Final Fantasy 7
Final Fantasy 7 is a video game. It's one of the most involved games ever. It depends a lot on symbolism and relationships to mythology of different cultures. John Brittenham, a skilled writer, showed me and others how ff7 works out in mythologies, and what the games really about. Read below:
FF7 Mythologies, by John Brittenham
We are floating through space, our vision constantly
shifting examining the stars around us. We hear screaming coming,
we look around but we cannot find where the screaming is coming
from. What is happening? Suddenly everything goes black. The scene
changes. A beautiful girl is facing us, she stands up and begins
to walk. We realize that she is in an alleyway. She emerges from
the alley and we begin to rise, away from her, revealing a clear
shot of the monstrously large city that this girl lives in.
Although this girl doesn't realize it yet. these screams are the
cries of her home world, which is in it's death throws and she
is the only person alive that can stop these screams and save
this world. Her name is Aeris (heiress) and she is the last surviving
member of an all but extinct race that holds the key to
defeating a powerful nemesis which craves nothing less than the
very destruction of the planet on which she lives.
Thus, begins Final Fantasy VII, a remarkable RPG that is
masterful in all respects of good story telling and manages to move
us, even while it confuses us to the point of sheer frustration. If
most of us were asked to describe the story of FFVII in one paragraph
(describing it in one sentence would be a run on sentence no matter
how hard we tried), we would probably say something like, "FF7 is the
story of Cloud, Aeris, and their friends who try and save the world
from Sephiroth and the Shinra, who are destroying the Earth. Shinra
is doing it by draining out the Earths Lifestream, the lifeblood of
the planet which is the energy that all living souls are made of,
through its large Mako Reactors. Sephiroth is doing it by summoning a
giant meteor that is going to destroy everything, allowing him to
converge with this energy and claim if for his own to become a 'God.'
Ultimately, the 9 heroes of the game defeat Sephiroth and all the
members of Shinra (although Aeris loses her life in the process) and
unleash Holy, the ultimate white magic, which is the only thing that
can destroy the meteor. It succeeds in doing so but also sucks the
humans, who have been doing all this damage, back into the Lifestream,
realizing that their existence was a terrible error. This leaves only
Nanaki, the teams sentient wolf-like friend, to live out his life
propagating his species on the planet and remembering not to repeat past mistakes."
On the surface, this is a good interpretation of the game.
All of this stuff is shown to us throughout the games development.
But as Alazlam Durai says in Final Fantasy Tactics "we also know that
what we see with our eyes alone isn't necessarily the truth...Won't
you join me on a journey for the 'truth'?" In Final Fantasy VII
we have an apparent story, that seems to fill all the gaps and create
a rather tragic ending for our heroes. But as Bugenhagen says in his
first meeting with Cloud, "Well, that is a bad example. Looking up
too much makes you lose perspective. When it's time for this planet
to die, you'll understand that you know absolutely nothing." Indeed,
Final Fantasy VII also has another story, one that is strewn throughout
the game in fragments and arranged in scattered order. A story in which
the most crucial revelations come in the places where we are least
likely to notice them. It is this story that we will explore in this
segment of this FAQ. I will cite the actual text of the game whenever
making any sort of point about the story.
Part I: Defining the Story
When we first meet Sephiroth he is a cold, emotionless man who
seems almost totally disconnected from the people around him. The only
time we ever hear him talk of anybody with any sense of respect at all
is when he refers to Professor Gast. In contrast to this, Sephiroth
speaks of Hojo, who is revealed to be his father much later in the game,
as "an inexperienced man assigned to take over the work of a great
scientist. He was a walking mass of complexes."
When Sephiroth and Cloud (it is actually Zack who witnesses this
scene and later tells Cloud the story) enter the Mako reactor at
Nibelheim together and discover the monsters contained inside
Sephiroth says, "Now I see, Hojo. But even doing this will never put
you on the same level as Professor Gast." He goes on to explain the
origin of the monsters in this exchange.
Sephiroth: Normal members of SOLDIER are humans who have been
showered with Mako. But what are they? They've been exposed to a high
degree of Mako, far more than you.
Cloud: Is this some kind of monster?
Sephiroth: Exactly. And it's Hojo of Shinra that produced these
monsters (note the foreshadowing right here). Mutated organisms produced
by Mako energy. That's what these monsters really are.
Cloud: Normal members of SOLDIER? You mean you're different?
Sephiroth:N...no..was I? Was I created this was way too? Am the
same as all these monsters? You saw it! All of them were humans.
Cloud: Human? No way!
Sephiroth: I've always felt, since I was small...that I was
different from the others, special in some way. But, not like this. Am I
At this point, Sephiroth is clearly freaking out. He starts
striking at the various monster stasis chambers with his sword and also
covers his head with his hands and begins shaking. This shaking is
suspiciously similar to the shaking that Cloud does on his two trips to
destroy the Mako Reactors in Midgar and also does later in the game when
he is being manipulated by Sephiroth. This is very strange, but what is
the connection? When Sephiroth questions how he was created he is on to
something, but the knowledge drives him to insanity before he can find
out the full extent of the truth.
After this, all Hell breaks loose. Sephiroth disappears for
three nights in the Shinra Mansions basement, reading the files which
reveal the nature of his creation. He goes bonkers, burns down the town,
and breaks into the Mako Reactor in the mountains, nearly killing Zack
and Tifa in the process. He is stopped by Cloud who, in anger over the
murder of his friends and his mother, throws him into the Lifestream,
even after having Sephiroths sword shoved straight through him (the same
way Aeris dies). How is it that Cloud, little Cloud, who spends most of
the game being manipulated by Sephiroth, is able to lift up and hurl
"the great Sephiroth" over the ledge? Well he was keeping his promise
to Tifa, for one thing. But more than that, could it be that Cloud is
a lot stronger than he seems while Sephiroth isn't nearly as strong as he seems?
