Final Fantasy VII is probably my favourite game of all time. With the Final Fantasy VII Remake just around the corner I though it a great time to get all nostalgic about the RPG that blew me away back in 1997 on the original PlayStation. It was a game brimming with emotion, where plot twists lay around every corner and the fighting system instantly addicted you. The whole Final Fantasy series is massively popular. Many would argue that there are better games in the series. For me, however, no game has ever beaten Final Fantasy VII for a place in my heart.
WORKING FOR GAMES
In 1997 I got my first part time job stacking shelves in Safeway, a UK supermarket. As soon as I got the job I started putting money away to save for a PlayStation, a Fender Squire Strat, and a mountain bike… in that order. My younger brothers also saved their pocket money for months until finally the day came. We went to our local Electronics Boutique store with our money in our pockets ready to buy Sony’s new console. The store’s deal let us choose 2 games and we chose Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy VII (FFVII).
We’d already played Tomb Raider on a friend’s PC and loved it. We went to the shop with the intention of getting Sony’s grey box and Lara Croft’s first adventure. We didn’t know much about Final Fantasy though. JRPG’s were a genre I didn’t have much exposure to as a kid. The fact the game came on 3 disks and had got a few good reviews sold it to us. My life could have been very different if I hadn’t chosen FFVII. The game had a huge impact on the way I saw video games and probably on the way I now make video games.
A WHOLE NEW WORLD
Firing up the PlayStation was so exciting. That bassy synth with the white and orange Sony logo followed by the twinkles and the PS logo on a black screen still fill me with nostalgia. My brothers and I initially forgot about FFVII and went on to play Tomb Raider for about 2 weeks before even thinking of trying the game. When we did we were instantly blown away by both the music and the intro. Prelude, the track playing on the FFVII menu screen is a beautiful piece of music that puts you in a state of expectation ready for the coming adventure.
We stared at the huge curved screen of our CRT TV as the famous intro scene with the train pulling into the huge metropolis of Midgar played out in front of us. Taking control of Cloud felt strange. We hadn’t played many JRPG’s and getting used to the game took a few hours. Once we had the hang of it we were hooked. We’d take turns, 10 minutes each, and the two not playing would shout ideas and instructions at the person controlling the game. At the time the story animations or FMV as we called it were breath-taking. We gasped in awe at the graphics as various events played out. In today’s standards the graphics would be thought of as terrible. It’s hard to believe that a whole generation of gamers saw those very graphics as jaw dropping.
DISCOVERING FINAL FANTASY
Finding out the truth behind Shinra, JENOVA, Sephiroth, and the Weapons felt amazing as the game twisted and turned at every opportunity. The real stand out moment was what happened to Aerith. I’ll leave it at that as many new players will experience this for the first time in the Final Fantasy VII Remake. But I will say that it brought a tear to my eye. This game evoked more emotion in me than any other game I had ever played. The game hit on issues of pollution and how we could destroy our planet if we don’t stop taking more than we need. The central idea behind the game was that that governments and big business is taking the planet’s life-force for its own gain. These messages are more relevant today than ever.
FIGHTING WITH LIFE-FORCE
The game didn’t just have an epic story and a green message, the fighting system was also awesome. It used the ‘materia’ system where powers and buffs could be attached to weapons. Materia was a form of energy fused from mako (the planet’s life-force). Some weapons could hold more materia and some would allow buffs to combine or stack in different ways. This led to loads of cool ways to take on enemies. It made finding new weapons and materia an exciting experience as a new piece of materia may hold the key to beating a certain enemy.
The ‘limit’ system was also really cool. Each character would have a gauge that filled up as they took hits. When it was full they could launch deadly attacks called ‘limit breaks’. I saw it as the characters getting more and more pissed off as they took blows until they couldn’t take it any more and unleashed a beastly attack.
A GAME WITH DEPTH
I could go on rambling about Final Fantasy VII forever. The game did so many things so well. Exploring the world map in various vehicles trying to find new beasts to fight was so much fun. Finding new characters and adding them to your team and then discovering their backstories was a nice touch. Levelling everyone up to 99, and finding their ultimate weapons and limit breaks took ages but gave you a huge sense of accomplishment. Using summons, huge almost godlike creatures, to do battle for you was absolutely spectacular as they appeared in crazy over the top animations.
The soundtrack by Nobuo Uematsu was filled with emotion and is one of my favourite game OSTs to date. Although as an angsty teenager at the time I was guilty of turning down the music on occasions and playing along to ‘The Color and the Shape’ by the Foo Fighters. In fact whenever I hum the track, ‘My Hero’ I always think of playing FFVII with my brothers.
As a video game developer I often use Final Fantasy VII as a source of inspiration. I know a game of this scope is way beyond my capabilities as a solo dev. It’s something to aim for as I release more games and grow my team. For my next game, The Flawless: Art’s Tale, FFVII has been a huge inspiration. The Flawless will have a world map begging to be explored like in FFVII.
I aim to create a gaming arcade in The Flawless like The Gold Saucer in FFVII. In this area the player will be able to play a number of arcade games. Who knows a Space Blaster inspired game may also end up in the arcade. I also aim to make the world in The Flawess a living, breathing world with loads of stories and lore to uncover. I hope to evoke emotion from the player as the story unfolds.
REMAKING A RETRO GEM
Gamers like myself have been waiting for a Final Fnatasy VII Remake ever since the first rumours appeared during the PS2 era. After playing the demo of Final Fantasy VII Remake on PS4 I am psyched for the game’s release. The demo did everything so well and the game is going to be something truly special. Even though the combat system has drastically changed and feels a little more like Mass Effect I still loved it.
We now know that the remake will come in multiple 40-60 hour episodes. This means each game should delve deeper into the Final Fantasy VII world and that is something to be truly excited about. The original FFVII is hard for many younger gamers to enjoy due to it’s dated graphics, chip-tune music, and retro JRPG core gameplay. The Final Fantasy VII Remake should drag the series into the 2020’s allowing this classic story to be enjoyed by many more people. Hopefully the series will go on inspiring gamers and game developers alike for years to come.
Ste Wilson is a director, game developer, and programmer at Bare Knuckle Development Ltd. When not coding away on BKD games he can be found playing video games on console and PC. He also makes music under the music maker name of ‘Electric Fan Death’ and loves playing guitar, writing tunes, and producing music.