Final Fantasy VII is the first game I can remember that had a main character die as part of the unavoidable main story path, and the first game that truly moved me to think of games as a medium for creative expression in terms of the storyline's divergence from a linear path. Wonderful, simple storyline that manages to develop the nine characters available to the player to such a degree that you are truly able to describe individual and subtle nuances of their personalities. Side-quests and exploration leading to advances in characters' backstory, highly developed emotional attachment through narrative alone and the ability to really immerse a player deeply in every aspect of the world were features that I really hadn't seen before.
This was the first game that managed to envelop me as thoroughly as a novel could, and has made a lasting impact on me. To this day it is one of the only games that will provoke an emotional response when I hear music from the game (Aeris' theme) - an unmistakable sign of a wonderfully engaging storyline and full, attaching character development that has yet to be matched in my mind.
Ben Keen, Electronic Arts
Final Fantasy VII represented the greatest narrative jump forward for its time, both in terms of scope and depth. From the game's opening sequences, it was apparent that the steam enshrouded cityscape of Midgar was not only a breathtaking vista in and of itself, but provided a dark and brooding atmospheric setting for introducing the story's protagonists. As the dramatic elements unfolded, there were subtleties to the emotional tone of the characters that drew the player into the complex plot, and often elicited a deeply sympathetic response to their struggles. In a medium where a character dying is a customary occurrence, the death of Aeris was both unexpected and unexpectedly moving. These elements set new standards for the difficult process of incorporating compelling storytelling into an interactive world.