Who is your favorite Final Fantasy 7 character?

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The seventh installment in the Final Fantasy series, was released in 1997 by Square Co., Ltd., and shows to be the most popular. It was directed by Yoshinori Kitase, written by Kitase and Kazushige Nojima, and produced by Hironobu Sakaguchi. It was the first game of the Final Fantasy series to be developed for the PlayStation rather than a Nintendo system, and the first game in the series to be ported to Windows. Additionally, Final Fantasy VII was the first Final Fantasy title with entirely 3D (polygonal) character models, although the majority of environments were two-dimensional prerendered maps (except the World Map and battle screens, which were rendered in full 3D).

Final Fantasy VII is also the first incarnation of the series to have a more modern/futuristic setting, although other games in the series prior to it made sparse uses of advanced technology here and there, such as traveling underground and to the moon in Final Fantasy IV, traveling underwater in Final Fantasy V, or utilizing steampower, coal, gunpowder, and Magitek in Final Fantasy VI.

Final Fantasy VII is one of the most popular games of all time, with the highest sales (10.5 million copies) of any game in the Final Fantasy series, and the second highest sales for a game on the PlayStation platform. It received GameSpot’s Editor’s Choice, scoring a 9.5/10 and a 9.6/10 user score. Since its debut on the Sony PlayStation, Final Fantasy VII has been released on the PC and later the PlayStation Network. It is widely considered one of the most influential RPGs to-date.

Unlike Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI, which in North America were renamed II and III, respectively for their western releases, (II, III, and V were not yet released internationally at that time), Final Fantasy VII retained the number seven for its westernized release. The game has spawned an entire sub-series of sequels, prequels, and even “midquels” called the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII.

Final Fantasy VII is a largely menu-driven role-playing game. Initially, the player is restricted to the city of Midgar, but as the game progresses, more and more of the fantasy world becomes accessible and the scripted adventure sequences gradually give way to greater freedom and opportunities to explore. At several points in the story, the game is interrupted by entirely scripted dramatic sequences, some of which are quite lengthy.

During its turn-based battle sequences, the game uses the same Active Time Battle (ATB) system utilized in the three Final Fantasy games preceding it. Unlike previous games in the series, which traditionally allowed for a maximum of four to five friendly characters to participate in battle, Final Fantasy VII allows for only three characters in a party (and therefore, to take part in battle) at any one time.

Final Fantasy VII’s skill system utilizes Materia, magic orbs which can be placed in special slots on weapons and armor. Materia allows characters to access magic spells, special commands, and a variety of other abilities. Materia can be combined in a fixed number of ways, and strategic use of the Materia combinations allow the player to use various tactics suiting their personal style of play.

A feature introduced in Final Fantasy VI, the “desperation attack” reappears in Final Fantasy VII in a new, modified form now known as the Limit Break. Every playable character has a special “limit bar” which fills up proportionally to the damage received by the character in battle. When the limit bar is completely filled, the character has access to his or her Limit Break, a special ability which generally inflicts much more damage on an enemy than normal physical attacks; also, some Limit Breaks target all the enemies instead of just one of them.

Final Fantasy VII also popularized the inclusion of very difficult optional bosses not required to complete the game, but rather to offer reward and challenge the player. Later in the game, a series of very strong monsters called Weapons appear; the player must confront several of them through the plot, but two of them – Ruby Weapon and Emerald Weapon – can only be encountered if the player goes out of their way, and are very hard to defeat. These two bosses were not included in the game’s original Japanese version, but were later added to the European and American ports.

Characters

The main playable characters in Final Fantasy VII are Cloud Strife, Barret Wallace, Tifa Lockhart, Aeris Gainsborough, Red XIII, Cait Sith, Cid Highwind, and two secret characters: Vincent Valentine and Yuffie Kisaragi. Sephiroth is a temporary party member during a single sequence, but he cannot be controlled, nor his equipment changed.

