Hard to believe, but it’s been nearly 15 years since Final Fantasy VII was released. With an incredibly immersive narrative, the adoption of 3D elements into it’s game play and over 40 minutes of animated cut scenes it is still regarded as one of the best RPG games of all times, selling more than 10 million copies since its release.

1997 was an incredible year for the gaming industry with the introduction of a number of gamer favorites including Diablo, Mario Kart 64, GoldenEye 007, the original Fallout, Grand Theft Auto and Gran Turismo and the emergence of new game development studios that would go on to wow us in the future including Bungie Studios and 2015, Inc (these guys would later start Infinity Ward). It was also the year Square (now Square Enix) released Final Fantasy VII.

Originally in development for Nintendo first for SNES, then for Nintendo 64, development was derailed when Nintendo made a sudden shift in the development of their newest platform. Opting to stick to cartridges rather than making the leap to discs, the N64 system was just not able to accommodate data necessary for the game’s massive story & cutting edge graphics. Subsequently the whole project was migrated to Sony’s PlayStation platfor – and the rest is history.

This is a retrospective on this much anticipated installation of a much loved Final Fantasy franchise became one of the most critically & commercially successful games of its time, selling more than 10 million copies.

The Final Fantasy VII Story

The story begins with a young man named Cloud who joins up with a terrorist group that is trying to save the world from the Shinra Company, a company who is sucking the life energy from the world. However, the team soon finds out that Sephiroth, an old ally of Cloud, is actually behind the slow death of the planet. Cloud and his band of friends go on quest to defeat Sephiroth and save the planet.

While this story line may seem like standard video game fare, this story is crafted expertly weaving in a tale of a man searching for his identity as the world he is desperately trying to save falls apart around him. The only problem with the game’s story is the localization. Some aspects of the story did not translate correctly from the original Japanese text. However, this should not mar the experience of the game. Despite being quite complex, the story is understandable and draws the player into the world.

In addition to the typical scripted dialogs familiar in RPG of the time, Final Fantasy VII made extensive use of animated cut scenes. With over 40 minutes of cut scene footage, the FF VII story was the most cinematic of RPG at that time.

Complex cut scenes like this outline key story points, or underscored certain events with deeper emotional connection. (long clip)

Scenes like the death of Aeris (Aerith) helped to reinforce the emotional connection & investment players had with the characters and ultimately story line, compelling the player to press forward as each chapter unfolded. This scene in particular survives as arguably one of the most iconic and impacting scenes in video gaming history.

Final Fantasy VII Game Play

Final Fantasy 7 has a pretty standard JRPG battle system. It is a turn based battle system using the Active-Time Battle style. The characters have bar that fill up according to their speed attribute, and once it fills they are given a turn. The customization options of this game’s battle system come in the form of materia.

Materia comes in the form of magic, extra abilities, passive skills, or for use in the interaction of the world. The weapons that the characters can equip come with slots that allow materia to be attached to them. Some weapons also allow for materia to be combined with one another. For example, in one slot could be the “Cure” spell and the other could have the “All” passive ability.

This would allow the character to cast the “Cure” spell on the entire party. The party also has special “Limit Break” skills. These skills activate after a certain member has been attacked enough times. The effects of these skills can range from huge damage to the enemy to healing the party. All of these factors combine to make the battle fun and entertaining. While the battle system may be steeped in tradition, it still adds enough game play to make people keep coming back to it.

Final Fantasy VII’s Graphics

One of the low points of this game manifests in its graphics. By today’s standards, the sprites that are used most of the time are, to put this plainly, ugly. They are blocky masses that look more like Play Doh creation than a real person. Still, all is not lost.

The settings of this world look amazing. The settings are covered with detail and the world looks like it has been around for a while and not like it was just created. The battle sprites and animations are also pretty good. The characters actually look like humans. While graphics do not make or break a game, the blocky sprite design really detracts from the overall beauty of this game.

The Music of Final Fantasy VII

Nobuo Uematsu has made some beautiful music in his career as a composer. However, the soundtrack for this game is definitely one of the greatest videogame soundtracks ever. Where Uematsu really shines is in his battle music composition. His tracks Those Who Fight Further and One-Winged Angel are among some of his top compositions.

The music in this game also really helps to set the tone of the game. The battle music pumps you up and the soft melodies amplify the character’s emotions. The music is an important part of this game and stands high on the list of its achievements. Unofficial guide site Final Fantasy Online (ffonline.com) has a great page where you can check out the music of Final Fantasy VII.

So, IS Final Fantasy 7 the best RPG ever?

Without a doubt, Final Fantasy 7 is one of the most popular, if not THE most popular entry into the venerated Final Fantasy series. It is widely considered the game that brought JRPGs out of the realm of the niche genre. While all of this is true, many consider this game to be slightly overrated. Most complaints revolve around the fact that, while the game was revolutionary during the time it came out, it does not hold up in today’s standards. While this game may have not revolutionized the JRPG genre, it is still a great game and one that is still enjoyed to this day.

But… what do YOU think about it?