It's been 22 years since the original Final Fantasy VII (FF7) landed on the first Sony PlayStation but it's never truly left the minds of those who played it. The game was a whopper to play, with three discs full of 3D graphics, an engaging (and, at times, confusing) story, and plenty of side-quests and minigames. It sunk in deeply with players who either loved it to bits or hated it for thematically straying so far from earlier entries in the Final Fantasy series. Either way, people remembered it and many screamed with cheer and disbelief when the Final Fantasy VII Remake was announced four years ago at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in 2015.
It's been rather quiet since then, with hardly any updates released about the game's development, until a recent trailer for Sony's State of Play May 2019 broadcast reignited the excitement and love for FF7. The trailer not only featured new and improved designs for the characters, but also a peek at an action-oriented fighting system and English voices for the cast. The broadcast also promised more official news coming up in June, during E3 2019, making fans go wild with speculation over what could be announced next for this remake of a beloved PlayStation classic.
But what does this mean for the people who haven't played it? Perhaps you've seen FF7 in the Google Play store or heard about it coming out on the Nintendo Switch. Maybe you thought about getting it, but changed your mind because the graphics look weird and blocky. Or maybe you just weren't sure what you would be paying for.
Well, cast those worries aside. Here is a primer on FF7 and why now would be a good time to try diving into this old game.
THE FINAL FANTASY SERIES
First off, Final Fantasy is a collection of games created by the Japanese developer, Square Enix (formerly known as SquareSoft before the merger with Enix). Each numbered game stands on its own with a unique story and characters — none of them are sequels to each other, so FF7 is not a sequel to FF6 — while sharing similar themes such as naming schemes for magic and summons. At the time, during the late '80s to late '90s, the games were hailed as a grand success for popularizing the Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) genre.
Final Fantasy has lost some of its relevancy lately, as gaming trends have drifted away from traditional RPGs in general, but during its heyday it was a series that introduced and innovated many console RPG features with its take on magic and battle systems. Each subsequent game in the series strove to bring something new, and FF7 did exactly that when it was released in 1997.
FINAL FANTASY VII (1997)
To understand the impact of FF7, you have to go back and imagine yourself in the shoes of a fan in the '90s. Final Fantasy was a mind-blowing series with writing that entranced players and cinematic scenes that enhanced the story of each new game. The previous game in the series, FF6, was widely praised as one of the best entries in terms of characters, story, iconic music, and themes. The developers had big shoes to fill to impress their fans.
They did so by changing nearly everything. Up until then, Final Fantasy games were 2D, with pixel graphics, and typically fantasy-themed with knights and rogues and kingdoms. FF7 completely diverted from the norm by being the first in the series to jump into 3D graphics. Along with the visual upgrade came a new storyline and setting that was more borderline cyberpunk or futuristic than previous games. FF7 had energy reactors, a major city with residents struggling to make a living in the slums, a greedy corporation, angry environmentalists, and mad scientists without morals.
And the game didn't stop there. Remember those three discs? They were full of side-quests and minigames you could spend hours perfecting while going through the main story. First-time players would probably miss some of them, giving people incentive to go back and replay the game to experience it all. Better yet, taking the time to explore FF7's world often rewarded players with optional, hidden scenes; bonus characters; and different interactions between the cast. The game encouraged open-world exploration without distracting players from progressing with the primary plot. And players didn't have to feel railroaded by a story that prevented them from interacting with the game's world. It was a balance that let people experience FF7 however they wanted and at their own pace.
The battle system, just like the rest of the game, was also flexible and accessible enough for players to change their strategy on the fly. Some fun strategies turned characters into massive powerhouses that absorbed and dealt a godly amount of damage against giant bosses. Other strategies made the game more challenging for players looking for something to brag about to their friends. For fans, FF7 was worth coming back to, over and over again.
There were flaws, of course. The English translation and localization of the original was at times inaccurate and error-prone. This complicated an already convoluted story that centered around the theme of uncovering truths and saving the world. Even the names of main characters — including Aerith, which was written into English as 'Aeris' — weren't spared from the errors (and many old-school players still use that name to refer to her). Grammatical mistakes and confusing word choices also muddled a few events in the story, leaving details up to debate among fans for years after the game's release.
Still, the story was unique for the series, and arguably other RPGs, at the time. Whether people enjoyed the gameplay more than the plot didn't really matter. In the end, FF7 left a lasting impression.
FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE
With the remake, Square Enix has confirmed there will be changes that differ from the original game. The battle system will be action-oriented instead of menu-based. The game will be released in episodic format instead of all at once, which has brought into question how many of the original side-quests and minigames will appear. A presumably new translation and localization will also undoubtedly alter some scenes from the original game. And there might be some shout-outs to other games that branched off FF7, like Crisis Core. Basically, the game won't be exactly the same as the original, which can give new players a chance to try the original game and still experience something new with the remake.
If you want to replay the original FF7 before the remake debuts, there are a few things to take into consideration. The graphics may be a little hard to stomach, especially if you're used to seeing something cleaner and smoother, but the overall experience is one-of-a-kind. Despite the serious look of its characters and themes, FF7 is full of humorous, or straight-up weird, moments that some modern, story-focused games might not have anymore. It can be a little stiff to play, particularly when you're not used to turn-based (player turn, enemy turn) battle systems, but it's also pretty flexible with what you can do to make your run of the game unique.
For some, FF7 was their first JRPG. For others, it was a memorable entry in a series they loved. For new players, it can be a neat comparison between the old and new versions of the game. Now would be a great time to dip your toes into a game that many people have talked about for over two decades.
The original FF7 is available on PSN, Windows (PC), iOS, PlayStation 4, Android, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One. The FF7 Remake currently does not have a release date — but more information is expected next month at E3.