The mega-popular Final Fantasy 7 is often credited with popularizing the JRPG. Western gamers, however they happen to feel about this iconic title, owe it a significant debt for that.
This was the title that defined so much about what it means to be a JRPG. A plot that veers towards the charmingly shonky quite often, a wealth of options to customize your characters to your liking, frequent battles, leveling up, grinding… it’s all here. As, of course, is a sizable overworld to explore. Some of the game’s towns and cities are crucial to the plot and unforgettable. Others seem insignificant, but offer intriguing possibilities for curious players. Let’s take a look at some of the greatest cities in Final Fantasy 7.
On finally arriving in the game’s overworld after that long, explosive Midgar sequence, you might feel a little underwhelmed by Kalm. After all, this town is (presumably) so named because it’s small, quiet and peaceful.
It may all fit onto one screen (the interiors of buildings aside, of course), but there’s a lot happening here. The in-depth tale of Cloud’s past (as he understands it at that point) is relayed here by the man himself, in a flashback sequence that’s so long Barret demands the player be given an opportunity to save in the middle of it. Not only that, but Kalm becomes relevant again way into the endgame, through a mysterious traveler who lives here.
9 City of the Ancients
Now, there’s an obvious flaw with the City of the Ancients, in terms of interesting NPCs and such: there’s nobody here. This makes sense (business opportunities for store owners would be a little thin on the ground), yes, but it does put a bit of a downer on things.
Sarcasm aside, though, the City of the Ancients is one of the most story-significant locations in the game. This is where the party spends the end Disk One in the original PlayStation release, the place where Aeris… well, we all remember that scene. Later in the game, the party discovers the truth about Aeris’ Materia here, the world’s last hope.
Ah, yes. Wutai. The entirely optional town that, for reasons best known to Squaresoft, has a whole darn continent just to itself.
Final Fantasy 7 fans tend to have very mixed feelings about Wutai. It all comes down to how much you like Yuffie, and/or the protracted sidequest she instigates when you visit Wutai’s continent (if you do so as soon as it’s accessible). If you’re interested in hearing more about Yuffie, the Turks and Don Corneo than the main story offers, you’ll want to make a beeline for Wutai as soon as you unlock the Tiny Bronco. There’s some great exclusive loot here too, including the Leviathan Materia.
7 Rocket Town
Speaking of the Tiny Bronco, let’s cross over to the place you unlock the plane-turned-boat: Rocket Town. This is the home of Cid Highwind: crotchety pilot, wannabe astronaut and the most foul-mouthed drink-your-tea-insister the world has ever seen.
Many locations in Final Fantasy 7 are relevant only for the first visit, with little (if any) reason to ever return. Rocket Town, however, is home to some of the most significant and memorable set-pieces in the game (the escape on the Tiny Bronco, the space flight) and revisited several times throughout the story.
6 Costa Del Sol
In a game that quickly descends into an Armageddon-type situation with a meteor (or rather, Meteor) hurtling towards the planet, it makes perfect sense that things get more than a little dark and morbid at times. Costa del Sol may just be a pitstop on Cloud and the party’s journey, but it provides a good deal of comic relief.
The sunny beach represents a bit of a vacation for our heroes, and the silly dialogue and encounter with Professor Hojo reflects that. There’s also some fantastic loot here, and even a villa the player can buy, if they work up enough gil!
5 Cosmo Canyon
As with Rocket Town, Cosmo Canyon is the setting for some pivotal moments in the story. Highlights include the journey through the Cave of the Gi, Red XIII’s poignant discovery about his father and the touching fireside moment.
Later, we return to Cosmo Canyon with the Huge Materia in hand, for some incredibly emotional scenes and dialogue. Final Fantasy 7’s dialogue certainly is heavy-handed and flawed, but it can touch the player when it wants to. Aside from all of that, excellent Materia like HP Plus and MP Plus is first available here, which is key for those who want to start working on making their characters as powerful as possible.
4 North Corel
As far as first impressions go, North Corel is not a location that’s likely to wow many players. As we quickly discover, the town was left in ruins by the dastardly Shinra company, with the remaining residents blaming Barret (who once lived there) for the tragedy.
In yet more emotional scenes, Barret elaborates on his past. Later, we return here during the Huge Materia quest, for precious loot like the Ultima Materia and Barret’s Catastrophe Limit Break. There’s so much more to this rundown town than meets the eye.
As fans will know, there are two parts to the city of Junon and both have vital roles to play in the story. The dilapidated seaside town we visit first (Under Junon) sets us up to head up to the vast Shinra-infested city above (via an adorable encounter with a little girl and her marine friend Mr. Dolphin).
Amid the pomp and circumstance of Shinra’s Junon, there are a huge number of shops and homes to visit and NPCs to talk to. It’s the biggest city in the game besides Midgar and hosts the iconic sequence in which Cloud and co. disguise themselves as Shinra operatives for their trip across the ocean. Besides that, who could forget Tifa’s later battle with Scarlet atop the Sister Ray?
In terms of significance to the plot, Nibelheim’s one of the greatest cities in the game without a doubt. Cloud and Tifa’s hometown, it’s at the center of the intrigue surrounding the true nature of our protagonist and his memories.
Through the game, the player visits Nibelheim in flashbacks, in the present and in trippy Lifestream memory sequences. From a gameplay standpoint, there’s so much here: the pathway to the mountains behind, the fascinating secrets of Shinra Mansion and the bizarre enemies encountered within… enigmatic fan favorite Vincent Valentine can also be met and recruited in the basement if you solve the puzzle and earn the key. Definitely one of the game’s most iconic towns.
Well, this pick was inevitable. When it comes to the most important and memorable cities in Final Fantasy 7, Midgar is always going to come out on top. From the moment Cloud vaults from that train onto the platform, he’s thrown into a sequence of Midgar-centric events that last a very, very long time before the player ever hits the world map.
The size and scale of the place are so vast that the first volume of the much-ballyhooed Final Fantasy 7 Remake is based entirely within its confines. The various numbered sectors of Midgar were home to so many events that franchise fans will remember forever, and come March 3 2020, we’ll be given a stunning new perspective on it all.