Shinra Headquarters Invasion
What makes the Shinra Headquarters invasion in Final Fantasy VII so memorable is the flexibility players are allowed to exercise when tackling it. Sure, one could go in and fight tons of Shinra guards, but a quieter, stealthier approach in-line with Metal Gear Solid can also be pulled off. Each route is difficult in its own right, but allowing players the freedom to choose what best suits their playstyle was really quite innovative for the time.
To top it off, infiltrating the place was interesting in that it wasn’t a constant grind to the top. Puzzles and new characters broke up the action, balancing an arc that could have otherwise been a chore to slog through.
One of the main staples of any Final Fantasy game is summons and Final Fantasy VII doesn’t disappoint in that regard. Arguably the franchise’s most popular incarnation is Bahamut, and Final Fantasy VII offers not one, but three versions of it: Bahamut, Bahamut Zero and Neo Bahamut.
Known for his Mega-Flare attack and the huge elemental damage he inflicts upon enemies, each incarnation of Bahamut in the game is missable and can be lost forever in one playthrough if players fail to obtain the adequate Huge Materia necessary from four separate quests (each of which must be completed with success in one go). The reward for diligence here is pretty great, considering how awesome it is to summon the King of Dragons in battle.
Recruiting Vincent Valentine in Final Fantasy VII is memorable in how frustrating it can be to pull off. When players first visit the mansion at Nibelheim they’re told via letter that someone is trapped in the basement and that freeing him can only be done by finding the combination to a safe. Additionally, players are told they have only 20 seconds to open it correctly.
The letter does contain hints for people to figure out the combination, but they’re a bit enigmatic and require some good problem solving skills to figure out. For instance, “Look for the lid of the box with the most oxygen” is a clue that instructs players to go upstairs to the atrium of the west wing and pick up the Enemy Launcher, only to check back again to find the number. Another requires players to listen attentively to creaking floorboards and follow where the sound directs them to. The best one of all is written in invisible ink.
This moment in Final Fantasy VII could very well be the point where many players pulled their hair out.
Opening Bombing Mission
Final Fantasy VII’s opening bombing mission at the Mako reactor in Midgar is easily one of the best levels designed in all of gaming. Doing away with the old format RPGs at the time were associated with, this game flings the player right into the action. Indeed, this initial scene marks this entry apart from other titles in the genre, proclaiming at the get-go that it’s here to change convention up a bit.
Aside from gameplay, the music during this scene is impeccable. It encapsulates the mood and direction of the game so well that it has been reused time and time again in spin-off entries in the franchise like Theatrhythm and Dissidia. Hearing it again come time for Remake will make for a wonderful return home, that’s for sure.
Exploring Cloud’s Mind
A moment in Final Fantasy VII that resonates with modern sensibilities regarding mental health and identity can be found in Tifa’s journey into Cloud’s mind. It occurs after the game’s protagonist becomes mentally unstable due to experiments done on him by the Jenova Project and sees Tifa try to piece together parts of the wounded solider to make him whole again.
It’s definitely not a moment with as much fanfare as other entries on this list, but makes for an interesting, realistic take on the effects of war and trauma. If one thing’s for sure, it’ll be really interesting to see what Square does with this come time for Final Fantasy VII Remake’s release.
Mostly recounted in a series of flashbacks, it’s hard to explain exactly what didn’t go down at Cloud and Tifa’s hometown of Nibelheim. When players first enter Shinra mansion, it seems like nothing more than a haunted house. Gradually however, they learn the tragic story of Sephiroth’s mother, his destruction of the town and the death of Tifa’s father.
It’s gruesome, terrifying and very revealing, as up until this point many characters in the game are kept purposefully mysterious. Finally some weight is added to each characters’ quest for vengeance, and it’s an exciting reward after fending off tons of Sephiroth clones who go on and on about the greatness of Sephiroth and Reunion. Plus, it’s where players can finally recruit the super cool-looking Vincent.
Fans should take a minute here to remember the first time they played Final Fantasy VII. Midgar is enormous, an impressive city to venture through and lose one’s self in. It in itself could very well be Final Fantasy VII’s only area to explore, and not many would complain about that.
Now fans should try to imagine how it felt to leave Midgar and think “There’s more?!” Indeed, that first impression of feeling like the game’s only just begun is as joyous as it is mind-boggling.
Don Corneo’s Mansion
What newcomers to Final Fantasy VII’s universe have yet to discover is that the game is actually pretty lighthearted compared to older titles in the franchise. This is best exemplified in Cloud, Tifa, and Aerith’s mission to court Don Corneo so as to extract information from him.
The entire dialogue the characters have with each other here is hilarious, not to mention that Cloud himself is put through a series of embarrassing trials so as to procure the necessary garments needed to dress like a woman. It all makes for a good departure from the game’s more serious moments.
No Final Fantasy VII list would be complete without some mention of this scene. Coming seemingly completely out of nowhere, no one expected to have an actual party member – and a healer at that – die as a natural cause of simply progressing through the story. Moreover, no one expected Square had the gall to do that.
Though tragic and sad in its own right, what makes matters worse is how the game keeps players in suspense when it comes to the fate of all the Materia and items Aerith was carrying. On top of that, all the time players spent devoting themselves to making her a better party member could very well be flushed down the drain. If there was ever a case where thousands of people simultaneously bit their nails over a video game, this would be it.
It’s hard to pinpoint an exact Sephiroth moment for this list. His introduction is certainly memorable in that that’s the first time his theme, One-Winged Angel, is played, evoking a sense of misery and dread and making one want to push further into the game just to fight him.
If one exact scene has to be chosen, however, his boss fight at the very end of the title would be it. Though some fans argue that it’s a bit underwhelming considering the build-up, the three fights that players go through in order to finally defeat him are satisfying in that the light at the end of the (very) long tunnel is finally in sight, and payback for what Sephiroth has done can finally be dealt. Overall, it makes for one of the most alleviating experiences video games as a whole can offer.