FF7 Created Nintendo’s Biggest Rival

Cloud looking toward the Shinra building in Final Fantasy VII PS1

Final Fantasy VII was more than just a success for Sony. It also brought an end to Nintendo’s reign over third-party developers and gaming in general.

Final Fantasy VII continues to be not only one of the biggest entries in Square Enix’s franchise but also one of the most iconic video games ever made. It brought about an era where JRPGs ruled the roost, especially on the Sony PlayStation. In fact, the first appearance of Cloud Strife was instrumental to Sony beating rival company Nintendo at its own game.

Not only was it the catalyst for a wave of JRPGs, but Final Fantasy VII‘s success also saw third-party developers flee Nintendo in droves. This made the PS1 a huge hit, taking away Nintendo’s dominance over the video game industry. Such a fate has seen the once-mighty Nintendo struggle for relevance among generations of gamers ever since, and this “also-ran” status can be attributed to losing Square Enix’s exclusivity.

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Final Fantasy Was Once One of Nintendo’s Best Exclusive Franchises

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Final Fantasy VI SNES

Before the era of the Sony PlayStation, Square (not yet combined with Enix) was essentially a second-party developer in relation to Nintendo. Its games were only seen on Nintendo consoles, with entries in the Final Fantasy (Final Fantasy VI in particular) and Chrono franchises being killer apps on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Of course, during the time of the SNES’ predecessor, Nintendo pretty much kept video game developers prisoner. Having saved the industry following the video game crash of 1983, its console was now the one place for video game companies to put their titles. This meant that those companies had to comply with the often strenuous censorship and localization requirements that Nintendo had, though they’d soon have a few more options.

The success of Sega and its superfast rodent mascot put a definite cramp in a certain plumber’s jump, though its rivalry with Nintendo mainly existed during the heyday of the SNES and the Sega Genesis. Subsequent Sega hardware failed to capitalize on this success, and this would eventually see the company leave the console business. Thus, with Sega diminishing in popularity among gamers and developers, Nintendo’s stranglehold resumed anew. One newcomer would lure these developers away, however, with Square, in particular, being wooed by the promise of CDs.

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Cartridges Killed Any Chance of FFVII Being an N64 Game

For a while, Square actually developed the original Final Fantasy VII for the then-unreleased Nintendo 64 console. The game was already set to be more ambitious than any of its predecessors, with its scope and graphics pushing the boundaries of what could be done in video games. Unfortunately, this vision would be incredibly hampered if Nintendo had its way, as the N64 would continue the company’s trend of having games on cartridge software. This limited potential space, and it didn’t help that many developers wanted to or had already begun switching to disc-based games.

One such company was Sony, whose then-upcoming PlayStation console was originally going to be made in conjunction with Nintendo. Square had constantly suggested beforehand to Nintendo to develop its next console with discs in mind, but this obviously fell on deaf ears. Thus, Sony was able to woo the company, as its new console and software offered the space needed to bring Final Fantasy VII to life. The ensuing success of the game was a huge hit for Sony, putting the PS1 on the map and making it not only a rival to Nintendo but a superior.

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<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Cloud Strife during an early quest in Final Fantasy VII game

Sony’s dominance over Nintendo was mainly due to the vast library on the PS1, much of which was made up of titles from third-party developers once solely beholden to Nintendo. Capcom’s Resident Evil titles became some of the several must-have PS1 games, and the whole generation was something of an embarrassment for Nintendo. Though it had definite success stories like Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the N64 was the first of its consoles that was mainly a “Nintendo console” instead of a video game console with a wide swathe of games. It didn’t help that entire genres were missing, with fighting games and RPGs nearly MIA on the hardware. One notorious ad for Final Fantasy VII even mocked the weaker hardware of the N64, which cemented it as a sort of “kiddy console.”

Since then, Nintendo has been something of a developer of “secondary consoles,” with Sony and Microsoft creating more mainstream “primary” consoles. Third parties have consistently shunned the company, which has continuously chosen sometimes hackneyed gimmicks over more traditional gaming specifications. Square Enix has returned to make games for Nintendo boxes, though the mainline Final Fantasy entries have stayed mostly on other consoles. Such a sad predicament started with Final Fantasy VII, with the game’s ambition ultimately being the undoing of Nintendo’s legacy ever since.


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