A little while ago I talked about Final Fantasy VII’s often-stunning environments. I also promised I’d talk about emotional character deaths that are ignored in favour of the grand sacrifice made by Our Lady of the Brown Army Boots, Aeris Gainsborough

Now, I actually like Aeris. Whenever I start up a new Final Fantasy VII game — I average about three per year, I reckon — I always wind up pairing her with Cloud, even when I’m trying to give Tifa a chance. Maybe it’s a subconscious thing.*

Either way, Aeris’s end is the Final Fantasy series’ most talked-about death. Killing off a main character just wasn’t done. Perma-death was strictly NPC biz until that moment, or at best, a secondary character problem (SCP). Sure, Final Fantasy IV’s Tellah bites the big one, as does Final Fantasy VI’s General Leo. But Aeris’s last ride on Sephiroth’s sword has real consequences. You lose your party’s healer. Shit’s heavy.

ffviideaths_03

Great, glad I put all that time into getting the Great Gospel limit break.

So it’s understandable that Aeris’s sacrifice overshadows the rest of Final Fantasy VII’s body count. That doesn’t mean I’m not impacted by another in-game extinction event: The deaths of Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie. All three members of the AVALANCHE resistance group are killed when Shinra ices Sector 7 in Midgar.

These three NPCs are a tricky lot to mourn, however, because they’re essentially terrorists.

Yeah, Shinra milks the planet like a stud bull on a dairy farm, and yeah, AVALANCHE aims to stop a potentially disastrous future event. But the game says in no uncertain terms that innocent people die as a result of their actions.

If you blow shit up for a cause, you’re a terrorist. If you blow shit up for a cause and innocent people die, you’re, like, a New Terrorist +.

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“Yeah. Sorry to see you bite it, Georgie.”

And yet I can’t help but cringe every time poor Wedge plummets from Sector 7’s support beam. I can’t help but pity / admire the poor fat bastard’s attempts to make friends with Cloud. Incidentally, I’m always nice to Wedge when I play Final Fantasy VII. He’s engaged in asshole-grade activities, but at the same time I kind of expect he doesn’t fully understand the magnitude of what he’s wrapped up in.

Maybe I’m just making excuses for him because he looks like an anime Peter Griffin.

wedge

“Hey Lois!”

Jessie’s another AVALANCHE member I feel for. Cloud finds her in her last moments, when she admits she’s getting what she deserves because her actions have taken a lot of lives. She does seem to take a lot of comfort in getting to talk to Cloud at the end of her life, as she’s opaquely in love with the spiky-haired soldier.

She doesn’t monologue breathlessly about what might have been, though. She carries her regrets with her into the other world with admirable dignity. Seeing Cloud simply gives her a little peace as she crosses over.

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“Going with ‘yes.'”

AVALANCHE. What a bunch of magnificent bastards.

*Sidenote: I’ll be trying very hard to get Cloud and Tifa to shack up in the Final Fantasy VII remake because I’m dying to see how Nomura plans to handle the interlude wherein Cloud throws it to Tifa underneath the Highwind while it’s docked near the Northern Crater.

[Screenshots courtesy of Well Rendered]

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  • Nathan M.

    While they were terrorists, I still think it’s okay to mourn their loss. Sure, they’re not really any better than Shinra, but the game goes out of its way to humanize them. They’re not just some crazy mad bombers, they’re people doing what they thought was the only thing they could do to save their planet from dying.

    Also, don’t forget that 1/3rd of your party is technically made up of terrorists. Barret’s Avalanche’s leader, Tifa’s a member, and Cloud joined the group just before the game began. And while innocent people dying from their actions was definitely bad, it’s not like Shinra themselves are any better. This is a group that burned down Barret’s hometown just so they could put an amusement park on top of it, after all.

    I really like how Final Fantasy VII’s relationship between the party and Shinra isn’t just a black and white “Heroes vs. Villains” thing. While there are some cartoonishly evil people on Shinra’s payroll, both sides have done horrible things (however briefly) and both sides have moments that show that they’re people.

  • http://www.nyteworks.net/ LBD “Nytetrayn”

    “Hey Lois, this is worse than that time we let Sephiroth join our party…”

    *cutaway to a party backdrop; Sephiroth enters the room*

    “Come on, guys, just give these shish kebabs a shot. I know they’re a little exotic, a little on the pink side, but just trust me, they’re to die for! *mixed nervous/evil laughter*”

  • InsertTokenz

    Not to completely sidetrack the point of the article, but I always found it interesting how much emphasis is placed on the significance of Aeris’s death by fans of (j)rpgs, when the concept had actually been explored to much greater depth before then.

    *SPOILERS*

    For me, I was more taken back when Crono gets killed off in Chrono Trigger. Where Aeris was simply a fellow party member, Crono was the MAIN protagonist. He was YOU. He was to be the hero of the story. He would be the one to make it to the end. NOPE. And this was 2 years before Final Fantasy VII was even released.

    And even before that, you had Nei from Phantasy Star 2 who kicked the bucket in shocking fashion.

    *END OF SPOILERS*

    I know Final Fantasy VII was the first rpg many people played, hence the reason for all the aforementioned praise listed earlier. Yet I’m surprised that most of those people never thought to go back and play some of these other great games soon after and realize how much more poignant character death in rpgs had truly become. As Nadia mentions here, you even had other characters within Final Fantasy VII itself, which bite the big one yet in contrast are totally overlooked under the shadow of Aeris’s corpse. Sure, they weren’t members of your party per say, but their demises did contribute some emotional weight to the overall story similar in the way Tellah in Final Fantasy IV and Leo in Final Fantasy VI did for those games prior.

    Let us not forget the ones who came before us…

  • Thisisjosh

    “Shinra milks the planet like a stud bull on a dairy farm”
    ….. Uhhh, is this the result of a misunderstanding of farms or are you trying to implant an interesting image in a person’s head?