Final Fantasy VII is the seventh installment in the Final Fantasy series, was released in 1997 by Square Co., Ltd., and continues to be one of the most popular games in the series. It was directed by Yoshinori Kitase, written by Kitase and Kazushige Nojima, and produced by Hironobu Sakaguchi. It was the first game of the Final Fantasy series to be developed for the PlayStation rather than a Nintendo system, and the first game in the series to be ported to Windows. Additionally, Final Fantasy VII was the first Final Fantasy title with entirely 3D (polygonal) character models, although the majority of environments were two-dimensional pre-rendered maps (except the World Map and battle screens, which were rendered in full 3D).
Moving more towards a cyber-punk setting as opposed to the steam-punk setting its predecessor had, (as well as slightly more away from high-fantasy elements that were present in previous installments) Final Fantasy VII is also the first incarnation of the series to have a more modern/futuristic setting, although other games in the series prior to it made sparse uses of advanced technology here and there, such as traveling underground and to the moon in Final Fantasy IV, traveling underwater in Final Fantasy V, or utilizing steampower, coal, gunpowder, and Magitek in Final Fantasy VI.
Final Fantasy VII is one of the best-selling games of all time, with the highest sales (10.5 million copies) of any game in the Final Fantasy series, and the second highest sales for a game on the PlayStation platform. It received GameSpot's Editor's Choice, scoring a 9.5/10 and a 9.6/10 user score. Since its debut on the Sony PlayStation, Final Fantasy VII has been released on the PC and later the PlayStation Network. It is widely considered one of the most influential RPGs to-date.
Unlike Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI, which in North America were renamed II and III, respectively for their western releases, (II, III, and V were not yet released internationally at that time), Final Fantasy VII retained the number seven for its westernized release. The game has spawned an entire sub-series of sequels, prequels, and even "midquels" called the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII.
Final Fantasy VII is a largely menu-driven role-playing game. Initially, the player is restricted to the city of Midgar, but as the game progresses, more and more of the fantasy world becomes accessible and the scripted adventure sequences gradually give way to greater freedom and opportunities to explore. At several points in the story, the game is interrupted by entirely scripted dramatic sequences, some of which are quite lengthy.
During its turn-based battle sequences, the game uses the same Active Time Battle (ATB) system utilized in the three Final Fantasy games preceding it. Unlike previous games in the series, which traditionally allowed for a maximum of four to five friendly characters to participate in battle, Final Fantasy VII allows for only three characters in a party (and therefore, to take part in battle) at any one time.
Final Fantasy VII's skill system utilizes Materia, magic orbs which can be placed in special slots on weapons and armor. Materia allows characters to access magic spells, special commands, and a variety of other abilities. Materia can be combined in a fixed number of ways, and strategic use of the Materia combinations allow the player to use various tactics suiting their personal style of play.
A feature introduced in Final Fantasy VI, the "desperation attack" reappears in Final Fantasy VII in a new, modified form now known as the Limit Break. Every playable character has a special "limit bar" which fills up proportionally to the damage received by the character in battle. When the limit bar is completely filled, the character has access to his or her Limit Break, a special ability which generally inflicts much more damage on an enemy than normal physical attacks; also, some Limit Breaks target all the enemies instead of just one of them and other Limit Breaks support the party such as healing HP or providing status buffs.
Final Fantasy VII also popularized the inclusion of very difficult optional bosses not required to complete the game, but rather to offer reward and challenge the player. Later in the game, a series of very strong monsters called Weapons appear; the player must confront several of them through the plot, but two of them - Ruby Weapon and Emerald Weapon - can only be encountered if the player goes out of their way, and are very hard to defeat. These two bosses were not included in the game's original Japanese version, but were later added to the European and American ports.
The main playable characters in Final Fantasy VII are:
- Cloud Strife- the main protagonist who posed as a former member of SOLDIER, now operating as a mercenary caught up in the actions of eco-terrorists AVALANCHE. Uncaring and cold at first, through the game's events he begins to change, eventually caring deeply about his friends and the fate of the Planet.
- Barret Wallace- the leader of AVALANCHE, wielding a gun on his right arm in place of his injured hand. Despite his brash and loud-mouthed personality he is a very caring person and loves his daughter Marlene very much.
- Tifa Lockhart- Cloud's childhood friend and member of AVALANCHE, running the bar 7th Heaven in the Sector 7 slums, which also serves as the group's hideout. Her sympathetic exterior hides her fearsome fighting skills.
- Aeris Gainsborough- A flower girl from Sector 5, and the last of the Cetra, also known as the Ancients. Captured by Shinra at a young age, she escaped with her mother Ifalna, who died of her wounds, leaving Aeris orphaned. Aeris was then found and raised by Elmyra Gainsborough.
- Red XIII- A quadrupedal, flame red beast capable of speech. The party rescue him from capture and attempted breeding at Shinra Headquarters. He speaks little, but when he does, his words are often very important or significant. His real name is Nanaki.
- Cait Sith- A robotic cat atop a stuffed moogle, operating as a fortune teller when the party meet him at the Gold Saucer. He shouts commands to his moogle in battle using a giant megaphone. His friendly attitude belies his deceitful side; however, he is eventually used for good to spy on Shinra.
- Cid Highwind- The foul-mouthed, chain-smoking pilot of Rocket Town whose dream was to be the first man in space. However, he was forced to abort the mission after his assistant Shera was running a safety check on the rocket and would have burned to death had it taken off. Despite his bitter attitude, Cid nevertheless has a good heart and cares about his friends.
and the two secret characters:
- Yuffie Kisaragi- Known first as the Mystery Ninja, Yuffie can be encountered in any forest after the events at the Mythril Mine. A self-professed Materia hunter, she is sneaky and playful, getting on the nerves of the party numerous times. She also suffers from motion sickness. Later it is revealed she only 'hunts' Materia to restore her home of Wutai to its former glory.
