Final Fantasy VII (1997) preceded the concept of “AAA,” yet it sure did do its darndest to impress, beginning with its double-sided jewel case housing a trio of CD-ROMs. In the 90’s, full-motion video was considered high technology, requiring staggering data capacities—like the 4K textures and uncompressed (FLAC) sound files of today. FFVII shipped with a then-unprecedented forty minutes of FMV, necessitating the augmented jewel case to ship the whole game.
Forty minutes of FMV may not sound like much, but a video game featuring CGI with a total runtime longer than an episode of The Simpsons was revolutionary. The scale of FFVII was so unparalleled, that every self-proclaimed RPG fan in the world is aware that the typically banal topic of console storage formats is the foundational reason why the company then known as SquareSoft divorced itself from Nintendo, and allied with Sony’s soaring PlayStation brand. The system wars between Sega and Nintendo were fierce in the early ’90s, but this third-party realignment was a colossal paradigm shift. Multiple-console ownership of the same generation was only for the rich in those days, thus, Nintendo loyalists were compelled to choose between PlayStation and the N64 on the horizon (which is where the Ocarina of Time (1998) versus Metal Gear Solid (1998) comparisons originated; lol, Sega Saturn).
Contextualizing FFVII as a PlayStation exclusive would be extraneous if it were not such an astonishing game. While Resident Evil (1996) had already demonstrated the effectiveness of fusing pre-rendered environments with interactive polygons in the foreground, the technologies had yet to be blended to the scale of FFVII. Midgar elicits the essence of a perilous slum where crime bosses like Don Corneo could believably thrive as much as the Golden Saucer contrasts in its merry opulence. Then FFVII breaks its linearity with land, sea, and air vehicles allowing traversal on a planet designed to be roughly the size of a real-life basketball, blowing our minds with the magnitude of the world of Gaia by simultaneously showcasing the capabilities of both the Highwind and also Nobuo Uematsu’s capabilities as a composer. And then, (yes, and then!) we discover that even the Highwind has limitations, and cannot land in certain areas. Thus begins the sidequesting, from raising chocobos to farming materia for hunting Ruby and Emerald Weapon to simply witnessing the spectacular summons such as Bahamut Zero or Alexander.
FFVII was the first full-scale RPG for many gamers, so its story and iconic characters have benefited by the extra mileage they have garnered over the years in the industry’s consciousness. How many times since have we played a game where a character meets a tragic, premature end, and we say to ourselves, “Yep, seen it already in FFVII”? What video game villain is more recognizable than Sephiroth, especially accompanied by TWO theme songs? (I totally believe the gong in Bruce Faulconer’s Vegeta theme is a nod to Sephiroth’s theme, “Those Chosen by the Planet.” Also, yes, you read that right. Sephiroth’s theme is not “One-Winged Angel.” FITE ME!)? Is there another video game that can claim to feature the most-downloaded OST, whether from Napster, Kaaza, or other archival database sites?
FFVII is not a flawless game, buckling under modern scrutiny such as Barret’s characterization being grounded in stereotype, Tifa’s fanservice costume design plus Manic Pixie Dream Girl depictions doing positive representations of women in video games a disservice, and Cloud reticence in the face of his impostor syndrome as a poor example of caring for mental health. Upscaled versions render the jaggy polygons tolerable, though the pre-rendered backgrounds and vintage CGI really date the game. And that is why we are here, because Square-Enix has heeded our cries, and is blessing us with a remake of this legendary game within a few short hours of this publication going live.
To celebrate, the GUG staff has spent the past month playing through as much of the Final Fantasy franchise as we could so that we may report our results in a trip down memory lane. I hope that the directory below will be useful to those who wish to avoid spoilers in the games they have yet to play, but want to in the future. Enjoy!