Earlier in the game, when Cloud and Sephiroth Nibelheim, Sephiroth
asks Cloud how it feels to be in his hometown, going on to reveal
that he never had a hometown. When Cloud asks about his family Sephiroth
replies that his mother was Jenova, who died giving birth to him. He
only laughs when he is asked about his father saying, "What does it
matter?" Later on in the game we find out that Jenova is not Sephiroths
mother at all. Sephiroths mother is a human woman named Lucretia and
his father is revealed to be Hojo of Shinra Inc. What does this mean?
Later on in the game, we encounter a very different Sephiroth in
the Temple of Ancients. It is in this encounter that Sephiroth reveals
his plan to become a God, hence this exchange.
Sephiroth: Look well.
Cloud: At what?
Sephiroth: At that which adds to the knowledge of (he pauses)
...I am becoming one with the planet. Mother it's almost time, soon we
will become one.
Aeris: How do you intend to become one with the planet?
Sephiroth: It's simple. Once the planet is hurt, it gathers
Spirit Energy to heal the injury. The amount of energy gathered depends
on the size of the injury. What would happen if there was an injury that
threatened the very life of the planet? Think how much energy would be
gathered! Ha! Ha! Ha! And at the center of that injury will be me. All
that boundless energy will be mine. By merging with the energy of the
planet, I will become a new life form, a new existence. Melding with the
planet...I will cease to exist as I am now...Only to be reborn as a
'God' to rule over every soul. Behold that mural.
The Ultimate Destructive Magic...Meteor.
He takes off, telling Cloud to "Wake up!". Aeris reveals that
Meteor is a magical force which propels through space, finding small
planets and crashing into them, thus destroying them. Cloud goes to the
mural and begins to freak out again, his hands covered over his head, his
spirit visibly being removed from his body, symbolizing how disconnected
from reality Cloud is. Afterwards, the group comprises a plan to get the
Black Materia out of the Temple of Ancients. They succeed but Sephiroth
shows up and steals it from them, through his manipulation of Cloud, then
forcing Cloud to attack Aeris. Cloud goes blank and wakes up in a dream,
with Aeris speaking to him through some sort of telepathy in this exchange.
Aeris: Cloud, can you hear me?
Cloud: Yeah, I hear you. Sorry for what happened.
Aeris: Don't worry about it.
Cloud: I can't help it...
Aeris: Oh...then why don't you REALLY worry about it? And let me
handle Sephiroth. And Cloud, you take care of yourself. So you don't have
a breakdown, okay?
Good old, Aeris. She's running in to certain death and she still
has that spark of optimism which permits her to joke about what things
that really aren't very funny. But this exchange is really interesting
because it is one of the main dialogues that presents the nature of the
relationship between Cloud and Aeris. When Aeris and Cloud are on the
Gondola in the Gold Saucer she has this exchange with Cloud,
Aeris: First off, it bothered how you look exactly alike. Two
completely different people, but look exactly the same. The way you walk,
gesture...I think I must have seen him again in you...But, you're different.
Things are different. Cloud...I'm searching for you...
Aeris: I want to meet you.
Cloud: But I'm right here.
Aeris: I know, I know what I really mean is, I want to meet...you.
We already know about Aeris' lost love and that his name was Zack
and he was a member of SOLDIER. Yet Cloud, when asked by Aeris in Midgar,
remembers nothing about Zack. Later on in the game, however, we found out
the Zack was the actual member of SOLDIER who was at Nibelheim and
Cloud was just one of the low ranking members. Cloud was totally confused
by his subsequent infusion of Mako and Jenova cells, done by Hojo and it
is over half way through the game before he pieces his reality together.
Yet Aeris sees that Cloud is not all himself ("I'm searching for you.").
She sees his apparent similarities to Zack and knows that something is
not right. Aeris is Clouds connection with his present. Tifa is his
connection with his past, as revealed through her knowledge of the events
of Nibelheim and her disclosure of them to him in the Lifestream. This is
the most of apparent of three character triangles, each involving
Cloud and Aeris, that appear in the game. There exists another one between
Cloud, Aeris, and Zack. There is also a third triangle within the game
that we will explore.
When Cloud and party reach the City of Ancients they try and save
Aeris, but fail miserably, as evidenced when Sephiroth cleanly slides his
sword through her spine, after failing to manipulate Cloud into doing it
for him. Earlier in the game Sephiroth says, "The Jenova Project wanted
to produce people with the powers of the ancients, no, the Cetra. I am the
one that was produced. Professor Gast, leader of the Jenova project,
produced me." This is down right eerie because shortly afterwards, in
Icicle Inn, we find out that Professor Gast was also Aeris' father.
Professor Gast who "produced" Sephiroth and fathered Aeris. This creates a
kind of pseudo brother/sister relationship between Sephiroth and Aeris and
thus reveals the third character triangle found within the game involving
Aeris and Cloud. It also serves as a reminder too how
disconnected Sephiroth is from reality.
After Sephiroth kills Aeris he tells Cloud, "Ha, ha, ha! Stop
acting as if you were sad. There's no need to act as though you're angry
either." He begins to float into the air, "Because, Cloud, you are..." He
trails off, almost as if confused by something, leaving another Jenova
incarnation to stall them. They kill the seemingly puppet creature and it
is Jenova who finishes these five critical words, "Because you are...a
puppet." This is the only time in the game that Jenova speaks. Why is it
Jenova who says this? What does this mean?
The chase for Sephiroth begins again with them chasing him to the
Northern Crater. When Cloud finally confronts Sephiroth in the Nibelheim
illusion, Sephiroth unleashes another shocker, that Cloud is a clone with
false memories who was constructed by Hojo five years before in the
laboratory of the Shinra Mansion. When Tifa, who knows that Cloud wasn't
at Nibelheim, begins to doubt Cloud, he becomes agitated with her.