- Vincent Valentine- Discovered sleeping in a coffin by the party at Shinra Mansion in Nibelheim, Vincent is a former Turk with a traumatic past. After being subject to numerous experiments, Vincent became able to change into monstrous forms, but he felt immense shame and sealed himself in the coffin until he was found. Like Red XIII, he speaks little but offers helpful advice when he does.
- Sephiroth is a temporary party member during a single sequence, but he cannot be controlled, nor his equipment changed.
Important characters in Shinra Electric Power Company are Reeve Tuesti (Head of Urban Development), Professor Hojo (Head of the Science Department), Palmer (Head of Space Exploration), Heidegger (Head of the Peace Preservation Department), Scarlet (Head of Weapons Research and Development), President Shinra, his son Rufus Shinra, and the members of a secret police organization called the Turks; Elena, Rude, Reno, and Tseng.
It should be noted that Aeris's name in the original English language release of Final Fantasy VII was incorrectly transliterated from the intended "Aerith". Later products that include her as a character, such as Kingdom Hearts, Crisis Core, and the movie Advent Children retcon the name to Aerith.
Final Fantasy VII proved popular enough that Square has included several characters from the title in other games. Cloud, Tifa, Sephiroth, Vincent, Yuffie, and Zack are playable characters in the fighting game Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring. Cloud appears as a secret playable character in Chocobo Racing and in Final Fantasy Tactics, where an alternate Aerith makes a cameo as well.
All playable characters reappear in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, and most appear at various times in other Compilation of Final Fantasy VII titles. Cloud and Aerith, who both appear in the game's cinematic introduction, were featured in a remake of this cinematic in a technical demonstration for the PlayStation 3 in 2005.
Several Final Fantasy VII characters have appeared in Sackboy form in an expansion pack of the PS3 game, littleBigPlanet 2, including costumes of Cloud, Tifa, Aerith, Vincent and Sephiroth.
Zack appears in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep due to his status as a Final Fantasy character from the past.
An energy manufacturing mega-company known as Shinra, Inc. is harvesting the sheer life energy of the Planet (known as the Lifestream) as a simple fossil fuel. The Lifestream is processed and made into products ranging from electricity and heat to Mako and Materia. The latter two materials can work miracles, granting the wisdom of the Ancients to the user. However, the Lifestream, like most other fuels, is finite in supply, and the Planet's lifeforce is being malevolently drained by the constant exploitation of Mako by Shinra. Though aware of the harmful effects, they function without remorse.
However, the real battle lies not with a corporation, but a force much more competent from the distant past. A long-thought dead warrior bent on becoming a god by draining all of the Lifestream from the Planet has risen again and will stop at nothing to achieve his goal.
Now a small rebel group emanating from the slums must quell the various dangers toward the innocent, and one mercenary for hire must look amidst the lies and deception and find the man he is within.
Gaia, referred to as the Planet in the game, is the world of Final Fantasy VII. It is technologically advanced, with many of real-world modern inventions, such as cars, television, firearms, and cellphones. Their world is dominated by humans, who are the only major race other than a few nearly extinct species. It is economically, militarily, and politically dominated by a powerful conglomerate called the Shinra Electric Power Company, which profits from the use of machines known as Mako Reactor. The reactors siphon a special type of energy - called "Mako" - out of the Planet and convert it into electricity. One of the byproducts of the extraction and refinement of Mako energy is Materia, a concentrated form of Mako which allows the wielder to use its magical properties. President Shinra leads his eponymous organization, and is thus the world's de facto ruler. Shinra is involved with many horrible genetic experiments, which have created many of the monsters that roam the Planet.
In reality, Mako energy is drawn from the Lifestream, a flow of life-force beneath the Planet's surface. All life originates from the Lifestream, and returns to it upon death. In short, the Lifestream is the sum of all the life that has ever and will ever walk upon the Planet. The process of extracting Mako energy literally drains the life of the Planet in order to generate electricity. This can be seen quite clearly in the Shinra's capital city of Midgar, where the eight Mako Reactors have sucked out so much of the Planet's life-force that the area is covered in perpetual darkness and no plants can grow.
Shinra's management is concerned with the limited repositories of Mako energy available for harvesting, and fascinated with the legend of the Promised Land; a place where the land is fertile and where Mako flows abundantly. Only a race called the Cetra, or the Ancients, are, according to legend, able to find it. However, the Cetra were all but driven to extinction by the "Calamity From the Skies", the alien creature Jenova. All are lost except for one, Aeris Gainsborough, whom Shinra has been trying to capture for years.
The game opens in Midgar, and for the first few hours of gameplay the player can only travel within the city. Within the city's slums resides the rebel resistance group of eco-terrorists called AVALANCHE, a major threat to Shinra. AVALANCHE is led by Barret Wallace, a former denizen of Corel, a town destroyed by Shinra - thus creating the fuel for Barret's crusade against the company. AVALANCHE hires a mercenary named Cloud Strife, who claims to be a former member of Shinra's elite special forces team, SOLDIER.
Yet Cloud is plagued by psychic disturbances, and is far more than he seems. At first he shows little interest in AVALANCHE's cause; by his own admission, Cloud is interested only in money. Other members include Cloud's childhood friend, Tifa Lockhart, whom Cloud made a promise to protect back before he left their shared hometown of Nibelheim to join SOLDIER, and the minor characters Jessie, Biggs and Wedge.
AVALANCHE's initial mission is to blow up the eight Mako Reactors that ring the city, without care to the human consequences. Along the way, Cloud is separated from the rest of the group and meets Aeris Gainsborough. To counter AVALANCHE's attacks, Shinra carelessly drops the so-called 'Plate' upon their base in Sector 7, killing all the non-player characters in the group. Shinra captures Aeris and takes her to their Headquarters.
