When I first joined Bit Cultures, I wrote to the head editor about how much Final Fantasy VII meant to me as a gamer. That application cover letter eventually made its way to the site as a feature. Being a diehard FFVII fan isn’t exactly controversial. However, FFVII’s influences went well beyond shaping me personally. The game was undeniably ahead of its time and opened up an entire genre to the mainstream gaming demograph. FFVII’s influences are still felt today. It defined the industry for a decade or more. In this top ten, we will enumerate the ways that Final Fantasy VII changed the gaming landscape.
Contributions By Dakota Scibilia, Zach Nonnemacher and Cody Johnston
10. Elevated Sony to Role Playing Game Frontrunner
FFVII development began in 1994. It was originally slated to be released on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. However, the target console was changed to the Nintendo 64 mid-development. When it was settled that the N64 would continue to use cartridges like its predecessors, Square decided to move the project to the PlayStation in order to take advantage of the CD-ROM disk space. This was just the beginning. Soon after, another large Japanese publisher Enix moved from Nintendo to Sony. Nintendo felt the hurt. Once the undisputed champion of RPGs, Nintendo was relegated to the sidelines. Sony became the premier platform for RPGs.
9. Demonstrated the Viability of 3-D RPGs
Thanks to the CD-ROM move, FFVII enjoyed more freedom with their graphic fidelity. The environments in the game are pre-rendered, meaning they enjoy a high level of detail. The characters are animated on top of these backgrounds in order to simulate depth. This was the first Final Fantasy title that played in a three-dimensional space. The series’ previous entries were drawn as 2-D sprites on a 2-D background. By rendering 3-D characters over the pre-rendered backgrounds, as well as playing with size and perspective, FFVII was able to create a truly 3-D experience.
8. Pioneered CGI Cutscenes
In order to tell its epic story, many of the cutscenes in FFVII were highly detailed CGI videos. The story of FFVII involves some rather large, moving parts — literally. Celestial bodies and larger-than-life titans are key players in the game’s narrative. The characters and events just wouldn’t have had the same weight to them had they only been illustrated using in-game rendered graphics. I still remember dragging my mom into my bedroom to watch the cutscene featuring the Emerald Weapon emerging from the ocean depths while firing plasma beams from its mouth. It was awe-inspiring, and those CGI graphics were the only way to inspire such a feeling when the game engine’s graphics were incapable. This technique was utilized for many, many years. Nowadays, game engines are thousands of times more capable than those of the mid-90s, so developers use the same engine for gameplay and for narrative.
7. Emphasized Cinematic Storytelling
In addition to the movie-like cutscenes that were littered throughout the game, FFVII included more subtle, cinematic touches. The animators went through great lengths to make sure body proportions were correct when necessary. The characters are most often animated as blocky, odd looking things with no hands or mouth and exaggerated features. However, this view was for wide angle shots. During story beats, the animation style would often switch to a higher quality of animation. This shift allowed the characters to emote on screen for the first time. The combat view also featured scaled-up depictions of the characters in order to allow for more fluid and dynamic battle animations. The camera also panned, zoomed, and shifted during combat, offering a more cinematic experience than the static combat screens in past RPGs.
6. Illustrated the Success of Hollywood Budget Games
FFVII was no cheap effort. It took a reported $45 million budget to create. It’s no surprise, given the animation work alone that went into the project. The ground-breaking CGI and unprecedented character animations came at a cost. However, the game was a critical and commercial success. After an explosive release in both Japan and the States, it went on to become the best selling Final Fantasy title of all time. In fact, its sales are credited as being the major contributing factor to PlayStation’s success. Today, we don’t give game budgets a second thought. We know games can be as monumental an effort as any movie. The art, writing, acting talent (not to mention, ya know, the software development) that goes into AAA video games is truly unprecedented.