Important characters in Shinra Electric Power Company are Reeve Tuesti (Head of Urban Development), Professor Hojo (Head of the Science Department), Palmer (Head of Space Exploration), Heidegger (Head of the Peace Preservation Department), Scarlet (Head of Weapons Research and Development), President Shinra, his son Rufus Shinra, and the members of a secret police organization called the Turks; Elena, Rude, Reno, and Tseng.

It should be noted that Aeris’ name in the original English language release of Final Fantasy VII was incorrectly transliterated from the intended “Aerith”. Later products that include her as a character, such as Kingdom Hearts, Crisis Core, and the movie Advent Children retcon the name to Aerith.

Final Fantasy VII proved popular enough that Square has included several characters from the title in other games. Cloud, Tifa, Sephiroth, Vincent, Yuffie, and Zack are playable characters in the fighting game Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring. Cloud appears as a secret playable character in Chocobo Racing and in Final Fantasy Tactics, where an alternate Aerith makes a cameo as well.

Cloud, Aerith, Yuffie, Cid, and Sephiroth appear in Kingdom Hearts, in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories with the exception of Sephiroth, and they all appear in Kingdom Hearts II with the addition of Tifa.

Cloud, Tifa, Aerith, and Sephiroth appear in the game Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy in Itadaki Street Special, and again in Itadaki Street Portable with the addition of Yuffie.

All playable characters reappear in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, and most appear at various times in other Compilation of Final Fantasy VII titles. Cloud and Aerith, who both appear in the game’s cinematic introduction, were featured in a remake of this cinematic in a technical demonstration for the PlayStation 3 in 2005.

Several Final Fantasy VII characters are slated to appear in Sackboy form in an expansion pack of the PS3 game, LittleBigPlanet, including costumes of Cloud, Tifa, Aerith, Vincent and Sephiroth.

Zack appears in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep due to his status as a Final Fantasy character from the past.

Cloud and Sephiroth are also featured in Dissidia Final Fantasy, and are joined by Tifa and Aerith, the latter being an assist only character in Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy.

***Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.***

An energy manufacturing mega-company known as Shinra, Inc. is harvesting the sheer life energy of the Planet (known as the Lifestream) as a simple fossil fuel. The Lifestream is processed and made into products ranging from electricity and heat to Mako and Materia. The latter two materials can work miracles, granting the wisdom of the Ancients to the user. However, the Lifestream, like most other fuels, is finite in supply, and the Planet’s lifeforce is being malevolently drained by the constant exploitation of Mako by Shinra. Though aware of the harmful effects, they function without remorse.

However, the real battle lies not with a corporation, but a force much more competent from the distant past. A long-thought dead warrior bent on becoming a god by draining all of the Lifestream from the planet has risen again and will stop at nothing to achieve his goal.

“Now a small rebel group emanating from the slums must quell the various dangers toward the innocent, and one mercenary for hire must look amidst the lies and deception and find the man he is within.”
—Official Introduction

The Planet, occasionally called Gaia, is the world of Final Fantasy VII. It is technologically advanced, with many of real-world modern inventions, such as cars, television, firearms, and cellphones. Their world is dominated by humans, who are the only major race other than a few nearly extinct species. It is economically, militarily, and politically dominated by a powerful conglomerate called the Shinra Electric Power Company, which profits from the use of machines known as Mako Reactors. The reactors siphon a special type of energy – called “Mako” – out of the Planet and convert it into electricity. One of the byproducts of the extraction and refinement of Mako energy is Materia, a concentrated form of Mako which allows the wielder to use its magical properties. President Shinra leads his eponymous organization, and is thus the world’s de facto ruler. Shinra is involved with many horrible genetic experiments, which have created many of the monsters that roam the Planet.

