Final Fantasy 7 was first released in 1997 on Sonys’ first PlayStation console. The seventh entry was a big departure for Square Enix. All of their previous entries had been on Nintendo consoles and had been 2D games played from an overhead perspective.

Final Fantasy 7 was a massive shift for the series, not just jumping to 3D but bringing in the Western audience. Large RPGs like the Final Fantasy series sold well enough in the United States but were mainly seen as Japanese video games. Final Fantasy 7 changed all that by being on the massively popular PlayStation and finding a strong audience in the United States.

Final Fantasy 7 Opens With A Bang

Photo Credit: Square.

The game opens with one of the best set pieces in video game history. Cloud, a former soldier, has become a mercenary and is helping a group of eco-terrorists destroy a Mako reactor. A system that pulls the literal life force out of the planet to provide power for its residents.

First levels in video games are important to suck the player in. A good first level should teach you everything you need to know about playing the game and provide context for the story going forward. Final Fantasy 7’s opening level accomplishes both tasks and motivates the player to see the story to its 40-hour conclusion.

The Lasting Legacy Of Final Fantasy 7

Photo Credit: Square.

For a game that came out in 1997, Final Fantasy 7 is still highly regarded today. The game has spawned numerous spinoffs in media, ranging from film to comics to mobile games. The entire original game is being re-made into a trilogy of games that will potentially span three console generations.

The amazing opening sequence of Final Fantasy certainly plays a role in the game’s legacy. But other factors contribute to the success of the original game. There is one point in particular, a moment that comes about halfway through the game that changes the rest of the story and what people expect in video games in the future.

Funeral For A Friend

Photo Credit: Square.

Toward the end of the game’s first disc, a main character and love interest for the protagonist is killed by the main antagonist. Aerith’s death was shocking not just because of the story implications but also because of the time you had put into the character.

Aerith wasn’t just a side character who got fridged for motivation. She was a valuable party member. A healer type who had become incredibly useful in some of the game’s tougher fights. And now she was gone, along with her entire move-set and XP.

Stories That Change The Gameplay

Photo Credit: Square.

Final Fantasy 7 was a challenging RPG, especially for many Western newcomers. Learning the complex battle system and timing attacks perfectly was required to get through some of the game’s tougher battles. Aerith’s introduction helped significantly with these tougher battles.

Aerith had some powerful attacks, but her main role was that of a healer. As the battle raged and party members weakened, Aerith could heal them with her magic spells. Other healing members and spells were in the game, but Aerith fit that role so perfectly it would have been silly not to take her with you. With her gone, a void formed not just in the narrative but in the gameplay itself.

Ports And Changes To Final Fantasy 7

Photo Credit: Square.

Final Fantasy 7 has been remastered and ported to almost as many consoles as Resident Evil 4. The latest port features some quality-of-life changes that drastically impact the gameplay and the story.

The version available on current and last-generation consoles allows the player to breeze through combat. Focusing on the story instead of combat is a welcome change for an older game, but it significantly lessens the impact of Aerith’s death.

In a movie or a book, Aerith’s death would have just been a plot device—a reason for the players to hate Sephiroth more than they already did. But as a game, her death means realigning your strategy. You have to find a new healer for your party, grind them for XP, and assign their spells and abilities correctly to be victorious. Her death changed not only the story but also how you played the game.

Changing The Future And Accepting The Past

Photo Credit: Square

Video games love to give players choices that determine the game’s outcome. Metal Gear Solid allows you to save Meryl. Resident Evil had numerous endings depending on who was saved, but Final Fantasy 7 didn’t. Despite what people on the playground told you, there is no way to save Aerith.

In Final Fantasy 7, there is no good ending or bad ending. There is just the story. Final Fantasy 7 made a great video game story not by offering different endings but by changing gameplay based on the story. This doesn’t seem like a novel idea now, but at the time, it changed everything.

Video game stories were propelled forward by Final Fantasy 7 in 1997. And in some ways, Final Fantasy 7 is still propelling them forward today.

  • Joe Moore is a freelance writer at bosslevelgamer. He can usually be found listening to pop-punk, playing story-driven games, eating chipotle, or all three at once.

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