COMPILATION OF FINAL FANTASY VII
For the production staff working on Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, they quickly realized that, as Yoshinori Kitase explained in an interview in Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine, "One title was not enough to cover the entire world of VII." Thus was born the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII project -- a cross-platform series of multi-media projects that expand upon the world created by in the Final Fantasy VII game. At its core is the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children feature film, which acts as a sequel to the original game. Further expanding upon the film and game is the PlayStation 2 action-shooter Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII, the multi-part cell phone game Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII, and the Sony PSP game Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII.
BEFORE CRISIS: FINAL FANTASY VII
For anybody who thought that it was unfair that the Turks were always accompanied by cool, sleazy spy music, then owning a mobile phone will possibly put an end to the long-held envy.
Taking place some six years before the PlayStation classic, mobile-phone gamers are thrust into the shoes of a newly recruited Turk with a mission to stop the explosive desires of the terrorist group, AVALANCHE. A familiar scenario to be sure, but the chance to reverse the good and bad guy roles should be welcomed by many.
Although the thought of such a game appearing as a modest mobile phone game is something that disappointed many, it still appears to be quite promising. Visually, it looks remarkable good, although you may need to update your cell phone, and the change to real-time combat seems a fitting decision, considering the 'quick bout' nature of transit gaming. Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII appears to be very story focused as well, thus people looking for some insight into the world prior to Cloud's epic outing shouldn't be disappointed.
CRISIS CORE: FINAL FANTASY VII
Forming the fourth entry in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII project, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII is an action-RPG for the Sony PSP starring Cloud's old SOLDIER buddy, Zack. The game takes place during the time period seen in the Final Fantasy VII: Last Order OVA, and currently it uses the animation style seen in the Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII cell phone game. However, Square Enix is keeping Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII tightly under wraps at the present, so few details are known for certain.
DIRGE OF CERBERUS: FINAL FANTASY VII
In May 2005, another title in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII series was announced for the PlayStation 2. Entitled Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII, it is chronologically the final game in the Final Fantasy VII franchise.
Set a year after the events of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and three years after the events of the original game, Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII has the dark and mysterious bishounen, Vincent Valentine taking the lead role this time.
Trapped in a hidden facility -- 'Deep Ground' -- beneath Midgar at the conclusion of Final Fantasy VII, Shin-Ra's Deep Ground SOLDIERS have spent the last three years looking for a way back to the surface. Now free, they attack Kalm during its Revival Festival and begin their search for Vincent.
Primarily a first-person shooter, Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII will feature online gameplay. However, there are many RPG elements present. Vincent can also level up by killing enemies, and he has HP and MP bars. Due to be released January 2006 in Japan, the game sees the return of the lovable Cait Sith, his remote controller Reeve Tuesti, Tifa Lockhart and Yuffie Kisaragi.
J-pop artist Gackt is to write and sing the theme song "Redemption," as well as an insert song, "Longing." He is set to play an important character role in the game as well. Instead of being digitally recreated, he will be 'inserted' into the game's CG scenes using live action footage and CGI. Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII character designer Tetsuya Nomura designed the character's costume, which Gackt will wear as part of his 'Diablos' tour.
Square Enix recently announced that the first pressings of the game will ship with a special bonus: a DVD containing trailers for all of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII games, as well as the Final Fantasy VII technical demo for the PS3, which was shown at E3 earlier this year.
ON THE WAY TO A SMILE
The Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Prologue book was released on the same day as the DVD. This deluxe companion artbook contains artwork and interviews with director Tetsuya Nomura, co-director Takeshi Nozue and the scenario writer Kazushige Nojima. The book also contains renders of Tifa, Cloud, Reno and Rude, with sections explaining the story and character digests. One of the most interesting sections of the book, however, is a collection of two short stories called On the Way to a Smile. One story focuses on the orphan Denzel, while the one one features Tifa. Written by the scenario creator Kazushige Nojima, the stories serves to bridge the gap between the game and the movie.
The first story, entitled Case of Denzel, is set just before the events of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and it was originally published on the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children website in September 2005. It focuses on Denzel, one of the boys living at the Seventh Heaven bar, and it introduces the appearance of the Geostigma disease.
The second story, Case of Tifa, is unique to Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Prologue, and it focuses on Tifa's experiences after Final Fantasy VII. She returns to the spring at the Forgotten City where Cloud laid Aerith to rest to say her goodbyes, then she goes to Kalm to break the news of Aerith's passing to her adoptive mother, Elmyra Gainsborough. Tifa then returns to Midgar to rebuild. She opens the Seventh Heaven bar and Cloud establishes his delivery service. It also focuses on her relationship with Marlene, Barret's adopted daughter, and it concludes shortly before the beginning of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.
THE MAIDEN WHO TRAVELED THE WORLD
In the weeks before the release of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, the Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Omega was released to coincide with the fact that many fans would be replaying the original game as a way of refreshing their memories.
Final Fantasy VII Ultimania was originally released as a deluxe strategy guide and gaming Bible. However, as has happened with other Square Enix titles, such as Final Fantasy X and Kingdom Hearts, whenever a new edition of the game is released, an updated version of the book is published, entitled Omega, the final letter of the Greek alphabet (used in this case to denote the final version of the book). These updated strategy books often contain new information, side stories or strategy guides to help players beat new bosses or get past newly added sections to the games.
Director Tetsuya Nomura approached Studio BrentStuff about reissuing the book, and Benny Matsuyama was commissioned to write a short story told from Aerith's perspective, entitled Hoshi wo Meguru Miko, which literally translates as The Holy Maiden who Travels the Planet. Despite the fact that the tale itself was not written by the scenario writer Kazushige Nojima, it was written under the watchful gaze of Square Enix.
