Final Fantasy has to be one of the most popular game series in gaming history and 500 Years Later: An Oral History of Final Fantasy VII is a book that celebrates this much loved Playstation RPG. The book is an extended adaptation of Matt Leone’s celebrated historical article that was published online by Polygon back in 2017. Darren Wall, the founder of Read Only Memory, happened to read this article and within days he had made contact with Matt and the discussions to release a physical book had already begun.
When I first got the book, I immediately thought it was small. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I guess, by ROM’s standards, this has to be the smallest book they have published. It’s not a big issue as the book, as the title suggests, is an oral history and, therefore, the visuals are not why you would purchase this book. Rachel Dalton is credited for the design of what really is a beautifully designed book. It is high-end publishing at its very best and anyone who has read any of the previous ROM publications will know what I mean by that.
The layout and typography will not be to everyone’s liking but you can’t please everyone. A lovely touch to the whole presentation was the inclusion of three die-cut, foil blocked bookmarks to accompany your reading experience, including a special codebreaker bookmark that is used to decipher a secret code found within the book. This physical version has been enhanced for print, featuring especially commissioned illustrations, eight new standalone interviews and a foreword by series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi.
Interviewees include such names as Shigeo Maruyama, Frank Hom, William Chen and Rex Ishibashi. These are spread throughout the book and all build towards the story being told. To me it felt more of an oral history of the business fortunes of Square before and after Final Fantasy VII, rather than the history of the creative decisions that went into creating the game. This makes for a fascinating read especially for fans of the game.
Overall this book follows the style of story telling that Read Only Memory have claimed as their own, a gaming history book written like a novel. It is a fascinating read and one I highly recommend.
A great read, its a subject that fascinated me but overall I would say its a book for fans of the game more than anyone else but if you have a slight interest on how the game became so successful, this book could be for you.