Characters of the Final Fantasy VII series

Tetsuya Nomura's designs of the main playable characters in the original Final Fantasy VII game. Clockwise from top right: Cait Sith, Tifa, Barret, Cloud, Aerith, Yuffie, Red XIII, Vincent and Cid

Final Fantasy VII, a role-playing video game developed by Square (now Square Enix) and originally released in 1997, features a large number of fictional characters in both major and minor roles. VII has been followed by multiple sequels and prequels, grouped into the multimedia series Compilation of Final Fantasy VII: these include the 2004 mobile game Before Crisis, the 2005 movie sequel Advent Children, the 2006 shooter spinoff Dirge of Cerberus, and the 2007 action game Crisis Core. Other media include spin-off books and the original video animation Last Order. The setting of Final Fantasy VII is a world that has been described as an industrial or post-industrial science fiction setting.[1] It is referred to as "the Planet" in most of the games, and was retroactively named "Gaia" in some Square Enix promotional material.[2]

VII follows Cloud Strife, a troubled mercenary who joins with an eco-terrorist group to stop Shinra from draining the life of the Planet to use as an energy source. As the story progresses, conflicts escalate and the world's safety becomes their central concern as new forces emerge to challenge the original group. Cloud and his team eventually face off against the game's antagonist, Sephiroth. Other important characters in the series include Aerith Gainsborough, a flower seller who becomes a good friend to Cloud; Zack Fair, Cloud's friend, a former soldier of Shinra and the protagonist of Crisis Core; and Vincent Valentine, a man made immortal by Shinra experimentation and the protagonist of Dirge of Cerberus. The conflict between Cloud and Sephiroth forms the core narrative around which many of the series' stories are built. Other characters include the Turks, a covert group which originally worked for Shinra.

The original characters were designed by Tetsuya Nomura, who had done monster designs for Final Fantasy VI and was chosen for the role after his designs impressed producer Hironobu Sakaguchi. Nomura was responsible for many of the characters and their stories. The scenario for the original game was written by Sakaguchi, Yoshinori Kitase and Kazushige Nojima. Nomura, Kitase and Nojima have been involved in other titles in the Compilation. The characters of VII have met with positive reception in contemporary and modern reviews, while their portrayal in the Compilation titles has been mixed: while Crisis Core was generally praised, the focus on secondary characters in Dirge of Cerberus drew mixed opinions from some, while their appearance in Advent Children was generally cited as confusing or poor for newcomers to the series. The entire cast, along with multiple side characters and villains, have remained popular among critics and series fans over the years, with many lists and opinion polls citing them as some of the best characters in the Final Fantasy series.

Concept and creation

The original concept for Final Fantasy VII's world was for a fully modern setting, but after the project moved from the 2D Super Nintendo Entertainment System to development for the PlayStation console, the setting altered with it. Elements from the original concept were later used in Final Fantasy VIII and Parasite Eve.[3] The game's producer, Hironobu Sakaguchi, chose character designer Tetsuya Nomura to create the main cast. Nomura had previously worked on monster designs for Final Fantasy VI. Sakaguchi chose Nomura after being amused by the way Nomura did the storyboarding for the cutscenes.[4] Talking of his role as character designer, Nomura stated that when he was brought on, the main scenario had not been completed, but he "went along like, 'I guess first off you need a hero and a heroine', and from there drew the designs while thinking up details about the characters. After [he'd] done the hero and heroine, [he] carried on drawing by thinking what kind of characters would be interesting to have. When [he] handed over the designs [he'd] tell people the character details [he'd] thought up, or write them down on a separate sheet of paper."[5] Nomura also created Zack Fair, who was a late addition to the cast meant to add depth to Cloud and Aerith's relationship, and came up with the name for Red XIII, wanting an "interesting" name that combined a color and a number.[5] Although the game was Nomura's favorite Final Fantasy project, he felt that it was hindered by graphical limitations, and that his designs were, consequently, very plain in comparison to his "true" style.[6]

The game's plot was created by Sakaguchi, although the majority of scenario writing was done by Yoshinori Kitase and Kazushige Nojima, who conceived of the Shinra plot thread, Cloud and Sephiroth's relationship and Cloud's backstory. The Lifestream, the source of life for the planet, was one of the earliest concepts created for VII, but its depiction and purpose changed drastically during development.[7] The concepts behind the Lifestream and Aerith's iconic death scene were sparked in Sakaguchi by the death of his mother, which inspired a wish to create a realistic death for Aerith rather than a "Hollywood" sacrificial death.[8] The "dark" theme described by Nomura is continued throughout the Compilation, with characters such as Kadaj, Loz and Yazoo in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and the Tsviets in Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII. Producer Yoshinori Kitase stated that voice acting was one of the topics to which the Compilation team paid close attention. As Cloud and Vincent have similar personalities, care was taken to differentiate between them and their dialogue.[9] The compilation was originally conceived as only one title (Advent Children), which focused on Tifa and Cloud, but they eventually expanded it into a collection which included other games focusing on other characters, such as Zack and Vincent.[10] Nomura himself requested Hajime Tabata, the director of Before Crisis, to create a game focusing on the Turks.[11]