Sephiroth tells says, "Cloud don't blame Tifa. The ability to change one's
looks, voice, and words is the power of Jenova. Inside of you Jenova has
merged with Tifa's memories, creating you. Out of Tifa's memory, a boy
named Cloud might've just been part of them."
We tend to overlook this line, just as we over look the 'you are
a puppet' line, because of the shock of the revelation Sephiroth makes
to Cloud and Jenova doesn't really seem to be very powerful, but her
abilities of illusion are obviously STRONG. Then again, there are a lot
of things in this game that seem to be something while actually being
something very different. Very interesting, indeed.
In the final battle between Cloud & Co. against Sephiroth we face
four separate entities. The first of these is Jenova noted by her face
and two enormous tentacles, who is easily dispatched, and we've finally
killed her for good, or have we?
In the second battle we face Bizarro Sephiroth, a monstrous form
of Sephiroth that symbolizes Sephiroth's conversion with Jenova. Look very
carefully at this monster. In the torso area, we can clearly identify
Sephiroth's face, but look on top of the monster above Sephiroth, at the
head, and you'll see Jenova, her two tentacles dangling in front of
Sephiroth. Watch the monsters movement when it attacks. Jenova's two
tentacles lift and begin dangling over Sephiroth's head, like a puppeteer
controlling her favorite puppet.
In the third battle, the most difficult of the four battles, we
face Safer Sephiroth. This angelic form of Sephiroth is highlighted by
its monstrous wing where it's right arm should be. Note the colors of
this wing, blue, white, reddish brown, and black, exactly the same
colors that the three Jenova monsters spread through out the game
consist of. This battle is the one that gives us the true indication of
Jenova's aforementioned power of illusion, hence the ridiculously long
Super Nova summon spell which shows a comet tearing through planets
before detonating the sun, causing a super nova which eats up the rest
of the planets. Also, take note of the translation of the final lyric
in the aria sung during this piece.
"Come, come, o come,
Do not let me die
The winged one of the lower reaches"
In the fourth battle, Cloud fights Sephiroth face to face,
without the power of Jenova to contend with...and utterly slaughters
Sephiroth. Yet, Sephiroth seemed so strong during the game. How can he
be this weak? The answer is simple. Sephiroth seems weak because
Sephiroth is weak. He is merely a puppet of Jenova, hence the
revelation of the true villain of Final Fantasy VII.
So now that we know that Sephiroth's not the real villain,
what exactly is Jenova, anyway? Let's journey to Icicle Inn, watch a
certain video tape which just happens to be titled "The Original Crisis,"
and find out. When we go into Professor Gasts old house, we see a video
of him and Ifalna. Ifalna explains that the Cetra were wiped out by
something called 'the Crisis from the Sky.'
This creature was an alien life form that came from outer
space and insinuated itself into the Cetra's various cultures throughout
the world, gained their trust, and then spread a plague into their
society gradually killing almost all of them off. It also crashed
something enormous into the Planet (possibly Meteor), causing a wound,
at the northern crater, which was never able to heal. Ifalna describes
the creatures appearance in this line, "When the Cetra were preparing to
depart from the land they loved...That's when it appeared. It looked like
...our...our dead mothers...and our dead brothers. Showing us spectres
of their past." Whatever this creature was, it had the ability to reach
into people minds and show them illusions, thus altering their memories.
It is interesting that Sephiroth calls the crater the Promised
Land when he kills Aeris, when it is, in fact, an injury that threatens
the planet (another one of the games illusions). After the plague, a
few of the Ancients managed to survive, track the creature down, and
seal it away. However they weren't able to destroy it because of its
remarkable ability to replicate itself. In the second video, we find
out the name of this 'Crisis from the Sky' and the name is, surprise,
Jenova. And poor old brilliant, but doomed Professor Gast, what can he
do with this information but turn away from Ifalna, as if deeply
disturbed by something? Hey, didn't he head up some scientific
experiment for the Shinra called 'The Jenova Project?' or something?
So now we know that Jenova killed off the Cetra, whereas as
Sephiroth puts the blame on "those who appeared that disliked their
journey" for their demise and believes he and Jenova to be the sole
survivors of the Cetra as revealed in his revelation to Cloud/Zack in
the Shinra mansion basement. Jenova was sealed away and forgotten. Two
thousand years later and thirty years before the beginning of the game,
Jenova is rediscovered. In the years that immediately follow a huge
world war breaks out and the first Mako Reactors are created. Is this a
coincidence? When Sephiroth is in the Shinra basement, going insane,
he reads aloud this document "Jenova Project approved. The use of Mako
Reactor number one approved for use." Wow, the first Mako reactor was
set up exactly at the time when the Jenova Project, and the creation
of Sephiroth, was set into motion.
Jenova was not simply manipulating Sephiroth. She was
manipulating everything. She was the founder of the Shinra (translated
as 'God') Corporation. Remember when Cloud freaks out just before he
sets the bombs up that are to destroy the Mako Reactors in Midgar?
This is because he is going against the will of Jenova. She
subliminally guided the scientists under her wing to create Sephiroth,
her 'son.' She set up the Mako Reactors to weaken the planet and
prepare it for its easy destruction. Look at the seal around Holy
before the final battle and you'll see that it consists of a red
colored rock structure, just like Meteor. Jenova used the power of the
Black Materia in order to contain Holy. Remember how the Shinra
originally were weapons manufacturers who grew in wealth from the war
that occurred? She probably started that war as part of her plan to
attain the wealth to build the Mako reactors which would be her tool for
her enslavement of the human race. She even implanted her cells into
the most elite of her army, SOLDIER, in order to have a powerful
fighting force of slaves to serve her. She accomplishes her ends in the
present, just as she did in the past, by insinuating herself into the
ruling society, taking control of it, and manipulating it, all the
while keeping her true self and her efforts unseen.
