It's a busy year for Square Enix, who are celebrating the 30th anniversary of Final Fantasy, the 15th Anniversary of Kingdom Hearts and numerous other anniversaries. Series aside, many individual titles also hit key milestones this year, like #FinalFantasyVII which is celebrating its 20th birthday.
To celebrate we want to take a look back at the legacy of Final Fantasy VII and some of the recent revelations surrounding the development of what is considered one of the greatest RPGs of all time.
Seven Things You May Not Have Known About The Development Of 'Final Fantasy VII'
A number of people who worked on Final Fantasy VII were recently contacted by Polygon to discuss the creation of this classic. Turns out that 20 years later, there's still a lot to learn, and we never tire about hearing interesting stories straight from the developers that worked on it. So without further ado, here are seven things you probably didn't know about the development of Final Fantasy VII.
1) 'Final Fantasy VII' Had An Alternate Ending Where Nearly Everyone Died
When discussing the death of Aerith—a spoiler Square Enix are still eager to keep a lid on 20 years later—two developers, Tetsuya Nomura (TN) and Yoshinori Kitase (YK) discussed a possible alternate ending to the game.
TN: Okay, so maybe I did kill Aerith. But if I hadn't stopped you, in the second half of the game, you were planning to kill everyone off but the final three characters the player chooses!
YK: No way! I wrote that? Where?
TN: In the scene where they parachute into Midgar. You wanted everyone to die there!
YK: Really? Wait, I'm starting to remember...
TN: Yeah, remember? You and [writer] Nojima-san were all excited about this. I was the one who said "No way!" and stopped you guys. You wanted to kill everyone except the final three characters the player chose for the endgame.
Indiscriminately killing everyone except your favorite characters certainly lacks the emotional impact strummed up by the well-planned execution of a party member. This was heightened because players were temporarily robbed of control and forced them to live through that decision.
2) 'Final Fantasy VII' Was Developed In A Year
Final Fantasy 7 came very quickly; the development period was a little more than a year. That was very unusual at the time. - Yoshihiro Maruyama, Executive Vice-President Of Square US
Doing this required rapid expansion, Square jumped from a team of 30-40 people in Japan to around 150 spread across the globe. The credits for Final Fantasy VII lists over 350 names, with 200 of those coming from outsourcing partners or overseas offices.
3) Nintendo Wouldn't Talk To Square For Much Longer Than That
Final Fantasy VII signified the end of an era for Square, who moved the franchise away from Nintendo and onto Sony's PlayStation, which was considered a highly risky move in the industry.
It was pretty uncomfortable. There were about four to five years where we couldn’t really talk with Nintendo. We didn’t have a friendly relationship with them - Tomoyuki Takechi, President and Chief Executive Officer, Square
Most of the staff cite technical reasons for the shift, stating that not only did the game run a lot better on Sony's machine, but CDs offered a lot more space and were cheaper to produce than the cartridges used on the Nintendo 64.
4) One Of The Most Popular Tracks 'One Winged Angel' Was An Experiment—Like Sephiroth Himself
Series composer Nobuo Uematsu has mentioned previously that 'One Winged Angel' was an experimental track, though he elaborated on his process creating the iconic villain's theme.
I would go into the office and just record a couple phrases that came into my mind. Like in the morning, I would come into the office and record the phrase that pops into my mind. And I just kept doing that for two weeks. And after two weeks, I had a lot of random phrases piled up. Then I took those as puzzle pieces and tried to line them up in an interesting order to make sense as a track. That was a totally new approach for me. … This was the only time I ever used that approach - Nobuo Uematsu, Composer
5) 'Final Fantasy VII' Was The First Game To Crack The Western Market
In the late '90s RPGs were a tough sell in the West, Square were expecting to wrack up millions of sales in Japan, but mere tens of thousands from the United States and Europe. Visually, Final Fantasy VII was a system seller, but they had to get over the stigma attached to RPGs.
We asked Sony not to mention the word “RPG” because people thought role-playing games were too long and repetitive and had a lot of waiting around. From a marketing perspective, we saw that as a bad word. - Jun Iwasaka, Vice President Of Marketing, Square US
Sony's aggressive marketing campaign for the title no doubt played a large part in its success, as did the game itself, which went on to sell 11 million copies. Though its rampant success highlighted some other problems.
6) Controversy Over Racial And Homophobic Stereotypes Taught The Team A Tough Lesson
1997 might have been a world without social media, but it certainly wasn't one without controversy. Many fans expressed distaste for how one party member, Barett, feeds into black stereotypes and others were irked by Cloud's visit to the bath house, which is filled with gay stereotyping.
The runaway success of Final Fantasy VII, especially in the West was a new experience for the Japanese company and feedback like this emphasized the importance of localization. For future titles the localization team was expanded and Square payed far more attention to any changes implemented to the dialogue.
7) 'Final Fantasy VII Remake' Will Preserve The Integrity Of 'Final Fantasy VII'
The idea of a Final Fantasy VII Remake had been on a maybe pile at Square Enix for quite a while, fueled by a tech demo released in 2005 which showcased what Final Fantasy VII would look like running on the PlayStation 3.
It wasn't until a decade later that the stars aligned and Square Enix announced that the Final Fantasy VII Remake was in development.
We've talked about doing a Final Fantasy 7 remake for a long time, and, over the years, sometimes it would come up, sometimes it would go away. Depending on my schedule, maybe I was too busy to actually tackle the project, or something else would come up. So it's been around, but it never came to pass.
But now that I have a little bit of availability in my schedule, we decided that we wanted to go ahead and kick it of. And we wanted to make sure that we could do it while we still have certain people around that were on the original Final Fantasy 7. Because we didn't want to end up passing it on to a generation that doesn't know the original game.
We wanted to make sure to keep the integrity of Final Fantasy 7, that we make sure that Kitase-san is involved and Nojima-san are involved and that I am involved. That's one of the reasons we're doing it now. - Tetsuya Nomura, Director of the Final Fantasy VII Remake.
There have been numerous reasons attributed to why Square Enix weren't working on a remake in the past; though the key thing that encouraged it was this desire to have the people who created Final Fantasy VII realize the extent of their ambitions on a remake.
After two decades we're still finding out new things about Final Fantasy VII, which of these was your favorite?