On January 31st 1997, Final Fantasy VII, the Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) from Square Enix, was released for the PlayStation. Thanks to a major pre-release marketing campaign, Final Fantasy VII was a huge success, both boosting sales of the PlayStation as well as popularizing JRPGs worldwide. Since its release, the game has gained an immense following, recognition as one of the "greatest games of all time," and a number of new games, animated features, short stories, and character appearances in other games.
Final Fantasy VII was a game that really showed the promise of what gaming could become. With a combined development and marketing budget of over $80 million (with more devoted to the U.S. than ever before), as well a staff of over 100 people—which is believed to be larger than any development team before that time—Final Fantasy VII shook things up. Many thank the game for the popularization of JRPGs due to the marketing efforts that were put towards the West, and the boost that it gave the PlayStation had a great affect on the console as well.
There is an immense amount of nostalgia behind Final Fantasy VII but also genuine love for the game's characters, gameplay features, and settings. Many have criticized the game long after release for gaps in story, but it continues to be a game that many gamers both grew up on and continue to return to over and over again. For many that have never played Final Fantasy VII, they have so many more ways to play it thanks to the PC, PS3, PS Vita, and Mobile ports that Square Enix has released over the years, allowing players to return to (or explore for the first time) the "The Planet."
Check out our video looking back at the series below:
The Materia system and the test of time
Almost anyone who has played Final Fantasy VII, whether on the original discs or on one of the newer digital platforms, will agree that the Materia system is what made the game shine. The ability to slot your magic into your gear and level it up just by wearing it forced players to make strategic choices in how they slotted their active characters throughout the game, as well as generating an extra grind beyond your character levels. Final Fantasy games are no stranger to gear, levelling, and magic, but there's something about the Materia system and hunting down the best Materias to augment your gear with that makes the system special.
Each Materia was unique, offering up healing magic, damage magic, ability magic, or even summoning magic for your characters to utilize. The best Materias had to be found, sometimes requiring a boss battle or other event to be able to get to it, or you just have to be able to spot it. One of the best Materias in the game, Knights of the Round, requires that you breed the highest level of Chocobo (which can cross water and mountains) to be able to get it, and the Enemy Skill Materia can only be leveled up by being attacked by Enemy Skills that you can learn. You can play the game multiple times and always end up with a different configuration!
Thanks to the success of Final Fantasy VII, many of the spin-offs that came about across different mediums would feature Materia as well. The feature film, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, featured Materia in a few different ways, the Playstation Portable game Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII featured it as a game mechanic, and the more recent Final Fantasy XIV even featured Materia, albeit in a different way.
Mini Games and The Chocobo Life
Final Fantasy games typically have a number of mini games for players to choose from as they make their way through the adventures ahead of them, but Final Fantasy VII took a massive leap ahead with their feature of mini games both across the world and in the Golden Saucer casino. From fighting games, to arcade games and Chocobo racing, the mini games featured in Final Fantasy VII are ones that many players will (likely) remember fondly. Final Fantasy VII was the first game to feature Chocobo catching, breeding, and racing, too, which spun off its own series of games!
Golden Saucer was the hub for mini games, which included a fighting arena pitting you against wave after wave of enemy, an on-rails shooter, Chocobo Racing, and an arcade that included many of the mini games you were forced to play in order to move along in the story, as well as a rock-paper-scissors style fighting game and Moogle game. Kupo!
Chocobo catching, breeding, and racing—need I say more? The number of guides that litter the Internet can tell you how popular this particular part of the game was for players, with (back in the day) entire sites dedicated to how to catch and breed the best Chocobos for racing in the Golden Saucer! To distill this to the most simple of descriptions, by holding a certain Materia, players could run in circles in certain patches of area across the world to catch Chocobos of varying levels and genders using different "greens," and then beat the monsters that came with them before they finish eating to capture them! Once you had a few Chocobos in your stables way back near where you started your journey, you could breed them to try and get new Chocobos with different traits and ranks. To be able to race at certain levels, or even win at certain levels, at the Golden Saucer, you had to successfully breed various Chocobos. Players could win various items by winning races, as well as purchase items using GP, the Golden Saucer currency.
Of course, we can't forget Fort Condor, which gave players the ability to come back to the mountain regularly and fight strategic battles against Shinra forces! Your goal is to keep Shinra forces from reaching the top, and should players succeed, they got special Materia from their effort. Essentially the mini game created a small tower-defense/real time strategy simulation within Final Fantasy VII, with players only limited by how much money they had available to them during the period in which the Fort was available to defend. There were 12 battles in all to be fought, but only one was mandatory for the story.
By the way, there are 19 different Chocobo games, just a little factoid for you!
