Well, it wasn't Crash Bandicoot. Almost single-handedly selling millions of Playstation units was the RPG of RPGs, Final Fantasy 7. I remember thinking back then, screw getting a Nintendo 64, Mario sucks anyhow. My whole console buying experience was banked on where the Final Fantasy series went. Nintendo let it slip away for the moment. So Playstation it was.
Final Fantasy 7 marked the moment where the series took a controversial turn. It was abandoning its "fantasy" roots and embracing a more steampunk-ish, sci-fi stance. In retrospect, I am not sure why FF7 is widely regarded as the best in the series. It wasn't. Maybe top 3?
It was definitely a great game. Cloud Strife represented a long string of semi-mute, brooding anti-heroes in JRPGs that would come afterward. He wasn't the most sympathetic of main characters, but he had a ton of interesting characters around him that brought out the story. Most prominent being Aerith. Simply being, Aerith's existence in FF7 made Sephiroth, the white haired enigma with the black coat, one of the most hated villains in all of video games. SPOILER! Diving from the heavens, plunging his massively wicked Masamune through Aerith's back and through her stomach, he cemented himself as a calloused, despicable villain. And the scene where he burns the village and disappears into the flames is one of the most chilling, bad ass moments a villain can have. Geez...
Cloud, Sephiroth, Aerith, these are not just iconic Final Fantasy characters, these are iconic video game characters period.
So I would say Final Fantasy 7 brought the series to the mainstream for sure. Is that a good thing? I guess.
I remember being in junior high and hurrying home to play. The four discs were unprecedented in games at that time. Just made it seem even more epic. In retrospect, I vaguely remember finishing the game. I remember it being hard. Sephiroth being one of those transmogrifying multi-tiered bosses that wreck the most casual of players but give a genuine challenge to hardcore Final Fantasy enthusiasts.
I am by no means a Final Fantasy completist. I am happy just finishing the game. FF7 was well known for epic summons such as Knights of the Round and the hard-as-balls Weapons who caused many a headache for my friends who were more into that kind of thing.
Big ass swords, Mako reactors, tragic characters, planet destroying summons, weird dream sequences, a talking cat robot that rode on top of a big stuffed animal that looked like a deformed polar bear. This game had it all.
It was so popular in fact that it bred spin-off titles. The critically panned Dirge of the Cerberus featured vampiric gunslinger Vincent Valentine in a sort of 3rd person action game. It wasn't very good from what I remember. A better 3rd person action game came later in the form of Crisis Core, which in involved super-duper minor character Zack, who is barely in the original FF7 for 2 minutes. But the big super duper Buster Sword came from him and you get to swing the bastard around so that is kind of cool.
Since living in Japan, I have found that the most available game related Final Fantasy merchandise seems to be from FF7. I have several FF7 post cards and even a Barrett key chain (yeah, it is massive as well). The Japanese love FF7 that's for sure.
What would follow were two more Final Fantasy titles for the Playstation. The misunderstood and possibly better than I remembered FF8 and the dark horse of the series even though it is awesome, FF9. I'll cover them next time. Stay tuned!