Cloud and the remains of AVALANCHE storm the building to rescue her and team up with Red XIII during their raid, but eventually end up captured despite their best efforts. They are saved by the surprise reappearance of the supposed dead legendary SOLDIER, Sephiroth, following the escape of a headless Jenova from her tank. President Shinra himself is killed in Sephiroth's return. The young and ruthless Rufus Shinra takes the company's reins and Cloud and his party manage to make a hair-thin escape from Midgar only by fighting their way through the ranks of Shinra forces.
The rest of the game allows the player to explore the World Map and the other towns throughout. At the first town the party comes to, Kalm, Cloud tells his tale of what happened five years ago, but his story is filled with holes and gaps. Five years before the game's beginning Cloud and Sephiroth were sent to Cloud's hometown of Nibelheim to investigate the local Mako Reactor. Inside, Sephiroth found Jenova, a creature Shinra mistook as an Ancient and whom had been called Sephiroth's mother. Sephiroth begins to look deeper into his past and the Jenova Project from which he was born. It was led by Professor Gast and the deranged Professor Hojo. What he finds drives him insane. Believing himself to be the last Ancient, Sephiroth begins to take revenge on humanity by burning Nibelheim to the ground. Lost in the fires are also Cloud's Mother and Tifa's Father. Cloud runs up to confront Sephiroth, but his recollection fails him before he can reach the end of the story.
After hearing a rumor that a man in a black cape traversed to the Mythril Mine, the party sets out. When they get to the mines' entrance, they see Sephiroth has impaled a Midgar Zolom on a tree. The party hurries through the mines (meeting the Turks on the way) and to Junon where they save a young girl and her dolphin from a sea monster, which allows the party to stay the night. When they wake up, they are surprised to find Rufus Shinra holding his crowning ceremony in Junon. They figure they should get to the next continent to continue their search, so they must disguise as Shinra soldiers and board the cargo ship. However, Sephiroth also managed to stow away onboard the ship and killed virtually every member on board. Cloud and his party managed to locate Sephiroth as he materializes out of the floor. Strangely, however, Sephiroth doesn't seem to recognize Cloud. Cloud attempts to get answers out of Sephiroth about what he is attempting to do. However, Sephiroth leaves them and has Jenova Birth battle them, although not before cryptically remarking that "the time... is now..."
From then on, the party chases after Sephiroth across the Planet, traveling to many towns, meeting many characters, and getting into different adventures. They do not search alone, as Rufus Shinra has sent out Shinra's full might to take Sephiroth in, including sending the Turks, a group of Shinra special operatives. The party fights the Turks several times during the course of the game. In Gold Saucer they meet Cait Sith, a fortune teller robot who is secretly controlled by Reeve Tuesti, a Shinra Executive actually interested in doing good. At Rocket Town, Cid Highwind, an aeronautical engineer whose dreams of going into space had been dashed by Shinra's lack of funding, joins the party.
Two secret characters, Vincent Valentine and Yuffie Kisaragi can join any time the player pleases. Vincent is a former Turk who was betrayed by his love, Lucrecia Crescent, Sephiroth's biological mother, and turned into a monster. He sleeps beneath the Shinra Mansion in Nibelheim, in penance for his sins of failing to stop the Jenova Project. Yuffie is a girl from Wutai, a town that fought against Shinra dominance before the game's start, but has since submitted. She dreams of restoring her homeland's pride.
The party's pursuit of Sephiroth leads them to discover several things. Sephiroth's plan is to use the Black Materia, a Materia so powerful the Cetra hid it away to stop its use. The Black Materia contains the spell Meteor, the ultimate Black Magic. It can summon a giant meteor to crash into the Planet. Sephiroth's plan is to create a wound in the Planet so large the Lifestream will need to be sent in masses to heal it where Sephiroth would intercept it and take complete control of the world. Sephiroth is followed by a group of black-robed fanatics, the Sephiroth Clones.
The Clones all gradually die out along their journey; none of them are actually able to reach Sephiroth. Cloud's party moves to grab the Keystone required to open the Temple of the Ancients held by Dio, the leader of Gold Saucer. During their stay at Gold Saucer, Cloud goes on a date with one of his fellow party members. Depending upon the player's actions according to the hidden value system of Date Mechanics, Cloud can date either Aeris, Tifa, Yuffie, or Barret. The game is rigged so that Aeris is the most likely candidate followed by Tifa, while Yuffie and Barret take conscious effort to achieve, and have a less serious tone. After the date, Cait Sith steals the Keystone and hands it over to Shinra.
Inside the Temple of the Ancients, Sephiroth attacks the leader of the Turks, Tseng, seemingly to kill him. Due to a mistranslation, international players of Final Fantasy VII were told Tseng was in fact dead though the fact is he remains alive and reappears in later titles. Cloud and his party find the Temple itself is the Black Materia and to make into a usable form, somebody must be left inside while the Temple shrinks. Cait Sith volunteers, and after an extended scene in which he speaks of noble sacrifice, he is destroyed once the Temple turns into a Materia sphere. Cloud takes the Materia, but due to Sephiroth's control over him, Cloud hands him the Black Materia, and almost kills Aeris. As Cloud falls unconscious, another Cait Sith appears, exactly the same as the first (perhaps mocking the trend in RPGs for characters to die and be resurrected). After this, Aeris permanently leaves the party to find an independent way to save the world from Meteor.
Aeris travels to the Forgotten Capital, the lost city of the Cetra, where she plans to summon Holy, the ultimate White Magic and a counter to Meteor. Cloud's party makes their way up to the ruin to chase after her and Sephiroth. When they arrive, Cloud is almost brought to kill Aeris by Sephiroth's control, only being snapped out of his thrall by the intervention of his comrades. Sephiroth savagely murders Aeris by impaling her through the torso with the Masamune in one of the most infamous and shocking scenes in Final Fantasy history.