In reality, Mako energy is drawn from the Lifestream, a flow of life-force beneath the Planet’s surface. All life originates from the Lifestream, and returns to it upon death. In short, the Lifestream is the sum of all the life that has ever and will ever walk upon the Planet. The process of extracting Mako energy literally drains the life of the Planet in order to generate electricity. This can be seen quite clearly in the Shinra’s capital city of Midgar, where the eight Mako Reactors have sucked out so much of the Planet’s life-force that the area is covered in perpetual darkness and no plants can grow.

Shinra’s management is concerned with the limited repositories of Mako energy available for harvesting, and fascinated with the legend of the Promised Land; a place where the land is fertile and where Mako flows abundantly. Only a race called the Cetra, or the Ancients, are, according to legend, able to find it. However, the Cetra were all but driven to extinction by the “Calamity From the Skies”, the alien creature Jenova. All are lost except for one, Aeris Gainsborough, whom Shinra has been trying to capture for years.

The game opens in Midgar, and for the first few hours of gameplay the player can only travel within the city. Within the city’s slums resides the rebel resistance group of eco-terrorists called AVALANCHE, a major threat to Shinra. AVALANCHE is led by Barret Wallace, a former denizen of Corel, a town destroyed by Shinra – thus creating the fuel for Barret’s crusade against the company. AVALANCHE hires a mercenary named Cloud Strife, who claims to be a former member of Shinra’s elite special forces team, SOLDIER. Yet Cloud is plagued by psychic disturbances, and is far more than he seems. At first he shows little interest in AVALANCHE’s cause; by his own admission, Cloud is interested only in money. Other members include Cloud’s childhood friend, Tifa Lockhart, whom Cloud made a promise to protect back before he left their shared hometown of Nibelheim to join SOLDIER, and the minor characters Jessie, Biggs and Wedge.

AVALANCHE’s initial mission is to blow up the eight Mako Reactors that ring the city, without care to the human consequences. Along the way, Cloud is separated from the rest of the group and meets Aeris Gainsborough. To counter AVALANCHE’s attacks, Shinra carelessly drops the so-called ‘Plate’ upon their base in Sector 7, killing all the non-player characters in the group. Shinra captures Aeris and takes her to their Headquarters. Cloud and the remains of AVALANCHE storm the building to rescue her and team up with Red XIII during their raid, but eventually end up captured despite their best efforts. They are saved by the surprise reappearance of the supposed dead legendary SOLDIER, Sephiroth, following the escape of a headless Jenova from her tank. President Shinra himself is killed in Sephiroth’s return. The young and ruthless Rufus Shinra takes the company’s reins and Cloud and his party manage to make a hair-thin escape from Midgar only by fighting their way through the ranks of Shinra forces.

The rest of the game allows the player to explore the World Map and the other towns throughout. At the first town the party comes to, Kalm, Cloud tells his tale of what happened five years ago, but his story is filled with holes and gaps. Five years before the game’s beginning Cloud and Sephiroth were sent to Cloud’s hometown of Nibelheim to investigate the local Mako Reactor. Inside, Sephiroth found Jenova, a creature Shinra mistook as an Ancient and whom had been called Sephiroth’s mother. Sephiroth begins to look deeper into his past and the Jenova Project from which he was born. It was led by Professor Gast and the deranged Professor Hojo. What he finds drives him insane. Believing himself to be the last Ancient, Sephiroth begins to take revenge on humanity by burning Nibelheim to the ground. Lost in the fires are also Cloud’s Mother and Tifa’s Father. Cloud runs up to confront Sephiroth, but his recollection fails him before he can reach the end of the story.