Part II-The Dramatic Themes of Final Fantasy VII and the
So far we have identified two completely different stories that
exist within FFVII. There is the 'apparent but false' story that shows
the world being destroyed by foolish human beings (Sephiroth and the
Shinra). There is also the 'hidden but true' story that shows us that
Jenova is manipulating everything. In contrast to this we have Cloud,
the apparent protagonist. We also have our hidden protagonist, Aeris
(as Cloud puts it, "She was so close, we couldn't see her") who, in
addition to being the first and last character we see in the game, is
the one who accomplishes the major task (the summoning of Holy) which
saves the life of the planet. Cloud, in turn, attacks Aeris twice and
gives up the Black Materia twice and doesn't start being a productive
member of the party until after his experience in the Lifestream. On
opposite ends of the spectrum, we have Sephiroth our "apparent but
false" antagonist and the "hidden but true" antagonist, Jenova.
Aeris and Jenova are the exact opposite of each other,
different in just about every way possible. Aeris is the last Cetra, a
race that was characterized by its migrations into various star
systems. They would colonize, cultivate, and communicate with these
planets until the eventual move to continue their search for the
Promised Land. Jenova goes onto planets, destroys them, and claims
their life energy for its own. Aeris ('heiress' of the knowledge of
the Cetra) is the symbol for life and truth in the game with her
constant excitement about the future and her own natural abilities
to heal herself and those around her, as well as her insight that
all is not right with Cloud. Jenova, in turn, represents illusion
and destruction in its most absolute form and is also able to
reassemble itself whenever it is dismembered. Note the contrast
between Aeris' healing ability and Jenova's ability to reconstruct
itself after it is destroyed.
Cloud and Sephiroth, by contrast, seem to be less
protagonist/antagonist and more flip sides of each other. Both are
men who have been deceived about their past and want to find out
the truth about themselves, but are mislead from this agenda by
Jenova. Cloud comes to believe that he is a clone of Sephiroth.
Sephiroth comes to believe that Jenova is his mother and that
they are both Ancients when, in fact, his mother is Lucretia, a
human woman and Jenova is an alien creature bent on the
destruction of the Planet for her own rise to power. Both characters are
'puppets' of the monster Jenova. Both characters spend time in
the Lifestream, an experience which sets both of them on their
true path of accomplishment. Both characters are infused with
the Jenova cells at the hands of Hojo.
The terms 'nothing is what it seems' defines the theme
of Final Fantasy VII. In fact, it defines each of the characters
in the game as well. All of the heroes in this game undergo a
realization where they have to confront a belief about their
past which is proved to be false. Let's look at all of them.
Cid spends years blaming Shera for the failure of his
rocket launch. Later on in the game he finds out that the oxygen
tank that she was trying to fix, which stalled his launch, was
actually malfunctioning, just as she said. Shera didn't ruin Cid's
dream, she probably saved his life. Vincent spends years in
stasis, punishing himself for his involvement in the Jenova
project. Later on, he determines that hiding from the problem
won't solve anything and that he must confront it in order to
atone for his past mistakes ("I was frozen in time, but now I
feel my time is just beginning!"). Yuffie spends the first part
of the game trying to steal all the Materia from the group, in
order to help restore the power of her home town, Wutai. Later
on, she realizes that Cloud and his party are the ones who are
really fighting for the future of the human race and that this
fight is her true quest. Cait Sith is really Reeve, of Shinra
Inc. But more so, Cait Sith/Reeve realizes that the
Shinra/Sephiroth/Jenova is the threat, and that Cloud, Aeris,
and Co. are the solution and must come to terms with being
able to betray the Shinra and follow his own morals. Nanaki
believes that is father was a coward who abandoned Cosmo
Canyon to save his own hide. Later on, he finds out that
his father was the hero who saved Cosmo Canyon from destruction
by the Gi Tribe. Tifa believes that something terrible
will happen if she tells Cloud that Zack was the member of
SOLDIER who was really at Nibelheim. Later on in the game,
that knowledge proves to be the key to uncovering the truth
about Clouds past, a revelation that allows him to finally
resist Sephiroth and Jenova and fight against them. Barret
is the mastermind behind the destruction of the first two
Mako reactors, an act he defines as being for the future of
the planet. Later on, Barret says that the Mako reactor
attack was the wrong way of doing things since it cost
innocent people their lives. He goes on to reveal that he
is really fighting for the future of Marlene, his late best
Cloud, the "false hero" is the most screwed up character
in the game and needs no analysis to prove this. He is the
symbol of 'nothing is what it seems.' He is the character from
whose eyes the story is told, yet he is revealed to have totally
false memories about his past. His true memories aren't revealed
until he and Tifa are in the Lifestream together and even then,
they don't seem to realize that Sephiroth is just Jenova's
slave. This is what serves to make the story so confusing. By
telling the story through Clouds eyes we, the player, see
reality as Jenova wishes Cloud to experience it. Cloud doesn't
realize what is really going on until the end of the game and
never says so out loud, but rather implies it, through this
line, "I think I'm beginning to understand...an answer from
Aeris, the hero, is the most honest character in the
game yet, as Tifa puts it, "She talked about the future more
than any of us...Although she never talked about it to us, she
must've had a rough life...I think Aeris looked forward to
tomorrow and the future more than anyone...She must've had
many, many dreams..."
In the epilogue of the game, which takes place five
hundred years after the games conclusion, we see Nanaki and
his children running up a hill to reveal a shot of a long
abandoned Midgar and the plant (planet) life that has grown
over it. There are no humans to be seen anywhere. The most
common argument I've heard in defining the meaning of this
ending is that humans caused the destruction and were summoned
back into the Lifestream by Holy because they were a
mistake. From the reality presented on the surface of the
game, this is the strongest argument. Yet, we also know
that most of what is evident about Final Fantasy VII is
false. The truth of the game is subtly told in various
hints spread throughout the game.
Humans were a creation of the planet. They existed
within the natural cycle of the planet, posing no real
threat to it. The destruction in this story is all caused
by Jenova, who is an alien life form which exists outside
of the natural cycle of the planet and manipulates this
cycle (namely, humanity and the Cetra) to achieve her own
ends. What does the epilogue with Nanaki really show us?
