Planning sessions for Final Fantasy VII began in 1994 after the release of Final Fantasy VI. At the time, the game was planned to be another 2D project for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi intended the story to take place in modern New York City in the year 1999. Several of the staff members were working in parallel on Chrono Trigger, and development for Final Fantasy VII was interrupted when the other project became important enough to require the help of Yoshinori Kitase and other designers.
A rumor taken from Gamefan vol. 3 March 1995 says that the Super Famicom (SNES) version of Final Fantasy VII was going to use a Donkey Kong Country-style SGI graphics and the game was suppose to be on a 64 Megabits cartridge ( 8 MB ).
FFVII early concept (with characters from FFVI) taken from Final Fantasy 25th Anniversary Ultimania books:
Some of the ideas originally considered for Final Fantasy VII ended up in Chrono Trigger instead. Other ideas, such as the New York setting and the sorceress character Edea, were kept unused until the later projects Parasite Eve and Final Fantasy VIII respectively. The original script of Final Fantasy VII, which was written by Sakaguchi, was completely different from the finished product. Tetsuya Nomura recalled how Sakaguchi “wanted to do something like a detective story“. The first part of the story involved a character named “Hot Blooded Detective Joe” who was in pursuit of the main characters. The main characters managed to blow up the city of Midgar, which had already been developed for the story.
Development of Final Fantasy VII resumed in late 1995, and required the efforts of approximately 120 artists and programmers, using PowerAnimator and Softimage|3D software and a budget of more than US$30 million. Final Fantasy VI’s co-director and scenario writer, Kitase, returned to direct and co-write Final Fantasy VII and was concerned the franchise might be left behind if it did not catch up to the 3D computer graphics used in other games at the time. Production began after the making of a short, experimental tech demo called “Final Fantasy SGI” for Silicon Graphics, Inc. Onyx workstations. The demo featured polygon-based 3D renderings of characters from Final Fantasy VI in a real time battle. [Infos from Wikipedia]
In these early beta screens from the game, we can see some interesting differences, especially in the design of the characters and in the graphic style (less definite than the final version). Ian has made us to notice some of these differences:
- First what’s with the Names on top of the screen? I though they were just names but it appears those are on the status bar too.
- Also Barret in the first few screens, is much taller than he should be.
- Also Barret uses Hammerblow as a regular attack, maybe at one point in development he only used his gun for limit breaks.
- When the close up on the character models is shown all Characters and summons lack eyes.
- Red XIII is shown, but He wasn’t supposed to be a playable character at that point( It was originally just supposed to be Cloud, Barret and, Aeris) but he has a high-res model so maybe he was a boss or a summon.
- And instead of having Portraits they have actually sprites.
Thanks to Ian for the contribution, to Celine for the Gamefan rumor and to Andy Harrington for some of the screenshots, some scans by DarkMirage, on X-Cult Forum. ProgrammingAce has posted some high-res quality FF7 concept arts on the GamerHistory Forum, you can check them all in here! Also, a beta analysis of FFVII is available here.
In a video below recorded by Ace.Dark you can see a “beta” fight against a pyramid who seems to be immune to most status’ and just says things like “Not a probrem” “That’s too bad” “i’m sorry” “please call staff”. It is a place holder and very incomplete. As Robert Seddon has explained, it’s a remnant of the debugging process: you sometimes get this fight if something goes wrong with the game (hence ‘ENCOUNT[er] ERROR’). There’s a similar fight against ‘test’ pyramids accessible from the debug rooms (with a unique background in a demo and the original Japanese release, for some reason taken out in later versions).
In another video from TheLittleCuteThing’s Youtube Channel there are various differences found in the FF7 Beta 1.9 (the last beta disc printed before the final offical print of FF7 for japan and america): “text on the CGI intro, The Final Fantasy logo says 1996 instead of 1997, The guards that ambush you are for some reason wearing black outfits instead of red, You start out with Aeris and Barret in your party, instead of being alone, CGI`s are ALOT smoother to load on this part, Not all grainey and choppy, You dont talk to jess or anyone to open the doors, You go straight to them, The summon intro was slightly different and you dont get summons this early in the final, the boss is no longer a red scorpion, You have 3 minutes to escape the reactor instead of the massive 12 that you normally have.” Thanks to Zyniker for the link!
Also, Brad linked us to The FF7 Citadel, in which we can read some interesting articles about various unused items and models that are hidden in the game’s code, as the “Letter to a Daughter” and the “Letter to a Wife” that were related to a traveling salesman in Gongaga, from a removed sub-quest. There’s a sound track named “COMICAL.mid” that was never used in the final game, that was probably related to a removed humorous scene. A weird “red guy” (a placeholder / test character) can also be found in there.
Shademp, BrutalAl, and GlitterBerri comments on the differences between Final Fantasy VII prerelease screenshots and the final version of the game can be found in this page!
As we can read on Kotaku, in a Weekly Famitsu magazine from May 2012 there are some preliminary plot notes with some ideas that were never used in the game. One such plot note covers details about meeting the character Yuffie Kisaragi:
(Prep) From the opening and forward, wanted posters for Yuffie can be seen in town here and there.
Yuffie is a fugitive. Her age and what she looks like is different for each poster.
(How to make her join)
Or, she will attack Cloud when he is sleeping in an inn.
Either event can happen anywhere.
From this point, Yuffie can be recruited at any time.
The Wutai event requires Yuffie and therefore, she must be recruited in order to complete the Wutai event.
What Yuffie looks like (and her level) is determined when she first joins.
(This is based on the last wanted poster that was viewed)
Therefore, by selectively choosing which wanted poster you look at last, you can recruit the Yuffie that suits your liking.