After hearing a rumor that a man in a black cape traversed to the Mythril Mines, the party sets out. When they get to the mines’ entrance, they see that Sephiroth has impaled a Midgar Zolom on a tree. The party hurries through the mines (meeting the Turks on the way) and to Junon where they save a young girl and her dolphin from a sea monster, which allows the party to stay the night. When they wake up, they are surprised to find Rufus Shinra holding his crowning ceremony in Junon. They figure they should get to the next continent to continue their search, so they must disguise as Shinra soldiers and board the cargo ship. However, Sephiroth also managed to stow away onboard the ship and killed virtually every member on board. Cloud and his party managed to locate Sephiroth as he materializes out of the floor. Strangely, however, Sephiroth doesn’t seem to recognize Cloud. Cloud attempts to get answers out of Sephiroth about what he is attempting to do. However, Sephiroth leaves them and has Jenova Birth battle them, although not before cryptically remarking that “the time… is now…”

From then on, the party chases after Sephiroth across the Planet, traveling to many towns, meeting many characters, and getting into different adventures. They do not search alone, as Rufus Shinra has sent out Shinra’s full might to take Sephiroth in, including sending the Turks, a group of Shinra special operatives. The party fights the Turks several times during the course of the game. In Gold Saucer they meet Cait Sith, a fortune teller robot who is secretly controlled by Reeve Tuesti, a Shinra Executive actually interested in doing good. At Rocket Town, Cid Highwind, an aeronautical engineer whose dreams of going into space had been dashed by Shinra’s lack of funding, joins the party. Two secret characters, Vincent Valentine and Yuffie Kisaragi can join any time the player pleases. Vincent is a former Turk who was betrayed by his love, Lucrecia Crescent, Sephiroth’s biological mother, and turned into a monster. He sleeps beneath the Shinra Mansion in Nibelheim, in penance for his sins of failing to stop the Jenova Project. Yuffie is a girl from Wutai, a town that fought against Shinra dominance before the game’s start, but has since submitted. She dreams of restoring her homeland’s pride.

The party’s pursuit of Sephiroth leads them to discover several things. Sephiroth’s plan is to use the Black Materia, a Materia so powerful the Cetra hid it away to stop its use. The Black Materia contains the spell Meteor, the ultimate Black Magic. It can summon a giant meteor to crash into the Planet. Sephiroth’s plan is to create a wound in the Planet so large the Lifestream will need to be sent in masses to heal it where Sephiroth would intercept it and take complete control of the world. Sephiroth is followed by a group of black-robed fanatics, the Sephiroth Clones. The Clones all gradually die out along their journey; none of them are actually able to reach Sephiroth. Cloud’s party moves to grab the Keystone required to open the Temple of the Ancients held by Dio, the leader of Gold Saucer. During their stay at Gold Saucer, Cloud goes on a date with one of his fellow party members. Depending upon the player’s actions according to the hidden value system of Date Mechanics, Cloud can date either Aeris, Tifa, Yuffie, or Barret. The game is rigged so that Aeris and Tifa are the most likely candidates, while Yuffie and Barret take conscious effort to achieve, and have a less serious tone than the other two. After the date, Cait Sith steals the Keystone and hands it over to Shinra.

Inside the Temple of the Ancients, Sephiroth attacks the leader of the Turks, Tseng, seemingly to kill him. Due to a mistranslation, international players of Final Fantasy VII were told Tseng was in fact dead though the fact is he remains alive and reappears in later titles. Cloud and his party find the Temple itself is the Black Materia and to make into a usable form, somebody must be left inside while the Temple shrinks. Cait Sith volunteers, and after an extended scene in which he speaks of noble sacrifice, he is destroyed once the Temple turns into a Materia sphere. Cloud takes the Materia, but due to Sephiroth’s control over him, Cloud hands him the Black Materia, and almost kills Aeris. As Cloud falls unconscious, another Cait Sith appears, exactly the same as the first (perhaps mocking the trend in RPGs for characters to die and be resurrected). After this, Aeris permanently leaves the party to find an independent way to save the world from Meteor.

