by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
No matter how you feel about Final Fantasy VII, it did a great deal to bring RPGs to the mainstream in the West. Now personally, it’s not on my top five Final Fantasy titles, but there are some things I sincerely enjoy about it. The Materia mechanic, most of the mini-games, and most importantly, it has some of the best character growth. Red XIII’s story arc is among the best in the Final Fantasy series, even if I avoid using him because I think he’s mediocre at best. But now Final Fantasy VII is available on both the Xbox One and the Nintendo Switch! I prefer it on the Switch myself because that makes it portable. That’s not a first though – Remember the PSP and PS Vita? But that was the regular, traditional PSX release. This version is the PS4/PC re-release, with all the goods and bad that come with it. Want to see exactly how it looks? Just check out the livestream above from the MMOHuts Youtube!
Visually, it’s interesting. The resolution of the area maps is really awkward – the Nintendo Switch is trying to compress the area maps into a resolution that it apparently doesn’t agree with. Ultimately, every area looks a little blurry or faded. Conversely, the character sprites look bold and brand-new. They are still chunky and shaped like PSX sprites, but they pop and stand out way more. That’s handy, but it can be a little jarring at first. If you use the D-Pad to move around, you walk at that same horrific speed that Cloud always moved at, and you can push a button to speed up and run. However, if you use the Left Thumbstick, he autoruns. It might seem weird, but I was very excited about this change in particular. It makes navigating areas much faster, and I don’t have to hold down a second button to do it.
This version of the game also comes with a few other quality-of-life changes – Triple Speed, and Auto Refill HP/MP/Limit. I’m sure there are people up in arms about this, but let me tell you, they’re beautiful updates. FFVII can be sort of grindy, unless you’re speedrunning. This makes that time spent grinding much faster, whether you’re leveling up your Limit Breaks, or simply getting AP/XP. There’s a weird part to this though. Normally, you can just hold down the A button to automatically input whatever battle command you have. During Triple Speed, this does not work. Instead, you have to keep an eye on things and press A accordingly, or the enemies can and will kill you. There may be no new content, but honestly? Final Fantasy VII doesn’t need it. It’s a fairly complete story with plenty of side content to do already. The entire third disc was basically side-missions and the final dungeon.
Final Fantasy VII on the Switch plays terrifically in both docked and tablet mode. For me, I spend more time playing in docked mode, but that’s because I’m a hermit, and seldom leave my home. But I did take it with me to my doctor’s appointment, to see how it played. The resolution issues I mentioned above do not exist in the portable version of the game. Everything looked clean and sharp, just like it should. However, the sound effects still sounded pretty weird. Some of the magical effects sound distorted to me – mostly bolt and fire effects. This can be combated by just turning down the sound effects a little in the menus, which is something I enjoyed being able to do. I also think the font choice is much better than the one used in Final Fantasy IX – which, let’s be honest, just looked like it was ripped right from the mobile version. That should never be done.
First Class SOLDIER – 4/5:
Final Fantasy VII left an indelible mark on the RPG community in the 1990s. At the time, almost all of the great RPGs were on the NES/SNES. Sure, Sega had a few, but they didn’t have games like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy and Super Mario RPG. Final Fantasy VII helped make the Playstation a real force in the gaming world. This version of the game plays better than I thought it would. I was afraid it would just feel like a cheap mobile port, but it definitely does not. Final Fantasy IX was a bit of a letdown on the Switch, so it’s glad to see they aren’t two-for-two in that department. We have other Final Fantasy games coming to the Switch in April, so we’ll see if they can keep up this positive trend. All told, I’m happy to have Final Fantasy VII on the Switch, and I think it was handled with about as much care as it could possibly be. Other than the minor nitpicks, the game itself still plays exactly as it should. Don’t want the “cheats” like Triple Speed? Don’t use them! It would be interesting if they made a way to disable them, for the people that don’t want them, but all you have to do is not push down on the sticks, and they won’t trigger.