The cycle of nature and your stupid plan don't mean a thing! Aeris is gone. Aeris will no longer talk, no longer laugh, cry or get angry
- —Cloud Strife to Sephiroth
Aerith's death scene in Final Fantasy VII is a pivotal moment in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII. As a central character in the game, Aerith's death is considered one of the notable events in the history of the series due to its shocking and unexpected introduction.
Sephiroth intends to use the Black Materia to call the Ultimate Destructive Magic — Meteor — to heavily injure the Planet. By placing himself at the center of its impact zone, Sephiroth intends to merge with the Lifestream as it emerges to heal the Planet's wound, and become a god.
Cloud acquires the Black Materia, but Sephiroth exerts his influence over Jenova's cells that reside within Cloud, and takes control of him, forcing him to hand the Materia over. Realizing she may be the only one able to stop Sephiroth, Aeris ventures to the Forgotten Capital to use the White Materia to summon Holy, the only power able to counter Meteor.
In a temple underneath the city, Cloud and the party find Aeris praying on an altar. As Cloud approaches her, Sephiroth attempts to take control of him and kill her with the Buster Sword, but Cloud resists him. As Aeris finishes praying, Sephiroth descends from the ceiling and impales her with the Masamune. Dying, Aeris collapses into Cloud's arms as her hair ribbon unravels, the White Materia bouncing off the altar into the water below. Enraged, Cloud turns on Sephiroth, who turns out to be another disguised part of Jenova. Cloud and his allies fight Jenova∙LIFE, and after Jenova is dispatched Cloud carries Aeris to the pool of water in the center of the city, and lays her body to rest beneath the water.
When the player arrives in Forgotten Capital the path that leads to the sections beneath the city is blocked by a large simulacrum of a fish. In one of the abandoned houses on the east side of the city the player finds beds where the party can sleep for the night. During the night Cloud wakes up, claiming he can hear Aeris calling for him. If the player then enters the middle path from the entrance to the city, the fish is missing and in its place stairs lead down. The stairs lead to a section underneath the city where the player finds a save point and Aeris praying on the altar. Cloud's party members stay behind while he approaches her alone.
The player must jump across the platforms to the Water Altar, but as Cloud approaches Aeris he begins to act strangely, as he is under Sephiroth's influence. Whenever the player presses the confirm button Cloud comes closer and closer to attacking Aeris, until his team mates' protests stop him in the nick of time. This triggers the FMV where Aeris is killed by Sephiroth, and the White Materia falls into the water beneath the altar. Cloud mourns for Aeris's death while Sephiroth gloats and then flies away dropping a piece of Jenova's body that transforms into Jenova∙LIFE.
Jenova∙LIFE is a boss battle where "Aerith's Theme" plays in place of the normal Jenova battle music. The battle is one of the easiest boss battles in the game, and it was likely planned so for the player not having to view the scenes of Aeris's death again, which would happen if they were to lose the boss battle, as this may have lessened the scene's emotional impact. After the boss is defeated, the player gets a cryptic message assigned to Jenova saying Cloud is just a puppet, and Sephiroth will be gone.
Depending on who is in the player's party during Aeris's final moments, each character pays their respects in their own way:
- Barret Wallace - Barret looks at Aeris's body and mourns, shaking his head. He approaches Cloud and lays a hand on his head, trying to console him.
- Tifa Lockhart - Tifa approaches Aeris's body, kneels down and strokes her hair, before running away crying.
- Red XIII - Red XIII shakes his head and walks away, he stops for a brief moment and howls.
- Cait Sith - Cait Sith begins to perform a dance to cheer the others up, but stops mid-motion and bows down his head, looking at Cloud, then quietly skulks away.
- Cid Highwind - Cid approaches Aeris's body and simply looks up. He then walks away.
- Yuffie Kisaragi - Yuffie looks down at Aeris's body, and walks to Cloud. She begins to cry in Cloud's arms who attempts to console her.
- Vincent Valentine - Vincent walks over to Aeris's body and looks at her. He walks over to Cloud and looks at him. He silently walks away.
Cloud picks up Aeris's body, which triggers the FMV where he lays her to rest in the lake. Afterward Cloud and the others return to the house with the beds. Cloud vows to avenge Aeris's death and settle things with Sephiroth. The scene ends Disc 1 of the game, or Part I in the PC version re-release of the game.
While designing Final Fantasy VII Tetsuya Nomura was frustrated with the "perennial cliché where the protagonist loves someone very much and so has to sacrifice himself and die in a dramatic fashion to express that love". He found this appears in both films and video games from North America and Japan. Yoshinori Kitase concludes:
In the real world things are very different. You just need to look around you. Nobody wants to die that way. People die of disease and accident. Death comes suddenly and there is no notion of good or bad. It leaves, not a dramatic feeling but great emptiness. When you lose someone you loved very much you feel this big empty space and think, 'If I had known this was coming I would have done things differently. These are the feelings I wanted to arouse in the players with Aerith's death relatively early in the game. Feelings of reality and not Hollywood.
While reflecting on the game, Tetsuya Nomura comments that "Death should be something sudden and unexpected, and Aerith's death seemed more natural and realistic. When I reflect on Final Fantasy VII, the fact that fans were so offended by her sudden death probably means that we were successful with her character. If fans had simply accepted her death, that would have meant she wasn't an effective character".