Aeris travels to the Forgotten Capital, the lost city of the Cetra, where she plans to summon Holy, the ultimate White Magic and a counter to Meteor. Cloud’s party makes their way up to the ruin to chase after her and Sephiroth. When they arrive, Cloud is almost brought to kill Aeris by Sephiroth’s control, only being snapped out of his thrall by the intervention of his comrades. Sephiroth savagely murders Aeris by impaling her through the torso with the Masamune in one of the most infamous and shocking scenes in Final Fantasy history. Cloud is enraged at Aeris’s death, and the cavalier attitude Sephiroth has about it. Sephiroth only taunts Cloud, telling him he should not act as though he has feelings. Floating up into the sky, the “Sephiroth” turns out to be Jenova. The person the party hunted for so long was actually Jenova under Sephiroth’s control and taking his form. After a battle with a piece of Jenova, and the party paying their respects to the departed Aeris, Cloud lays Aeris’s deceased body to rest in the waters of the Forgotten Capital. Cloud decides to continue on the journey to complete his revenge against Sephiroth, even knowing that he may lose control of himself again at any time.

Despite the loss of Aeris, the party continues to follow the Sephiroth/Jenova. They finally reach the end of the journey, the Northern Crater created by Jenova’s fall two thousand years ago. They move into the Crater, hoping to finish the battle. They are joined by Rufus and his gang, flying on the Highwind. Cloud along with Tifa and another selectable party member go up to confront Sephiroth. However, all they find is an illusion of the events that took place in Nibelheim five years ago. Sephiroth shows Cloud never having been in Nibelheim, his role in the story taken by Zack Fair. Tifa, though telling Cloud not to believe him, cannot refute Sephiroth’s claims, and Cloud begins to believe they are true. Furthermore, Sephiroth says that Cloud is not Cloud at all, but a facsimile created by Hojo, and a mere puppet. As Sephiroth gains full control over Cloud he forces him to hand the Black Materia over, after which Cloud apologizes to Tifa for what he has done and falls into the Lifestream. Sephiroth uses the Black Materia to summon the Meteor, which causes the Planet to become violently self-protective, awakening its guardians, the Weapons, giant monsters of immense strength and destructive power. The party escapes on the Highwind and Tifa is knocked unconscious in the escape. Barret is caught as he tries to escape with the unconscious Tifa, and the both of them are taken to Junon. The rest of AVALANCHE escapes on their own, but how is not detailed.

Tifa awakes in Junon seven days after the events in the Crater. She finds a world in total chaos due to impending calamity floating in the skies. Meteor is visible in the sky as it moves towards the Planet a sign of the impending end of the world. To stop attacks against him, Sephiroth has surrounded the Northern Crater with a barrier. Rufus, trying to show Shinra still has some control over the situation, decides to use Tifa and Barret as scapegoats and publicly execute the pair in front of the entire world. Just before the execution can go through, a Weapon attacks (though never stated in-game, this is the Sapphire Weapon). After damaging fort Junon, Shinra is able to Kill the weapon with a direct shot to the face with the sister ray. What remains of the party manages to sneak by during the attack to rescue Tifa and Barret, and steal the Highwind.

Afterward, the party finds Cloud suffering from severe Mako Poisoning in the town of Mideel. Though Cloud is completely lost, Tifa decides to stay behind and watch over him. Lacking a better substitute, Cid Highwind becomes the party leader. He leads the party to fight against Shinra’s plan to stop Meteor. Shinra schemes to load the Huge Materia onto Cid’s rocket and launch it directly at Meteor. Depending on the player’s actions, all or none of the Huge Materia can be saved. The storyline is not changed, Shinra’s plan fails no matter what.

