Final Fantasy 7 is the game that made me fall in love with games. Cool characters and fun combat played their part, but the immersive qualities of the world is what really got me hooked. But what does ff7 do to make it’s world feel so alive? For me it comes down to the visual details and interactive elements in the world. Lets take a closer look at each.
First up are the backgrounds. These are pre-rendered 2D backgrounds that your 3D characters run around on top of. Each of these are packed with lots of little details that flesh out the area. Just check out the signs in this image from Midgar slums
Before ff7, games didn’t really have the screen space to have this much non-game relevant information. These details allow the game to build its world through more than just dialogue boxes. The griminess of Midgar is evident through these images. The quality of living for those in the city is clear from the ramshackle housing, no need to have a NPC outright state it for you.
Running around in these very detailed landscapes isn’t the only trick up FF7s sleeve. FF7 features a large amount of minigames, take a look at this list. These minigames add a layer of interactivity on top of the graphical detail of the backgrounds. Cloud doesn’t just run around and fight monsters. He rides a motorcycle, snow boards, commands armies, performs CPR and more. Most of these minigames aren’t that fun, but they serve the purpose of expanding upon what you as a player can do within the games world. Contrast this with older games, while there may be a couple of minigames here or there, its mostly just running around and fighting. Later games also toned down the number of minigames, often pursuing depth of mechanics over breadth. Triple Triad, Tetra Master, and Blitzball being examples of this philosophy.
Both of these elements come together to create a world that felt alive. For me this was a unique experience within the realm of gaming. While movies and books did a great job of letting you see into another world, Final Fantasy VII made me feel like I was in one.