The Earth is billions of years old, and YOU were lucky enough to exist during a time when one of the greatest games ever made graced our presence; Final Fantasy 7.
This week, this legendary game celebrates its 20th birthday. It is madness to think that this week, 20 years ago, in 1997, this game came out on the PlayStation 1. I didn’t even start secondary school until the following year for fuck sake!
I remember my brother rented this game (as that was a thing back then). I was a little too young to understand the concept of an in depth turn-base RPG, so my brother, being a few years older, played it. It appeared that he did not know what to do either, and he couldn’t get off the first boss. DON’T ATTACK HIM WITH PHYSICAL ATTACKS WHEN HIS TAIL IS UP!
Needless to say, WE (I say ‘we’ as I was trying to help) couldn’t do it so we sacked it off.
It wasn’t until a few years into secondary school when my fellow Bearded Robot; Peter showed me the game, got passed that boss for me, and opened my eyes to this beautiful world.
Rather than give a retrospective review on this amazing game (we can save that for another time), since this is a celebration of 20 years of Final Fantasy 7, let’s do what everyone in Gaia does on their birthday, or any occasion, and visit the Gold Saucer.
Cue the music!
So the Gold Saucer is an amusement park like no other… simply because there are no other amusement parks in the world of Final Fantasy 7. This is it! You can unwind by the sea at Costa Del Sol, which is only a little bit down the road, but unless you are taking Dio’s buggy, then you are going to have to mission it passed an old Mako Reactor, across a dangerous run down train track bridge, and through the ruins and slums of North Corel. It is really not a pleasant journey.
Regardless, if you visit the Gold Saucer you will have to go through this disgusting shanty town anyway in order to get cable cart, which is the only way to enter the Saucer. Here you will be hassled by poor folk trying to sell you their wears, as they live in tents beneath the sounds of people spending their cash and having fun at the Saucer.
WHY Dio; the owner, decided to build this amusement park here, I will never know. In fact the Saucer itself sits in the middle of a vast desert, built upon the ruins of the original town of Corel, which was destroyed by the Shinra Electric Power Company. The desert itself is endless, and some people find themselves running across it for eternity (unless they are picked up by a man in a chocobo pulled cart).
As I mentioned before, the only way to enter the Saucer is by buying a ticket at the Ropeway; a large cable cart that runs from the ‘town’ of North Corel all the way across the desert and to the Gold Saucer. Thankfully the cart itself is free, so there is no charge for this. If this was our world, you would have to pay at least £20 to get up there.
Anyway, the ride up is quite spectacular. Normally there are grand firework displays going on around the Saucer, and it is at this time that you see this magnificent structure for what it is; a strange towering golden tree with various large platforms, each one looking like a saucer, so it is unknown to me why it isn’t called the Gold SaucerS, but I digress.
You arrive at the Saucer’s Ropeway Station and see the one woman working the front desk sitting beside a statue of a fat chocobo beneath a large welcome sign. There is a save point here and it is at this moment you realise that maybe this is the world you know, as the save point charges you to use it. 5 GP; which is Gold Saucer Currency! Which you can only get inside the Gold Saucer! What a fucking rip! Better off saving it outside North Corel, or better yet, wait until you get inside the hotel (regardless if you are staying here or not). Apparently there is a Save Point Glitch here, but this is news to me, so after this, rest assure that I will be reading this.
After you acquire the Highwind airship, there is a 15% chance that a guy is knocking around this station who will trade you GP for Gil (the normal Final Fantasy currency), but it is 1GP for 100Gil, again… what a fucking rip!
So entrance to the Saucer is 3,000Gil. Woah! Bloody hell. I can buy a load of swords, guns, and Materia for much less. Or you can get a lifetime membership to the Saucer for 30,000Gil. How the hell does Dio sleep at night? Honestly. Those prices are outrageous! Especially the single entry. That doesn’t include a night stay at the hotel or a small out of GP to get you going.
If I am coming here, I am not taking the kids. It is just far too expensive.
When you enter the Gold Saucer, having paid the ridiculous ticket price, you come to the Terminal Floor. Here is a map showing you the various different areas that are available to you. It is effectively the central hub of the Saucer. Each area is connected to one another through, I can only assume, a series of tubes that people are expected to enter in order to reach the other places. As the Saucer is multi-levels, these tubes must use some sort of air pressure system, in order to push the guests from location to location.
Each location is called a Square, and from the Terminal Floor, you are required to enter through a hole label with what each Square is in order to get there via these tubes.
