As has been well documented already in the blog and podcast, I am a huge fan of the Final Fantasy series. It was one of my very first video games and as such I have many wonderful memories of sitting in front of my huge 13-inch TV (hey shut up it was big when I was 6) playing the first Final Fantasy for hours and hours.
Now, I’m not writing to day to tell about my history with the series, that will have to wait for another day. No dear readers, today we celebrate the 15th anniversary of one my (and many others) favorite game in the entire Final Fantasy library, and boy are there a bunch of them. Fifteen years ago this month, Final Fantasy VII (7) was born into the world, and even if you don’t like the game, changed the face of gaming forever.
Now I admit I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning, what is Final Fantasy VII? Well, wikipedia.org describes Final Fantasy VII as “a role-playing video game developed by Square (now Square Enix) and published by Sony Computer Entertainment as the seventh installment in the Final Fantasy series.” Now some people may be saying “Big deal it’s another stupid RPG made in Japan, I’ve seen about a billion of those.” When Final Fantasy VII was released, we had never had anything like it before. Before the game launched you couldn’t go anywhere in gaming and not see and hear about the game. 30 second TV spots would tell you how many programmers worked on the game and how much money they spent working on it, your favorite video game store had demos and cardboard standees of the characters, video game magazines had numerous cover stories months after release.
When Final Fantasy VII was first in development, it was originally intended to be released on the Super NES, however it was eventually moved over to the N64 system. But since the N64 lacked the required storage capacity in their cartridges Squaresoft (yes this was before it merged with Enix) released the game on the Sony PlayStation, as it used CD’s instead of cartridges. It was the first game in the series to use fully rendered 3D characters and graphics. Thanks to the previously mentioned advertising blitz the game was quickly a critical and commercial success, selling over 10 million copies by May 2010.
Now all this is well and good, however none of this explains why I or anyone else loved the game. From the onset of the game the story line sucked me in thanks to the iconic cinematic opening. This was something frequently used in the game, to tell the deepest parts of the story line. Now cut-scenes was nothing new thanks to CD media. However some games were better at this than others. In Japan an RPG that relies heavily on a deep theatrical and cinematic storylines was nothing new, however over in North America, our selection of deep storylined RPGs were severely limited. Also Final Fantasy VII was not just a childish cartoon of a video game, the plot was not all sunshine and bunnies, which brings me to my next point.
**SPOILER ALERT** This section WILL have spoilers. You had 15 years to beat the game, if you haven’t yet, you’re not going to. Get over it. Now, the storyline revolves around the main character Cloud, and his band of friends, saving the world from the evil Shinra Corporation. While this may not seem very original in the grand scheme of RPG’s (especially J-RPG’s) it was the plot twists that really drew me in. Now the largest and most shocking of these was when the second most important character in the game was killed. Yes the flower girl Aerith (or Aeris depending on the translation) was stabbed from behind by the one and only Sephiroth. This caused a major uproar in the gaming world. Some players were literally brought to tears at the scene as nothing quite like it had been seen here in the states. The death brought countless rumors, anywhere from a secret mission where you could resurrect your fallen ally, to many stories of locked items and quests on the CD meant that the game developers planned to bring her back originally. However no matter what you tried, who you talked to what item you used, she wasn’t coming back.
Now I could keep going for pages and pages on why I love the Final Fantasy series, and maybe someday I will, but not today.
Even if you’ve never played Final Fantasy VII, or any Final Fantasy game, I do ask that you give it but a moment of respect for without it, our RPG world would be much much darker indeed.
For those that want to know more 1up.com has an entire week of great articles in honor of Final Fantasy VII’s 15th anniversary.