Final Fantasy VII
A game analysis of Final Fantasy I to Final Fantasy VII. This
paper will also take into account what the series have
contributed to the world of role playing games.
In this analysis of the game-series of Final Fantasy I will present the games from I to VII and try to find out what
they have had contributed to the Role Playing Games world.
Final Fantasy is said to be one of the best RPG-series in the world, this because the deep storytelling and
character involvement. I wanted to find out what its early installments featured and what created Final Fantasy
VII. For further reading about each game follow the links at the end of the analysis.
The game Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy is a game series created by Hironobu Sakaguchi and have been developed by the videogame
company Square Enix (the first games were created by Square Co., but in 2003 Square Co. merged with Enix,
which founded Square Enix). The series is one of the most known videogame series and have been given
multiple awards over the years for its visual and narrative way of presenting the massive stories. Released in
1987 for the Nintendo Entertainment System, it soon became a big hit in Japan. Over the years there have been
12 games released all over the world and in late 2009/early 2010 the 13 installment will be released. There
have also been some spin-offs featuring elements from the original series, such as the Chocobo series
(featuring games with the game mascot, the chocobo) and Final Fantasy X-2, which is a sequel to Final Fantasy
The games have always been a hardcore role-playing game with its main focus on storytelling and the events
surrounding the main characters. The story is well written and really makes you want to keep playing, which
pushes the playtime to well above 50 hours. Even though the story might be compelling to follow, the side
quests are something that brings the world alive. Like in many roll playing games you can step aside from the
story and play some side quests that often give you an advantage later in the game. The side quests may
feature all kinds of missions, such as finding an item for a friend, walking thru a maze or just playing a video
game inside the game. All the side quests give you
some sort of award like a new weapon, new skills or
maybe new party members.
All the games feature a new world with new
characters (except the character Cid who returns in
different shapes or if the game isn’t a specific game
sequel such as Final Fantasy X-2 or Crisis Core: Final
Fantasy VII). This makes a new challenge for the
designers to create a new story while still keeping
the feel of the game intact. The main plots of the
games are often about the struggle between good
and evil, with the protagonist of the good side of
course. Within the group of characters you find
yourself playing with there is often some sort of
story itself. This might be about love between two
characters, internal struggle where a character isn’t
sure that he is doing what is right or the deaths of
The roll playing part of the series is often different
between the games. As in any RPG you gain a level
(you “level up”) when killing enemies or doing
quests. The main difference between regular RPGs
and Final Fantasy VII is that you don’t gain new
abilities when you level up, except for a so called limit which is a strong attack that is connected to that specific
character. This feature is not connected to all the games, for example in Final Fantasy 9 you train different skills
which stays with your character. The different abilities in Final Fantasy VII are changeable between characters
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since they are something called “materia”. This magic orb (comes in four different colors) contains abilities
such as healing, fire attacks, counter attacks or summoning a big monster to fight for you. Like the characters
the materia have a level itself. The higher the level of the materia, the stronger it will be and the more money
(in the Final Fantasy world called gill) it will be worth if you sell it. The materia can be connected to other
materia to create a stronger attack, and will have different effects if you insert it into your weapon or your
armor, creating a tactical feature within the battle.
The battles themselves use something called Active Time Battle system which was first introduced in Final
Fantasy 4. In the battle you fight a certain amount of enemies on one side while your party is on the other. In
Final Fantasy VII you only have three party members with you during your travel and battles, which is not the
case in the other games where you often are four or five in the party. In the battles you have to think
strategically since they get harder as the game progress. You have to take into consideration what member you
will bring, since they have different attacks and amount of health and what type of materia you will use. In a
battle you may use fire against some plants, but using fire on a dragon will do the opposite of damaging,
making you have to think before acting. You also have to be strategic during the battle, since attacking any
enemy might not be the best action.
Final Fantasy VII was released in 1997 and was the first Final Fantasy to be released as a 3D game. The game
was build up using 3D models of the characters and pre-rendered backgrounds, which gave the designers the
freedom to create massive scenery without taking up to much power of the PlayStation system. The game was
such a success that it have sold over 9 million copies worldwide and have even been rereleased for the
PlayStation 3 in Japan (April, 2009). It has been said to be one of the best RPG games ever and is well known for
its audio and visual effects, gameplay and the massive story. The film Final Fantasy: Advent Children features
the characters of Final Fantasy VII, showing the world a few years after the ending of the game.
