We Need To Talk About Final Fantasy VII


Yesterday, I flooded the page with my ramblings on how we kinda need to just get over Sephiroth. Today, I’m going to splurge about some of the things that bug me about other characters from Final Fantasy VII, or their popular perception, to be precise.

Again, spoiler warning.

Cloud Strife

Cloud’s not emo, he’s just misunderstood. No, really, he is.

In the original game Cloud is a stoic mercenary, serving as your basic aloof badass for hire. But as he interacts with Tifa and Aerith, he shows a subtle emotional side, and a more traditionally heroic devotion.

As the game progresses, Sephiroth’s torture reveals more of Cloud’s true self, and his journeying loosens his tight-lipped persona. He becomes a forthright, angry, driven hero.

He’s not emo. Oh sure, he mopes. But considering he never achieved his dream, saw his hometown burned to cinders by his childhood hero, lost his mum in that blaze, almost lost his childhood crush, was captured by an evil scientist, brutally experimented on for five years, then broke out and was powerless to stop his best friend from being gunned down in front of him and all this trauma pushed him so far into despair his mind broke and had to create a false persona just to get by, I think he’s allowed the odd sad time.

I don’t mind that they undid a lot of his development for Advent Children. The idea that without Sephiroth to motivate him and his contraction of Geostigma he would regress into a more misanthropic thing makes sense for his character, even if it was a deliberate choice to make him more marketable.

But it did probably start the “Cloud is an emo” thing as a majority ruling on him. It doesn’t help that he’s fairly mopey in Kingdom Hearts and Dissidia too.

The point stands! Cloud: not emo. Cloud: severely emotionally damaged guy. Difference. There is one.

Tifa Lockhart

Stupid Tifa. She can’t cope without Cloud. Her entire character is based around her relationship to him.

Except it’s he who can’t cope without her, and Tifa had a definite, distinct character. The task she chose to devote herself too was helping Cloud when his mind started to fall apart at the seems.

See, the Nibelheim incident in which CLoud lost his mother and hometown, Tifa lost her hometown, parents and friends too.  Plus she nearly died at the hands of Sephiroth. She lost more in Nibelheim than Cloud did, and where did she end up? Running a bar in the slums, part of an eco-terrorist organisation. Helping to facilitate the deaths of hundreds of people due to her undying hatred of ShinRa.

When Cloud comes along, she suspects something’s up. Seeing as he’s one of the few surviving  pieces of her past, she naturally tries to keep him around. Tifa gradually realises that Cloud is conflating his history with Zack’s, and when that’s revealed to Cloud one of her last remaining links to her childhood and one of her friends she’s made while travelling completely breaks down.

If you wouldn’t stop to help Cloud in the same situation, you are a heartless bastard.

It’s pretty trendy, particularly on the internet, to bash any female character who admits to any emotion or commits a “girly” action as being a weak, whiny princess in need of rescue.

And that’s really gotta stop. The Final Fantasy heroines since number IV have had strength. But it’s an inner strength. The ability to take all the shit that’s slung at them, which is often just as bad or worst as the protagonist, and still be on the front lines, acting as emotional support for the others while still being a crucial component of the battle team.

That’s what Tifa’s got. Maybe we expect more from her because she’s an Amazonian style barefist fighter. But that’s unreasonable. Tifa’s strength isn’t just physical, it’s emotional. Without her to help him, Cloud would never have got his shit together.

Aerith Gainsborough

Like Sephiroth, every time Aerith appears outside of the original, she’s got a completely different personality from the original game. She was a flighty, flirty pixie always willing to put herself in danger and trying to get Cloud to open up by being really forward.

She’s not a saintly, quiet girl always praying for happiness and peace and puppy dogs and rainbows.

I get why she’s portrayed like that. They’re trying to make her be more of an Ideal. She’s the mystical force that opposes the evil of Sephiroth and Jenova. True, once she’s in the Lifestream she is hinted to have called the Lifestream forward to protect the planet, but that’s doesn’t mean her personality has to change.

Especially seeing as none of the spinoffs have her in a position to really be a messiah. It’s worst in Kingdom Hearts, and it shows up in Crisis Core (which I can kinda forgive because she was just 14/15 at the time, and presumably exposure to Zack opened her up a bit).

Although actually Advent Children might have made the best choice by having her as a “presence” rather than having her showing up to psychically converse with Cloud in a way closer to her original form.

Vincent Valentine

Shut up about this guy. Seriously. I get it. He’s pretty, he’s tragic and he looks badass. But he was the weakest character in VII and dramatically, he’s Cloud with the names in his backstory changed.

His game sucked, and while he’s still cool, he’s overplayed. Not because he’s ever really been written badly or overused, the fans have just built him up too much. He’s Final Fantasy‘s Boba Fett.

Cid Highwind

Seriously, this guy’s thrice as awesome as you remember him.

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mitch Allan
    Feb 24, 2012 @ 18:06:46

    I think Cloud’s lack of any real motivation in the KH games cements the emo thing that gets carried over from AC. Actually, his misanthropic moping in AC reminded me that I’m just indifferent to him as a hero

    Tifa just gets in a snit when Cloud look at Aerith sideways. Which doesn’t make her a bad character, it just makes me go ‘this is why I hate love triangles as a plot device’. Again, her characterisation in KH is what breaks everything. And I don’t even know why Aerith is there.

    Cid is the best thing to happen to pop culture ever. Red XIII is a close second.

    Reply

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  4. wishingdreamer5
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 17:54:21

    You’re so right. I hate how in some fanfics they always make Cloud appear as an emo… which he isn’t. -_-‘
    And I think the reason I kinda hate Aerith is because I’ve seen her in KH first. She’s exactly like you describe her there; “a saintly, quiet girl always praying for happiness and peace and puppy dogs and rainbows.”
    I don’t know why they did that to her, but it doesn’t make her popular.

    Reply

    • jackcalico
      Apr 09, 2012 @ 20:49:44

      I find that many people who come to 7 through later works like the Compilation or the KH series draw on those interpretations of the characters rather than the original, which to me supersedes the others. It’s kind of a shame because they tend to be much more reductionist and simple than the original.

      And yeah, I totally prefer the Aerith that decides Cloud has to dress up in drag rather than the puppy dogs and rainbow variety. It makes her serious decisions in 7 that much more meaningful to me.

      Reply

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