The title itself speaks volumes about Aerith and her position within the mythos of Final Fantasy VII. The kanji used in the title for the word miko are the same used for Shrine Maidens, priestesses in Shinto shrines who were believed to be able to communicate with the gods in ancient times. By giving this moniker to Aerith, it not only suggests that she is no mere mortal but also that she possess abilities which set her apart from the rest of humanity: the abilities of the Cetra.
This means that, for Aerith, death was not the end.
Told in the third-person, Hoshi wo Meguru Miko follows Aerith as she comes to terms with her new disembodied state as a part of the Lifestream, but with her consciousness intact, which is revealed to be a Cetra trait. This allows her to keep tabs on Cloud and the others as they resume their quest to kill Sephiroth and avert disaster.
As Aerith travels through the Lifestream, coming to terms with her own death and musing on the philosophical issues surrounding life and death, she is able to speak with souls who have died -- such as Zack, Professor Hojo and Jessie.
A beautifully written tale of life after death and a philosophical debate on the Oversoul, Hoshi wo Meguru Miko is as engaging a story as the game itself. It serves to fill the void created by Aerith's mortal demise and the feeling of grief felt by gamers as they struggled on to finish the game without the flower-seller girl.
The story also shows that even though she was cut down by Sephiroth's blade, Aerith remains a key figure in the story and as active as if she was still a member of Cloud's party. When not conversing with souls who have recently passed over, she is following the progress of her friends, even aiding Tifa to bring Cloud back from his catatonic state. Most importantly, it is revealed that it was Aerith who invoked the Lifestream to rise up to destroy Meteor. As the last remaining Cetra, she is the planet's guardian, even after her mortal demise, and this explains how she was able to appear in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.
PLAYSTATION 3 TECHNICAL DEMO
The screen goes black, only to be replaced by dancing green lights, moving and swirling against the darkness, before exploding and fading. A soft, green light grows against a familiar face, a woman with hair in ringlets around her collarbone and a red jacket. As the camera pans back, she is finally revealed, kneeling over a section of wall where motes of Mako energy are dancing on the breeze; the gaming world's most tragic and beloved heroine.
Aerith Gainsborough: last of the Cetra.
Aerith stands, a basket of lilies on her arm and a small smile of contentment on her face. The camera pans back as she heads to one of Midgar's main roads before pulling back through the hustle and bustle, high into the air, to the valiant music of an orchestral soundtrack.
For a moment, it is possible to see the entire city, from the people and traffic to the numerous rivers of flowing green Mako that surround the main Shin-Ra refinery. The camera zooms down over a truck, and suddenly a familiar face appears: Cloud. He leaps to the ground, slamming his Buster Sword against the asphalt before standing, swinging the sword over his head to strike a heroic pose as the screen fades to black...
A split second of silence, then unanimous applause. This is not some collection of deleted scenes never included in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, however, but a technical demo produced by Square Enix to show the power of the PS3 at this year’s E3. For twenty-nine seconds, the world of Final Fantasy VII was transported to the next-gen console with graphics matching that of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.
For some time, fans clung to the hope that the game might be updated to take advantage of all of the power and graphics that the PS3 could provide, but this was not to be. Instead, the demo, designed by Motomu Toriyama (director of Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2) and Yoshinori Kitase (director of Final Fantasy VII), served to not only show the power of Sony's latest console, but also to show how future Final Fantasy games might appear, such as Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII.
FINAL FANTASY VII's LEGACY
Go to almost any database of game reviews, reduce the list to games that have scored ninety percent and above, and you'll still have a bloody long list of games. In fact, there will probably be a frightening number of titles there that you had either never heard about or had forgotten existed. Many of them may have even scored higher than Final Fantasy VII. Somehow, however, the legacy of this particular title in Square Enix's central RPG series has outlasted almost everything else. It's right up there with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Half-Life as a game that simply refuses to go away, one that has left behind a legacy of almost incomprehensible influence.
It's the sort of legacy that is as equally impossible to live up to. There was a certain magic in the game's atmosphere, and its effective blend of cinematics to create moments that could stay forever did just that: it made moments that have stayed forever. The story of Cloud and the gang is still one of the most fondly remembered ones in gaming history.
There may be a few reasons. For one thing, the basic gameplay mechanics are still enjoyable today. Grandia may have had a more advanced combat system, but that doesn't stop Final Fantasy VII from functioning as well as it did. The massive scale of the world and the optional side quests helped this out as well. It told its story with remarkable efficiency and appropriate excess, showing an understanding of cinematic timing that still outdoes games that are far more advanced in the technical visual field today, forcing the gamer to care about the story and characters in the process.
Most importantly, Final Fantasy VII was accessible. It was something special, and it was accessible to an absolute hoard of masses. This has proven to be a shattering combination. There have been a good number of titles that have been genuinely special, and certainly plenty that have been accessible, or rather, ones that have sold well. The combination of the two that Final Fantasy VII went on to achieve has made it a true landmark, one that seems to get harder to live up to with each passing year.
As of recent times, the Final Fantasy VII franchise has seen a few moments of rekindling, but none so daring or significant as the sequel film, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. With the expectations of fans on their shoulders, as well as the commercial and critical failure of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, one can only begin to imagine the sheer strain and pressure that the staff working on this film were regularly under. Hopes couldn't have possibly been higher. Fortunately for them, the film was released to a rabidly enthusiastic reaction that showed definite favor.
Congratulations, Square Enix. You did well. There were a lot of fan expectations around the world to live up to, but you more than fulfilled them all. We can only wait impatiently for the English release of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, seeking to recapture at home the shivers of delight and anticipation that Final Fantasy VII gave us nearly ten years ago.