In Final Fantasy VII you are a part of a rebellion called Avalanche, whose goal is to prevent the world spread
corporation called Shinra from depleting the world’s energy resource called mako. The mako is, according to
the leaders of Avalanche the life of the planet, it is a part of the so called “lifesteam” which is located in the
center of the planet. The story, created by Yoshinori Kitase and Kazushige Nojima, is written in a way that you
can relate to. The big evil corporation Shinra is trying to make sure they are controlling the world, without
thinking about the planet and the fact that they are destroying it with the reactors they have put up. This could
be interpreted as if Shinra would be a big oil company and the fact that we are destroying our own planet with
pollution, draining lakes and cutting down rainforests. Not only is the story about the struggle between good
and evil, it is also about the main character, Could Strife, who is fights to find out about his past, since it is all
blurry. As the story progress you meet old friends and new enemies, who somehow know Could. But since he
can’t remember anything, he doesn’t know who to trust.
The game world is a massive place compared to other games of that time. There are multiple islands you can
visit later in the game, since you need a boat or something bigger to move around. This gives the game that
extra edge since if you take time to visit the different islands, you will find side quests that might lead to
something great. The fact that it is a free world means that you can take a break from the main story and just
explore. This is probably why the game doesn’t feel as stressful as other games may be, since you can take a
break and go hunting if you feel like it.
The history of Final Fantasy and its influence on the role-playing world
The Final Fantasy series is one of the most known and most loved video-game series in the world. But the path
from game one up to today has been filled with twist and turns for the creators at Square Co.
Some might be confused with the number following the game. This was because not all of the games were
released outside of Japan. Final Fantasy I, IV and VI were released under the names Final Fantasy I, II and III.
This confused a lot of players, but with the release of Final Fantasy VII the numbers were set straight. The
naming below is the names of the games as they were released in Japan.
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Final Fantasy I
The story begins in 1987 with the release of Final Fantasy 1. It was released for the Nintendo Entertainment
System in Japan. The name Final Fantasy actually comes from the fact that Square Co. was on the brink of
bankruptcy, and Final Fantasy was their last try to save the company (thus being their final fantasy). But the
game turned out to be a big success and the company stayed afloat.
In Final Fantasy I, you follow four warriors on their quest to fight evil. In the beginning of the game you were to
choose a class for you warrior. It could be anything from a fighter or a thief, to a monk or a mage. The different
jobs gave the character a certain way of fighting (the fighter being a strong melee attacker while the mage had
powerful magic spells.
What set the game apart from most of the RPGs of the time was the deep game play (for the time being) where
you developed you character and the storyline was filled with twists and turns.
Final Fantasy I introduced an expansive world where you
would travel around to complete the quests. Traveling in
the world was pretty an adventure itself. You could obtain
different means of transportations, such as boats and
even an airship (which was to become a trademark for all
the games). With the vehicles you could access previously
inaccessible places where you could for example find a
minigame, and on the completion of the minigame you
would receive a lot of money.
If you compare Final Fantasy I with its predecessors you
would find the true spirit of the game is not the same. The
character interaction is one of the series true trademarks,
but in the first game, the only characteristics your
character would have its own name and the color of it.
They never talked or showed feeling like in the later
games. Even so, the game still had a great story that encouraged the player to keep on going.
Final Fantasy I was released for the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) in 1987 in Japan and 1990 outside
Japan. A convention to the PlayStation system was released in 2003 outside Japan. The game was released with
Final Fantasy II in Final Fantasy Origins.
Final Fantasy II
In the story of Final Fantasy II you followed three young orphans who fled from an attack on their village. Soon
they meet up with a resistance who are fighting the mighty empire of Paramekia, whose Dark Knights were the
one to burn down and kill the parents of our heroes.
