Final Fantasy VII Review
The opening bombing mission. Leaving Midgar for the first time. Learning about the sacrifice that Red XIII’s father made. That death scene. Final Fantasy VII was a transformative experience for me. As the first role-playing game that I had ever played, it not only redefined my expectation for what storytelling in games could achieve but it was responsible for sparking what has been a lifelong interest in the genre.
It was also a game that I never managed to find the time to complete until it was ported to PlayStation 4 in 2015. That was thanks to an impassable game-crashing bug in the original PC port that had hampered my progress, which, for far too long, had left me wondering exactly what had happened after Cloud unwillingly surrendered the Black Materia.
The spikey-haired hero is the central character to Final Fantasy VII, which, with its neo-futuristic direction, starts out in Midgar’s sprawling urban megalopolis. The planet is dying. The sinister Shinra Electric Power Company has harnessed its life force as Mako energy, and, in the hope that they can save the planet, the rebel group AVALANCHE leads the resistance effort against them.
Final Fantasy VII not only represents the moment when Square shifted from 2D pixel art to 3D computer graphics, but the pivotal decision when technical constraints with the Nintendo 64 resulted in the series moving to a competitor’s console for the first time. Ever since then, the mainline games haven’t been seen on Nintendo’s hardware. But, 22 years after it was released for the PlayStation, it is the Nintendo Switch that becomes the gateway to experiencing this much-lauded adventure.
It may signal a change in direction, but even this epic battle to decide the fate of the planet stays true to what many have come to expect from a Final Fantasy experience. Random battle encounters punctuate the story as it unravels, the player moving from location-to-location as they explore the world map in their search for Sephiroth. The high-definition movies and character models have looked to upgrade the visuals, even if the more aged pre-rendered backgrounds see them stick out more.
The Active Time Battle system is once again used for your encounters with enemies and bosses. You can choose whether time only stops whenever you summon monstrous allies (“Active”), if it stops momentarily during battle animations (“Recommended”), or if it comes to a halt during battle animations and whenever you are deciding what action to perform (“Wait”).
There’s the chance to compete in minigames at the Gold Saucer, to breed and race Chocobos, and shop for more powerful weapons and sturdier armor. However, the big change for Final Fantasy VII came in the Materia system. Rather than locking characters to specific Job classes, this gives the player the freedom to customize their characters – granting them new spells and summons, with the chance to combine them for different results.
As with Final Fantasy IX, this is the same enhanced port that was released on PlayStation 4. That has seen Square Enix add extra features such as the chance to speed up the game so that it runs three times faster – making climbing the Shinra Headquarters staircase far more bearable. You can also turn the random battle encounters off whenever needed, or activate the battle enhancement mode which constantly recharges your Limit Break and restores your party’s health.
While purists will happily ignore these, their addition results in a far more accessible experience. An otherwise daunting 40-hour adventure becomes far more manageable – especially for those that are more interested in reliving the story rather than enduring the inevitable grind required to see it through to its conclusion.
Whether it’s Nobuo Uematsu’s incomparable soundtrack or the game’s characterful cast, Final Fantasy VII will forever be remembered as a genre-defining classic. Now on Nintendo Switch, it’s the perfect chance for newcomers to uncover the truth about Cloud’s lost past for the first time, and, for those that have beaten it before, to relive the adventure both at home and on the move.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Square Enix