Event planner Motomu Toriyama has said that the idea of having Aeris die had a great impact on all the development staff, and that he decided to dedicate his efforts to depict Aeris in as appealing way as possible, so she would become an irreplaceable character to the player in preparation for that moment.
In a screenshot published before Final Fantasy VII was released, Aeris is seen facing left while she prays, but in the final game she is facing the steps. In the picture Cloud is also standing on the steps which is never seen in-game, as upon reaching the platform he is immediately transported to a close-up view of the altar. The revised position of Aeris praying may have contributed to the numerous inconsistencies within the scenes.
Two years after the events of Final Fantasy VII, Aerith's death and Zack's sacrifice, and his inability to prevent either event from happening, haunts Cloud to the point of crippling depression. While in pursuit of thwarting Kadaj and the other Remnants of Sephiroth, Cloud seeks to find forgiveness for his self-perceived "sins". While attempting to amend, Aerith's spirit from within the Lifestream reveals she never blamed him for her death, only that she was happy he came for her in the end.
Sephiroth's Hell's Gate HP attack consists of him leaping into the air and descending rapidly while stabbing the Masamune down, mirroring his pose when he impaled Aerith.
Aerith's animation while charging Holy mirrors her prayer stance before her death.
This scene appears in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, in the "Aerith's Theme" Field Music Sequence track, among other scenes. The scene appears approximately halfway through FMS. The scene is edited however to not show Sephiroth impaling Aerith - as he descends there is a burst of light, which fades to show Aerith falling forward as she does after Sephiroth withdraws the Masamune. The sequence of the White Materia falling is similarly cut short, after it falls to the floor another flash of light cuts the scene to Cloud laying Aerith to rest. Aerith's descent into the water marks the end of the FMS if the player fails the Feature Drive which extends the song.
A card depicting a Yoshitaka Amano artwork of Cloud mourning for Aeris is part of the Final Fantasy Trading Card Game. As it is considered Aeris's card it is wind-elemental.
Aerith's death is reference in the CG-animated Disney film, Wreck-It Ralph. When Ralph is entering Game Central Station, graffiti can be seen spray-painted on the walls on the sides of the entrance. "AERITH LIVES!" is painted in thick black ink to the left of the archway.
The scene where Cloud lays Aerith's body to rest was depicted, amongst other Final Fantasy scenes, as a cold cast statue as part of Squaresoft's Final Fantasy Cold Cast Collection. Only 3,000 of these cold casts were made, each coming with a card and card stand that has the statue's limited number and description. The series has been out of production since 1999.
At 2008, Kotobukiya released another limited edition Aerith sculpture, which depicts Aerith praying for Holy. The sculpture measures 43cm or 16.92" in height and includes a stand.
- Aeris's death scene in Final Fantasy VII contains numerous oddities.
- When Aeris is first seen at the altar, she is facing the stairs, with her back to the railing. However, when Sephiroth comes down with the Masamune both have their backs to the stairs, yet, once the FMV ends, they are again facing the stairs.
- When Aeris is first seen at the altar she is kneeling on black and white tiles, yet at the FMV's end the floor is of a single color.
- In the scene where Sephiroth descends from above he is shown barehanded, yet in the scene he pulls the Masamune out of Aeris's back, he suddenly is wearing gloves.
- Cloud is first seen lifting Aeris with her head to Cloud's right and her feet to his left. However, when Cloud is seen laying her into the lake, Aeris has changed position: her head is to Cloud's left and her feet are to his right.
- In the scene Cloud lays Aeris to the lake, the lake appears much too shallow as Cloud is able to stand on the spot he lays her to rest.
- During the FMV, Aeris's ribbon unravels from her hair. After the FMV, her character model is still portrayed with her hair tied with the ribbon.
- The original PC version has a humorous graphics glitch that occurs if Vincent is in the party at Aeris's death, where his character model is stuck with one leg extended out into the air. This glitch has been fixed to the 2012 re-release.
- In Final Fantasy XIII-2, Caius lays Yeul's dead body into water similar to Cloud and Aeris in this scene.
- In Final Fantasy Tactics, if Cloud abandons the party due to low Bravery, he will say "I couldn't even save one girl. What do you expect from me?"
- Aerith's death was listed #3 on ScrewAttack's "Top 10 OMGWTF Moments", where it was listed as everyone's first excuse to cry during a video game.
- The meme "Aeris Dies" is a popular spoiler taunt that refers to this scene. It is mostly seen used in videogame pop culture.
- Aeris's "ghost" can be seen in the Sector 5 Church in Midgar.
- A lengthy petition asking for Aerith's revival by Japanese players was sent to Yoshinori Kitase. However, Kitase stated that, "There are many meanings in Aerith's death and that could never happen".
- Aerith's death was listed #1 on IGN's "Top 100 Video Game Moments".
- The player can skip Aeris's death scene via the Yuffie warping glitch and keep Aeris as a party member for the remainder of the game, although Aeris gains no new weapons and her presence in certain story scenes may trigger glitches.
- ↑ EDGE magazine, May 2003
- ↑ Final Fantasy 25th Anniversary Interview with Motomu Toriyama