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That time much of Final Fantasy 7's roster was shoved into a really bad Tekken clone as guest fighters

Yet I still spent way too much time playing it growing up

Posted by Dakota 'DarkHorse' Hills • April 9, 2020 at 11:37 a.m. PDT • Comments: 52

After years and years of waiting, we're now less than a day from Final Fantasy 7 Remake's long-awaited launch which has a ton of eager fans within the fighting game community counting down the seconds. The game is so popular that its main cast of characters still remains among the most-wanted guests in fighters to this day.

Many of these players got their wish when Cloud was amazingly revealed for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS, but most probably aren't aware that Final Fantasy 7's crew actually appeared quite prominently in a 3D fighting game back in the late 90's named Ehrgeiz: God Bless The Ring — a title that probably still sends shivers up the spines of anyone who had the misfortune of playing it growing up.

The 3D fighting game was first released back in arcades and the original PlayStation in 1998 where it would come to North America a year later.

You'd think a fighting game with Cloud, Tifa, Sephiroth and others would be feature the big Final Fantasy stars of the day front and center, but that wasn't really the case.

Ehrgeiz features its own original cast of characters which were essentially overshadowed by Square's RPG current hotness of the time to the point where I only remembered like one of them without looking them up.


Originally, the arcade version of the game only included Cloud Strife and Tifa Lockhart among the playable roster which had an interesting time-based release function to hide them away when it first released.

Cloud was the first to pop up 30 days after the arcade system was initally turned on while Tifa would only appear after 60 days from the title's internal clock.

"Originally, the arcade version of Ehrgeiz only featured Cloud Strife and Tifa Lockhart among the playable roster which had an interesting time-based release function to hide them away when it first released"

That moment of their reveal may be lost on us now, but it must have been nuts to see FF7 characters randomly show up one day in a Namco arcade machine.

If you take a closer look at Ehrgeiz, you may notice that the game bears more than a striking resemblance to Bandai Namco's beloved Tekken series, and there's some good reasons for that.

Seiichi Ishii, the original designer of Virtua Fighter and director of the first two Tekken games, actually directed and designed Ehrgeiz as well with his new company at the time, DreamFactory.

To give it some of that Final Fantasy flare though, all of the character designs in the game were actually done by Tetsuya Nomura, who'd of course go on to direct Kingdom Hearts and FF7's remake.


Ehrgeiz's Final Fantasy 7 portraits done by Tetsuya Nomura

The fighting game was also built from the ground up for the Namco System 12 arcade board which both Tekken 3 and Tekken Tag Tournament used around the same time period and the similarities don't stop there.

Ehrgeiz's main character is called Godhand within the game, but that's not his actual name. The real thing listed under his imaginary birth certificate says Ken Mishima, meaning he shares the same surname as Heihachi and Kazuya from the Tekken series.

Godhand even features some of the same fighting moves / style as the Mishima's though he also apparently has some attack similarities to Jin and Paul as well.

When the game made its way to the PS1, Sephiroth, Vincent, Yuffie, and Zack Fair were all added to the Namco and Square collaboration with the latter three being hidden characters that must be unlocked and share moves with other fighters on the main cast — Yuffie plays like Sasuke for instance.

Now, all of this sounds very enticing on paper, which it is, but sitting down to play Ehrgeiz is let's just say not the best experience in the world.

"The cursor movement sound is honestly ear-splitting and can be spammed repeatedly by just mashing around the directional buttons to drive all of your friends nuts"

Upon loading the game up, you'll be greeted with a PS1-era CGI intro with the cast which leads to perhaps one of the worst fighting game menus I've encountered which actually take you to completely different game choices.

The cursor movement sound is pretty ear-splitting and can be spammed repeatedly by just mashing around the directional buttons to drive all of your friends nuts.

Once you make it into the actual fighting game portion, Ehrgeiz offers arcade, versus and practice modes which all look serviceable right up until the match loads in.

Up close, the game looks and feels a bit like Tekken with its easy three hit strings though I'd say it actually plays more like early arena fighters like Power Stone... except you can't use an analog stick to move.


Trying to use the d-pad to quickly navigate around a stage and your opponent will quickly leave you frustrated as you'll find yourself jumping from pressing left twice or just get wrecked by a bunch of low-hitting attacks that will completely go under most things you can throw out.

There's also platforming and weapon pickups to acquire by running around the maps which also don't really add much to the experience.

Despite many fighters come equipped with their own weaponry, everyone's default play-style relies on hand-to-hand combat. Luckily, you can change this by pressing the circle button to pull out Cloud's Buster Sword or Sephiroth's Masamune which will then replace their normals — and also seemingly take away their ability to block without putting it away first.

Running around with giant swords out is probably about the most fun the game gets, and the two aforementioned Soldier fighters can even charge up a Meteor spell as their super move.

Tifa of course doesn't fight with a weapon, so her circle button change is a bit neat. The special button seemingly let's her pull out a fire materia to throw a projectile at the opponent.

If you manage to make it all of the way through arcade mode, Django will be waiting at the top as the final boss who is a four-legged creature who bears a striking similarity to Red 13 — he even has an alternate color which makes him look like the Final Fantasy character.

I got to play Ehrgeiz for the first time probably when I was about 12 years old or so thanks to my best friend growing up having a copy of the game.

We spent hours playing through arcade and versus to unlock and try out all of the FF7 characters because heck yeah I can make Vincent and Zack fight each other. After the novelty of slamming our action figures together faded, however, Ehrgeiz was never really something we ever wanted to touch again.

Ehrgeiz's legacy has pretty much been left behind by Square Enix though they did decide to port the game as a PS1 classic to the PS3 in Japan.


For some reason, the game also has a dungeon crawling RPG built-in that has nothing to do with the fighting game

Those of who played it all of those decades ago will probably remember 'oh yeah, that was the 3D fighter where you could use Cloud and Tifa!' but that's about the only thing that really stands out in their memories.

Luckily, Final Fantasy's track record with fighting games would improve quite a bit since that point in time after Square released the first Dissidia Final Fantasy game on the PSP encapsulating most of the franchise's main heroes and antagonists. Cloud, Tifa and Sephiroth have all appeared in those spin-off games as playable characters, and Aerith even showed up in the sequel as a special assist.

From there, we of course got Cloud's inclusion in Smash 4 and Ultimate where he played a pretty integral role in the meta after his initial release without as much luck in his latest appearance.

Bandai Namco and Square Enix also ended up partnering together again for Tekken 7 where they brought Final Fantasy 15's Noctis to the game as a DLC guest character along with others like Fatal Fury's Geese Howard and Negan from The Walking Dead. I'm still in the camp though that Tifa would have been a much more fitting inclusion for that fighting game given what she does already in FF7.

Due to their popularity, the FF7 cast or Final Fantasy characters in general will continue to be highly requested as fighting game guests or to receive their own fighting game, so we can hope that upwards trajectory continues more like Smash and a bit less like Ehrgeiz.

Video source: TheInnocentSinful

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