One of our favourite games of all time, Final Fantasy VII was first intended for the Nintendo 64. But Squaresoft turned its attention to the PlayStation and its use of CDs to deliver the project it wanted, eventually landing a masterpiece in 1997.
Over 20 years later and the now named Square Enix has belatedly launched the game on a Nintendo console. It’s on the Switch – FFVII in handheld form? Perfection!
Final Fantasy VII
What makes Final Fantasy VII so good? The story is highly emotive and utterly engrossing.
You star as Cloud Strife, a moody spiky-haired former Shinra SOLDIER (an elite squad) who teams up with a bunch of eco-terrorists. They call themselves Avalanche.
The opening segment is riveting. You’re involved in a siege on a Shinra Electric Power Company reactor in Midgar. It’s bloody exciting stuff – you’re raiding the place!
That draws you in right away. You’re sold on the reality of what’s happening and – as with the very best RPGs – you’re absorbed into the experience.
After the raid, events escalate big time as antagonist Sephiroth’s history becomes apparent (and his actions increasingly deranged).
Meanwhile, Cloud – initially out to pick up a mercenary pay cheque with Avalanche – finds himself dragged into an almighty scrap for the fate of the planet. All manner of transmundane shenanigans follow.
And what an experience it is to play it in handheld mode on the Switch. A real privilege. But Xbox One owners can rejoice – buried under the news it’s finally on a Nintendo console, FFVII is also available if you own Microsoft’s noob-friendly thing.
— Professional Moron (@CreativeMoron) March 26, 2019
The new release includes some fancy features that make the game much easier. You can speed up Cloud’s run three times over, for instance, to skip over boring bits.
Plus you can right-click your controller to limit break faster in battle, as well as recover from damage, making it a synch to blast through previously tough things at ultra-fast speed.
Purists may grumble over that. But as busy adults (*ahem*) we don’t see it as defeating the point. We can enjoy the experience again without having to worry about getting stuck on some of the bloody bosses (or wallow in wasted time due to random battles in open areas).
We found that these additions aid the experience – but you can play it as you see fit. Entirely your choice!
A Timeless Classic
Although Final Fantasy had graced the NES and SNES with several classics (check out Final Fantasy VI), it’s step up onto Sony’s console marked something of a new era for gaming.
For a start, the PlayStation exclusive (although it did go on to launch on the PC in 1998) was noted for its mature themes. This had been evident in Squaresoft’s other titles – such as Chrono Trigger – but in FFVII things really took a bold step forward.
Cloud, for instance, falls in love… only for the individual to be killed early in the game. Many gamers – a lot of them men – will admit this depiction of grief was enough to make them cry for the first time whilst playing a video game. Bloody snowflakes.
Meanwhile, eco-terrorist Barret is foul-mouthed and conflicted. Cloud is also plagued with emotional distress about his past.
The pair strike up a bromance, but their actions to save the planet from Shinra isn’t clearcut good guy/bad guy narrative fair.
And it’s that masterful interweaving of a complex (occasionally overly so) plot that makes Final Fantasy VII stand the test of time. Very few video games have successfully managed such a fantastic story.
It also helps that alongside that narrative is a hugely compelling gaming experience. It’s challenging, but intuitive with the wonderful materia power-up system. Plus a ambitous array of characters to add to your battle system.
Complementing that were (for the time) amazing graphics. They look quite ropey now, but still have plenty of charm. Squaresoft could pre-render backgrounds (in the way Rare did for the Donkey Kong Country games on the SNES) to allow to a cinematic look.
Meanwhile, the fantastic soundtrack was arranged, composed, and produced by Nobuo Uematsu. He was the sole composer for six Final Fantasy games prior to that, so why change a good thing when you’ve got it, eh?
Uematsu ultimately stuck with the MIDI-like sound quality for the game as his more ambitious plans – such as voice acting – would have several hampered loading speeds.
But the result is rather special and adds enormously to the emotive appeal of the title.
Here’s a reminder there’s a long-delayed remake of Final Fantasy VII still in development.
It’s a title we weren’t overly pleased to hear was receiving an update – it just seems to be Square Enix caving into the graphics snobs clamouring for an HD experience.
And that trailer is hardly promising. But, heck, we’ll wait for the finished product. There’s a massive fanbase to consider here and the company will want to get it right.
But with few updates about the project’s progress, it’s turning into Sony’s equivalent of Nintendo’s Metroid Prime 4.