Why Two Games Drove My Crazy Belief in the FF7 Aeris Secret

Recently a friend and I were putting together a list of our favorite games, he's list had a lot of action/platformer games, my list had a lot of RPGs or "story-driven" experiences.

Which led me to think about two of my favorite games:

  1. Chrono Trigger a game I still enjoy and recently got to re-experience with the latest Endurance Run and my play-through of the DS rerelease. Some of my favorite 16-bit era moments in gaming come from Chrono Trigger. It holds a special place as one of the first games I really followed from announcement to every bit of news I could find about it. I also played it multiple times to see all the endings and my first experience at a video game hobby/import store to pick up the soundtrack to the game;
  2. Suikoden was one of the first games I picked up for my Playstation on a complete whim. I had just saved my money up after buying the system earlier in the year and only having the demo disc to play. While the graphics were not much different from what I saw on the SNES and Genesis, the musical score and the epic scope of the story pulled me in. Plus the sheer amount of characters you were able to recruit was mind blowing.
  3. Final Fantasy 7 a game that I was really excited about as a kid and one of the games (Resident Evil being the other game) that drove me to pick up a Playstation after throwing my hat in with the Nintendo 64. The game has not necessarily aged well with it's poor translation, inconsistent art style, and my opinion of the materia system changing as I have revisited other games in the series.

Now to the topic of the post and I'm going to get the spoilers out of the way for anyone that has never played these three games:

In Chrono Trigger: Chrono dies to protect his friends from Lavos, however using the power of time travel and some

In Suikoden: Two characters die, Phan and Gremio, both loyal friends/servants to the main character. You can save Phan by making sure he is properly leveled and equipped. By saving Phan and making sure you recruit the rest of the available 108 characters Gremio is brought back to life after his death.

In Final Fantasy 7: Aeris is killed by Sephiroth, however her sacrifice is what actually saves the world from Sephiroth's meteor.

Alright with those out of the way, I'm going to go into more spoilers below to discuss the aforementioned secret, these won't be hidden, so you have been warned!

It is because of the Chrono Trigger and Suikoden that led me to believe that i was possible to save Aeris in Final Fantasy 7. I first saw this rumor in EGM, I'm assuming it was an April Fool's issue. The naivety of my youth figured that a character that a main character could not die in a video game, video games were about winning and being the triumphant hero that defies all the odds. Plus, I was able to save characters in RPGs before, everything just made sense. My attachment to Aeris also was because she was part of my main party in my initial play through. I spent the next month trying to right what I figured went wrong, Samuel Beckett-style. Even going so far starting a new FF7 save file.

I don't know when I realized it was a joke or when I gave up. It was also a turning point in my gaming experience to see a character that the game gave me an avenue to build an attachment to was taken away and wouldn't be given back. At this point, I'd seen characters in game die but they were always clearly supporting characters that I had no direct control over, I'm referring specifically to Resident Evil. And when I look back at these games I believe they planted the seeds that video games while always games could also tell stories that I cared about and they had a place to be considered art alongside a good book or film.

One final note on the topic of character death in games, the latest game that brought the same sense of loss has to be Mass Effect 2 and 3.

Granted I went back and replayed the suicide machine in ME2 because I couldn't leave anyone behind. But those actions have proven foolish now that I'm about a third way through ME3. I don't care what people think of the ending, I haven't gotten to that point yet, but as an end to the story/series that I've been played the past few years they have effectively taken characters I grew attached to and have put them through the wringer again in ways I did not expect.