The main hero of Final Fantasy VII is the spiky-haired mercenary, Cloud Strife. He will always have two other members in his “party,” which is the group you use in battles. Right away you meet Cloud’s closest friends, Barrett and Tifa, the latter of which provides a potential love interest for Cloud. There is also a gentle flower saleswoman named Aerith (or Aeris in the original translation); Red XIII, a talking dog/fox; Cid, a foul mouthed and misogynistic rocket pilot; Cait Sith, a robot cat riding a fat marshmallow thing; Yuffie, a thieving child ninja; and Vincent, a dark gunman with a darker past. This moody bunch is out to save the planet from the evil Shinra Company, genetically engineered bad guy Sephiroth, and his monstrous mother Jenova, who crashed into the planet eons ago on a cursed meteor.
Confused yet? Just wait. The story becomes very convoluted at times, especially because you can spend several hours leveling up between plot points (to “level up” is to participate in a very large number of battles to make your characters stronger) and forget important details when you actually come back to the story. But in light of that, let me say that I have never been as satisfied to beat a game as when I struck the final blow to Sephiroth for the first time.
Compared to later Final Fantasies, I have to say Square did this one right. Leveling up is fun, the sidequests worthwhile, and the most powerful summon in the game, Knights of the Round, is a genuine reward for the hours spent earning it. Final Fantasy VII was my introduction to the series, and for that reason alone it holds a special place in my hierarchy life-wasting activities. This is not just a “great game for its time.” FFVII still has exactly the right blend of story, challenge, strategy, and scope to be one of the best games ever made.