Cloud is unquestionably the hero of Final Fantasy VII. However, Final Fantasy VII Remake does something special for other members of the cast. It takes people who are wonderful and beloved for many reasons and gives us more reasons to love and respect them. We’ve seen how this influenced the direction the game took with Tifa. It also gave us a chance to see how a more intense focus on one part could help shape its story. But, when it comes to the Final Fantasy VII Remake Aerith portrayal, something really extraordinary is going on.
Editor’s Note: There will be Final Fantasy VII Remake spoilers up until the Wall Market portion of the game.
In the original Final Fantasy VII, Aerith received the most attention in the first disc and early in the adventure. This was for obvious reasons. Anyone who has played it knows that Square had to make the most of the time we had with her. She had to be built up and developed. Even so, perhaps the biggest impressions of her may have been “innocent” and “kind.” She shows consideration and generosity to a number of people, like Cloud who happens into her life, and trusts them near immediately despite not knowing them. She easily befriends people and somehow endears herself to them. We sort of take this as a given.
Except in Final Fantasy VII Remake, Aerith is constantly showing us why she has this effect on people. The kindness is there, of course. She offers Cloud a flower at their first meeting and offers to guide him home. She aids children at the Leaf Orphanage, providing them with flowers, a friendly ear, and protection when they need it. We learn that she’s well known around the Sector 5 Slums, whether it is for helping out at a restaurant or for taking the time to just be around people. She’s a presence that is attempting to enrich those around her.
But, at the same time, Aerith loses some of the “perfection” she had in the original Final Fantasy VII, which is to her benefit in Final Fantasy VII Remake. Perhaps it is just me, but I always saw her as something of an idealized figure on a pedestal. We never see her do any wrong. Here, well, she has personality traits that humanize her. She’s nosy, sticking herself into other people’s business. She’s a little annoying, since she automatically makes assumptions about what people could or should do. (She decides Cloud is her “bodyguard” before even agrees.) There’s a recklessness too, as she sneaks out at night, takes a potentially dangerous road without knowing how it has changed over the years, and volunteers for Don Corneo’s audition.
There’s also a sense of mystery around Aerith. In the original, it was there. I mean, in a city where we see no natural plant life, she just so happens to tend the only garden. Despite living in the Sector 5 Slums, her home is a haven. Plus, there’s an association and familiarity with the Turks, a Shinra group. We know there is more to her in Final Fantasy VII. This is played with in Final Fantasy VII Remake too. She changes the subject when Cloud brings up certain topics and her home is even more out of place here than it was in the original.
Then, there are the moments. The Final Fantasy VII Remake Aerith has an awareness to her. She’s the first person we meet that is encountering the ghostly wraiths attempting to influence events, causing Cloud to see them as well. When she talks about her capabilities or her life, there will be moments where the game purposely cuts away. We only see her mouth at these moments, somber and flat, in sharp contrast to her usual effervescent and breezy personality. She references things like destiny and fate, all while giving the sorts of answers people would “expect” from her. Whenever there are these moments where she remains superficial and unknowing, there’s a sense that she knows as much as we, the player, knows.
Aerith is Final Fantasy VII Remake’s wink and nod. She’s its heart. This driving force has more personality here and goes beyond an idealize heroine to protect and uphold. She’s human, flawed, and possesses traits beyond “innocent,” “kind,” and “happy.” While the majority of our time with her is spent building her up, just as the game builds up Tifa and other characters, it also effectively uses her as a way to nudge returning players. There’s an awareness here that enhances her role and perhaps makes what’s coming even more poignant and powerful.
Final Fantasy VII Remake is available for the PlayStation 4.