Cloud is enraged at Aeris's death, and the cavalier attitude Sephiroth has about it. Sephiroth only taunts Cloud, telling him he should not act as though he has feelings. Floating up into the sky, the "Sephiroth" turns out to be Jenova. The person the party hunted for so long was actually Jenova under Sephiroth's control and taking his form. After a battle with a piece of Jenova, and the party paying their respects to the departed Aeris, Cloud lays Aeris's deceased body to rest in the waters of the Forgotten Capital. Cloud decides to continue on the journey to complete his revenge against Sephiroth, even knowing that he may lose control of himself again at any time.
Despite the loss of Aeris, the party continues to follow the Sephiroth/Jenova. They finally reach the end of the journey, the North Crater created by Jenova's fall two thousand years ago. They move into the Crater, hoping to finish the battle. They are joined by Rufus and his gang, flying on the Highwind. After defeating "Sephiroth", Cloud and Tifa go alone, and Cloud also hands the Black Materia to one of the other party members in order to prevent himself from being tricked into giving it to Sephiroth again. Cloud along with Tifa then go up to confront Sephiroth.
However, all they find is an illusion of the events that took place in Nibelheim five years ago. Sephiroth shows Cloud never having been in Nibelheim, his role in the story taken by Zack Fair. Tifa, though telling Cloud not to believe him, cannot refute Sephiroth's claims, and Cloud begins to believe they are true. Furthermore, Sephiroth says that Cloud is not Cloud at all, but a facsimile created by Hojo, and a mere puppet. Around the same time, the party member that Cloud handed the Black Materia to earlier experiences a mental distress message from Tifa requesting his aid. As soon as the party member in question departs to the crater to aid Cloud and Tifa, "Tifa" reveals "herself" to be Sephiroth when chuckling that he not forget the Black Materia", and it is also revealed that the other party members ended up knocked out.
As Sephiroth gains full control over Cloud he forces him to hand the Black Materia over, after which Cloud apologizes to Tifa for what he has done and falls into the Lifestream. Sephiroth uses the Black Materia to summon the Meteor, which causes the Planet to become violently self-protective, awakening its guardians, the Weapons, giant monsters of immense strength and destructive power. The party escapes on the Highwind and Tifa is knocked unconscious in the escape. Barret is caught as he tries to escape with the unconscious Tifa, and the both of them are taken to Junon. The rest of AVALANCHE escapes on their own, but how is not detailed.
Tifa awakes in Junon seven days after the events in the Crater. She finds a world in total chaos due to impending calamity floating in the skies. Meteor is visible in the sky as it moves towards the Planet a sign of the impending end of the world. To stop attacks against him, Sephiroth has surrounded the North Crater with a barrier. Rufus, trying to show Shinra still has some control over the situation, decides to use Tifa and Barret as scapegoats and publicly execute the pair in front of the entire world. Just before the execution can go through, a Weapon attacks (though never stated in-game, this is the Sapphire Weapon). After damaging fort Junon, Shinra is able to Kill the weapon with a direct shot to the face with the sister ray. What remains of the party manages to sneak by during the attack to rescue Tifa and Barret, and steal the Highwind.
Afterward, the party finds Cloud suffering from severe Mako Poisoning in the town of Mideel. Though Cloud is completely lost, Tifa decides to stay behind and watch over him. Lacking a better substitute, Cid Highwind becomes the party leader. He leads the party to fight against Shinra's plan to stop Meteor. Shinra schemes to load the Huge Materia onto Cid's rocket and launch it directly at Meteor. Depending on the player's actions, all or none of the Huge Materia can be saved. The storyline is not changed, Shinra's plan fails no matter what.
In Mideel, the Ultimate Weapon crashes out of the Lifestream right in the middle of the town. Mideel is destroyed while Cloud and Tifa are still inside and they end up falling into the Lifestream where Tifa is able to travel inside Cloud's Subconscious and sort through Cloud's true memories and secret desires, such as joining SOLDIER in part to gain Tifa's attention. She confirms that Cloud is the genuine article, though his mind had been damaged due to a variety of reasons. Cloud's mind had shattered as a result of Hojo's experimentation and Zack's death, and he merged his own ideal self with Zack and Tifa's memories, and replaced Zack with himself in all his recollections.
Cloud reveals he never was in SOLDIER, failing to be mentally strong enough to enter the organization and instead became an ordinary Shinra guard. Due to Cloud's fear of seeming a failure to Tifa and his hometown, he hid under his Shinra uniform's helmet during his mission in Nibelheim with Zack and Sephiroth. Despite all this, it turns out Cloud did indeed defeat Sephiroth during the Nibelheim incident, managing to overpower him and fling him into the Lifestream. After these revelations, Cloud's psyche is restored to its true state, and he returns as the leader of the party.
With help of the Cosmo Canyon elder Bugenhagen, the party manages to uncover the mystery behind Aeris's death. She summoned Holy just before her death, but Sephiroth is holding back the spell deep within the Planet. At that moment, the Diamond Weapon rises out of the sea and begins its charge towards Midgar. Rufus and the Shinra Executives moved the Sister Ray to Midgar before the attack to prepare for an offensive against Sephiroth. The Mako Cannon is used to destroy the Weapon, and the blast continues to reach North Crater, breaking the shield. Just before the Weapon is killed, it fires out its energy blasts into the Shinra Building, seemingly killing Rufus and creating a power vacuum at the top of his organization. Midgar falls into chaos.
Cloud's party moves into the city to fight Hojo who has taken command of the Sister Ray. They fight their way through the Turks and the remaining forces of Shinra to reach Hojo who reveals he wishes to give his son a boost by giving the Sister Ray's power; the party is horrified to learn Hojo is Sephiroth's father, a fact even Sephiroth does not know, and thus Hojo is directly responsible for the crisis facing the Planet. If Vincent is in the party, he will declare he was not the one with a sin, it was Hojo. Despite the power he has gained by injecting himself with Jenova cells, Hojo is defeated.
Following the attack, with only a week until Meteorfall, Cloud and his party decide to rest and return home before the final battle against Sephiroth. Without any place to call home or anything else to fight for, Cloud and Tifa share the night alone together below the stars. The next morning it turns out all of the party has returned and several of them poke fun at Cloud and Tifa's expense, much to Tifa's embarrassment.