Final Fantasy VII's Art Was Amazing
Obviously not by today's standards, but at the time much of the scenery, and especially cutscenes, were breathtaking on the PlayStation compared to what had come before. While the characters weren't necessarily "real" with their blocky arms and hands, the environments that had been created for them to traverse were beautifully created and unique. From Midgar and Juno, all the way to the City of the Ancients and Wutai, every region and locale had its own distinct look and feel, and the art that was built around it brought the experience together.
With the switch from 2D to 3D, Yusuke Naora, the game's art director, actually had to take a completely different approach and needed to teach himself drawing again due to the differences between 2D and 3D. Because of this, he was actually granted an entire department to work on the art due to the scope of Final Fantasy VII, which by the end of the project had over 100 people across the entire development team. The artwork of Final Fantasy VII, which he described as "dark" and "weird," was done by this team, while the promotional artwork was created by Yoshitaka Amano.
Cloud Strife was originally planned to have slicked-back black hair, free of the yellow spikes that have become iconic for the character, when main character designer Tetsuya Nomura created him. The design was changed when he felt that the look was too masculine for fans, and thus we now have spiky haired Cloud!
The upcoming Final Fantasy VII remake is going to be a drastic change in 3D quality from what we saw in the 1997 original, but from the looks of the trailer and sneak peeks we've seen, the game will largely be the same in style. What this could mean is majorly redone versions of our favorite locales in an upgraded engine that can show us Gaia in a whole new way. While that's exciting to think about, personally I'm always going to have a soft spot for Final Fantasy VII's original art and graphics; call it nostalgia, but there's just something so welcoming about exploring Juno or seeing the Weapon fights all over again.
The Sound of Final Fantasy VII is iconic and loved
A version of the Final Fantasy VII OST was released on Amazon a few years ago, and I jumped on the chance to grab it, because even though I knew every song from the game intimately, there's just something about being able to listen to the soundtrack of a game on a rainy day and remember how you felt when you heard that particular song or worked your way through a part of that story. Every Final Fantasy game has had such unique sound, and many of the games have the same effect with ease, so this is probably a feeling that both Final Fantasy fans and gamers in general can also understand. Sound is powerful, and the right soundtrack can make a good game great and a great game incredible.
Final Fantasy music is so loved that Nobuo Uematsu, the music's composer, even has a concert series dedicated to the series, Distant Worlds. Every song has been so lovingly composed by Nobuo Uematsu, and the music is so fitting to every encounter, event, and part of the game in which they are played. I can't highlight it any better than the interview he did with Polygon, in which he explained how he composed "One Winged Angel":
Outside of the game itself, Final Fantasy VII has had a number of incredible artists do covers, remixes, and so much more with the music. Some great examples of this are Mega Ran, who wrote an entire album in which he rapped about the game, and Daniel Tidwell, who does some RockMetal covers of video game music. If you love Final Fantasy VII's music, I highly recommend checking both of them (especially Mega Ran's Black Materia album) out!
Final Fantasy VII Spinoffs Galore!
Due to the success of Final Fantasy VII, we've seen movies (Advent Children), games (Dirge of Cerberus, Crisis Core), and animations (Last Order) spun off of the original games, all of which were part of the "Compilation of Final Fantasy VII," which was fully completed in 2010. All of the titles had strong sales, with Advent Children selling over 4 million copies in its original release, and 2.4 million copies in its "complete" release worldwide, and Crisis Core sold over 3.1 million copies worldwide for the PSP platform.
If you're looking to get more details on this game, and immerse yourself even more in the story, I highly recommended that you check these titles out!
Final Fantasy VII is being remade
Every gamer was elated when, in 2015, a trailer of the remake was shown by Sony at E3 and players were introduced to the new style for the game. Stepping away (it appears) from the Active Time Battle system and moving towards what looks to be more real-time like in Final Fantasy XV, the game is going to have high quality graphics and appears to be using some of the original scenes or locales from the game. Details are scarce on what exactly the game is going to shape up to be, but we do have some details from producer Yoshinori Kitase about the episodic nature of the new game.
The game is going to be released in parts, with each of those parts being a full-scale game within the broader full game. Kitase made sure to say that while nothing was planned to be untouched, that if they did make any story changes to the game, they would be incredibly careful in how they make changes, taking consideration into the effect it will have as the original creators of the game.
There's no details (yet) of when the game will be available or when more details will arise, but we're sure to see more in the near future.
A source of nostalgia for years to come
Without a doubt, one of the most talked about games when it comes to nostalgia is Final Fantasy VII, not only because of its age but because of the immense following it has still playing and replaying the game year after year. We've seen Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy IX release since 1997, and although they have a good following as well, they don't seem to have the same pull as the 1997 classic of the series. With the remake coming in future years, we'll see just how strong the nostalgia remains with this great game.
Have you played Final Fantasy VII? Did you play it on the original PlayStation? What was your favorite part of this iconic game?