The first one is the Speed Square. Probably one of the worst places to visit in the Saucer. So much so that it is actually barren when you arrive. No one comes here, and for good reason as there are only one attraction here; the Shooting Coaster, which sounds good in name, but it is anything but. It is a roller coaster where you must shoot various enemies in classic rail shooter fashion. Final Fantasy 7 is not built for this, so the game does not handle as well as other rail shooters (such as Virtua Cop for the SEGA Saturn that came out a few years earlier), and so this mini-game sucks. It costs 10GP to play, in hopes of earning points, exclusive to this game, to gain a couple of dud weapons. Totally not worth your time.
Next up is the Battle Square. This IS a place that you will want to visit. Not only does it have Dio’s crappy one room museum, which houses one of the most important items Gaia’s even known, but it has the Battle Arena here as well.
This is a single combat arena where a person can battle enemies in order to gain points. After each round, a slot machine will give you a disadvantage that you must carry with you until either you are defeated, or you manage to win. Completing the battle area fully is rather difficult. Some of the handicaps do not make much difference, but some, mixed with others, make it almost impossible to win.
If you do manage to scrape through, you will earn Battle Points, which can be either exchanged like tickets at an arcade, or saved up while you go and try and battle once more. If you leave the Square, then you lose ALL your points! So if you are trying to save up for Omnislash; Cloud’s final limit break, then you are going to need to do this in one sitting.
There are some other great prizes here, and you will find yourself spending a lot of your time in this square once you are rolling in Gil and GP later on in time.
It is worth noting that in this square is an area that Dio has especially for people who break the law inside the Saucer. It appears that his word is that of god’s here, and if you do not follow his rules, you will be punished. He will unleash machines to grab hold of you and through you through a large hole which takes you down to the ruins of Corel beneath in the middle of the vast desert. It serves as a type of prison, where a lawless community resides. So probably a good idea to stay on your best behaviour when visiting the saucer.
Chocobo Square is next. This is a great place to spend your hard earned GP. Here you can either bet on chocobo races, or, if you have a chocobo yourself, you can race it across the enormous track that runs around the nearly the entirety of the exterior of the Saucer. The track itself is incredibly elaborate, feeling not unlike an acid trip.
There is a nice little area for the riders to talk and have a break in-between races, and it is a good place to train your chocobo if you are thinking of breading them to try and create a golden one.
The Ghost Square is the Saucer’s only hotel. If you are not staying at Costa Del Sol, or in the shanty tents of North Corel, then you will want to spend the night at this hotel. Although it is designed to look like a haunted house, complete with a grave yard and creepy laughing wardrobes in your room, so maybe it is not the best place to bring children.
The hotel itself costs 5GP a night to stay here, which is the same as the save point costs. Thankfully there is a free save point located here.
After that we have the Event Square. This is another dull and uninteresting place as the Gold Saucer rarely has anything going on here, so the place is more of a ghost town than the Ghost Square!
There was once a show on here, long long ago. It told the story of a King, a Princess, a Dragon, and a Knight, all played by the 100th couple who entered (for some reason).
Round Square has only the one attraction; the Gondola, which is effectively a large monorail that runs around the entirety of the Saucer. It is the perfect place to go on a date. From here you can see everything. You see chocobos racing across the rainbow track as fireworks explode overhead. You see the Shooting Coaster in full swing, and marvel at the sites of the Haunted hotel and graveyard from the air. Of course, nothing is free, and so it costs 10GP to enjoy.
Lastly we have the Wonder Square. This is a large amusement arcade where you can spend Gil to play the games and earn GP, which in turn is used for the Battle Arena and other places that require GP to spend. Every mini-game you have previously played can be found here. Whether you are up for a bit of snowboarding, motorbike racing, or submarine driving, these can all be found here to replay.
There are also a few new games you can play. These include: You can test your strength with an arm wrestle, try out your basket ball skills, have a crack at the Wonder Catcher (one of those bastard claw games). There a 3D battler, which is a bit like virtual boxing which puts YOU in the game! As well as Mog House, where you can play a little cute mini-game to feed him Kupo Nuts and try and teach him how to fly.
The GP you earn here can be traded for a few items, nothing as good as the Battle Arena ones, but a couple are on point, mainly the EXP Plus and Gil Plus Materias.
Overall by the time you leave the Gold Saucer, you will have got your 3,000Gil’s worth. You will have played a few games, bet on a couple of races, got into a few controlled scraps, maybe even fallen in love and gone on a date. If you have the money, then the Saucer is the place to come. It is just a shame that they can’t do something about that entrance as going through that decaying ruin of a town and seeing people living in squalor is just depressing and not the best way to start a holiday.
It is probably the best place to visit in Gaia, unless you want a cultural experience, in which case you will want to go to the far west and visit Wutai.
Whether you are from Rocket Town, Junon, the tranquillity Mideel, or the hustle and bustle of Midgar, you should book an airship, or a boat, and go and take a trip to the wondrous place that Gaia has to offer; the Gold Saucer.