When you play a Role Playing Game, many things happen that can make you question the reality of the environment. Riding mysterious “chocobo” creatures, casting magical spells, monkey tails, opera houses, talking creatures, you name it; imps and frogs anyone? But all of these strange occurrences tend to find their place in a fascinating world that immerses the player and over time makes these mystical things seem real in their own way within that world. There is just one thing that’s been bugging the DualShockers crew lately when it comes to Final Fantasy VII and that is the death of Aeris. Many of you Final Fantasy-heads out there may look back on this moment as one of the most epic, tragic, and heart-wrenching moments that set the mood for Cloud’s dismay in the remainder of the game. But when we take a good hard look at this event, does it really make any sense?
Realistically we should have seen a lot more deaths in the game if a simple stab wound was enough to end some one’s life in the world of Final Fantasy VII. The entire game characters are being blown up with bombs, shot at with guns, beaten silly, subject to earthquakes, petrified in stone, and worse at times, so why is this not a fatal event as well?
In the Final Fantasy universe, characters die. A simple Pheonix Down or Life spell later and they are back in the game. If anything, Aeris should have never been left dead. There should have been some elaborate disease/spell inflicted on her which the crew would need to find a cure for (this is similar to what happened with Locke’s dead girl friend, whom he desperately tried to revive through many attempts in Final Fantasy VI). It seems like maybe something like this would have been more logical, but the entire idea throws the whole concept of dying in RPGs into question. What does it mean to die in a game that features such heavy immersion, just to come right back to life? Does this kill the point of seeing everything through your character’s eyes?
Aside from a few titles, such as FFVII (and outside of the RPG realm Heavy Rain) most games do not kill off the main character. When they do, it is probably just for dramatic effect. Our resident RPG expert feels that this is a symbol of the difference between plot devices and game mechanics. Theoretically speaking our characters are only aware of the story they’re part of and any game mechanics that are written into that story. Most deaths that you experience in these games will not have anything to do with the story and this is why they let you revive the character apparently. Game mechanics demand we have to have a penalty for failure, so your characters can “die” in battle.
Keeping both the plot devices and game mechanics separate, developers have mainly chosen to let this all slide. In the main story, your heroes can’t die typically, otherwise the story couldn’t continue to its scripted conclusion. To me this points out a fundamental flaw in the beloved game mechanics of RPGs, or maybe it points out a flaw with simply FFVII‘s choice for killing off Aeris without so much as an explanation to her mortality when compared to her ability to be brought back to life mid-battle. What can be said about this tragic upset other than, “What the heck do you mean she’s dead? I have 99 Pheonix Downs in my left pocket!”