The main upgrade in Final Fantasy was the new interaction between player and characters. Now they had each
their own personality and story that truly made them come to life. The characters also had preset classes that
consisted of a knight, a barbarian and a mage. The fourth spot was filled from time to time by different
supporting characters that gave our heroes guidance and also fought in some battles. One of the most knows
supporting characters is a man called Cid, a pilot of an airship, who is to return in the following games.
Unlike other RPGs, the experience points in Final
Fantasy II did not exist. Instead the characters were
employing a so called use-system, where a certain
attack would get stronger the more you used it. The
characters hit-points and mana-points would increase
depending on what type of attack you where using.
Traveling throughout the world was just like Final
Fantasy I an adventure in itself. Ones again boats and
airships returned to help you find new places. The
introduction of the Chocobo gave the traveling
experience a new level, since this cute yellow bird
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could be used as a quicker way to get from one place to another. The chocobo was loved by the players and
have now become the mascot of the series.
Final Fantasy II was released for the NES in 1988 in Japan. A convention to the PlayStation system was released
in 2003 outside Japan. The game was released with Final Fantasy I in Final Fantasy Origins.
Final Fantasy III
In Final Fantasy III we join four friends from a tiny village who one day find a mystic cave where the Wind
Crystal is held. The Wind Crystal sends them on a journey to rid the world of evil and to bring balance to the
The game is more focused on gameplay compared with story-focused gameplay of Final Fantasy II. In this game
the character evolvement feels pretty much nonexistent. They have no names and look the same, with the
expectance of the color of the armor, although the looks of the characters change depending on the jobs they
There are a lot of supporting NPCs (Non-Playing Characters) in Final Fantasy III. Of course the charming Cid
returned but all was not good. The characters did not bring any extra punch to the party in battle, since the
NPCs never joined in, and they all lacked the charm of Final Fantasy II. They were mostly there to drive the
story and gave you advice along the journey.
What the game lacks in story-based gameplay it shines in the so called Job system. In the beginning of the
game you soon get in touch with the jobs available. There are just a handful jobs to choose from, but as you
progress you unlock other jobs that can be combined with
the ones you have. The level of combinations between the
jobs gave you the possibilities to create different types of
powerful characters, each one giving its own powers to the
party. This brings a whole new level of gameplay and was
one of the great innovations of that time.
The world was, just like the earlier games filled with
woods, mountains and seas to explore. The chocobo made
its return and also the regular ship and the airship. But in
this game there were different types of airship, for
example one of them was so big that you could even walk
around in it.
On the technical side Final Fantasy III improved the battle
system. One annoying feature where you would only hit
the enemy you aimed for was now replaced with a system where, if the monster you planed you second
character to hit was killed by character one, they would automatically change to the next available monster.
This got rid of what was known as hitting-the-air.
Final Fantasy III also introduced the summon ability which was a magic spell where summoners could call upon
mighty beasts to fight for the party. The powerful attacks of the summons gave the players that extra edge
over mighty enemies.
Final Fantasy III was released for the NES in 1990 in Japan and for the Nintendo DS in 2006.
Final Fantasy IV
This time we follow the adventures of a dark knight called Cecil who, due to his doubt in the kings’ judgment
was expelled from being the leader of the kings special forces called the Redwings. He receives new orders
from the king, this time being sent on a journey to find a beats. Cecil’s good friend and the leaders of the
Dragoons, Kain, are told to follow Cecil on the trip because he tried to turn the kings’ mind. So the two friends
are sent on a journey that will reveal the true nature of the king’s missions.
The world was now more detailed than before, this because of the improved cartridge size of the SNES. Final
Fantasy IV featured some exiting vehicles such as a hovercraft and of course the airship. Just like the third
installment you ran into a couple of airships: regular airship, an airship that could travel through the mysterious
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underworld and even one that could go into space. The chocobos came in different classes like the regular
yellow earth-chocobo and the black chocobo that could fly.
Cid returned once again as an engineer on an airship and a longtime friend of Cecil.
The technical features were greatly improved in this game because of the new platform: the SNES or Super
Nintendo. Both the graphics and the sound were crisper and the game felt a lot more “realistic”.
