This week saw the release of the long-awaited Final Fantasy XV demo, which has been quite well-received and seems to be reviving interest in the Final Fantasy series after a rough stretch of years. So, what better time to take a look back at the most successful game in the series, Final Fantasy VII?
Final Fantasy VII was a bombshell when it first arrived in 1997. The game put Sony’s new PlayStation on the map and transformed RPGs from low-key, stat-heavy grindfests to the lavishly produced, cinematic adventures we see today. Here are a few things you might not know about the game-changing Final Fantasy VII…
Warning: We will be brazenly discussing major plot points in this article, so if you’re still avoiding 18-year-old spoilers, proceed no further!
1. Final Fantasy VII was originally going to be a Super Nintendo game. While Final Fantasy VII eventually became a flagship game for Sony’s new PlayStation, it was originally supposed to come out sometime in 1995 and act as Square’s grand farewell to the Super Nintendo. Ultimately, the SNES version of of Final Fantasy VII was killed by Chrono Trigger, as that game’s production ballooned to such an extent that Square had to put FFVII on hold for year, picking production back up in late 1995/96.
An early concept image of the 16-bit version of Final Fantasy VII.
2. The game was NOT in development for the N64. You know you’re reading a poorly researched Final Fantasy VII article if they slip in the old chestnut about Final Fantasy VII once being under development for the N64. It’s a fact! It’s practically common knowledge! It’s also totally untrue.
Back in 1996, Square wasn’t sure if they wanted to go with 3D visuals for Final Fantasy VII, so they cooked up a proof of concept, featuring various Final Fantasy VI characters rendered in 3D. This proof wasn’t destined for any platform in particular, it was just made to see if 3D models would be feasible, but once people saw it, they assumed that it must be for the N64. All of the past Final Fantasy games were for Nintendo systems, so the next one obviously would be, too! In reality, the relationship between Square and Nintendo had been on the rocks for some time, and the makers of Final Fantasy were eager to leave Nintendo behind. By 1996, it’s unlikely that Square had any interest at all in putting Final Fantasy on Nintendo’s next console.
3. Final Fantasy VII was going to be a detective story set in New York. Final Fantasy VII went through some storyline changes as the game developed. The more modern setting and dark tone were always supposed to be there, but the game was originally going to take place in a near-future New York City and feature a gruff main character named Detective Joe. Show of hands, who now desperately wants a Final Fantasy game starring a guy named Detective Joe to actually happen?
4. The direction of the game changed after Final Fantasy mastermind Hironobu Sakaguchi lost his mother. Life, death, learning to accept tragedy; Final Fantasy VII dealt in some heavy subjects because the game’s producer and head writer Hironobu Sakaguchi was dealing with some heavy stuff at home. During development of FFVII, Sakaguchi’s mother died, and shortly thereafter, the game transformed from a straightforward detective adventure story to the deeper tale we ended up with. Obviously, his mother’s death also led directly to him deciding to kill (WARNING: Almost 20-year-old spoilers!) Aeris. Sakaguchi wanted to get away from the Hollywood-style noble deaths they’d had in past games and present something more shocking and raw, which he probably wouldn’t have done if his real life hadn’t been so raw during development.
If Sakaguchi has to be sad, he’s bringing us down with him.
5. Early ideas for Final Fantasy VII would end up being the basis for Parasite Eve and Xenogears. Square never throws out an idea, and many of the concepts cooked up early in the development of Final Fantasy VII went on to form the basis of future Square classics. Sakaguchi’s original near-future New York idea ended up being the basis for the RPG/survival horror mashup, Parasite Eve and a separate pitch for FFVII that was deemed too complex and dark ended up becoming Xenogears.
Not a bad replacement for Detective Joe.
6. Cloud almost didn’t have his “unique” hairstyle. Ever since Final Fantasy VII, ridiculous hair has been a proud tradition for the series, but Cloud almost didn’t have his distinctive spiky pineapple hair. Originally, Cloud was going to have more sedate, slicked-back black hair in order to save on polygons.
We were almost deprived on whatever that thing on Cloud’s head is.
7. Cloud keeps his sword fastened to his back with a magnet. So, uh, how exactly does Cloud keep his iconic Buster Sword affixed to his back when he’s not in battle? There’s no obvious sheathe or harness back there. Well, according to character designs by Cloud’s creator Tetsuya Nomura, the sword is kept in place with a magnet. Must be a pretty strong magnet, considering Cloud’s sword must weigh more than a car door.
