Have you ever been to Las Vegas? Patrons and tourists can gamble, shop, dine out, or explore the entertainment and nightlife venues. It’s the leading financial, commercial and cultural center of Nevada. Yet internationally, it’s quite literally The Entertainment Capital of the World. But what about the surrounding areas? Unfortunately, things aren’t so bright. We see urban sprawl, dimly lit areas, and the occasional homeless persons pushing shopping carts. It’s pretty bleak and depressing, yet surprisingly out-of-place next to the adult playground that’s Las Vegas.
This also isn’t unlike Atlantic City, New Jersey’s famous resort city. Much like Las Vegas, it has casinos, rollercoasters, and hotels. Yet a few blocks away and we see a grim reality. In plain view, exists a few dilapidated buildings – overlooking the fun area residents and tourist refer to as the “Boardwalk”.
None of these places seem to take away from the enjoyment of Las Vegas or Atlantic City. But you can’t say that either place doesn’t have inequalities. These two strips of land are some of the richest in America. Yet residents refer to the surrounding areas as “dumps”. Most tourist even seems immediately unaware of what’s around the area; if they are, it’s “not their problem”. They’ve traveled to these resorts to have fun. It’s their chance to spend time in a luxurious city; they hope to bask in the light of glamor. It’s about their enjoyment.
So, what does any of this have to do with Final Fantasy VII? Consider the Gold Saucer. Unlike Las Vegas and Atlantic City, it’s a theme park. In a sense, it has more in common with Disneyland Park than either gambling resort listed above. However, you can gamble at the Gold Saucer, something you technically cannot do at Disneyland Park.
Anaheim, California, the home of Disneyland Park, is affluent; some pockets of the city show that, underneath, all isn’t as happy as the theme park. Crime is, thankfully, still below the national average. However, robbery and aggravated assault remain a problem in a city near the “Happiest Place on Earth”. Is it a big problem? No, but it still remains an issue, considering the city itself seems affluent.
How do you get to the Gold Saucer? Most residents have to travel through North Corel first.
It’s so dusty but calm and so poor… A real small town, this one.
North Corel consists of the survivors from “Old Corel”, in which Shinra destroyed the town for Mako energy. This is as depressing as the town’s people:
Hey! How’d you ever wind up around here? Look, I’m sorry but, I can’t do a thing for you! Oh boy!! Corel sure has gone to pot. It used to be a famous coal mining town! They say there were more jobs than you could shake a… Well, you get the picture! Now, it’s nothing but a miserable pit! Me, my bulldozer… everything’s out of work. Got no job… I can’t even show my face. ‘Bout all that’s left for me is to just live in this hole all day.
We can reach Gold Saucer only by free cable car. And there’s no other way to get to the Gold Saucer, then through Corel. We have to go through a dusty town first if you want to have fun. People should feel sympathy for their plight. But if you come to the theme park, you may not notice. Or care. Gold Saucer is the happiest place on Gaia but weighs heavily on the poor.
And the Gold Saucer has an even worst secret: it houses an actual prison underneath. Why? I don’t know. It only highlights the horrible situation of Dio, Shinra and wealth inequalities.
Were the developers and writers of Final Fantasy VII inspired by these locations, to create the Gold Saucer? Maybe. In many ways, Final Fantasy VII seems like a commentary on the United States. The rich live luxuriously, yet the poor aren’t living at all.