Midgar was virtually trashed during Meteors descent into
the planet and would have been long since abandoned by
humanity in the five centuries that passed on the planet
between the games ending and its epilogue if they indeed
continued to exist after Holy is released.
To understand the contrast between the 'apparent
but false' ending and the 'hidden but true' ending, you
merely have to look at the very, very end of the game.
After the conclusion of the epilogue, the Final Fantasy
VII logo appears and we hear a strange noise. This sound
consists of birds chirping, water flowing, and various
other sounds of the cycle of nature. Listen closely and
you'll also hear the laughter of children contained
within these sounds, hence a possible revelation that
humanity does not vanish at the games end.
But this isn't the only evidence of this that is
contained within the game. To understand this, you must
look closely at the games ending before the credits occur
. After Cloud defeats Sephiroth in the fourth of the
games four battles, Sephiroth explodes into Lifestream
energy that has is colored RED, signifying the
contamination of his life force by Jenova. Red is the primary
color of both Jenova and Meteor. Watch this scene closely.
Cloud is left standing alone. A stream of light emerges
from the ground and circles around Cloud. This stream is
clearly Holy as it is identical to the streams that later
emerge from the Planet and destroy Meteor. The red Life-
stream energy of Sephiroth also surround Cloud and enter
him. Holy then enters Cloud, combining with him and the
Sephiroth/Jenova life force, culminating in a bright flash
of light. This bright flash of light also occurs at the
end of the game when Holy is vanquishing Meteor, only we
don't get to see what happens afterwards, which is why
understanding this scene is so important to understanding
the meaning of the games ending. After, the flash of light,
Holy vanishes. The Sephiroth life force emerges once again
from Cloud, only this time it is colored GREEN. This all
symbolizes the cleansing of both Cloud and Sephiroth of
the Jenova life force that is inside of them by Holy.
Notice that Cloud does not vanish after this encounter.
Indeed, only moments later, the airship is propelled out
of the Northern Crater by Holy. Again, neither the team,
nor the airship vanishes. In fact, their lives are
virtually saved by Holy's movement. If they'd remained in
the Northern Crater, they'd all have certainly died.
Remember this exchange that the team has with Bugenhagen
at the City of Ancients, which is also the most commonly
misinterpreted line in the game. (I'll capitalize the
most important words in this dialogue to illustrate my
Bugenhagen: The knowledge of the Ancients swirling
around here is telling me one thing. The planet's in a
crisis...A crisis beyond human power or endless time. It
says when the time comes, we must search for 'Holy.'
Bugenhagen: Holy...the ultimate White Magic. Magic
that might stand against Meteor. Perhaps our last hope to
save the planet from Meteor. If a soul seeking Holy reaches
the Planet, it will appear. Ho, Ho, Hoooo. Meteor, Weapon,
everything will disappear. PERHAPS, even ourselves.
Cloud: Even us?
Bugenhagen: It is up to the planet to decide. What
is best for the Planet. What is bad for the Planet. ALL THAT
IS BAD WILL DISSAPPEAR. THAT IS ALL. Hoo, hoo, hoo, I wonder
which we humans are?
So it seems that the humans didn't disappear after
all. It was bold move on Square's part to make sure that this
game could only be understood through its subtleties. After
all, they spent thirty million dollars on this game, they
must have felt obligated to create an RPG that had a
challenging story as well as an entertaining one. This is an art
form after all. 'Normal' RPG's offer endings that provide
closure to the characters. Final Fantasy VII has an ending
which offers no closure and can only be understood through the
subtle hints that are dropped throughout the game. I guess
we all would have liked to see what "really" happens afterward,
but then again, how often is it that we see a story that is
Yet, just as everything in the 'apparent' story of
this game is contrasted by the 'hidden' story, there exists
another riddle within the game to finalize this contrast. There
are two mysteries that remains unexplained, the meaning of
Aeris' hand reaching towards Cloud after his cleansing of
Jenova, which is signified by her musical theme, a theme
which is only played during parts of the story that relate
to her. The other mystery is what the appearance of Aeris in
the final scene of the game, showing her head lifting up and
her eyes opening. Does this symbolize Aeris returning to the
Planet or does it symbolize her being resurrected? After all,
the last thing she says to Cloud is, "Then, I'll be going now.
I'll come back when it's all over." The truth is that the only
way to understand the meaning of this puzzling riddle is to
understand the mythology that Final Fantasy VII is based on.
This is what we shall explore in the next segment of this FAQ.
Part III: The Riddle of the Promised Land
Sephiroths name comes from the Jewish mystical text,
the Kaballa. Sephiroths goal in the game is his Jenova
influenced desire to converge with the Planet and become a God.
The murder of Aeris manipulates the player into hating Sephiroth,
thus diverting our attention from the fact that he is
really just a tragic character who is being manipulated by
Jenova. Note the look of horror on his face as he dies. Sephiroth
obviously wasn't afraid of dying. It was his goal to
kill his body and become a new life form. His fear at the
end of the game seems to imply a terrifying revelation, as
if he has suddenly realized what was being done to him and
the terrible actions it caused him to perform. Personally,
I like to think that Sephiroths life energy visits his real
mother, Lucretia, to say good-bye and then returns to the
The Sefirot of the Kabbalah represent the ten branches
of the Tree of Life which are interconnected by twenty-two
paths. The first nine branches are symbolized in the game by
its 9 heroes. The tenth branch is called Malkut and is
characterized by Harry Gersh in his work, "The Sacred Book of the
Jews," like this, "Malkut has no special attributes but is a
kind of funnel through which the qualities of the upper nine
sefirot are transmitted to the physical world. It is therefore
also called Shechinah, the Spirit of God." Malkut, the tenth
branch, is portrayed in the game by the White Materia (Remember
what Aeris first says about the White Materia, "...but mine is
special. It is good for absolutely nothing." This quote from
George Sassoon and Rodney Dale in their work, "The Mana
Machine," illustrates Sephiroth and his fate perfectly, "To
the Babylonians, it [the Tree of Life] was a tree with magical
fruit, which could only be picked from the gods. Dire
consequences befell any mortal who dared to pluck from its
The Kaballah also speaks of an eleventh, hidden branch.
