Final Fantasy VII has never had to struggle to get attention. From the moment it was announced, it received a steady stream of coverage in gaming magazines. Within days of its release, it had sold more than 2 million copies. Its star, Cloud, has appeared in all kinds of games, from Ehrgeiz to Final Fantasy Tactics to Super Smash Bros. It’s had spin-offs, a movie, and even a remake. When it comes to Final Fantasy, VII dominates the conversation.
But curiously, one aspect of the game has largely gone unnoticed.
Although it was never advertised on the box, Final Fantasy VII actually contains some light dating sim mechanics. Cloud has the option to earn affinity points with four of the game’s characters: Aeris, Tifa, Yuffie, and Barret. Aeris starts out with a whopping 50 points, giving her a clear advantage. Tifa has 30 points, Yuffie has 10, and Barret has no points at all.
At various points in the game, the player is able to choose how Cloud responds to various questions and statements. His answers have the potential to raise or lower points with all four characters.
If Cloud opts to give a flower to Marlene, he gains 5 points with Barret. If he orders a hard drink at the 7th Heaven Bar, he gets 5 points with Tifa. Aeris likes it when Cloud talks to her before the other girls, and Yuffie likes it when Cloud answers her questions correctly. Ignoring a character — or expressing interest in someone else — can cost you points with all four characters.
For the most part, the affinity system is useless. Although it occasionally has an impact on the dialogue, most changes are minor and not that noticeable. However, when the players head to the Gold Saucer for the second time, their choices can pay off in a big way.
Late at night, when most of your party has gone to sleep, the character who you have the highest affinity with invites you on a date. It’s a romantic affair, with a stage show, a gondola ride, and an impressive fireworks display. If you take out Yuffie, you can even end the night with a kiss (on the cheek).
The setting for the date is always the same, but there are plenty of difference in each night out. If you head out with Aeris, she talks to you about how much you remind her of Zack. If your date is Tifa, she tries to confess her feelings for you before losing the nerve. If you go out with Barett, you miss out on the stage show entirely. The man who gives you your tickets will assume you’re not actually a couple.
Because Aeris had such a high affinity value, the majority of Final Fantasy VII players had their big night out with her. The idea that you could take out Tifa — let alone Barett or Yuffie — seemed as legitimate as stories of an Aeris resurrection.
Thanks to to Internet (and hacking tools) plenty of people have gotten a glimpse of Final Fantasy VII‘s code. Anyone can see exactly how the affinity mechanics work, and can exploit them to ensure they take out the dude or lady of their choice.
But even though the information has been publicly available for years, Square concealed their dating sim a little too well. To this day, many players don’t know that they can have an impact on their date, or that their dialogue choices have real meaning. Final Fantasy VII has always received plenty of praise, but this entertaining little mechanic has never gotten the recognition it deserves.