Arguably the best title in the series long history, and inarguably its most popular entry, Final Fantasy VII has never been far from the gaming popular consciousness since its release in 1997. It was the first time Squaresoft (now Square Enix) had been able to truly convey every part of the world they’d created. Previous FF titles had shipped on the NES and SNES systems. Their worlds were evocative but always sprite-based. Final Fantasy VII, with its expensive, detailed cutscenes and strong characterisation, changed all that. People were finally able to engage with a Final Fantasy RPG in a way they never had before. They felt enveloped by its world.
22 years after its release, there are a great many elements of Final Fantasy VII that hold up. Its story is complex but hits all the right emotional beats. Its characters are sympathetic, they are complex and flawed in ways that modern JRPG’s often overlook. Its science fantasy setting is one of the most striking and memorable to ever appear in a Final Fantasy title. It’s soundtrack absolutely slaps. On the other hand, some elements, like its fairly crude character models and often oblique in-world narrative design, don’t fare as well against the passage of time. These relatively minor issues are brought to the fore in the game’s latest port to the Nintendo Switch.
There is a sweetness in the game being made available on the Switch. Much was made back in the day of its scope and its ambition, with a portion of its marketing budget dedicated to the assertion that such a title could never work on the cartridge-based Nintendo 64 (this, in spite of its initially being developed as an N64 launch title). To see it finally arrive on a Nintendo platform after all these years is rather special indeed. That said, Square Enix have skimped a bit on features. This is, as far as I can tell, the same port that arrived on the PlayStation 4 in 2015 — the same music bug that plagued that PS4 version is carried over to the Switch version intact. The suite of options for new and returning players also reappears, like the ability to fast forward through longer dialogue sequences (a blessing for those who’ve played through it a hundred times), the ability to turn battles off entirely and a Battle Enhancement Mode.
Battle Enhancement Mode is essentially cheating. It performs the same funciton as your old PS1 Game Shark, constantly filling your Limit Break special move and automatically rengenerating your HP and MP pools. Turning Battle Enhancement Mode on ensures you’ll never, ever die. The only way to cop a TPK with it on is to be one-shot by a boss way, way above your belt weight. Your mileage with such a mode may vary. I prefer to leave it off, but you may just want to speedrun the game. Up to you.
Fair warning, Square Enix knows exactly what they have in Final Fantasy VII — its a license to print money whenever it’s ported to a new system, and they know it. Given the publisher’s history of pricing its classic titles rather high, that it’s currently sitting at $23.95 AUD on the Australian eShop isn’t a surprise. The hardcore, determined to own it on every platform, might be tempted but for most, that price puts it firmly in the “wait for a sale” category. The game’s 22 years old, Square. You didn’t even update the bloody port. 24 bucks? Give us a break, mate.
Beyond that, it is every inch the Final Fantasy VII you remember, a superlative achievement in video game RPG’s and one whose influence continues to reverberate through the industry to this day. It is lauded as a masterpiece and rightly so. If you’ve never played it before, this Switch version may represent the best way to experience it. Final Fantasy VII took two decades find its way to a Nintendo system, and it’s a perfect fit. The pride and joy of PlayStation devotees the world over has come home to Nintendo at last, exactly where it was always meant to be.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: One of the greatest RPG’s of all time; Some solid extra options; It’s on the Switch!
Lowlights: Same port from 2015, with the same bugs
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Review conducted on Nintendo Switch using a retail code provided by the publisher.