and it's timestamp is December 18th, 1996, 22:45PM. That's just six weeks before the Japanese release date.
The other data in the map tells us it loads character models for the Black Materia scene, and a dummied out script to play the subsequent FMVs, and transition to Tifa waking up in Junon.
This makes pretty clear that the file is just a version of the Black Materia scene, TRNAD51, and it doesn't load any models for Aeris or Sephiroth. So we can rule out the common fan theories, but we're still stuck saying what the file is really for.
The debug room gives us some clues. See this menu in BLACKBG5? It plays the three TRNAD files, followed by BLACKBGD. That's a special file that sets up and loads the disc transition scene, BLACKBGB.
On the JORG release of FFVII that file has some unused text translating to "Please change the disc". This seems to confirm the theory that VII was originally planned for two discs, but bumped to three discs relatively late on to fit more video onto CD-ROMS.
I think originally TRNAD53 was going to be the transition point. That's why it's in this debug menu, and it's also why it would be used to test early versions of the disc transition code.
I'm not clear exactly when the disc transition was moved, but it must have been earlier than December 1996. And TRNAD53 references Disc Two FMVs. It must have still had some use.
Aeris' theme looks spooky at first glance, but I suspect it's there for a fairly mundane reason. Nobuo Uematsu likes to begin with his character themes, and EARIS AKAO would have been available as a placeholder long before the final OST was ready. It's just a placeholder sad song for a placeholder sad scene.
As to what killed TRNAD53, take a look at these FMVs. These are the videos that play around the Black Materia scene. The first thing you'll notice is how one includes the TRNAD53 background. The other thing is that the names are the wrong way around. For some reason, CScene1 comes after CScene3
My guess is the files were chopped and changed quite heavily in the final stage of editing. Even with three CD-ROMs about half the space is dedicated to video, and Square had to really squeeze that content during the 11th hour.
I suspect that TRNAD53 was a victim of this process. One thing FFVII tries really hard to do is blend FMVs into and out of scene backgrounds, rather than hard camera cuts. Once TRNAD53's background was used in the middle of a video, not the start or end, it would no longer fit, and I suspect at this point the team finalised TRNAD51 instead.
But consider the music timestamp: December 18th, 22.45pm. If my interpretation is correct, this was still being figured out as late as Christmas 1996. And team members were working late into the night to get ready for launch. The end of FFVII probably involved some serious crunch.
There's a dev account I read a while back, that said the majority of VII's dev time was spent figuring out the technology. That left relatively little time for the "data", the content. And it's known from development of the PC port that Square's dev process ended with chaos
So alas, TRNAD53 isn't evidence you can bring Aeris back to life, or of a plot rewrite from where she was supposed to die much later. What it is however is a relic of FFVII as a *video project*
Final Fantasy VII was a big budget title with ambitions of grand, cinematic storytelling. It began with Square abandoning Nintendo for a console that could play video, and it ended with furious editing to make that cinematography come to life. But it also involved heavy crunch and came close to missing its release date completely.
A quarter century later, that much about the industry seems the same
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