If you are a casual fan of the game, or even a hardcore fan, it’s likely the game left you with the impression that the story of Cloud/Aerith is one of “unfinished business.” Two young people just getting to know one another, before one is tragically killed. FFVII has this way of making the player think that Cloud is supposed to fall in love with Aerith, and her death cuts short some sort of amazing love story. I felt this way for years. I mean, she is the first person you see in the game, so why not? I took for granted that FFVII was a ‘save the world’ game with a strong love story in the background, and I always assumed Aerith was the subject of Cloud’s affection. I don’t know why I felt that way, maybe because I was 15 when the game first came out, and I wasn’t into my late 20’s until I saw things differently. I did end up seeing things differently over time, and it changed a lot of my playing experiences later in life.
So, why did the game initially make me feel this way? Honestly, it’s because for a majority of the beginning of the game Aerith is extremely important to the plot. It made me feel like there was a stronger bond between the two than maybe there actually was. Tifa doesn’t get her moment to really shine until much later in the game, and by that time I had already been completely sold on Aerith. Take the Gold Saucer date, for example. You can go on a date with either Aerith, Tifa, Barret, or Yuffie. I have played this game a ton, and I have never been on a date with Barret or Yuffie. If you want to get Barret or Yuffie, then you are going to have to go out of your way to make that happen. There is a whole ‘love point’ system, where choices you make affect who you eventually go on the date with. There is a great breakdown on Final Fantasy Wiki about the date points, and how many points you gain/lose from each date option based on your choices. If you look at this chart it is clear the game wants you to go on the date with Aerith. She starts out with 50 love points, and Tifa starts with only 30. There is a lot of ground to make up for Tifa to become an option.
You need to treat Aerith and Tifa like complete dog shit, and never use them in battle to not get either one for the date. Since Aerith seemed really story relevant to me, I was always using her in the beginning of the game. I will be honest with you, I don’t remember the Tifa date scene. I actually had to YouTube it because I got the Aerith scene on about 90% of my playthroughs.
If you do end up getting the Tifa date scene, she doesn’t even refer to it as a date. She says “Why don’t the two of us sneak out of here and spend some time together?” I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t come off as a date to me. Sounds like something a friend would say, and since you have been on a long journey thus far it really doesn’t stand out as “oh, this is a date.” When you go on the date with Aerith, she makes it abundantly clear that you are going on a date. The most noticeable difference is in the dialogue inside the Gondola scene. So let’s look at the dialogue if Tifa is your date:
Tifa: Look, Cloud.
Tifa: Oh, Cloud.
Tifa: …it’s really pretty, isn’t it?
Tifa: Ok, I’m going to just go ahead and say it…
Tifa: Aerith would be able to just come out and say it, probably.
Tifa: Sometimes being old friends is hard.
Tifa: I mean, timing is everything.
Tifa: ………… ………………
Now for Aerith:
Aerith: Wow, how nice.
Aerith: Oh! Look, Cloud.
Aerith: It’s so pretty.
Aerith: ……it’s beautiful, isn’t it?
Aerith: ……first off, it bothered me how you looked exactly alike.
Aerith: Two completely different people, but look exactly the same.
Aerith: The way you walk, gesture…
Aerith: I think I must have seen him again, in you…
Aerith: But you’re different.
Aerith: Things are different…
Aerith: I’m searching for you.
Aerith: I want to meet you.
Cloud: But I’m right here.
Aerith (I know, I know…what I mean is…)
Aerith: I want to meet……you.
So, Tifa basically says she wants to jump your bones and ride you around like a mechanical bull. Not really, but you get the idea. She is explaining that she has feelings for you, while Aerith is hinting at a major story element of the game: Cloud really isn’t Cloud…necessarily. That can be a whole other post later. Anyway, you will more than likely get the Aerith scene when you play the game. If you do get Tifa, regardless of her veiled confession of feelings in the Gondola, you will likely not feel like you are on a date. Something about it just feels off. It almost felt forced to me. Maybe that’s because I got the Aerith date first.
There is even a scene at the Temple of the Ancients before Cait Sith, that moron, gets squished by the Temple that he gets to read Cloud/Aerith’s horoscope for one ‘last’ time. He tells them that they are perfect for one another, and references “poor Tifa.” Again, another way the game is trying to push you down the path of believing Cloud is supposed to be in love with Aerith, and considering Aerith dies about 45 minutes later, it is good timing on the writers’ part. Is there really enough evidence by this point in the game that leads you to believe that Cloud and Aerith are perfect for one another? Not for me.
When Aerith is killed by Sephiroth, the music changes to Aerith’s theme…even for the boss battle. It is the only time during the game that a character’s theme is playing during the boss fight. It’s like the game is screaming at you “FEEL SOMETHING GOD DAMMIT!” Aerith is dropped into the lake out front of the Forgotten Capital, and your group collectively wonders if they can go on. This is one of the most iconic scenes in video game history, and if you are anything like me then after this scene you felt that your love interest died. Even though I didn’t cry, I felt like I was supposed to feel sad. I felt for the rest of the game that there was
It isn’t until Aerith’s body is stiff and cold that the game kind of starts to shift towards Tifa. By this point, it is already too late to change the player’s mind. It isn’t until Cloud suffers from Mako poisoning that we start to realize how strong Tifa’s feelings are for Cloud. If Tifa hadn’t fallen into the Lifestream and helped Cloud piece together his memories, then he might have just stayed mashed potatoes forever. Cloud never had a moment like that with Aerith. The date was cute and all, but it wasn’t meaningful romantically. Personally, I think Aerith figured out the whole Zack/Cloud thing, and she never had real feelings for Cloud. She says as much in their date, Cloud reminds her so much of Zack and that’s why she initially felt so drawn to him. She wanted to know the ‘real’ Cloud, a Cloud that she unfortunately never got to meet.
Ahhhh, the Highwind scene. We all know what went on there. I think it is clear that Cloud and Tifa got it on, and finally gave it to their feelings. If you look back at the game, especially young Cloud, it’s obvious that he always had a crush on Tifa. For 75% of the game he wasn’t himself, and Aerith was already dead after he came back to reality. I think after Cloud came out of his Mako coma he really started to fall back into those old feelings. At the end of the game, after the battle with Sephiroth, Cloud reaches to a hand to get out of the Northern Crater. The hand is shown to be Aeirth’s at first, but then you see that it is actually Tifa’s hand reaching out for Cloud. That just cements it for me. Cloud doesn’t have feelings for Tifa because Aerith is dead. He has always had them, and he just started to realize them because he was walking around like a zombie for most of the game.
After I kind of realized this and stopped focusing on Aerith on my playthroughs, I found the love story of the game much more interesting. Tifa is a childhood friend that Cloud was always trying to impress. Even when he came back to Nibelheim in the Kalm flashback scene, he was fixing his hair before he went into Tifa’s house. His feelings grow from a friendship that they had as kids to something more as adults. I know that Cloud came and saved Tifa in Nibelheim as he promised, but overall wasn’t it Tifa who saved Cloud? She gave up her mission against Sephiroth to stay with Cloud not knowing if he would ever get better. Aerith is a distraction that the game gives us, but if you ignore that and play the game focusing on Tifa, then I think you will find the love story of FFVII to be far more gratifying.
So what do you think? Am I wrong? Is the story of Aerith/Cloud really a love story that is cut short by death? Let me know in the comments, forums, or in an e-mail.