Having escaped Junon Harbor intact, the team ruminates over their lost leader. Tifa insists on looking for Cloud, hinting at a deeper affection than the rest of the team, and for the next little while acts as the team leader. You’ll get to run around as Tifa as much as you like, which is a change from the Cloud-dominated game up to this point.
You’ll also have access to some nice transportation: the Highwind. Having stolen it from Shinra, you’ll now be able to fly just about anywhere on the world map – though you can only land the airship on grass or snow. Forests and mountains are a no-go, so while you can LOOK at everything on the main map you can’t necessarily go everywhere. A golden chocobo is necessary for that.
The Highwind serves more of a purpose than just transportation, as well. You can change your party, save your game or rest up after tough battles. The only thing you can’t do is buy items, and that’s no big deal since you can easily fly to any shop you want. It also allows you to talk to your other team members at any time, and once you start breeding chocobos you can carry them in the Highwind should you want to use them on faraway continents. If you’ve been wanting to breed the creatures, now’s the time to start.
Barring all the extra stuff, though, your main goal past this point is to find Cloud, and if you really want to progress the story you can get Tifa out of the lead in about five minutes. Search the eastern portion of the map until you find a little town called Mideel on a forested island. There are some nice shops in the area – but there’s also news of a spiky-haired kid who washed up and is being kept at the doctor’s office. Sure enough, it’s Cloud – but something’s wrong.
Very wrong, in fact. Cloud fell into the Lifestream after his encounter with Sephiroth and was hit with a bad case of mako poisoning. He’s incoherent and completely dependent on others, seemingly not aware of what’s going on around him. Tifa, saddened by his condition, decides to remain in Mideel while Cloud recovers, further fragmenting the team. If you don’t have Yuffie or Cait Sith you’ll only have four members for the next part.
Back on the Highwind, Cait Sith reveals that Shinra is busy collecting huge materia from mako reactors around the world, and as ever the team is bent on stopping them from completing a new super weapon. Cid is elected the team’s new leader and must take the point for a while, taking them first to the reactor in North Corel.