Aerith Gainsborough (known as "Aeris" in the original English localization of her name) is an important character in the world and story of Final Fantasy VII. Introduced as a simple flower girl living in the Sector 5 slums under Midgar, the player is formally introduced to Aerith after Cloud Strife, the game's main protagonist, crashes through the roof of the church where her flowers grow. Her first run-in with Cloud comes earlier, when the two temporarily cross paths while Cloud is on his way to 7th Heaven.
It is later revealed that the Turks, the special security arm of the Shinra Electric Power Company, is pursuing Aerith for the purposes of research. Aerith is the last of the Cetra, an ancient race with close ties to the planet's lifestream. The Turks succeed in capturing Aerith, and she's later put in the clutches of Professor Hojo, a deluded scientist researching the Cetra. Hojo puts Aerith in a sealed test tube along with Red XIII in hopes that the two will mate so their species lives on.
Aerith is rescued from Hojo's lab by Cloud and his allies, and they all escape Midgar together. After learning that Sephiroth intends to steal the Black Materia in order to cast Meteor and destroy the world, Aerith leaves the party and heads towards the Forgotten City where the Cetra originated from.
When Cloud finally manages to catch up with Aerith, he's too late, and watches as she's attacked and murdered by Sephiroth. As she dies, the materia that she wore in her hairpin that belonged to her mother falls off and into the water below. After fending off Jenova, Cloud carries Aerith's body into the water and allows her to sink into its depths.
Eventually, the party learns that the reason Aerith sacrificed herself was so she could summon Holy; the only spell capable of counteracting Meteor. Though she died, she managed to save the planet in the process.
Prior to meeting Cloud, Aerith became friends with and dated Zack Fair for four years. As depicted in the game Crisis Core, it is Zack that gives Aerith the idea to earn money by selling flowers, and assists her by building a flower cart. He also buys her a hair ribbon as a gift while the two go out on a date. Zack also notes that he thinks Aerith would look beautiful in a pink dress, though Aerith comments that she's not fond of pink. In her time together with Cloud, Aerith is reminded of Zack through Cloud's behavior; a result of Cloud's memories becoming muddled with stories Zack had previously told him about his own life.
As a party member, Aerith excels in magic. Her limit breaks have healing properties. Aerith's final limit break fully heals the party and and grants each member invincibility for thirty seconds.
Aerith is a kind and soft-spoken young woman who nonetheless has an impetuous side. She'll willingly put herself at risk to help those in need and go to unusual lengths in order to do so. At one point, she insists upon aiding Cloud by dressing him as a woman so that the two can enter Don Corneo's estate in order to rescue Tifa even though she had never met her before. The two girls become best friends despite having the same love interest.
Compilation of Final Fantasy VII
Aerith's role in the overarching storyline behind the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII extends through most of its projects. She appears in the episodic cell phone game Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII, the retelling of Zack Fair's story in Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, and as a memory haunting Cloud in the film Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.
Aerith is one of several Final Fantasy VII characters that appear in the Kingdom Hearts series. She initially appears in the original Kingdom Hearts as a resident of Traverse Town, and is friends with Leon, Yuffie, and Cid Highwind. In Kingdom Hearts II, she moves with the others to Hollow Bastion. In between, she appears as one of Sora's memories in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories.
Shortly after Final Fantasy VII was released, rumors surfaced regarding whether or not it was possible to resurrect her after her death. Players believed that since the programmers essentially built out her character with final limit breaks and abilities (which included invincibility for the entire party), then there must be a way to bring her back to achieve this. However, no such method of bringing Aerith back after her death is present in the game; her final Limit Breaks and ultimate weapon were accessible on the game's first disc, but once she is killed off as part of the plot, she cannot be brought back in any official capacity. The only known way to actually bring Aerith back to life is through the use of a cheat device such as Game Shark, which could return Aerith to the player's party, though she would remain absent during the remainder of the game's story events.
The Rumor Mill
Some of the rumors that came and went regarding Aerith's possible resurrection included:
- Players reported seeing her ghost in a later section of the game.
- There were also rumors about a supposed white materia that would enable the player to bring her back...and many players spent many hours trying to find this nonexistent item.
- Some players surmised that the developers rushed the game's development, not leaving time for the developers to include Aerith's return to life.