This branch is called Da'ath and is represented in the game by
the Lifestream. This quote from Rebecca Salem describes the Da'
ath, "Here is the highest point of the human mind: the home of
the brainstorm or creative energy that is brought into
manifestation on the earthly plain."
In Celtic Mythology, the development of which was
highly influenced by the mystical ideas found in the Kaballah,
magic is a process of altering the structure of the physical
reality through the sheer force of ones own will. The use of
magic requires one to gain mastery over the five elements,
Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Spirit and use them in the
construction of spells. Note how this parallels the magical
system of Final Fantasy (and almost every other RPG in existence),
which features magical spells based on all these
elements. As Bugenhagen puts it when he first meets Cloud,
"Spirit energy is a word you should never forget."
Celtic Mythology often uses numbers to symbolize
mystical ideas. Three and all multiples of three are the fundamental
numbers which were believed to have magical power.
Nine was considered the most important of these multiples
for its ability to return to itself. If you multiply nine by
any single digit number and then add the two numbers you
get as your answer, their sum will always be nine (Example:
2x9=18, 1+8=9/ 6x9=54, 5+4=9).
In Final Fantasy VII, the number 3 and all its
multiples are employed in a strange repetition. (Just before
the final battle, Barrett says, "Look at the number.") Here is
a list of some examples.
1. There are three characters in the players party at
any one time.
2. There are nine characters in the game total (Note
that Sephiroth is in your party briefly during Clouds flash-
back bringing the number to 10, the same number as the
branches found on the tree of life. This is another way of
symbolizing that Sephiroth is a victim, not a villain.)
3. There are three incarnations of Jenova fought
during the game (Jenova Birth, Life, and Death)
4. There are six primary characters which lead the
Shinra at the beginning of the game (President Shinra, Hojo,
Scarlet, Heidegger, Palmer, and Reeve) When President Shinra
dies, Rufus immediately shows up, stabilizing the number.
5. On the world map, there are a total of thirty
locations which can be entered (I counted these up by looking
at the world map in the official strategy guide. There were
actually 36 locations, but six of them were just chocobo
tracks, although this still comes to another multiple of
6. Each character has 6 Limit Break attacks which
come naturally to them (except Cait Sith, who only has two,
which is one third of six, and is not a real character, but
rather Reeve of Shinra.) The seventh limit break can only
come through mastery of the fist six.
7. Aeris, the true hero, is the third character we
meet in the game (after Cloud and Barrett). Note that we
don't learn Aeris' name until after we meet Tifa, making her
seem to be character number four (another contrast between
the 'apparent' and 'hidden' realities of the story.)
8. In the games final battle we fight four different
monsters. Yet each of these four monsters represent 3
different forms of both Sephiroth and Jenova. Numerically, the
pattern can be illustrated like this, with the left side
representing Jenova and the right side, Sephiroth:
1-2/3-3/2-1. If you add these numbers up (1+2+3+2+3+1) you
will get 12, another multiple of 3. Note that 4 (the number
of battles) times 3(the number of forms of Jenova and Sephiroth)
also equals 12. If you add only the center numbers
of the conversion up (2+3+2+3) you will get 10, the number
of spheres on the Tree of Life, which represents the state
of immortality that Sephiroth/Jenova are trying to attain.
9. There are 69 floors in the Shinra headquarters.
'69' is a numerical symbol for convergence (as well as
being...well, you know
'God.' If you put these to words into a sentence summarizing
Jenova's goal in the game you'll come up with something like,
"Jenova wishes to destroy the planet and 'converge' with its
Lifestream energy to become a 'God.'" (Square sure did put
some intense planning into this game, didn't they?)
10. There are 241 species of monsters spread through-
out this game (not counting the final battle). Multiply 2x4
and then add 1 and you will get 9.
11. The first Cait Sith is destroyed in the Temple
of Ancients and is replaced by another. Add another 1 (Reeve)
to this 2 and you get 3.
12. In the Mural room in the Temple of Ancients,
there are nine pillars in the room, eight on the wall and
one different looking pillar, characterized by a sphere at
its top, that is located on the altar on the right side of
the room. There are eight torches in the room with another
point of light represented by the Black Materia illusion floating
above the pillar. The Black Materia illusion is a light
color when we first see it, but turns dark after we touch it.
I've found other repetitions of three in the game, but
I've basically illustrated my point enough for the numerical
pattern to become evident. Replay the game and look for your-
selves. All of the characters ages in the game are multiples of
three with the exception of Aeris, Tifa, and Yuffie (all of
which are potential love interest for Cloud, although it is
very difficult to see the 'date' with Yuffie, and I have never
taken the time to get it). Aeris' age is 22, the same as the
number of paths interconnecting the branches of the Tree of
Life. Tifa's age is 20, I'm not really sure what this means,
but I think that zero in the number may be meant to somehow
symbolize Tifa's secret from Cloud. Yuffie's age is sixteen,
multiply 1x6 and you get six, which is still a multiple of
three (Yuffie is also the sixth character found in the game,
if you find her at your earliest opportunity, just before
you first reach Junon.)
As I mentioned earlier, in Final Fantasy VII there
are three character triangles involving Cloud and Aeris.
1.Cloud, Aeris, and Zack
2. Cloud, Aeris, and Tifa
3. Cloud, Aeris, and Sephiroth.
Add the numerical points of these character triangles
and you will get 9, the number that always returns to itself.
