There is no doubt that games like Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy for the NES have defined the structure that turned-based role-playing games follow today.
And while hard-core gamers have accepted RPGs into their homes for more than a decade now, it took Final Fantasy VII 's extraordinary CG sequences, A-plus quality graphics, outstanding soundtrack, and a great advertising campaign for the genre to finally be accepted into the homes of casual gamers in the US.
To create a game of Final Fantasy VII's magnitude, Square gave it an overzealous budget exceeding $30 million--the largest budget ever for a game at the time. With this money, a team of more than 120 artists was formed to create a game with graphics that would be better than anything ever seen before and with CG sequences that would blow people away. With the help of the huge art team, along with Nobuo Uematsu's work in the music department, Square implemented the CG sequences and the gameplay in a fashion that no gamer had ever seen before. As Andrew Vestal reports in GameSpot's History of Final Fantasy, "Final Fantasy VII integrates the FMV scenes directly into the gameplay, creating a nonstop visual feast for the player. Interwoven with an excellent musical score of more than 100 tunes and a complex and mature plot, Final Fantasy VII may well be the first 'interactive movie' that's actually enjoyable to play."
While trying to take the presentation of RPGs to a whole new level, Square had to make sure that the storyline and the gameplay mechanics were set up in a way that both casual gamers and hard-core gamers would enjoy--and it did just that. With its several highs and lows, many consider the storyline found in Final Fantasy VII to be the most dramatic one ever found in a video game. And, along with its entertaining "Materia" gameplay system, Final Fantasy VII was a game that was destined to be enjoyed by the mass market.
In the end, Final Fantasy VII did well because of the insane advertising campaign Sony put behind the game. As GameSpot's History of Final Fantasy states, "Final Fantasy VII proved what RPG fans had already known for years: Everyone would love RPGs if they'd just give them a chance!
Sony gave Final Fantasy VII more than a chance with the largest US marketing budget of any video game ever. Backed by an alluring print campaign and several beautiful (if slightly misleading) television spots, Final Fantasy VII has sold more than a million copies domestically. Polls have shown that the 'niche' RPG market now outranks fighting games and platformers in popularity amongst gamers. US gamers were once hard-pressed to find two role-playing titles in a year. Nowadays, as many as four RPGs can be released in a single month! While this new scenario brings with it new problems (lack of sleep and funds the most immediate), RPG lovers wouldn't have it any other way."
Final Fantasy VII made gaming history with its mass-market penetration. Because of it, publishers are bringing RPGs to the US in large numbers, allowing casual gamers here to finally get their hands on what hard-core RPGs fans have enjoyed for years.
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