The final battle against Sephiroth is fought deep inside the Northern Cave. Sephiroth transforms his body first into Bizarro∙Sephiroth and then Safer∙Sephiroth, a half-human, half-divine form that shows Sephiroth's attempts to become a God. Despite Sephiroth's immense power, he is defeated. Cloud defeats a mental version of Sephiroth inside the Lifestream, which frees Cloud of his mental chains to his enemy. However, the victory comes too late. When Holy is released, Meteor has fallen too far for Holy to unleash its full power without drastic collateral damage. Midgar is destroyed by the struggle of Meteor and Holy, but before the entire Planet is lost, the Lifestream congregates below, forcing Holy and Meteor far enough away from the Planet for Holy to unleash its full strength and destroy Meteor. The game ends in a flash of light, followed by Aeris's smiling face, which mirrors the game's intro.
An epilogue shows Red XIII and several small pups over the overgrown ruins of Midgar. The ending is left very vague, leading to many questions asked by confused players over the fate of humanity and where the pups came from, among others. Before Crisis introduces a female member of Red XIII's Species, named Deneh who may or may not be the mother of the cubs. Her existence at least indicates there is at least one other survivor of the Cosmo Canyon species.
The soundtrack for the game was Nobuo Uematsu's 22nd work for Square. Music from the game has been commercially released on an original four-disc soundtrack, a single disc album of selected arranged tracks titled Final Fantasy VII: Reunion Tracks, and piano-only arrangement of selected tracks, the Piano Collections: Final Fantasy VII. Popular pieces from the production include "Aerith's Theme", a subdued and melodic character anthem, and "One-Winged Angel", the first composition for the series to utilize recorded voices. The game's main theme, heard on the World Map in disc 1, is over six minutes long. Several tracks from the game have resurfaced in subsequent Square (and Square Enix) productions, including Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.
At the time, the soundtrack for Final Fantasy VII was considered Uematsu's most ambitious. As a result of time constraints and the limited storage space afforded to him, Uematsu opted to utilize a high-quality Midi format. This was at a time when digital and Redbook audio were coming into their own, and some worried the game's soundtrack would suffer as a consequence. These fears proved to be unrealized, as Final Fantasy VII's score is often ranked among the most popular and memorable in the series.
Planning sessions for Final Fantasy VII began in 1994 after the release of Final Fantasy VI. At the time, the game was planned to be another 2D project for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi intended the story to take place in modern New York City in the year 1999. Several of the staff members were working in parallel on Chrono Trigger, and development for Final Fantasy VII was interrupted when the other project became significant enough to require the help of Yoshinori Kitase and other designers. Some of the ideas originally considered for Final Fantasy VII ended up in Chrono Trigger and other ideas, such as the New York setting and the sorceress character Edea, were kept unused until the later projects Parasite Eve and Final Fantasy VIII respectively.
Development of Final Fantasy VII resumed in late 1995, and required the efforts of approximately 120 artists and programmers, using PowerAnimator and Softimage|3D software and a budget of more than US$30 million. Final Fantasy VI's co-director and scenario writer, Kitase, returned to direct and co-write Final Fantasy VII and was concerned the franchise might be left behind if it did not catch up to the 3D computer graphics used in other games at the time. Production began after the making of a short, experimental tech demo called "Final Fantasy SGI" for Silicon Graphics, Inc. Onyx workstations. The demo featured polygon-based 3D renderings of characters from Final Fantasy VI in a real time battle. This experiment led the development team to integrate these design mechanics into Final Fantasy VII.
However, as a result of the high quantity of memory storage required to implement the motion data, only the CD-ROM format would be able to suit the project's needs. Nintendo, for which Square had developed all previous titles in the Final Fantasy series, had decided to continue to use cartridges for its upcoming Nintendo 64 console. This eventually led to a dispute that resulted in Square ending its long relationship with Nintendo, and Square announced on January 12, 1996, it would be developing Final Fantasy VII for Sony's PlayStation platform.
The transition from 2D computer graphics to 3D environments overlaid on pre-rendered backgrounds was accompanied by a focus on a more realistic presentation. While the extra storage capacity and computer graphics gave the team the means to implement more than 40 minutes of full motion video movies, this innovation brought with it the added difficulty of ensuring that the inferiority of the in-game graphics in comparison to the full motion video sequences would not be too obvious. Kitase has described the process of making the in-game environments as detailed as possible to be "a daunting task". The series' long-time character designer, Yoshitaka Amano, was busy opening art workshops and exhibitions in France and New York, which limited his involvement in the game. This issue was addressed by bringing Nomura on board as the project's main artist, while Amano aided in the design of the game's World Map.
A number of demo versions of Final Fantasy VII were released both for the PlayStation and the PC.
The game followed in the footsteps of Final Fantasy VI in presenting a world with considerably more advanced technology than previous installments. The gamut of the game's technology covers space flight, robotics, highly advanced genetic engineering, automatic firearms, directed energy weapons, automobiles, helicopters, limited anti-gravity technology, and major global corporations; the level of technology in the world of Final Fantasy VII could be said to approximate that of near-future science fiction.
Tetsuya Nomura was chosen to draw the character designs for Final Fantasy VII by Hironobu Sakaguchi. The company used a system where everyone would put out plans regardless of their section and while everyone handed in text documents they made on a PC, Nomura's were hand-written and illustrated. Sakaguchi thought those illustrated proposals were amusing and chose Nomura to draw the characters.
The original script of Final Fantasy VII, which was written by Sakaguchi, was rather different from the finished product. Tetsuya Nomura recalled how Sakaguchi "wanted to do something like a detective story". The first part of the story involved a "hot blooded" character named "Detective Joe" who was in pursuit of the main characters. The main characters managed to blow up the city of Midgar, which had already been developed for the story.
