Final Fantasy VII is a 1997 role-playing video game developed by Square for the PlayStation console. It is the seventh main installment in the Final Fantasy series. Published in Japan by Square, it was released in other regions by Sony Computer Entertainment, and became the first in the main series to see a PAL release. The game’s story follows Cloud Strife, a mercenary who joins an eco-terrorist organization to stop a world-controlling mega corporation from using the planet’s life essence as an energy source. Events send Cloud and his allies in pursuit of Sephiroth, a superhuman intent on destroying their planet. During the journey, Cloud builds close friendships with his party members, including Aerith Gainsborough, who holds the secret to saving their world.
Development began in 1994, originally for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. After delays and technical difficulties from experimenting on several platforms, Square moved production to the PlayStation, largely due to the advantages of the CD-ROM format. Veteran Final Fantasy staff returned, including series creator and producer Hironobu Sakaguchi, director Yoshinori Kitase, and composer Nobuo Uematsu. The title became the first in the series to use full motion video and 3D computer graphics, which featured 3D character models superimposed over 2D pre-rendered backgrounds. Although the gameplay systems remained mostly unchanged from earlier entries, Final Fantasy VII introduced more widespread science fiction elements and a more realistic presentation. The game had a staff of over 100, with a joint development and marketing budget of around US$80 million..
Setting and characters
Characters of the Final Fantasy VII series Final Fantasy VII takes place on a world referred to in-game as the “Planet”, though it has been retroactively named “Gaia”. The planet’s life force, called the Lifestream, is a flow of spiritual energy that gives life to everything on the Planet. Its processed form is known as “Mako”. On a societal and technological level, the game has been defined as an industrial or post-industrial science fiction milieu. During Final Fantasy VII, the Planet’s Lifestream is being drained for energy by the Shinra Electric Power Company, a world-dominating mega corporation headquartered in the city of Midgar. Shinra’s actions are weakening the Planet, threatening its existence and all life. Significant factions within the game include AVALANCHE, an eco-terrorist group seeking Shinra’s downfall so the Planet can recover; the Turks, a covert branch of Shinra’s security forces; SOLDIER, an elite Shinra fighting force created by enhancing humans with Mako; and the Cetra, a near-extinct human tribe which maintains a strong connection to the Planet and the Lifestream.
The central protagonist is Cloud Strife, an unsociable mercenary who claims to be a former 1st Class SOLDIER. Early on, he works with two members of AVALANCHE: Barret Wallace, its brazen but fatherly leader; and Tifa Lockhart, a shy yet nurturing martial artist and childhood friend of Cloud. On their journey, they meet Aerith Gainsborough, a carefree flower merchant and one of the last surviving Cetra; Red XIII, an intelligent quadruped from a tribe that protects the planet; Cait Sith, a fortune-telling robotic cat controlled by repentant Shinra staff member Reeve; and Cid Highwind, a pilot whose dream of being the first human in outer space was not realized. The group can also recruit Yuffie Kisaragi, a young ninja and skilled Materia thief; and Vincent Valentine, a former Turk and victim of Shinra experiments. The game’s main antagonists are Rufus Shinra, son of President Shinra and later leader of the Shinra Corporation; Sephiroth, a former SOLDIER who reappears several years after he was thought dead; and Jenova, a hostile extraterrestrial life-form imprisoned by the Cetra 2000 years before. A key character in Cloud’s back story is Zack Fair, a member of SOLDIER and Aerith’s first love.
AVALANCHE destroys a Shinra Mako reactor in Midgar; an attack on another reactor goes wrong, and Cloud falls into the city slums. There, he meets Aerith and protects her from Shinra. Meanwhile, Shinra finds AVALANCHE and collapses part of the upper city, killing most of AVALANCHE along with the slum population below. Aerith is also captured; as a Cetra, she can potentially show the “Promised Land”, which Shinra believes is overflowing with exploitable Lifestream energy. Cloud, Barret and Tifa rescue Aerith; during their escape from Midgar, they discover that President Shinra was murdered by Sephiroth, who was presumed dead five years earlier. The party pursue Sephiroth across the Planet, with now-President Rufus on their trail; they are soon joined by the rest of the playable characters.
At a Cetra temple, Sephiroth reveals his intentions to use the Black Materia to call “Meteor”, a spell that will hit the Planet with a devastating impact. Sephiroth will absorb the Lifestream as it attempts to heal the wound, becoming a god-like being. The party retrieves the Black Materia, but Sephiroth manipulates Cloud into surrendering it. Aerith departs alone to stop Sephiroth, following him to an abandoned Cetra city. During her prayer to the Planet for help, Sephiroth attempts to force Cloud to kill her; failing, he kills her himself before fleeing and leaving the Black Materia behind. The party then learns of Jenova, a hostile alien life form whose remains were unearthed by Shinra scientists decades earlier; at Nibelheim, Jenova’s cells were used to create Sephiroth. Five years before the game, Sephiroth and Cloud visited Nibelheim, where Sephiroth learned of his origins. Driven insane by this, he murdered the townspeople, then vanished when confronted by Cloud.
At the Northern Crater, the party learns that the “Sephiroths” they have met are Jenova clones created by the insane Shinra scientist Hojo. Confronting the real Sephiroth as he is killing his clones to reunite Jenova’s cells, Cloud is again manipulated into delivering the Black Materia. Sephiroth then taunts Cloud by showing another SOLDIER in Cloud’s place in his memories of Nibelheim, suggesting that Cloud is a failed Sephiroth clone. Sephiroth summons Meteor and seals the Crater; Cloud falls into the Lifestream and the party is captured by Rufus.
Escaping Shinra, the party discovers Cloud at an island hospital in a catatonic state from Mako poisoning; Tifa stays as his caretaker. When the island is attacked by a planetary defense force called Weapon, the two fall into the Lifestream, where Tifa helps Cloud reconstruct his memories. Cloud was a mere infantryman who was never accepted into SOLDIER; the SOLDIER in his memories was his friend Zack. At Nibelheim, Cloud surprised and wounded Sephiroth after the latter’s mental breakdown, but Jenova preserved Sephiroth’s life. Hojo experimented on Cloud and Zack for four years, injecting them with Jenova’s cells and Mako; they escaped, but Zack was eventually killed. The joint trauma of these events triggered an identity crisis in Cloud; he constructed a false persona around Zack’s stories and his own fantasies. Cloud accepts his past and reunites with the party, who learn that Aerith’s prayer to the Planet had been successful: the Planet had attempted to call Holy to prevent Meteor’s impact, but Sephiroth blocked Holy.
Shinra fails to destroy Meteor but manages to defeat a Weapon and puncture the Northern Crater, costing the lives of Rufus and other staff. After killing Hojo, who is revealed to be Sephiroth’s biological father, the party descends to the Planet’s core through the opening in the Northern Crater and defeats both Jenova and Sephiroth. The party escapes and Holy is summoned, which destroys Meteor with the help of the Lifestream. Five hundred years later, Red XIII is seen with two cubs looking out over the ruins of Midgar, which are now covered in greenery, showing the planet has healed.