This year marks the 30th anniversary of one of the most popular RPG franchises, Final Fantasy. Launched by Square on November 18th, 1987, Final Fantasy has sold more than 115 million units worldwide and reigns as one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time. If Final Fantasy wears “the crown” for best video game series, its crown jewel would be Final Fantasy VII.
20 years after its initial release, Final Fantasy VII holds the title of RPG MVP among critics and fans. It is a landmark game that brought renewed popularity to the franchise. To this day, many game critics still praise its success and regard it as one of the greatest video games of all time. We have already covered some of the best villains, summons, and heartbreaking deaths of the Final Fantasy franchise as a whole. In this article, we want to share with fans new and old all the facts you did not know about Cloud, Aerith, and the creators of the critically acclaimed RPG Final Fantasy VII.
Just a warning, this article contains some spoilers for the game so if you have never played but still plan to, stop reading now! Here are 15 Things You Never Knew About Final Fantasy VII.
15. It Was Almost Set In New York With A Detective Lead Character
Planning for Final Fantasy VII began back in 1994 after the release of Final Fantasy VI. Series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi and his team brainstormed several storylines for the new installment. One such idea focused the story around a hot-blooded detective by the name of Joe. Sakaguchi’s initial concept placed Hot-Blooded Detective Joe in New York in the year 1999. Sakaguchi also planned to have old sour-puss Detective Joe pursue several suspects after a bombing takes place in the city.
As development on the project continued, it was decided that New York was the wrong setting for this game, but they did save it for a future video game. The location moved from modern day New York to the technologically advanced city of Midgar. The plans for the bombing, however, remained in the events of the game. The protagonist was then changed to Cloud Strife. We wonder if poor Hot-Blooded Detective Joe will ever get his own video game someday.
14. It Inspired Xenogears, Parasite Eve, and Final Fantasy VIII
But not all discarded ideas disappeared like Detective Joe. Many artists reuse their ideas for other projects. During the process of developing a video game, many storylines, concepts and ideas will be ultimately trashed. In the course of creating Final Fantasy VII, developers managed to create three video games with their unused ideas: Xenogears, Parasite Eve and Final Fantasy VIII.
Before we found our heroes revolting in Midgar, creators Tetsuya Takahashi and Kaori Tanaka almost placed them in the war-torn nations of Aveh and Kislev. The original plot for Final Fantasy VII, deemed too dark, was preserved by Takahashi and developed under the codename “Project Noah.” It would later be released in 1998 as Xenogears and became another highly acclaimed RPG for Square Enix. The all-but-forgotten New York setting for Final Fantasy VII moved to the 1998 release Parasite Eve. The game’s protagonist became Aya Brea, an NYPD rookie. Maybe a little bit of Detective Joe made it in there too?
The next video game to inherit elements from Final Fantasy VII was its sequel, Final Fantasy VIII. Early concepts of a sorceress character bounced around with the developers but did not align with the game’s themes and events. The character was shelved for a time, until she found her home in Final Fantasy VIII as antagonist Edea Kramer. Square definitely has a knack for creating great RPGs.
13. Cloud Strife Was Almost A Brunette
Cloud Strife, the main character of Final Fantasy VII, serves as the mascot for the series. A talented swordsman, the image of Cloud with his massive Buster Sword strapped to his back has become iconic for fans. Another trademark element of his appearance is his spiky, blond hair. Though this too is considered iconic, he could have been famous for his slicked-back black hair instead.
As a means to simplify the design of the character, Cloud was originally designed with dark, slicked-back hair. The sleek hairdo reduced the time needed to create the character’s 3D design, and also served as a visual contrast to Sephiroth, the main villain, and his longer, silver hair. Ultimately, video game artist Tetsuya Nomura kept the pineapple-shaped blond hairstyle to prevent Cloud from appearing too masculine. They felt if he was too manly, fans would not be able to relate to the character, and he would become an unpopular hero. Thanks for keeping all that spiky pineapple greatness intact!
12. Star Wars References
Star Wars is everywhere! Between the movies, TV shows, video games, and merchandising, you cannot travel far without coming face-to-face with this popular franchise. We have explored how its influence has been linked to many sci-fi TV shows, movies, and video games. The Final Fantasy games also have recurring Star Wars references in most of its games. In Final Fantasy VII, two characters, in particular, connect to the Star Wars franchise: Biggs and Wedge.
These two members of AVALANCHE worked with Cloud and Barrett early on in the story. They helped to destroy one of the Shinra Mako reactors in Midgar. Sadly, they both lost their lives when Shinra destroyed the city. Their bravery and sacrifice paralleled their Star Wars counterparts Biggs Darklighter and Wedge Antilles.
The Star Wars character of Biggs was Luke’s friend from his home planet of Tatooine. The two flew together to take down the Death Star. Sadly, Biggs did not make it out of the battle alive. Wedge, on the other hand, survived to the end of the original trilogy. He was another starfighter pilot who fought alongside Luke in the battles on Yavin, Hoth, and Endor. Other than Luke, he remained as the only other survivor of all three battles. May the Force be with them all.
