Over the years, it’s become hard work for FFVII fans to keep up with what’s supposed to be canon and what isn’t. Amidst all the games, movies, novellas, guide books, and alternate universe titles, what’s a FFVII fan to do?
Read this article, that’s what!
I’m going to take all the work out of it on your end and lay everything out for you, the fans, to digest in a simple, easy-to-follow manner. So, the next time you’re in a debate about FFVII with HeartlessAngel527 or FlowerGoddess777 and they begin to reference Cloud’s wing, Aerith waiting around for a certain spikey-haired emo kid, or other stuff you know doesn’t belong, you can go all Phoenix Wright on them.
So, click “Read the rest of this entry” and let’s get started.
First, let’s list in order of publication all the FFVII games that have come out since 1997 and the release of the original FFVII:
-Before Crisis (2004)
-Final Fantasy VII Snowboarding (2005)
-Dirge of Cerberus (2006)
-Dirge of Cerberus Lost Episode (2006)
-Crisis Core (2007)
Next, we’ll list all FFVII movies, also in their order of publication:
-Advent Children (2005)
-Last Order (2005)
-Advent Children Complete (2009)
-On the Way to a Smile: Case of Denzel (2009)
Next up, a list of FFVII novels and novellas:
-The diary-like entries by several characters in the FFVII Kaitai Shinsho The Complete guide book (1997)
-Maiden Who Travels the Planet (2005)
-On the Way to a Smile:
Case of Denzel (2005)
Case of Tifa (2005)
Case of Barret (2007)
Case of Tifa (revised edition; 2009)
Case of Yuffie (2009)
Case of Nanaki (2009)
Case of Shin-Ra (2009)
Case of the Lifestream Black (2009)
Case of the Lifestream White (2009)
-Lateral Biography TURKS -The Kids Are Alright- (2011)
Finally, a list of other games that include FFVII characters or plot elements also found in FFVII:
-Final Fantasy Tactics (1997)
-Chocobo Racing (1999)
-Final Fantasy X (2001)
-Kingdom Hearts series (began in 2002)
-Final Fantasy X-2 (2003)
-Dragon Quest & Final Fantasy in Itadaki Street Special (2004)
-Dragon Quest & Final Fantasy in Itadaki Street Portable (2006)
-Dissidia Final Fantasy series (began in 2008)
Before going into the whys and wherefores concerning some titles being canon and others not, I will now give you the list of titles that are canon to the FFVII story:
-Dirge of Cerberus
-Advent Children Complete
-On the Way to a Smile (all of them)
-Lateral Biography TURKS -The Kids Are Alright-
-Final Fantasy Tactics
-Final Fantasy X
-Final Fantasy X-2
-Dissidia Final Fantasy series
Now, let’s move on to those whys and wherefores. First, let’s refresh on what the term “canon” means.
What does “canon” mean?
The word is derived from the Greek word “kanon,” meaning “rule,” “standard” or “measure.” Itself derived from the Hebrew word “kaneh,” it first came into use in its modern meaning from the councils who decided the ecclesiastical laws and official texts of the Catholic Church, those becoming the canon laws and texts.
Eventually adapted from that concept, canon for a fictional universe — or the franchise that depicts it — is what is considered to be the official continuity. For an illustration of this concept, let’s turn to the franchise that pioneered criteria for determining such matters where fictional universes are concerned.
“Star Wars” is George Lucas’s creation, and — being officially licensed creations as they are — while he might take elements added to the so-called Expanded Universe of “Star Wars” by other authors, only those titles with direct involvement or approval from Lucas himself are considered the “absolute canon, the real story of ‘Star Wars’” as Stephen J. Sansweet, Director of Content Management and Head of Fan Relations for Lucasfilm, has referred to it. Though distinctions may become difficult at times due to the Expanded Universe featuring a great many products that are all officially licensed by Lucasfilm even while Lucas himself has no direct involvement in their creation (consequently, the overall franchise has a tiered hierarchy with levels of canonicity rather than a strictly in-or-out policy), comments from Lucas in the May 2008 issue of “Total Film” magazine make the matter quite simple: “… the movies and TV shows are all under my control and they are consistent within themselves.”
With that comment as the basis for determining absolute “Star Wars” canon, the overall definitive canon of the franchise is the seven films (“The Phantom Menace,” “Attack of the Clones,” “The Clone Wars,” “Revenge of the Sith,” “A New Hope,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”), as well as the animated series “Star Wars: Droids,” “Star Wars: Ewoks,” and both the “Clone Wars” and “The Clone Wars.”
Information from interviews with Lucas or his production notes also fall under this umbrella, as do any deleted scenes from the films that are not in conflict with the final products. In the event of new Lucas-involved media — including rereleases of past films — that introduce new material or contradict previous facts, the newer material is considered to replace the old, and the most current vision of events becomes the new canon.
Though there is disagreement among fans about the exact mechanics of it all where Expanded Universe titles are concerned, a simple standard often followed is that EU titles can be considered in-continuity so long as they do not contradict established facts from the Lucas-involved works. However, due to his lack of involvement, they are at risk for being written out of continuity altogether — “decanonized” is the term often used — in the event that Lucas puts out a new work with elements that don’t correlate to those in the EU material. Without the overall protection of being a work from Lucas himself, those elements of contradiction call into question the rest of the work, and — unless otherwise afforded a place in the official continuity by a comment to that effect from Lucas — the entire work itself is considered struck from canon, or decanonized.
Lucas himself keeps the concept even more simple than that. As far as he’s concerned, there’s two “Star Wars” continuities — the universe he works on, and the parallel Expanded Universe, which includes all the details of his own continuity, as well as those added by other authors. As he put it in an August 2005 interview with “Starlog” magazine, “When I said [other people] could make their own ‘Star Wars’ stories, we decided that, like ‘Star Trek’, we would have two universes: My universe and then this other one.”
Due to examining the “Star Wars” franchise, we’re unavoidably getting a bit far afield of the idea in its most general terms, so the concept of canon as it applies to fiction is best summarized as follows: it is the official continuity of a fictional universe as recognized by the franchise’s owners and/or creators, in which the most recent depiction of events is considered to be the current version.
Obviously, it can become a bit tricky for situations where the original creator no longer holds ownership rights to the creation and it’s then taken in different directions than the creator intended, but these standards generally work pretty well. Also, while one might think it becomes more difficult to make determinations about canon when dealing with products such as Final Fantasy VII, where the finished product was the work of several core creators and is also owned by a company that they merely work for, it can actually be much easier, for reasons we’re about to see.
Now that we have a standard for determining canonicity, we’ll begin applying it to the various FFVII-related media in order to establish why the list given earlier is the definitive canon of the franchise.