(Written as of 2014)
Final Fantasy VII is one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful RPGs of all time. Without taking in the merchandise, the spin-off games or the spin-off films, the game discs alone have made over half a billion pounds, which is nothing short of phenomenal.
Before I address the subject matter of the article, there was actually dispute as to why the series is named Final Fantasy at all for some time. When I was growing up, one of the most prevailing theories was that the word final was an alternative to the word ultimate; and that to call the game Final Fantasy was to imply that the games contained the ultimate fantasy. But the fact of the matter is that the series’ creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, named it Final Fantasy as a dark joke. Squaresoft, the series’ developers, were in financial dire straits at the time of the release of the original Final Fantasy game, due to the company spending the majority of their money on a game called Holy Sword Legend: The Emergence of Excalibur. In scope, it was ambitious to the point where it became impossible to finish, and thus Hironobu Sakaguchi named his next game Final Fantasy, since he believed that it would be that last game he would ever work on.
Final Fantasies I through VI were all released on Nintendo consoles, such as the original NES and the Super Nintendo. So when Final Fantasy VII was released on the PlayStation back in 1997, it threw a lot of people for a loop, as they expected that it would have been released on the Nintendo 64 instead. Squaresoft were more lukewarm to the idea of the next game in the series being released in CD format as opposed to cartridge format, since CDs allowed for a greater amount of memory storage as well as improve audio quality. But there’s actually a widespread urban legend as to how it all happened.
According to this legend, Squaresoft acquired development kits for the Nintendo 64, and began work on developing Final Fantasy VII for the console, even creating a demo displaying what the game’s engine would look like. The alleged demo of Final Fantasy VII for the Nintendo 64, which has found its way online via a series of videos, featured 3D character sprites in battle with various creatures of the game, with some unimaginative people calling the demo Final Fantasy 64. People believed that Squaresoft had actually continued to work with the Nintendo 64’s hardware for quite some time, but became increasingly frustrated with the limitations that came with developing the game on cartridge format, and subsequently scrapped the project, and began developing the game for Sony’s first foray into the video gaming market; the PlayStation.
Though it’s all very much believable, since Square did indeed plan to develop the game for the Nintendo 64, the fact of the matter is the story doesn’t hold up to closer inspection. The dead giveaway is that the demo doesn’t feature new characters, but rather, it contains characters from Final Fantasy VI, such as Locke and Terra. The only reason people took exception to this is because they’d heard that Final Fantasy VII was planned to be a direct sequel to VI, which also isn’t true. But most of the confusion surrounding it all had to do with the timing, since the demo was created before Squaresoft could have possibly had access to the Nintendo 64’s hardware or any development kits for the console. The demo was actually running on Microsoft Windows.
What really happened is that Squaresoft waited around for some time, hoping that they would indeed be able to make Final Fantasy VII for the Nintendo 64, since they thought it would have certainly made the game much more marketable. But even before development kits were sent to Squaresoft, and right when Nintendo announced that the Nintendo 64’s games would be on cartridge format, that’s when they started looking at the PlayStation.
The truth behind the demo dubbed Final Fantasy 64 is that it’s actually a fully playable game, developed to demonstrate the effectiveness of RPG gameplay on a PC. But it didn’t pan out into a finished product, and it turned out that the Final Fantasy VI characters included in it are nothing more than placeholders; Squaresoft wanting to use familiar and identifiable characters in order to try out something new. The demo’s official name if Final Fantasy SGI Demo. To me, it all represents an example of how in some cases; fact can be stranger than fiction.