11. Religious Connections to Kabbalah
Final Fantasy VII wove an intriguing storyline that incorporated both mythical and religious elements. The Final Fantasy franchise frequently included religious themes beyond the basic battles of good and evil. Very similar to the way Aerith’s death reflected a real-life experience, elements of real religions have inspired the themes for the games. Final Fantasy VII, for example, contained in-game religious references that relied heavily on Kabbalah, a Jewish school of thought.
Several ideas of Kabbalah reflect in the names of the characters. Sephiroth’s name derives from the term “Sephirot” in Kabbalah. Sephirot is the ten attributes in which God reveals himself and are points in the Tree of Life.
Tifa’s name is similar to Tiferet, an aspect of the Tree of Life that means beauty. 7th Heaven and Final Heaven, the name of her bar and her limit break respectively, tie to the idea in Kabbalah that Tiferet connects to the highest realm of existence.
10. References To Thor’s Mythology
Final Fantasy VII has a lot in common with the Marvel character Thor: a strong, blond hero, the wielding of mystical weaponry, and ties to Norse mythology. With its roots in the Norse faith of the North Germanic people, this folklore includes many gods, beasts, and beings with extraordinary abilities.
These Norse roots exist in the names of the cities and territories within Final Fantasy VII. Midgar, one of the most technologically advanced cities in the game, connects to the Norse name for Earth (Midgard). Nibelheim is the name of one of the Nine Worlds in Norse folklore and serves as the homeland of Cloud and Tifa in the game.
In Norse mythology, Ragnarok is a series of events that bring about the end of the world. In Final Fantasy VII, however, it is one of the most powerful in-game swords. Kind of a great name for a sword, if you think about it.
9. Aerith’s Death Was Inspired By Real-Life Grieving
One of the most shocking and traumatic moments of Final Fantasy VII was the death of Aerith. To have a central character die early on in the game took its toll on many players. Cloud and his companions were heartbroken by her death but found renewed motivation to pursue the evil Sephiroth. However, her death did not just serve as a way to move the story along. It was a means of dealing with a real life death: the passing of creator Hironobu Sakaguchi’s mother.
She died while he was working on the development of Final Fantasy VII. It was at this point that the storyline shifted from the Hot-Blooded Detective Joe story to the storyline we came to know in the final game. Aerith’s unexpected death reflected the raw emotion he felt when dealing with death in his own life. Sakaguchi’s pain and mourning transferred so powerfully into the game. We all grieved with him through the loss of Aerith.
8. Fan Theory Makes Cloud A Murderer
Final Fantasy fan theories serve to fill plotholes, resolve controversial storylines, and make sense of unrealistic actions. Aerith’s death, for example, didn’t sit well with some fans. From the way Sephiroth stabbed her to the placement of her body in the pool afterward, Final Fantasy fans could not accept the way her death took place. One particularly intriguing fan theory proves that Cloud is her real killer.
Aerith’s death scene seemed pretty straightforward. In the scene, Sephiroth dropped from the ceiling and stabbed Aerith from behind with his sword. She slumped over and died in Cloud’s arms. After her friends had paid their last respects to her, Cloud placed her body in the pool of water, and she sank to the bottom.
Now, what if she had not passed away from the stabbing? The theory hypothesized that her wounds were not severe and the stabbing just damaged a few organs. However, the sword severed her spinal cord and caused paralysis. This theory explains why she slumped over when she was stabbed. So when Cloud placed her in the pool, she was still alive. With no means of communicating with anyone, she drowned in the pool. Therefore, Cloud killed Aerith. Talk about messed up.
7. The First Game To Introduce Chocobo Racing and Breeding
Since first appearing in Final Fantasy II, chocobos have become a fan favorite and serve as an unofficial mascot for the Final Fantasy franchise. These giant, rideable birds often helped the characters make long journeys across the lands. Final Fantasy VII became the first game in the franchise to introduce two new chocobo side quests: chocobo breeding and racing.
The goal of the breeding side quest involved breeding chocobos of various colors. You must breed a green, blue, black, and gold chocobo. Each type possessed special abilities and characteristics that corresponded to different areas on the world map. They also helped you obtain various Materia from different caves scattered throughout the world.
For the racing mini-game, you traveled to the Gold Saucer, a huge amusement park. The more chocobo races that you won, the higher your racing rank increased. As your ranking improved, you had better chances of breeding special colored chocobo offspring. So if you wanted to breed chocobos, you had to race and vice versa. Similar mini-games have continued throughout the Final Fantasy franchises to this day. The latest game, Final Fantasy XV, has a fun update coming in January that features a Moogle Chocobo Carnival.
6. Several Salacious Scenes Were Cut From The Game
Final Fantasy VII did not shy away from putting its heroes into several risqué situations in the game. Players witness Cloud disguised as a woman at the Honeybee Inn, Tifa almost becoming a sex slave for Don Cornell, and Cloud’s being very uncomfortable in his infamous “bath” scene (though we are still not sure what happened in that scene). Interestingly enough, game designers actually planned to have more risqué scenes that didn’t make it into the game.