Magnets, here’s how they work.
8. The Honeybee Inn was supposed to be even more sketchy. One of the more, uh, unique locations in Final Fantasy VII is the Honeybee Inn, which is pretty obviously supposed to be a brothel of some sort. Where the girls dress like bees. Hey, different strokes and all that.
Apparently, a ton of content was cut from this section of the game, but it all still exists as dummy data on the FFVII disc. Originally, the Honeybee Inn would have been much larger, with more girls and more racy pictures on the walls, and the whole “this is a brothel” theme was expressed in a much more overt way. There would have also been a creep-o hanging out there that would give you a pair of Tifa’s underpants, which he managed to steal somehow. There was also a separate cut bit where Cloud had to pester another girl to give him her underwear. No, the makers of FFVII didn’t have a panties fetish. What are you talking about?
I suppose it’s appropriate that everybody’s arms sort of look like dildos.
9. The game was originally much more blatant about Cloud and Tifa gettin’ it on. Speaking of sexy stuff, at the end of disc two, Cloud and Tifa have a heart-to-heart, and it’s hinted that they may have gotten it on, or at least engaged in some heavy polygonal petting. According to the developers, the original plan was much less subtle. We would have seen Tifa and Cloud emerging from the chocobo stable looking a bit sheepish, and Cloud would have given a “yup, that just happened” shrug. Come on, guys. In front of the chocobos? Shameful.
10. The Japanese and American versions of the game differ in a number of ways. As was often the case with Japanese RPGs, Final Fantasy VII was tweaked in a number of ways when it was brought west. Enemy encounter rates were reduced, which was nice of Square, but they also added new bosses, including the challenging Ruby and Emerald Weapons. They also added some extra cutscenes that provided Cloud with some additional backstory and made what was going on at the end of the game a bit clearer.
11. Final Fantasy VII had the largest budget of any game to date when it was released. Final Fantasy VII was a massive production for its time. The game cost $45 million to make, which translates to around $65 million in 2015 dollars. Even by today’s standards, that’s an expensive game, and it absolutely blew anything else that was happening in 1997 away. Square also spent a whopping $100 million to market the game.
12. The game’s most famous scene contains a continuity error. Here’s something you might not have noticed because you were too gripped with shock: When Sephiroth leaps down with his sword, he isn’t wearing any gloves, but after he stabs Aeris, he is. Welp, that’s it, the scene is officially garbage.
13. There’s a fan theory that Cloud actually killed Aeris. Speaking of oddities during the infamous Aeris death scene, here’s a popular fan theory that will blow your mind. Yes, Sephiroth stabs Aeris, but he stabs her in an area where there aren’t any immediately vital organs. We also don’t see any blood, so no major veins or arteries are cut. Perhaps Aeris would have died from the wound eventually, but it probably would have taken a while. When she falls limp, it’s more likely she just passed out from shock/pain.
In other words, when Cloud places Aeris in the water and lets her sink, there’s a very good chance she was still alive and Cloud actually drowned her. Of course, Aeris’ death is meant to be operatic and dramatic, but if it were more realistic, Cloud would have some splainin’ to do.
14. Aeris was never supposed to be revived. Aeris’ death was such a shock to innocent ’90s gamers that they tore the game apart looking for some secret way to revive her. While no official method of resurrection was ever discovered, fans did find ways to hack Aeris back into your party, and surprisingly, they discovered that she would occasionally deliver little bits of dialog well after her big death scene. For some, this was proof that the original plan was for Aeris to live, or perhaps be revived later in the game.
Well, sorry to shatter your hopes, but Aeris was never going to make a triumphant return. Here’s Tetsuya Nomura with the bad news…
“The world was expecting us to bring her back to life, as this is the classic convention. But we did not. We had decided not to do this from the beginning.”
Sorry, guys. Your 32-bit girlfriend just isn’t coming back.
There you have it. A few things you might not have known about the most popular Japanese RPG or all-time. Know of any trivia I missed? Got any golden Final Fantasy VII memories to share? Just want to work through your feelings about Aeris’ death? Hit the comments and let’s talk.