Final Fantasy VII, Nintendo Switch

I felt a thrill of excitement as I launched Final Fantasy VII on my Nintendo Switch for the first time. I’ve played it more times and on more platforms than I care to remember. But seeing it on a Nintendo system for the first time was exhilarating, given the history of the game and Nintendo and Square’s falling out over it.

Final Fantasy VII is iconic. There’s simply no getting away from that. From the characters to the music, there are so many elements from it that are instantly recognisable, regardless of whether you’ve actually played it.

The story follows Cloud, a mercenary who joins an eco-terrorism group and soon finds himself caught up in an epic struggle to save the world and defeat Sephiroth. Along the journey, Cloud is joined by a varied and colourful cast of characters, with a total of nine playable characters to choose from in your party.

Screenshot from Final Fantasy VII

This was one of the first games to teach me the scope that games have for telling stories. It is funny, deeply and surprising (including *that* one big surprise, which I won’t spoil for anyone left who doesn’t already know it). And at its heart is Cloud, a character both compelling and mysterious, but for whom everything is not quite as it seems.

Like so many of the stories I love, there’s a strong element of existentialism at play here. For this a story that explores what it means to be human, and how we find our place, identity and meaning in the world. All underpinned by a stunning score.

Coupled with this is a solid turn-based JRPG. Despite being turn-based, battles never feel slow or stifled, and the combat is enjoyable. Non-party members also gain some experience, which removes the need for endless level grinding, or any frustration when you’re suddenly required to have a party member that you’ve neglected.

Screenshot from Final Fantasy VII

Underpinning everything is the materia system, where each weapon and armour come with slots into which materia can be equipped in any combination. This creates a system that is highly customisable, and lets players play in the way that suits them. It’s a stark contrast to a rigid, job-based system. With materia, anyone can be a healer or a black mage. The choice is yours.

With a great story, great music and great gameplay, it’s no surprise that Final Fantasy VII is such an enduring classic. And it’s one that I could honestly play over and over.

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