These triangles serve to illustrate various choices
that Cloud makes during the game which are fundamental to his
growth. The choice between Tifa and Aeris is very obvious and
is up to the player to decide. The choice between Zack and Aeris
is personified when Cloud emerges from the Lifestream and vows
to live without lying to himself. Zack represents the false
past that Cloud constructed for himself under Jenovas influence.
Aeris represents Clouds connection to reality ("I'm searching
for you.") The choice between Aeris and Sephiroth is
personified when Cloud refuses to obey Sephiroths command and
kill Aeris at the end of the first disc. If Cloud chooses Aeris
in the Tifa/Aeris triangle, then Aeris becomes the point of
focus for all three triangles. Here is a visual illustration
of these triangles.
(C=Cloud, A=Aeris, T=Tifa, S=Sephiroth, Z=Zack)
C A/T C
If you look at these triangles carefully, you will notice
that there is a fourth, inverted triangle within the structure
where Aeris is the three points of focus. Note that the points
of focus are in the center, with Cloud being represented on the
outside of the triangle. Aeris within Cloud. What does this mean?
As Cloud puts it in his conversation with Tifa at the end of disc
2, "Everybody has an irreplaceable something theyre holding onto."
In the Tree of Life, the first nine sefirot are grouped
in threes. Each triad is comprised of a masculine element, a
feminine element, and a combining element. The three triads
represent 1. the world of thought 2. the world of emotions and
morality and 3. the world of nature. Note how this parallels the
above structure. Even Tifa can be determined as the masculine
element as she is presented in the game as being somewhat of a
tomboy with many masculine traits (she is a martial arts expert
who wears mens clothes), whereas Aeris is more of an angelic waif
and very, very feminine to boot.
Each one of the three triads on the Tree of Life symbolize
a different element. The first represents the world of thought and
is personified by the choice between Zack and Aeris, which occurs
inside Clouds head while he is in the Lifestream with Tifa. The
second represents the world of emotion and morals and is personified
by Clouds choice between Tifa and Aeris, his two love interests.
The third triad represents the world of nature and is
personified by Clouds refusal to kill Aeris at Sephiroth/Jenovas
Everything in the 'apparent' and 'hidden' stories has
parallel contrasts. There is also a second trilogy of character
triangles in this story. These triangles consist of:
1. Hojo, Jenova, and Sephiroth
2. Hojo, Jenova, and Lucretia
3. Hojo, Jenova, and Professor Gast
The structure can be illustrated like this (H=Hojo,
J=Jenova S=Sephiroth, G=Gast, L=Lucretia):
H S/J H
Once again, each of these triangles is brought into focus
by a choice Hojo makes. His choice between Jenova and Sephiroth
(his son) is personified when he chooses to inject the cells of
Jenova into Sephiroth while he is in the womb (the world of
thought). The second choice is personified when he chooses to
give Lucretia, his lover who is carrying is child, to Professor
Gasts Jenova Project and then doesn't allow her to see the child,
thus creating the illusion for Sephiroth that Jenova is his real
mother (the world of emotions and morals.) The third choice is
made when Hojo has Professor Gast killed (the world of nature.)
If you add the number of characters in these two trilogies
together (5+5) you get another 10. If you subtract Sephiroth,
who appears once in both sets of trilogies, you get another 9
(damn, this is gettin' trippy!).
The inverted triangle, which is highlighted in these
structures by the three connecting points of Aeris and Jenova,
is an important symbol in Celtic Mythology. It is called the
Triangle of Manifestation. This triangle symbolizes the creation
life through three points:
God (Masculine Element) Goddess (Feminine Element)
The three triangles of Hojo illustrate the choice Hojo
made that ultimately lead to the creation of the "false"
Sephiroth, who never had any real choice except to become a
slave of Jenova. The three triangles of Cloud seem to symbolize
that Cloud somehow keeps Aeris alive, but how is this possible.
Let's take a look at some of the hints regarding this that are
spread throughout the game.
When President Shinra dies, we see Sephiroths sword
shoved through him in exactly the way he kills Aeris later on.
He is immediately replaced by his son, which could foreshadow
When Aeris speaks to Cloud in his dream before taking
off to the City of the Ancients the last thing she says is,
"The secret is just up here. At least it should be. I feel it. It
feels like I'm being lead by something. Well, I'll be going now.
I'll come back when it's all over." This line implies that Aeris
knows that she is being protected by something far greater than
herself and that she will be safe if she prays for Holy, no matter
what happens. After all, she knows that Sephiroth is going to be
after her. She probably also knew that Jenova was the real threat
because her mothers voice would have told her. Also remember that
Holy is "the Ultimate White Magic," which is the magic of Healing.
If any magic could perform a resurrection, it is Holy.
When Tifa and Cloud are on their way to revisit the City
of Ancients to find out what Aeris was really doing there, they
have this exchange:
Tifa: I wonder what Aeris felt when she was on that altar.
Cloud: I'm sure she wanted to give her life for the planet
Tifa: Really? I wonder? I don't think that's it at all. I
think she didn't think she would die at all., but that she planned
on coming back all along. She always used to talk about the 'next
time.' She talked about the future more than any of us...
When we re-enter the church at Midgar, we see a specter of
Aeris that disappears if we get too close. Aeris has not returned
to the Planet yet, but why not? What is she waiting for?
When Aeris runs away from Cloud in the Sleeping Forest
dream, we see her run into a white sphere of light, symbolizing
Holy. If you look closely as Aeris falls through the waters during
her burial, notice that she falls into a sphere. As the fade out
occurs a circular light surrounding the sphere, grows smaller and
smaller as she falls, as though it is absorbing her body.
In the games ending, there are two appearances of Aeris.
The first is the hand reaching from the white light of Holy out
to Cloud, as though Holy is creating a new body for her. This could
also symbolize Aeris reaching out to Cloud to pull him into Holy
and back into the Lifestream with her since, when the scene shifts
back to reality, Cloud is about to fall off the ledge he is standing
on and die. In the first scene of the game, we see Aeris' head
facing straight at us, her eyes already open (life). When Sephiroth
draws his sword from her body we see her eyes close (death). In
the final scene we see Aeris' head nodding upward and her eyes
opening (returning to the Planet or resurrection).