In Mideel, the Ultimate Weapon crashes out of the Lifestream right in the middle of the town. Mideel is destroyed while Cloud and Tifa are still inside and they end up falling into the Lifestream where Tifa is able to travel inside Cloud’s Subconscious and sort through Cloud’s true memories and secret desires, such as joining SOLDIER in part to gain Tifa’s attention. She confirms that Cloud is the genuine article, though his mind had been damaged due to a variety of reasons. Cloud’s mind had shattered as a result of Hojo’s experimentation and Zack’s death, and he merged his own ideal self with Zack and Tifa’s memories, and replaced Zack with himself in all his recollections. Cloud reveals he never was in SOLDIER, failing to be mentally strong enough to enter the organization and instead became an ordinary Shinra guard. Due to Cloud’s fear of seeming a failure to Tifa and his hometown, he hid under his Shinra uniform’s helmet during his mission in Nibelheim with Zack and Sephiroth. Despite all this, it turns out Cloud did indeed defeat Sephiroth during the Nibelheim incident, managing to overpower him and fling him into the Lifestream. After these revelations, Cloud’s psyche is restored to its true state, and he returns as the leader of the party.

With help of the Cosmo Canyon elder Bugenhagen, the party manages to uncover the mystery behind Aeris’s death. She summoned Holy just before her death, but Sephiroth is holding back the spell deep within the Planet. At that moment, the Diamond Weapon rises out of the sea and begins its charge towards Midgar. Rufus and the Shinra Executives moved the Sister Ray to Midgar before the attack to prepare for an offensive against Sephiroth. The Mako Cannon is used to destroy the Weapon, and the blast continues to reach Sephiroth in the Northern Crater, breaking the shield. Just before the Weapon is killed, it fires out its energy blasts into the Shinra Building, seemingly killing Rufus and creating a power vacuum at the top of his organization. Midgar falls into chaos.

Cloud’s party moves into the city to fight Hojo who has taken command of the Sister Ray. They fight their way through the Turks and the remaining forces of Shinra to reach Hojo who reveals he wishes to give his son a boost by giving the Sister Ray’s power; the party is horrified to learn Hojo is Sephiroth’s father, a fact even Sephiroth does not know, and thus Hojo is directly responsible for the crisis facing the Planet. If Vincent is in the party, he will declare he was not the one with a sin, it was Hojo. Despite the power he has gained by injecting himself with Jenova cells, Hojo is defeated.

Following the attack, with only a week until Meteorfall, Cloud and his party decide to rest and return home before the final battle against Sephiroth. Without any place to call home or anything else to fight for, Cloud and Tifa share the night alone together below the stars. The next morning it turns out all of the party has returned and several of them poke fun at Cloud and Tifa’s expense, much to Tifa’s embarrassment.

The final battle against Sephiroth is fought deep inside the Northern Crater. Sephiroth transforms his body first into Bizarro∙Sephiroth and then Safer∙Sephiroth, a half-human, half-divine form that shows Sephiroth’s attempts to become a God. Despite Sephiroth’s immense power, he is defeated. Cloud defeats a mental version of Sephiroth inside the Lifestream, which frees Cloud of his mental chains to his enemy. However, the victory comes too late. When Holy is released, Meteor has fallen too far for Holy to unleash its full power without drastic collateral damage. Midgar is destroyed by the struggle of Meteor and Holy, but before the entire Planet is lost, the Lifestream congregates below, forcing Holy and Meteor far enough away from the Planet for Holy to unleash its full strength and destroy Meteor. The game ends in a flash of light, followed by Aeris’s smiling face, which mirrors the game’s intro.

An epilogue shows Red XIII and several small pups over the overgrown ruins of Midgar. The ending is left very vague, leading to many questions asked by confused players over the fate of humanity and where the pups came from, among others. Before Crisis introduces a female member of Red XIII’s Species, named Deneh who may or may not be the mother of the cubs. Her existence at least indicates there is at least one other survivor of the Cosmo Canyon species.

[via Final Fantasy wiki]

 

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About Jonathan G. Nelson

Jonathan G. Nelson is the editor-in-chief and owner of NERD TREK. He is also owner/publisher at AAW Games / AdventureAWeek.com, a tabletop gaming company based in Snoqualmie, WA. Connect with Jonathan via Facebook.