It was Tetsuya Nomura's idea to have a story in Final Fantasy VII where the player would chase Sephiroth. Following a moving enemy hadn't been done before in the Final Fantasy series, and Nomura thought that chasing something would help pull the story along.
The game incorporates references to a variety of religious and philosophical systems, reflected in character names like Sephiroth (drawn from the Kabbalah) and Heidegger (likely a reference to German philosopher Martin Heidegger), and place names such as Midgar and Nibelheim (both from Norse mythology), as well as numerous references in monster names, such as the Midgar Zolom, a reference to the Midgardsorm (also from Norse mythology). Additionally, several references are made to previous Final Fantasy titles, including several character names such as Cid and Biggs and Wedge, and the repetition of soundtrack motifs, such as the "Chocobo's Theme".
After being unhappy with the Ted Woolsey supervised translation of Final Fantasy VI (which was generally well done, but drastically altered some parts of the game's storyline), Sakaguchi insisted the game's English translation be conducted in-house by the original Japanese development team, as had been done with Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy IV. Although the resulting translation was perhaps more true to the Japanese version than the previous game had been, it was criticized by some as awkward and containing numerous grammatical errors. The Windows port is based on the same localization script, however many lines were rewritten and many of the grammatical errors were corrected. In future games, Square would hire American translators to collaborate with the Japanese development team, instead of having the translation done entirely by one or the other.
PC version development
Final Fantasy VII was the first Final Fantasy title to be ported to a Windows system. Shareholders felt Square was limiting their market by not delivering games for multiple platforms; the company thus started to update the old games to modern programming languages and platforms, and to port Final Fantasy VII to the PC. Eidos was chosen as the publisher, as at the time Eidos successfully converted and released Core's Tomb Raider from PlayStation to PC, and thus seemed like a company experienced in marketing and distributing PlayStation to PC conversions. Eidos bought the rights to publish Final Fantasy VII for the PC for a million dollars, and Square contracted out the port team in Honolulu.
The PC port of Final Fantasy VII suffers from many problems. After the PlayStation version was finalized, Square shut down the Final Fantasy VII project and broke apart its development team; the coders, artists, managers, and equipment were either transferred to the Final Fantasy IX project, moved to other parts of the company, released from their contract, or simply deprecated. What more, the programmers working on the port had never made a PC game before, and so it is ridden with architectural mistakes.
The only thing the port team could work with was the pre-compiled PlayStation data on backgrounds and FMV movies, because the computers used to render the originals were gone and the 3D models for the cinematics were no longer available. Many of the original artists and animators were contract workers and no longer with Square, so they couldn't help with the port. The original MIDI music was tweaked by audio engineers after being complied into the PSX SEQ format; the original MIDIs the PC received were not even the final versions. Square refused to have anything changed for the port, apart from the text input, because the game's original director was not part of the project and could not be consulted.
The PC version was released June of 1998, but it was buggy and initially incompatible with Cyrix and AMD CPUs. The PC version was ridden with problems from movies playing upside down or crashing the system, users' sound cards not being designed for MIDI playback, and the initial keyboard configuration using only the numeric keypad, meaning the game could not be played on many laptops. One of the most notorious flaws was a glitch that crashed the game during the Chocobo racing sequences; like most issues of the PC version, it was addressed with a fan-made patch. Despite these problems, a Yamaha S-YXG70 software synthesizer was provided on the install disc, which was, according to the readme, specially made for the game by Yamaha, and offered superior MIDI quality in comparison to the General MIDI standard.
Having learned from the Final Fantasy VII PC version mistakes, Square started a long-term project to "up-port" their core games and standardize all data, so the faults made with the Final Fantasy VII PC port would never happen again. The recent re-releases of old Final Fantasy games use a new 2D engine.
PC version re-release
Rumors of Square re-releasing Final Fantasy VII for PC surfaced in 2012 when Square Enix purchased the domain for finalfantasyviipc.com. Product description for the new release was posted on the page, but was quickly removed; however, number of news sites had got whiff of the scoop and the product description remained in Google cache.
On the 4th July 2012 the site was officially opened with information about the release, albeit without a release date. The re-released PC version will include new online features, such as cloud saving, achievements and the player will be able to boost characters' stats and gain more gil via a system known as "Character Booster". The new PC version of Final Fantasy VII is said to be available exclusively from Square Enix Online Store.
Minimum system requirements:
- Windows XP/Vista/7 (32/64-bit)
- 2Ghz processor or faster
- 1GB RAM
- DirectX 9-compatible graphics card
The re-release version of Final Fantasy VII showed up for sale on the website on the night of 5th of August 2012, but was quickly pulled by Square. Those who were fast enough to download the game found their copies not working, as the automatic license activation (through the SecuROM DRM) and manual serial number entry failed. The price attached to these early sales was $12.70. It later turned out that the early release was related to testing the product website for the upcoming relaunch, and while the website was being tested a small number of people were able to purchase a pre-release build of the game. For those customers, Square Enix will offer a refund and a free version of Final Fantasy VII on PC upon its launch.
It was released on both Europe and North America on August 14th, 2012.
The game was a critical and commercial success. It received glowing reviews from most video game magazines and by 1999 the game had sold more than eight million copies worldwide, with about three million in the first 48 hours of its release. It was one of the first console role-playing games to achieve widespread popularity outside of Asia, and the ongoing popularity of the title led Square Enix to produce a series of sequels and prequels under the collective title Compilation of Final Fantasy VII in the mid-2000s.
Not counting spin-off or related titles (such as Final Fantasy Mystic Quest), Final Fantasy VII was the first Final Fantasy title to be released in Europe and Australia, and it was the first Final Fantasy game to be released under the same name in both Japan and North America since the original NES Final Fantasy. This fact caused some initial confusion among North American consumers. Japan's Final Fantasy II, Final Fantasy III, and Final Fantasy V were not released in North America.
