After the glory that was Final Fantasy 3 rumors began to fly that Nintendo was going to be making a new game system that was capable of doing 3d graphics, referred to by some as the Ultra 64. Eventually the system would be revealed as the Nintendo 64 (N64) and along with it game rumors of a new Final Fantasy game! To add to the excitement were small releases of FF3 characters rendered in glorious 3d!
That was 1995 and I was VERY excited to say the least. Things were looking very good and, being an employed husband and father I was easily able to afford an N64, but, the game never happened. You see, at the time the N64 ran on familiar game cartridges which, though fast, could never hold enough data for a full blown Final Fantasy game. Nintendo had been working behind the scenes with Sony on an optical drive add-on that would allow the N64 to play games off of CDs, but the deal fell through when Nintendo decided to go with another optical drive producer. The 64dd add on would never happen, but Sony, having developed the equipment for a game system, decided they would do something with it and the Sony PlayStation was born!
Running on CDs, the PlayStation was capable of holding hundreds of times more data than an old cartridge, and Squaresoft jumped ship on Nintendo (after having made plenty of games on the Nintendo systems) and joined up with Sony.
Their first venture did not disappoint.
Final Fantasy 7 was incredible in every aspect. Though I still hold FF3 to be the greater game, FF7 was a masterpiece visually, audibly and in story.
Final Fantasy 7 focuses on ex-soldier turned mercenary, Cloud Strife who is working with eco-terrorist group AVALANCHE to sabotage the power plant of ShinRa Electric Power Company. ShinRa gets its power by draining the planet of lifestream through Mako reactors. Through the course of events Cloud finds himself and his newfound friends having to confront his hero turned villain in an attempt to save the planet from being consumed by a ‘calamity from the skies’. FF7 is most memorable for a few things including:
- Clouds massive sword, the Buster sword. Massive and seemingly unwieldy, it is now one of the most iconic weapons in sci-fi/gaming. To match, his antagonist had an equally huge weapon, the Masamune. Which brings us to…..
- Sephiroth, the games antagonist. Though later games and media would show Sephiroth to be a sympathetic villain (he was once the ultimate hero) there is little doubt that, once he gets started on his goal of world destruction he lets little get in his way. No one, and I mean NO ONE who has ever played FF7 will ever forget the iconic scene of Sephiroth walking away, through the flames of Nibelheim.
- The Gold Saucer: An awesome carnival of games within the game you could spend plenty of time at the GS trying to earn equipment and prizes.
- Materia: one of the main mechanics of the game, Materia were crystalized pieces of lifestream that imbued powers on those who had it equipped. Equipping materia allowed your characters to use certain spells and abilities, and once you gained equipment with linked materia slots you could make some really awesome combinations.
Overall the game was fantastic. A combination of real-time 3d and pre-rendered movies and backgrounds the game looked incredible for the time. I don’t think that I had seen anything like it before! Even more incredible were the games summons. In previous games it was possible to summon monsters to deliver powerful magical attacks on your enemies, and FF7 did an incredible job of implementing this ability. Summoning a monster sent the game into a mini-cinematic, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of minutes, that displayed, with much glory, the power and scope of summoning an other worldy beast (or beasts!):
Audibly the soundtrack for the game was fantastic! The sound processor on the PlayStation (PS1) was really good and series composer Nobuo Uematsu took full advantage of it. Even to this day many of the songs are instantly recognizable and hold their own as some of the best in the series. A couple of my favorites:
- Those Who Fight Further: A great, pounding fight song, it gives a feeling of desperation and struggle, while maintaining a great rock beat.
- J-E-N-O-V-A: A fast paced battle song, the intro gives it an ‘outer space’ type vibe while the synthesizers add to this. The song makes sense given the target of the battle in which this plays.
- Main Theme of FF7: Most would say that the final battle track (next on my list) is the gem of this game, but I would beg to differ. The main theme of FF7, or the ‘overworld theme’ as I like to call it, is a musical masterpiece that you must fully immerse yourself in to fully appreciate it. It is an incredible piece of music that does much within its six and a half minutes. First of all, you don’t get to hear it until you are more than a few hours into the game. It comes at a time when the group of adventurers has finally broken free from the constraints of the city and are finally able to wander the world with freedom. The opening of this song reflects that newfound freedom as well as the mystery of what lies outside the city walls. It then ascends into the joy of exploration, of traversing the world on foot, on chocoback, on airship – feeling the wind through your hair, smelling the wet earth in your nostrils. You can close your eyes and literally see the forests, the rolling hills of green grass and crashing waterfalls. Then excitement as you come to the top of the ridge and see the vast world spread out before you (3:16). Then, suddenly, the song changes (4:10). Something dark lies on the horizon. The unknown can be dangerous. Beast lie just out of view, and the enemy is still afoot. Be prepared, adventurer, be prepared. There are those who lie in wait for your demise. But you can overcome (5:15), and the song goes into a peaceful, but worrisome ending, only to loop back around. You can also listen to the fully orchestrated Distant Worlds version here.
- One Winged Angel: A powerful song that instantly demonstrates the power Sephiroth wields, it is a bombastic and loud overture of fear and anger. The chanting of his name by unseen voices, the chanting of seemingly satanic verse lend to the overall feeling of terror the now godlike Sephiroth brings, as well as the terror of the player finally facing him in battle. The chanting, by the way, is in Latin and is absolutely frightening. The last I checked, however, the lyrics have been slightly changed. Listen to the Distant Worlds version here.
Final Fantasy 7 would be a springboard for Squaresoft into other FF7 related games and media, which, in the states, would be a first for an FF game to have a direct sequel or tie in. These would include:
- Crisis Core: This game, featured on the PlayStation Portable, would recount the tale of Zack Fair, a character we see only briefly and in short spurts in the original FF7, but who plays a huge part in Clouds development. It also gives us more information on Sephiroths background.
- Dirge of Cerberus: Though not received as a great game, DoC gives us more information on the background of Vincent Valentine, a hidden character in FF7 who seems to be an ex-Turk turned vampire.
- Final Fantasy Advent Children: Not a game but a movie, Advent Children is kind of a follow up to FF7 that pits Cloud against new antagonists, as well as re-introduces him to some old ones. Though it features most of the cast of FF7, the film seems to be more about Clouds personal struggles. Highly recommended, even if you aren’t a big fan of FF7, the technical aspect is incredible. Done completely in 3d rendered animation, the amount of detail is awesome.
- Mobile games: Japan would get a few mobile games, which, back in the day, was not normal. Included amongst them would be the FF7 snowboarding mini-game and Final Fantasy 7: Before Crisis, apparently a small game whos subject would be ShinRas own brute squad, the Turks.
Up next, Square gets bought, people get angry about magic and much, much shorter posts. Also, I haven’t played 7 in a long time, so some of my memory on things may be off.