Aerith's funeral
Image by Square Enix

Was Aerith always going to die in the original Final Fantasy 7?

Final Fantasy 7 almost had way more loss.

Aerith’s death in Final Fantasy 7 is such an iconic moment in gaming that you’d think it was planned far in advance. That’s not true, actually, but the real story behind the decision to kill one of the medium’s most beloved characters is, interestingly, somehow more tragic than you’d expect.

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Spoilers ahead, we’re talking about the old FF7 scene and how Final Fantasy 7 Remake frames the future. However, we won’t get into what happens in Rebirth. That’ll be for you to ponder.

Final Fantasy 7 was unlike any of its ’97 competitors in every way, from visuals to gameplay and the heartbreaking moments in between, but director Yoshinori Kitase still wasn’t satisfied with leaving it there. Kitase wanted more, hoping to add to its weighty moments with a little more darkness. The Final Fantasy series was no stranger to the idea of important characters dying before the release of Final Fantasy 7, but Kitase wanted to go nearly all out.

In Kitase and scenario writer Kazushige Nojima’s earlier ideas, which Kitase hilariously claims to barely remember in Polygon’s marvelous Final Fantasy 7 oral history, Kitase wanted to force players to pick only three party members to survive for the final battle. Character designer Tetsuya Nomura claimed to intervene, and Nojima explained those decisions were handled as a team.

Choosing Aerith saved the party, in the meta sense

It sounds like Aerith’s death was always set, but the real debate lay with whether the team should kill more characters or not, and they chose not to as a means of preserving the scene’s weight.

Ultimately, I side with Nomura’s perspective in the Polygon interview. That’s just bonkers, as putting the choice of who dies in player hands without much nuance would’ve banalized death and robbed the story of its intended pathos. Honestly, it sounds like the exact opposite of Aerith’s death, a character whose demise aligns with the RPG’s themes of life and how precious our time is.

The decision really affected Nomura. He went to composer Nobuo Uematsu and asked whether they’d done the right thing. Uematsu reassured Nomura that, despite it being shocking, it was the right thing to do. Nomura shared that he never stopped having people ask him whether he was the one responsible for it, so he will forever carry the burden of that sacrifice.

So, what do we know about Remake Aerith’s fate?

We do know that, spoilers: Aerith doesn’t die in the first part of the Final Fantasy 7 trilogy, Remake. However, Remake also takes place before the time when she’s supposed to die in the original timeline. I said “original timeline” because, well, Remake isn’t merely a remake.

We also saw visions of the future in part one, or alternate timelines; it’s hard to say. Red XIII called them “a glimpse of the future if we fail here today.” Perhaps everything really will go just as it did before when it’s all said and done, maybe there’s several directions to take, or just a singular, big way to change fate.

For me, personally, the most interesting aspect of Remake is that it introduces many new elements, such as themes surrounding the very human desire to change fate. This naturally led many fans to wonder if we can end up saving Aerith in Rebirth, in the next chapter, or even in some other timeline. Only time will tell.


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Author
Tiago Manuel
Tiago is a freelancer who used to write about video games, cults, and video game cults. He now writes for Destructoid in an attempt to find himself on the winning side when the robot uprising comes.