With Final Fantasy IV came the Active Time
Battle system. The previous system featured the
characters based on one side of the screen and
the enemy on the other. You were then to plan
you attack with a series of commands featured in
a list. When you had attacked, the enemy would
do theirs and then in started all over again. With
the ATB system the time didn’t stand still when
you went through the list of command, this
bringing a whole new dynamic feel to the game.
You had to be quick with choosing your attack
and you could also use time-altering magic such
as Stop or Haste to give you a better chance of
Unlike the previous titles Final Fantasy IV was the
founder of what the series were to become. The
heroes now had personal fears and troubles to
overcome and the characters were normal people, who found themselves in a situation that was not planed
from the beginning (they were not The Chosen Ones so to speak).
Final Fantasy IV was released for the SNES (Super Nintendo) in 1991, for the PlayStation in 1997, for the Game
Boy Advance in 2005 and for the Nintendo DS in 2007.
Final Fantasy V
An unknown force is attacking and draining power from the four Crystals. This is disrupting the stability of the
nature and the fate of the world is in danger.
In Final Fantasy V we follow a traveler called Bartz who, with his trustworthy chocobo, finds themselves in a
greater adventure than they could ever imagine. They, along with the people Bartz meets, are sent out into the
world to restore the Crystals.
The world was now even more detailed. The airships returned, along with boats and even a whyver (flying
dragon) and they were all connected directly to the story. As it had become a mascot, the chocobo returned to
help you on the way. But they were more involved compared to the earlier games. This was mostly because of
Bartz own chocobo. This gave the audience a feeling of partnership, which made the characters feel more alive.
Just like the chocobo, the new cute and cuddly creatures of Final Fantasy V were the Moogles dived right into
the players hearts. These small creatures featured as a new sidekick and created some humoristic moments to
relive the player of the pressure of the adventure.
Cid came along with his grandson Mid to help Bartz improve his airship.
Final Fantasy V revived the job system from Final Fantasy III, but this time you could customize your character
more precise than before. This was because of the
introduction of Ability Points, which were collected from
fallen enemies after a battle.
Final Fantasy V was released for the SNES in 1992, remakes
for the Playstation and the Game Boy Advance in 1998 and
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Final Fantasy VI
In a world where the Gestahl Empire rules the world, we meet a member of the resistance: Locke. Our story
begins as he haves a woman called Terra, who is being used as an instrument of war against the resistance.
The world of Final Fantasy Vi is a lot darker than the previous titles. It is set in what we would call the Industrial
Revolution, with a lot of changes from the medieval theme, both in the looks and the feel of the game.
The design of Final Fantasy VI is different compared with the previous titles. The Final Fantasy designer
Hironobu Sakaguchi ones said that even numbered titles are focused on the story and characters, while the
uneven are more about exploration and the development of your character. In Final Fantasy VI they have
combined these two, which is seen throughout the gameplay. There is a main story-line that you follow
through the game, but there are also a lot of subplots with every character. There are a total of fourteen
characters in the game that all join your party along the way. They all have different reasons to join since the
Gestahl have disrupted their life in some way or another.
Along with the sub-stories of the characters, there are some
parts of the game that truly made it come alive: The Magi-
tech armor of Terra, the Phantom train and Figgaro castle.
There was also the Opera House, in which you were a part of
Along with Cid, who in this game is an engineer for the
Gestahl Empire, we meet two new characters who are to
return in upcoming games: Biggs and Wedge. They are
spinoffs from the Star Wars characters Wedge Antilles and
Biggs Darklighter. In Final Fantasy VI they act as soldiers for
the Empire, but are soon killed by an enemy in a cave.
Final Fantasy VI was released for the SNES in 1994, for the Playstation in 1999 and for the Game Boy Advance in
What Final Fantasy have given the Role Playing Games world
Before the creation of Final Fantasy most of the role playing games out at that time was pretty simple ones.
You had a character that you would walk through a world and most of the gameplay was based around action
and increasing the power of your chosen character. With the release of Final Fantasy the general level of story
was raised. It was from now on mandatory for the game to have a solid story connected to your characters to
be sure to keep the player involved. Since the early game consoles had limited hardware, the improvement in
audio and visual techniques was not as important as the story and gameplay.
