Some very interesting facts regarding Final Fantasy VII’s development process came up recently in the Japanese Weekly Famitsu magazine, as part of Final Fantasy VII’s 15th anniversary feature. Here’s the gist (beware of spoilers):
- There was a discussion about whether to use sprites or polygons for the character models. Sprites was the more popular option, but polygons were eventually chosen so that character movement could be expressed better.
- SD (Super Deformed) style for character models outside of battle were chosen by Hironobu Sakaguchi, who thought they were necessary to show character’s expressions better
- Sakaguchi put effort into the battle system and came up with the Materia system
- Tetsuya Nomura, aside from working on the characters’ designs, also contributed to gameplay, he was the one who came up with the Limit system
- Zack was added near the end of the development, after the other main characters had been fleshed out
- Nomura suggested that either Tifa or Aerith die
- Aerith was to be the sole heroine, Tifa was added later
- Cloud’s hair was originally slicked back to reduce polygon usage
- Originally, Sephiroth and Aerith were to be brother and sister
- Afterwards, Sephiroth was to be Aerith’s first love (eventually, that idea led to the creation of Zack)
These are all quite interesting. The sprites vs. polygons argument is visible in what Xenogears, the other big Square game developed in the same period, eventually became – visually, the opposite of FFVII – with sprites for the characters and 3D polygonal environments, as opposed to the polygonal characters in pre-rendered 2D environments seen in FFVII. Square obviously wanted to try the different styles and see which came out better. I’d say both were quite impressive in their own way.
That the Super Deformed style outside of battles was chosen on purpose comes to no surprise to me. Many people like to bash FFVII because of the “Lego graphics,” but I always thought they added to the game’s charm and were quite understandable as Square’s first big forray into the world of 3D.
The fact that Sakaguchi came up with Materia and Nomura came up with Limit Breaks shows how these people working on the game were really mutli-talented and how the game development wasn’t just about each team member being assigned a specific role, but it was all a big team effort with everyone participating wherever they were needed at the time. It’s inspiring!
We already knew about some of the character-related revelations (like Tifa being added to the story after Aerith), but I certainly wasn’t aware that Aerith was to be Sephiroth’s sister originally! That idea sounds so exciting, the dynamic of the story would have been quite different that way. It could have turned into an even better story, but they didn’t take that path, so we can only imagine.
Either way… It’s hard to believe it’s already been 15 years since that incredible game was released! Very few since have even come close to, let alone top it. Final Fantasy VII will always remain a must for anyone interested in the RPG genre.