We have already established that many major truths in this
game are illustrated in the places where we are most likely to
notice them. The most fundamentally absurd scene in the game is the
show at the Gold Saucer during Aeris' and Clouds date. The scene
is so goofy that we are totally encouraged to play it as
mischievously as possible (another way the game diverts us from its
truths). Let's look at the entire scene through the path to the
happy ending. I will add what I think to be the secret references
to the story and what they mean in parenthesis.
Narrator: Long, long ago...An evil shadow appeared over the
peaceful kingdom of Galdia (Jenova, "the winged one of the lower
reaches," who started reaping her destruction upon the planet 30
years before the game begins) Princess Rosa was just kidnapped by
the Evil Dragon King Valvados (Aeris was killed by Sephiroth/Jenova)
What will become of her (what is Aeris' true fate?) Just then, the
legendary hero, Alfred, appears!
Knight: Oh...you must be the legendary hero...Alfred! Hey,
it's your line! (It's your decision to make) Yeah, you. Ahem! Oh,
you must be the legendary hero...Alfred! I know in my soul.
Please...please save princess Rosa (In your soul you can save Aeris)
On the peak of a dangerous mountain...dwells the Evil Dragon King,
Valvados (In the Northern Crater dwells Jenova. Note that both
Jenova and Valvados have three syllables in their names) who's kid-
napped Princess Rosa (who has killed Aeris)...But you can't beat the
Evil now (Cloud is still too confused about himself to fight Jenova)
talk to the one who can help you (Talk to Tifa Lockheart, who holds
'locked' within her 'heart,' the key to Clouds true past)...
Cloud has two choices 1. The knight (a symbol of force) 2.
The wizard (a symbol for wisdom) Let's have Cloud choose the wizard.
Wizard: I am the great wizard, Vorman (I am truth) What do
you wish to know?
Cloud: The evil dragon kings weakness (Jenovas weakness)
Vorman: Ahh, the weakness of the Evil Dragon King. It must
be, it must be..Yes! It must be True Love (Truth and Love)! The
power of love...Is the only weapon that can withstand the fangs of
the evil dragon king (Only love can save Aeris from death) Oh,
what is going to happen next! (Only Cloud can decide Aeris' fate)
EDK: Aaah! I am the Evil Dragon King....Valvados (I am
Jenova) I have not harmed the princess (Aeris is being contained
inside Holy, which has been sealed) I have been expecting...you!
Aeris: Please help me legendary hero! (Please save me from
Jenova, Cloud!) psst... like that?
EDK: Gaah! Here I come legendary hero...Alfred! I already
know your name (I have been controlling you all along).
Vorman: And now legendary here...Here is what will happen...
to your beloved...A kiss! The power of True Love!! (Aeris will
return through Clouds love)
Aeris: Cloud, I mean Alfred!
EDK:Arrgh! Curses...The power of...love!!!
King: Oh, look! Love has...triumphed (Clouds love has
brought back Aeris) Now let's all return and celebrate!
Narrator: Oh, how profound the power of love (profound means
'within,' Holy is contained at the center of the planet) And so the
legendary hero & our story live happily ever after (Cloud defeats
Jenova and Sephiroth and finds Aeris in the Promised Land)
All this stuff here is based on choice that Cloud (the
player) makes. Every important element in this game means something
different that what it seems to mean on the surface.
If you choose Tifa over Aeris, it breaks the points of focus
that symbolize Aeris and the Triangle of Manifestation. I think that
Aeris' resurrection is determined by whom Cloud chooses in the love
triangle. If Cloud chooses Aeris, he completes the Triangle of
Manifestation and brings Aeris back, through the power of love, when
he is touched by Holy (Note that Aeris hand appears immediately after
Cloud is touched by Holy and this scene immediately shifts to a shot
of Tifas hand reaching towards Cloud). If he chooses Tifa, Aeris goes
back into the Lifestream. After all, any good RPG will often let you
decide something fundamental to the fate of your protagonist.
Remember what Aeris says about the Promised Land, "You don't
'know' where the Promised Land of the Ancients is. You search and
travel until you feel it. Like you just know, '...this is the
The Promised Land is not a place, but something you find in
your heart. When Cloud is snapped back into reality at the end of the
game, he says to Tifa, "I think I'm beginning to understand. An answer
from the planet...The Promised Land...I think I can meet her there."
Cloud somehow knows that he can bring Aeris back by keeping her
alive in his heart. If Cloud loves Aeris then she is his Promised
Land, thus providing the explanation for her resurrection when Cloud
is touched by Holy. But Aeris loves Cloud no matter how he feels. If
Cloud chooses Tifa over her, then she has no real reason to come back.
She is better off in the Lifestream with her own race. This
resurrection/Lifestream return riddle is somewhat ambiguous. But, when
you understand the mythological references in the game, the choice
between Aeris and Tifa steers it to a more likely possibility, which
is why I think this determines Aeris' fate.
I think Square put this riddle in the game as a sort of
'reward' for people who take the time to read about the mythology on
which the game is based. They wanted to encode something in the game
which could only be understood by understanding the most subtle levels
of the game.
I can really see why Square of Japan translated FFVII
themselves. There was just way too many symbolic elements encoded
into the game for them to risk it all being ruined by having someone
else translate it. FFVII touches a level of depth in both its dramatic
story telling and in its symbolism that has never been approached by
another RPG. I've never played a video game which has challenged me
more in it's requirement of the player to think about it's story in
order to understand it. This is a very confusing story and I hope
that I've done a good job of explaining the tale and its intriguing
mythological basis. If I've done my job right, then may this FAQ
serve as an affirmation of appreciation that inspires the many FFVII
fans to play the game once again, with new eyes...