Our cover story this month, “Remember,” is a little more than nostalgia for nostalgia-sake. We’re looking back at the games we cherish to see where they are headed and how they are still influential in carrying the industry forward. Twenty years ago, Final Fantasy VII taught a new generation about Japanese role-playing games and left an impression that lingers among many decades later.
Final Fantasy VII was many firsts for the series and for developer Square. It was the first title in the series to utilize full motion video, polygonal character models, and the first to release on the PlayStation, leaving Nintendo behind in exchange for the new compact disc format.
For many, it might have been the first game they played on PlayStation, and for many more it was the first RPG they had encountered. I usually find myself the odd one out when this game comes up in conversation. It often finds itself on the short list for many people’s favorite games of all time, or on the lists that folks call the “best games of all time.”
My exposure to the series came early but was curtailed rather abruptly when I found myself bored watching a friend play it and never really understanding why I should care. When I finally purchased a copy of Final Fantasy Origins from the PlayStation Network, I started to make sense of the strong adoration for the series. I would eventually work through the first and fourth entries in the series, but VII remained odd to me.
At the time of this writing, I’m simultaneously playing Final Fantasy VI and XV, two wildly different eras in the franchise history. What I’ve learned through both of these particularly, is how the DNA of this series is made up. There are some key elements that transcend the stereotypical checklist for JRPGs that define Final Fantasy. In both VI and XV, I’m learning the emphasis on battle and camaraderie within the party. I’m learning more about the complexities that make up a story in this world. There’s a shared importance to magic and fantasy while remaining grounded in a world that we can recognize and understand.
It’s led me to become again interested in VII, to see the story of Cloud Strife and find out why everyone thinks Sephiroth is so cool or scary or whatever it is. My interest was again piqued when Square Enix finally announced the remake of the game that so many fans had asked for. Following the announcement of the long-awaited remake came the inclusion of Cloud as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. This sudden resurgence of this game became infectious and it was growing harder to ignore. A purchased copy of the game on PSN got me no further than I had before, but it was a step toward finally seeing and understanding what this game is all about.