Before I start, this review will be split into two seperate posts due to having more characters than a single post allows.
On September 7, 1997, Final Fantasy VII was released in North America for the Sony Playstation. Developed by Squaresoft, Final Fantasy VII was the fourth game in the main Final Fantasy series to be released outside of Japan after I, IV (as II), and VI (as III). Originally in development for the Nintendo 64, a dispute arose between Square and Nintendo when Nintendo decided it would continue to use cartridges for their games. As the game required much more storage space for data than a cartridge could hold, Square decided to end it's relationship with Nintendo and move development to the Sony Playstation, a console which used CD-ROM technology for its games. As the first Final Fantasy on a non-Nintendo console, Final Fantasy VII went on to become a massive hit, selling 10 million copies and becoming one of the most famous video games of all time. It received universal acclaim from fans and critics alike, even being called at the time "quite possibly the greatest game ever made...". But is it really the greatest game ever made? Or was it just a case of being in right place at the right time?
Plot - The game opens up with ex-SOLDIER Cloud Strife joining the resistance group known as AVALANCHE in their raid on the Mako Reactors in the high tech city of Midgar. AVALANCHE believes the reactors, owned and operated by the Shinra Electric Power Company, and the Mako energy that they consume are posioning the planet, and are thus on a mission to shut them down. After being ambushed at the second reactor, Cloud is sent plummeting down into the slums of Midgar and through the roof of the local church where he meets Aeris. Being the last survivor of an ancient race, Shinra is hell-bent on capturing her, believing her to be their ticket to the Promised Land, a mythical place where the land is fertile and the Mako energy is abundant. After sending in their elite Special-ops team known as the Turks, Aeris is eventually captured and brought to Shinra headquarters where she is to be experimentedon by mad scientist Professor Hojo. Infiltrating the Shinra building, Cloud and the others come to her rescue, but are soon after subdued by the Turks and detained within the building. The next morning the party awakens to find all their cells unlocked and most of the staff of the building murdered, including the president himself, found impaled with a giant sword belonging to legendary SOLDIER Sephiroth, thought to have died several years beforehand. Last seen during a routine mission to Cloud and Tifa's hometown of Nibelheim, it was there that Sephiroth learned of the truth behind his origins, going mad from the revelation. He proceeded to burn down the town, killing most of the town's occupants. This leads to Cloud and the party chasing Sephiroth across the planet seeking revenge. Along the way Cloud and company are joined by numerous other characters, each with their own reasons to fight. With Shinra on their tails the whole way, the party is in a race against time to stop Sephiroth, whose ultimate goal puts the fate of the entire world at stake. 10/10
Cast - Final Fantasy VII follows main character Cloud Strife, an ex-SOLDIER turned mercenary for hire with a mysterious past who joins up with Anti-Eco Terrorist group AVALANCHE. Cloud has become the poster child for JRPG protagoinists in the years following the release of the game, due mainly to his spiky hair and brooding (and some would say emo) personality. The thing is, in the original game, Cloud wasn't actually the brooding loner type character that people think of him as today. Sure he had traumatic experiences in his past that he is struggling to cope with, but he was actually quite different from his portrayal in later entries in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII. In this he was cocky, proud, somewhat sarcastic, and only cared about helping AVALANCHE for the money. He grows as a character throughout the game and eventually comes to care for the planet and fights hard to protect it. Alongside Cloud we have Barret (portrayed by great thespian Mr. T) - the trigger happy black stereotype and leader of AVALANCHE, Tifa - the strong willed, heart of the group and childhood friend of Cloud, Aeris (or Aerith as she's been named in all of her later appearances) - a flower girl from Midgar and the last surviving member of an ancient race, Red XIII - a red wolf-like animal capable of human speech that was rescued from Shinra headquarters by Cloud and company, where he was being experimented on by Professor Hojo, Cait Sith - an odd, fortune telling talking cat riding on top of an even more odd creature known as a Mog, and Cid - a foul mouthed pilot and former member of Shinra's space program who dreams of one day going into space. There are also two optional party members that the player can recruit in the game, Vincent - former Turk and resident vampire (okay, so he's not technically a vampire >_>) of FFVII who was popular enough to receive his own spin-off game almost a decade later, and Yuffie - a proud young thief/materia hunter with a large ego from the far off land of Wutai. The cast is probably one of the most random and unique group of misfits in RPG history, but they work very well together and have gone on to become one of the most recognizable casts in video games for good reason.
On the other side of things, we have Sephiroth, the iconic silver haired antagonist. An Ex-SOLDIER 1st Class who was idolized by many, Sephiroth went insane once he learned the truth about his past and went on a mission to find his "mother" Jenova - a prehistoric alien lifeform that crash landed on Gaia (the world of Final Fantasy VII) 2,000 years before the events of the game and went on to nearly cause the extinction of the Cetra race - and become a God. There's also Rufus Shinra - president of the Shinra Corporation, which on the surface is an electric company that supplies Mako energy to the world, but when you dig deeper you find that they also deal with genetic engineering, and also fund an elite fighting force of super-soldiers known as SOLDIER. Lastly we have Hojo - top Shinra scientist who sees the world and it's people as nothing more than his test subjects, and is even willing to risk the welfare of the planet to further his experiments. There's not much else I can say about the antagonists, since they (especially Sephiroth) are every bit as iconic as the protagonists, and along with the protagonists are often featured in Best Hero/Villain polls in gaming magazines and websites. 10/10