In the Making: Final Fantasy VII
Welcome to another addition of Arcade Sushi’s In the Making series! This time around, we're talking about a game that has captured the hearts of many fans -- men and women alike. It's created a legacy and a cult following all on its own. If you haven't heard about Final Fantasy VII by now, you must be new here. Let's dive in and see the history to one of the greatest titles of all time.
In 1994, right after the release of Final Fantasy VI, planning started for the next installment of the series. Initially, it was going to be a 2D project for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (later moved to the Nintendo 64). The story was going to be based around a detective named Joe in search for the main characters that blew up the city of Midgar, based in New York during 1999.
Development was going smoothly up until another game in progress, Chrono Trigger, needed more attention from the working staff. Final Fantasy VII was put on hold, and in time, some of the original ideas got moved to Chrono Trigger and other projects. The New York setting, for example, was moved to another title called Parasite Eve.
It wasn't too long before everyone's focus shifted back to the seventh installment in the Final Fantasy series. In 1995, the staff picked up where they left off with 120 artists and programmers on board. At the time this occurred, games were starting to revolutionize in their graphics, going from the common 2D to the new 3D format. This worried developers who didn't intend for Final Fantasy VII to be in 3D. With a budget of $45 million USD, they decided it would be best to change the format to cater to the newer change in graphics.
Experimentation started out with a tech demo, titled Final Fantasy SGI. This was used on Silicon Graphics' Onyx workstations. The demo had polygon-based 3D images of characters engaged in battle, which was essentially what Final Fantasy was revolved around. The experiment proved to be a success, aiding the development team in using these new designs.
This victory came with a bit of a downfall. With so much memory storage needed for Final Fantasy VII, a CD-ROM format was crucial for its needs. When Nintendo stuck with its cartridge format for the Nintendo 64, Square had to end its relationship with the company. In the end, it was decided that the PlayStation would house the next installment of the series.
What's a game without characters to tell the story? In the beginning, it was Yoshitaka Amano's job as character designer. Time became limited when his exhibits started popping up in France and New York, though, leading him to switch his role to designing the game's world map instead. Tetsuya Nomura replaced Amano. He created his first two characters, Cloud and Aeris, followed by Barret.
Cloud, the protagonist, was initially designed with black hair that was slicked back with no spikes. This was to be in contrast to the antagonist, Sephiroth, whose hair was long and silver. Nomura decided that Cloud's appearance was too masculine, so he altered his design to have bright blond hair with spikes.
During the story's planning stages, writer Sakaguchi's mother passed away. This inspired him to include one of the saddest scenes of all gaming history -- Aeris's death. He wanted to have the story include a death that was not the common "Hollywood", sacrificial type. This death would instead be realistic and show that the spirit lives on without the body. This also aided in Aeris's role in the lives of the other characters following her passing.
With a handle of admirable characters, an in-depth story line, and a battle system, the last piece was the music. Nobuo Uematsu composed the music using sequenced format audio. Final Fantasy VII is credited as being the first Final Fantasy game with digitalized vocals in a song -- specifically "One-Winged Angel" which is one of Uematsu's greatest and most well-known creations
In August 1996, Square released its first official demo of the seventh installment. It was released with Playstation's Tobal No. 1 game. This was the earliest playable demo of Final Fantasy VII. This version varied from the official release of the game in the following year, but the demo itself peaked interest in the Japanese audience.
January 31, 1997 was the release date that had fans lining at the door to get their hands on a copy. In just 3 days, over 2.3 million copies had been sold in Japan! North America wanted to get involved immediately, selling 330,000 copies on their debut on September 7, 1997. That number reached 1 million in the states within three months. This explosion of sales made Final Fantasy VII credited as being the "game that sold Playstation".
It has become the highest selling game in the Final Fantasy series -- the game everyone wanted to own at some point or another. When you think of RPGs, it's not uncommon to find yourself thinking of this title. It has won so many awards that it would clutter the computer screen just to list them all. Final Fantasy VII is something we gamers love to love, and its rich history makes it sound all the better.