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Final Fantasy VII was released in 1997 for the original Playstation. To say it was popular is kind of an understatement.
Not that it's surprising. FFVII marked a lot of firsts: the first FF game to hit the Playstation, the first one with fully rendered 3D characters, the first one with FMVs... the list goes on. For many people, it was their first Final Fantasy, and it's not a stretch to call it the most popular FF title even to this day. For people who aren't into the series at all, Cloud is typically one of the first characters to come to mind.
These days, it's easy to look at FFVII's graphics with some amount of scorn, but at the time, they were both cutting-edge and an enormous leap from the previous sprite-based games. (For me, as someone who had few chances to play any 3D games as a kid and came to FFVII after playing several of the previous titles in the series, I thought the graphics were awesome even in 2006. It's all about perspective.)
The key feature of FFVII's gameplay is its materia system, which allows the characters to cast magic, use skills, and enhance stats. Each weapon and piece of armor has a certain number of slots for materia, and those slots are either linked or unlinked. If linked, support materia can be added to spells and commands to further enhance a character's abilities — for example, linking an All materia to Cure allows Aerith to cure everyone in the party, not just herself. The sheer depth of the materia system makes FFVII ridiculously fun, and far more complex than simply choosing which action to take each turn.
Of course, the story is what's kept fans compelled for over fifteen years now, and FFVII's is a doozy. The world is controlled by the Shinra Electric Power Company, which sucks mako energy from the Planet itself to provide cheap, efficient energy to the people. But not everyone agrees with taking from the Planet's life to better their own, and the rebel group AVALANCHE is targeting mako reactors in Shinra's city of Midgar. Working with them is the mercenary Cloud Strife, who soon becomes embroiled in an adventure not only against Shinra but against his nemesis, Sephiroth.
compilation of Final Fantasy VII
FFVII was later expanded into a series of its own, comprising of a film and several other games. Let's use a handy list.
- Before Crisis - 2004 cell phone game focusing on the Turks; greatly expanded the world of FFVII, but never released outside Japan
- Advent Children - 2005 fully animated sequel to FFVII, taking place two years after the ending
- Dirge of Cerberus - 2006 PS2 game sequel, taking place one year after AC and focusing on Vincent Valentine (an optional character in the original game)
- Crisis Core - 2007 PSP game prequel focusing on Zack Fair, takes place seven years before FFVII up to the start of the original game
- Advent Children Complete - 2009 extended cut of the film, with thirty more minutes of footage and various visual improvements
A few other things have been released over the years, like a novella (On the Way to a Smile, packaged with AC initially and later released on its own in Japan), a couple of OVAs (Last Order, a retelling of the Nibelheim Incident that's since been retconned by Crisis Core, and Case of Denzel, a story from On the Way to a Smile), and even a few of the minigames from the Gold Saucer have come out as individual games.
how do i play it?
Getting hold of FFVII is super easy these days. You can buy it on the Playstation Network for $10 (in the US) and play it on a PS4, PS3, PSP, or Vita. (Price may vary in your region. Sales are infrequent on the PSN, but do happen.) This version is identical to the original Playstation release.
If you want to play it on the PC, it was rereleased in 2012 and is widely available; in the US it's $12. (Again, sales do happen; they're not uncommon on Steam. Put the game on your wishlist and you'll be alerted when it goes on sale.) The Steam version comes with achievements, cloud saves, and a character booster if you want to just breeze through the story.
Don't worry too much about specs — I first played the game on a crappy school-issued laptop in 2006 and it ran perfectly fine. That said, if you're looking to mod the game, there's a sizable mod community for FFVII over at the Qhimm Forums. Use at your own risk, etc.
A remake of FFVII is currently in development for the PS4; details are scarce, but it looks to be a complete remake from the ground up, not just a remaster. It has no planned release date, because this is Square Enix we're talking about.