The Honeybee Inn came off rather tame considering it was basically a brothel. These scenes are only found in the Japanese version of the game. One scene included a reception area with a wall of pictures of the available women to choose from. Another scene involved having to haggle for a pair of Tifa’s underpants. Moreover, to make the Honeybee Inn more authentic, more scandalous brothel-related activities were going to take place in the rooms. Game designers also planned to have Cloud and Tifa share a night of passion together in a chocobo stable. After doing the deed, they would take a “walk of shame,” looking guilty and disheveled.
5. Sephiroth’s Song Was Inspired By Jimi Hendrix
Anyone who has finished Final Fantasy VII remembers the final boss fight with Sephiroth.
To this day, hearing the song from this fight brings back memories of this battle, one of the most memorable in the Final Fantasy series. Composed by Nobuo Uematsu, the song One-Winged Angel included haunting lyrics that made it a standout for Final Fantasy fans. For the first time, lyrics were used in the series to enhance the dark feel of the scene.
The inspiration behind One-Winged Angel originated from three very unlikely sources. Uematsu found inspiration in the theme song for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller Psycho. He also borrowed from the musical styles of Russian composer Ivan Stravinsky, specifically his song The Rite of Spring. And finally, he incorporated the music from the guitar rock genius Jimi Hendrix. Uematsu was primarily drawn to Hendrix’s legendary psychedelic song Purple Haze. He combined elements of these three songs and created one of the most recognized themes of the Final Fantasy franchise.
4. Final Fantasy VII Is One Of The Most Expensive Video Games To Be Developed
Compelling storylines and strong character development have helped set Final Fantasy VII apart from other RPGs of its time. To enhance its appeal, the designers incorporated 3D graphics to create fully rendered characters. The first game in the series to use this technology, Final Fantasy VII brought a more realistic feel to its heroes.
Such advancements in video game technology came with a hefty price. Square spent $45 million on the game development alone. To ensure enough interest was built up for its release, $100 million was dedicated to marketing. The budget for this game totaled $145 million, the most ever spent on a video game at that time. This record remained intact for nearly 14 years. In 2011, LucasArts’ video game Star War: The Old Republic broke that record with $211 million dollars in total costs.
3. The FF VII Remake Was Never Supposed To Happen
Many video game developers will re-release a popular game when newer consoles are developed. This helps them reach a new audience and reconnect with fans of the original. Despite its commercial and critical success, Final Fantasy VII never received an updated version. Other games in the franchise like Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy X have been updated for modern consoles, though.
So fans were very excited when an updated version of Final Fantasy VII appeared as a PS3 technical demo shown at the 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3). Its purpose was to demonstrate the PS3’s graphical capabilities.
Fans were disappointed by this false hope for a re-release. This demo fueled the start of the campaign for a Final Fantasy VII remake. Even after this demo generate so much excited for a remake, Square continued to deny that an updated Final Fantasy VII game was ever going to be made.
2. The Grim Reaper Was The Motivation To Create A Remake
After a failed attempt at a Final Fantasy VII remake for the PS2, the designers postponed the project. Remaking this classic was a massive undertaking that would take time from their other projects. Designers would also have to scale down the original content to prevent another multi-disc release like the original game. At the time, they were working on Final Fantasy XIII and its sequels, so their availability was severely limited. Interestingly enough, the one motivator that finally brought about the start of the remake was the grim reaper.
After concluding Final Fantasy XIII, the design team had plenty of availability to pursue other projects. Final Fantasy producer Shinji Hashimoto was the first to reconsider the remake project. He spoke to the members of the original creative team, co-writer Yoshinori Kitase; artist Yusuke Naora; and character designer Tetsuya Nomura, about reconsidering the project. The three were concerned that they were getting too old to delay the project anymore. What if they waited until their talents began to diminish with old age? What if the team died before they could finish and the next generation had to finish their project? With a renewed sense of duty to complete what they had started, the designers finally committed to the Final Fantasy VII Remake.
1. The Remake Will Include Full Voice Acting
With the project finally back on track, production on the Final Fantasy VII Remake began in late 2015. News of the remake was announced at the 2015 Electronic Entertainment Expo, the same event that caused the initial buzz ten years earlier. Final Fantasy VII Remake will be a retelling of the original story of Cloud, Aerith, Tifa, and their companions.
Though most of the original plot will be preserved, certain key factors of gameplay will be updated. The entire game will be rebuilt using current gaming technology. This update will bring the graphics, gameplay, and even the battle system to a quality comparable to today’s gaming standards. In addition to updated technology, designers have decided to incorporate full voice acting into the game. Upon its initial release, Final Fantasy VII was the first game in the franchise to use voice actors. Final Fantasy X became the first game to use full voice actors for its entire game.
Fans of the series are already familiar with some of the voice actors that will be used in the game. The remake will utilize many of the actors from the animated film Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Original English voice actors included Steve Burton as Cloud, Rachael Leigh Cook as Tifa, and Mena Suvari as Aerith. There is still no release date for Final Fantasy VII Remake. Fingers crossed it gets released ASAP!
Do you have any Final Fantasy VII trivia to share? Drop it in the comment section!