Final Fantasy VII, a console role-playing game developed by Square (now Square Enix) and originally released in 1997, features a large number of fictional character in major and minor roles. The game follows protagonist Cloud Strife, a troubled mercenary who joins with several others to stop the megacorporation 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 the central concern as new forces emerge to challenge the original group. Cloud and his team eventually face Sephiroth, the game's main antagonist. The characters and the world they inhabit (known as Gaia but originally just referred to as "The Planet") have been expanded on in a series of spin-off games and movies known as Compilation of Final Fantasy VII.
The original Final Fantasy VII game features nine playable character, two of whom—Yuffie and Vincent—are optional. These nine are viewed by many as the main characters of the Compilation series. Their roles are minor outside the original game but each character has nevertheless become extremely popular.
When looking at the story of the original Final Fantasy VII, character designer Tetsuya Nomura decided it was very dark and needed characters who reflected that. Thus Cloud's original character design called for slicked back black hair with no spikes, intended to serve as a contrast to Sephiroth's long, flowing silver hair. However, to give Cloud a unique feature that would emphasize his role in the game as the main character, Nomura changed the design to feature Cloud's now trademark shock of spiky, bright blond hair. For Tifa's design, Nomura has admitted to facing a difficult decision in choosing to give her a miniskirt or pants. With input from other members of the game's development staff, he eventually selected a dark miniskirt, contrasted by Aerith' long, pink dress. Vincent's character developed from horror researcher to detective, then to chemist, and finally to the figure of a former Turk with a tragic past. It has been explained that his crimson mantle was added to symbolize the idea of carrying a heavy weight on his shoulders associated with death. Nomura has indicated that Cid Highwind's fighting style resembles that of a Dragon Knight, a character class chosen because his last name is the same as that of two previous Dragoon featured in the Final Fantasy series, Ricard Highwind of Final Fantasy II and Kain Highwind of Final Fantasy IV.
Although the game was Nomura's favorite Final Fantasy project, he felt that Final Fantasy VII was hindered by graphical limitations, and that his designs were, consequently, very plain in comparison to his "true" style.
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Links: FFVII Character's Wiki Article Final Fantasy Fan Official Site