Final Fantasy VII is a legendary level-grinding Role-Playing Game, developed by Square and released for the Sony PlayStation in 1997.
While the Final Fantasy series had grown in stature throughout the 1990s, it was this seventh instalment that broke Japanese CRPGs into the mainstream, with its outstanding mix of 3D, polygonal graphics, Full Motion Video, and pre-rendered backgrounds.
But it wasn’t just the graphics that propelled Final Fantasy VII to stratospheric heights – it was both the story, and also the gameplay, that made games-players really sit up and take notice.
The story of a small gang of rebel kids – taking on a sinister fantasy government of the future – Final Fantasy VII is played from the perspective of ‘Cloud’, a young boy with a growing identity crisis and a crush on a young girl he meets called Aerith. Without going into detail about the plot (which is complicated, to say the least), Cloud suddenly finds his friends dying off as he runs from the dark forces that are pursuing him. This fact – that key characters are killed-off at certain points in the story – gives Final Fantasy VII a real emotional edge that other games do not have. Certainly not many games managed to shock you in the way that Final Fantasy VII did back in 1997, and that is testament to the writers, and the dev team, creating likeable characters and a plot that delivers twists and turns at every juncture.
The basis of the game follows the well-established JRPG formula: the ‘world map’, the ‘field’, and the ‘battle screen’. Different areas are linked by the ‘world map’, which is shown from a distance. Exploration and dialogue mostly takes place in the ‘field’ – screens in which you control the main characters and where, in some areas, just walking around will initiate random, turn-based combat. Combat in Final Fantasy VII uses 3D graphics for the action, and 2D panels for the menus and party information. The range of attacks, defences, spells, and graphical special effects, is just mind-blowing. Boss battles are extraordinary too.
The scope of Final Fantasy VII is also one of the reasons it was such a big hit. The game’s designers not only came up with a myriad of huge and visually impressive locations, but they also interwove them into the story very cleverly.
Graphically the game looks a little ragged, by today’s Hi Def standards, but a remake is apparently on the cards. It would be incredible if Square managed to re-render those Standard Def backgrounds into High Def… We can but hope…