The experience of Final Fantasy VII has stayed with me for a number of reasons. It has a complex narrative, great atmosphere, interesting characters and an intuitive battle system. It shares these traits with many other well received RPGs and it’s why it’s considered one of the best of all time. Although there is another aspect of it’s game design that always gets me excited to replay this great adventure. More than any other RPG I have played, Final Fantasy VII was created with the knowledge that it is meant to be fun to play, and it’s reflected in the diversity of it’s gameplay and the addition of mini-games spread consistently throughout the main storyline.
The main character Cloud is on a quest of discovery and ultimately to save the world. With all the situations the characters get themselves in, it’s only natural to think that there would be room to provide unique gameplay options. Final Fantasy VII capitalises on this and provides plenty of opportunities to break up the standard RPG mechanics.
During the main storyline there are a few major sequences that could easily have been used as a concept to create a whole other game. Not only are these sequences fun and well designed, but they fit into the plot and are not just there as side missions. After infiltrating the Shinra HQ building and trying to escape from Midgar, Cloud steals a motorcycle and the remaining party members jump into a truck. Instead of just showing a FMV of the sequence, the player assumes the role of driving the motorcycle and having to fend of enemies on other bikes attempting to stop your escape. As you speed down the highway knocking Shrina soldiers off their bikes with your sword, it’s one of the most memorable events in the early hours of the game and it’s not even a gameplay style you would associate with the RPG genre.
As only a taste of things to come, soon you have to command an army in a tower defence simulation, later in the game when making your way done a snowfield, instead of just hiking down, you borrow a snowboard and use it to cruise down the mountain. After that, you pilot a submarine and have to locate and destroy the enemy subs. Not only do these changes to the gameplay formula keep the game exciting and fresh, but they help to add to the sense of adventure and action in the story. Smaller events also occur such as a having to sneak past guards, performing CPR to resuscitate a girl, pretending to be a soldier in a Shrina march and of course disguising Cloud as a woman to rescue Tifa in the seedy Wall Market. If you were really on a quest to save the world you too would get yourself into some extraordinary situations.
As if that wasn’t enough, one of the locations you visit along the journey is a giant amusement park known as the Gold Saucer. It has a collection of mini-games such as Chocobo racing and betting, an interactive roller coaster shooting game, basketball, arm wrestling, battle arena and more. You can easily spend hours here just trying to win prizes such as items, new equipment and materia.
While RPGs are known for telling fantastic stories and engrossing players in epic boss battles, at the end of the day we play games to have fun and it’s additions like these that can greatly increase the enjoyment of the journey. Since Final Fantasy VII not enough RPGs have included elements like these to expand on the standard formula of the genre.