Instead, Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI were released as America's Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy III respectively. The American series thus effectively jumped from III to VII when Final Fantasy VII was released in North America, although the game was in fact the next sequential release. It caused even more confusion among European consumers with misled thoughts of there being six other games dealing with Cloud and his friends' adventures.
The PlayStation Network release of the game was downloaded 100,000 times during its first two weeks of release, making it the fastest-selling PlayStation game on the PlayStation Network.
Final Fantasy VII International
The North American and PAL versions of Final Fantasy VII made substantial changes to the original Japanese version. Several areas of gameplay have been made more difficult by adding in new bosses. Random battle rates were cut down, and Materia swapping between characters was made easier. New flashbacks of Tifa meeting the semi-conscious Cloud on a train station, and a flashback of Cloud and Zack escaping Nibelheim, were also added in. The North American version of Final Fantasy VII was rereleased in Japan, called "Final Fantasy VII International", the very first International Version, a semi-recurring feature of the series. It includes a special fourth disc with maps, character information, design sketches, and other trivia.
Compilation of Final Fantasy VII
After the new millennium began, Yoshinori Kitase and Tetsuya Nomura were approached and asked for a game that could be expanded across multiple platforms and mediums. Final Fantasy VII was chosen, which led to the creation of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII. To date, the compilation includes two mobile phone games, one sequel game, one prequel game, one full-length CGI film, an OVA, and several short novellas. The games within the collection have expanded on the story of Final Fantasy VII both before and after the original game, but have been met with mixed reactions for a number of reasons, including various retcons and liberties taken with the original storyline and characters. According to remarks from Kitase, the Compilation will continue to be expanded upon, and will conclude on the original game's 20th anniversary.
In 2005 at the Sony E3 annual press conference, Square Enix showed a Technical Demo for the PS3 depicting the opening sequence to the original Final Fantasy VII remade with the PS3's enhanced graphics. Square Enix later made an official statement that there are currently no plans of a remake of Final Fantasy VII for the PS3.
The rumors were sparked a second time with Square Enix's exhibition of new FMV artworks during the Final Fantasy VII 10th Anniversary event in Japan. The artworks depicted the characters in their Final Fantasy VII costumes, reigniting rumors that a remake of the game may be in development. These CG artworks were printed on their new canned Potion beverages. Kazuo Hirai, the president of Sony Computer Entertainment Japan, also fueled the rumors by sticking a small note in the exhibition saying "Congratulations for the ten fantastic years! The best is yet to come".
The release of Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- brought new speculation to the possibility of a remake. The ending shows the beginning of Final Fantasy VII in a modern CG style, followed by a title card reading "to be continued in FINAL FANTASY VII", in reference to the original game.
Rumors surfaced again due to photos of a Best Buy ad stating that the game was to be released on August 16, 2008.
Despite excitement surrounding the chance of a remake, Square Enix has consistently denied any and all rumors on several occasions. With photos of an ad for CLOUD Vol.2 appearing on the Internet, the excitement rose yet again. The ad was revealed to be for a book, although details about its contents have not yet been released.
Final Fantasy VII was released on the PlayStation network for PS3 and PSP in 2009 with Japan's release in April and the US and Europe following in June. It costs $9.99 in the US and £7.99 in the UK and has remained rated T for Teen by the ESRB.
In December of 2009, Tetsuya Nomura hinted that an announcement is to come sometime in 2010 which promised a game that is highly requested by fans - some of which have personally requested it from him, and the reaction he expects from the announcement is downright huge. Again this led to immense speculation of a Final Fantasy VII remake.
In January of 2010, Tetsuya Nomura followed up on his previous statement stating "Fans are looking forward to an often rumored remake of Final Fantasy VII, but I don't believe this will happen for the time being." For some this seemed like the end, but others argue that "for the time being" means a remake could surface in the future.
In February 2010, Yoshinori Kitase stated that maybe he would like to take part in a remake of Final Fantasy VII in the future, but it was clear that it was not in his immediate plan.
At the beginning of March 2010, Square Enix asked the public, on its official Twitter blog, what they would think of a remake.
On May 31, 2010, Square Enix's CEO Yoichi Wada stated it would take longer than he is prepared to invest in a single project to be able to remake Final Fantasy VII. However, since Square Enix receives so many requests for a remake, the prospect for a remake has not been completely ruled out. 
In May 2012 Tetsuya Nomura addressed the fans' demand for a Final Fantasy VII remake in a Famitsu interview by saying that newer games (such as Final Fantasy Versus XIII) take precedent over such projects, because the developers want to create new Final Fantasy games that can surpass peoples’ expectations instead of remaking classics.
Whilst it seems like there is very little hope for a remake, dedicated fans have gone through great lengths to settle this global unrest. A Final Fantasy VII PC modding community have spent the best part of about 10 years working on a number of different mods, predominantly for the PC version of Final Fantasy VII. However, some of the modding community have been working on PS versions. The patches that have been created have been known to improve both the Audio/Visual experience as well as the gameplay.
Gametrailers.com listed Final Fantasy VII on their "Top 10 Necessary Remakes" at #2.