There were a big difference between games in Japan and games in the rest of the world. At the time of Final
Fantasy I, there was a misconception that European and American players didn’t have the patience or the
sophistication to play the advance Japanese RPGs (this is mostly based on the fact that the sales of videogames
in America were mostly of action or fighting games, and a limited sale of RPGs). This is one reason why not all
the Final Fantasies were released outside of Japan. This changed with Final Fantasy VII since the sales were
higher than expected. The bar was raised to create good RPGs with challenging gameplay and a storyline that
was easy to follow but still being something that would occupy you as much as a movie would.
The series have and probably will be filled with emotions to be able to really drag the player into the situation
of the character. This is something that you see in most of the good games out today, and the best way to
create emotions with you is if someone that you like (or even “love” if you are so deep into the game) gets
killed or something horrible that you wouldn’t like to happen to your loved ones, according to me. If I think
back on the games I have played, there are even some that were able to bring out some tears, since it was
heartbreaking to see that certain character get killed.
The free-roaming world that the games present to you is something that you see in most RPGs out today. Take
for example Fallout 3, where you, much like Final Fantasy, travel between quests and places in an open world
with NPCs scatters throughout the area. A non-linear gameplay has become an essential part of games today;
with players feeling too controlled it you just have to follow a straight tunnel during the whole game. Although
a free-roaming world is something to aim for, games still need to keep the player connected with the story.
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This gets difficult when you have almost unlimited spaces to visit, much like the world in GTA IV. Liberty City
was charming itself, but it became quite hard to maintain a solid storyline and keeping me on my toes when
the world was big and distracting. It is all about balancing the pros and the cons.
One feature that the games have often showed us is its cut scenes without having to import a pre-rendered
video file. In Final Fantasy VII, the transition between the game and the cut scenes were precise and since it
was all in-game graphics, there was less hardware struggle.
Final Fantasy is a good example of an excellent role playing game. It has most of the basic elements of what
creates a good game such as a solid story, emotions and interaction between the characters and a massive
world to explore.
The future of role playing games is pretty tricky to predict since different types of games are getting good
response. Take for example World of Warcraft: in this game it’s mostly about developing you character and
exploring the massive world. And since WoW is an MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) you have a lot of
people playing and interacting with you as a character. But I feel that its lack of a powerful story really leaves a
gap in the gameplay. But then again people don’t seams to play it for the story; it’s more about the
involvement between players.
On the other hand, games that are deeply story-based get really good
I think the story will be more important in upcoming RPGs. It will
probably, much like some games today, feature alternative ending
depending on how you played the game. How you act will change the
approach NPCs will have to your character/party, but only if they know
what has happened. It needs to be known that you character is
responsible for the death of someone for the public to get hostile
against you, but if you did something secret in the outback, your deeds
would go undone.
All this is depending on an improved AI system for the NPCs. They need
to be able to think like a group but still have individual minds of their
own. This is probably something we will see in a near future.
This analysis only focuses on the early games in the series. My choice of
only researching about them was that I wanted to find out what the
base for my game of choice was. There are still five games (not taking
into account Final Fantasy X-2 nor the spinoffs) released after Final
Fantasy VII. If you would like to read about them, follow the Wikipedia
link at the bottom.
The future of Final Fantasy begins next year (2010) with the thirteen
installment; Final Fantasy XIII. It will be released on multiple platforms
but not as one game, but as games all tied to the main story in one way
or the other, making for a greater expanded experience.
Experience of writing this analysis
When I first started to play Final Fantasy VII I was not aware that I
would be dragged into such an adventure. And yes, it has been an
adventure itself when looking and reading about the early games in the
series. As I usually play games that don’t have the same kind of structure as Final Fantasy VII do (the games I
usually get in contact with have a playtime around 15-20 hours, whilst upon completion of Final Fantasy VII I
will probably have spent around 80-90) I was immediately amazed how big it was.
As someone who might want to become a game designer it is good to take a step back and look at what
worked years ago, what were the basis of the sequels that are released today.
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Reference and links
Rules of Play
Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman - 2004
Coming to America – Gek Siong Low
The World of Final Fantasy – “Sizhi”
The Importance of Final Fantasy – James Pinnell
About the whole Final Fantasy series
Individual Final Fantasy game I -> VII
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