|Executive Producers||Tetsuo Mizuno, Tomoyuki Takechi|
|Main Programmer||Tatsuya Yoshinari|
|Image Illustrator||Yoshitaka Amano|
|Story||Yoshinori Kitase, Kazushige Nojima|
|Battle Programmers||Kazumasa Fuseya, Hiroshi Harata, Akihiro Yamaguchi|
|Character Designer||Tetsuya Nomura|
|Art Director||Yusuke Naora|
|2D Animators||Kenichirou Okamoto, Hiroyuki Yotsuji|
|Chief CG Programmer||Masaharu Inoue|
|Movie Director||Motonori Sakakibara|
|Monster Designers||Shin Nagasawa, Tetsu Tsukamoto|
|Battle Programmers||Kazumasa Fuseya, Hiroshi Harata, Akihiro Yamaguchi|
|Field Programmer||Keizo Kokubo|
|World Map Programmer||Yasuo Kuwahara|
|Snowboard Programmer||Tadamichi Obinata|
|Condor War Programmer||Ryo Muto|
|Chocobo Race Programmer||Keitaro Adachi|
|Submarine Chase Programmer||Shin-ichi Tanaka|
|Highway and Roller Coaster Programmer||Tatsuya Yoshinari|
|Field CGI and Movie Designers||Yuko Akiyama, Kanako Aoki, Hiroyuki Honda, Ayako Kuroda, Yoshinori Moriizumi|
|Concept Art||Takayuki Odachi, Tetsuya Takahashi|
|Map Plan Director||Hidetoshi Kezuka|
|Battle Plan Designer||Matsumura Yasushi|
|Movie Programmer||Shun Moriya|
|Sound Programmer||Minoru Akao|
|Character Programmer||Hiroshi Kawai|
|CG Supervisor||Kazuyuki Hashimoto|
Final Fantasy VII was the first Final Fantasy game whose Japanese game cover was just the logo on white background, a tradition that has continued ever since. At first, Square were talking about removing the lettering of the logo and just having the image of Meteor Amano had drawn, but it didn't materialize. The background was chosen to be white was because Hironobu Sakaguchi said that the image of Final Fantasy was white.
- During the development of Final Fantasy VII, Hironobu Sakaguchi's mother died. At the time, Sakaguchi wanted to craft a story that told of how just because someone has passed away, does not mean they are gone, and to show a realistic death rather than a "Hollywood" sacrificial death that previous games in the series had done. These desires developed into the Lifestream, and Aeris's iconic death scene and subsequent continuing role in the lives of the cast.
- Square had considered a Final Fantasy VII remake for PlayStation 2 in early 2001. For some reason, the project was either scrapped or never started development at all.
- Final Fantasy VII was the winner of the 2004 GameFAQs user poll contest "Best. Game. Ever.", beating the fellow Square RPG, Chrono Trigger. However, in GameFAQs second "Best. Game. Ever." poll, the game finished runner-up to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
- It also came 2nd in Empire magazine's 2010 feature "100 Greatest Videogames Ever", beaten only by Super Mario World.
- The Fight Music in Final Fantasy VII is similar to the first minute of Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo A La Turk." The "Emerson, Lake, and Palmer version", featuring a Hammond organ, shows the resemblance more clearly.
- Cinco de Chocobo, meanwhile, sounds like another Brubeck classic, "Take Five".
- On a similar note, the music from the play in the Gold Saucer sounds very similar to the opening of "House of the King" by Focus. The music provided during the play scene while on your date with Aeris/Tifa/Yuffie/Barret (a variation of the gold saucer music) better illustrates the similarities.
- This is the first Final Fantasy game to have featured blood in a scene.
- During the scene where the Sister Ray is about to fire at Diamond Weapon, a voice can be heard over an intercom. This makes Final Fantasy VII the first game in the series with legible voice acting, before Final Fantasy X. The voice actor for the sequence is unknown and not named in the credits. This is hardly audible due to the music that continues to play in the background. It can be heard while viewing the cutscene video clip that is on the PC version.
- In a Famitsu character popularity poll, Final Fantasy VII had six characters (Cloud, Tifa, Sephiroth, Aerith, Zack, and Yuffie) listed. This is the most amount of characters from any one game listed.
- Kazushige Nojima, along with Yoshinori Kitase, has stated in the Final Fantasy X-2 Ultimania interview that Final Fantasy X's Spira is the 'ancestor' civilization which colonized the Planet of Final Fantasy VII. This is reinforced by Shinra's mention of potentially harnessing the Farplane as an energy source, which his descendants would go on to do with the Lifestream many centuries later, as the Shinra Electric Power Company.
- Final Fantasy VII appeared, along with Final Fantasy Tactics, in Smithsonian Art of Video Games exhibit held between March 18 and September 30 2012. The video games in the exhibition were decided by public vote.
- In 2012, Final Fantasy VII got #33 in G4's "Top 100 Games of All Time" beating Gears of Wars 3, Fallout 3 and Halo: Combat Evolved.
- Final Fantasy in Popular Culture
- Final Fantasy VII Demo
- Final Fantasy VII Technical Demo
- Final Fantasy VII Allusions
- Final Fantasy VII Timeline
- Final Fantasy VII Wallpapers
- Final Fantasy VII Achievements
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Weekly Famitsu Issue no. 1224: Tetsuya Nomura Interview translated by TheLifestream.net
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 http://q-gears.sourceforge.net/index.phtml?content=4
- ↑ http://www.joystiq.com/2012/08/05/final-fantasy-vii-pc-released-early-then-pulled/
- ↑ http://kotaku.com/5932509/square-enix-offering-free-copies-of-final-fantasy-vii-to-anyone-who-accidentally-bought-it-last-weekend
- ↑ http://www.finalfantasytr.com/artwork/final-fantasy-vii-10th-anniversary-gallery.htm
- ↑ http://www.siliconera.com/2010/03/22/square-enix-ceo-comments-on-final-fantasy-vii-remake/
- ↑ http://www.kotaku.com.au/2010/05/how-long-would-a-final-fantasy-vii-remake-take/
- ↑ http://www.finalfantasy.net/vii/ffvii-ffxi-anniversary-square-enix-interviews/
- ↑ [http://thelifestream.net/weekly-famitsu-issue-no-1224-tetsuya-nomura-interview/ Weekly Famitsu Issue no. 1224 Tetsuya Nomura Interview translated by TheLifestream.net
- ↑ http://www.empireonline.com/100greatestgames/default.asp?p=2
- ↑ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71uERh9st84 "Radar system is go. Sister Ray target confirmed. Entering discharge preparations. All workers should evacuate from the designated area."
- Official North American site
- Official site for the North American PSN release
- Official site for PC version re-release
- Final Fantasy VII at Wikipedia
- Final Fantasy VII wiki guide at StrategyWiki