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Tear Jerker / Final Fantasy VII

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As a Moments subpage, all spoilers are unmarked as per policy. You Have Been Warned.

"I'll be going now. I'll come back when it's all over."
Aerith's parting words to Cloud

Final Fantasy VII may very well be the embodiment of From Bad to Worse when it comes to Tear Jerkers in video games. You'd best equip tissues instead of swords, really.

Aerith's Death

Even if everyone knows this would’ve come, it still counts as this, for several reasons:
  • The death of Aerith had many gamers literally bawling into their controllers. Japanese players allegedly sent a futile petition to Squaresoft begging for Aerith's revival.
  • Word of God says that Cait Sith's sacrifice was intentionally played up, only to be deflated in mere seconds, to desensitize players and make them believe that this is a world in which nobody dies. The next scene is Aerith announcing that she's going to go face Sephiroth alone. Well played, Squaresoft. You pricks.
  • What really seems to get people, at a time where everyone in the known world with an internet connection knows it's going to happen, is that it's so dragged out and emphasized. Cloud manages to overpower his programming and prevent himself from killing Aerith and she looks at him with a smile...and then the camera tilts up to reveal Sephiroth/Jenova-LIFE falling from the sky sword-first. The shots linger long enough that a player might expect someone, anyone, to save Aerith from her fate, but no-one notices Sephiroth until it's too late.
  • Anybody familiar with JRPGs has seen the clip of Aerith getting stabbed, but what the billions of clickbait videos and countdowns fail to mention is:
    1. Cloud has to fight against his own programming to stop himself from executing Aerith. That's when Jenova/Sephiroth steps in and finishes the job.
    2. The game makes you, the player, nearly execute Aerith as Cloud. Imagine one's horror when they walk up to her and press the controller, and instead of a text box, Cloud pulls his sword out...
    3. Cloud then cradles her in his arms and insists that his feelings matter in the face of a completely heartless villain.
    4. Her theme punctuates the ensuing boss fight.
    5. The other party members' reactions, which is shown via body language and without text.
    6. Cloud letting her sink away into the water. It lasts for a good ten minutes to the point where even when you know full well it's coming, it still punches you in the gut with how uncompromising it is. She's gone.
  • Everyone's reactions to the scene are also individual tear jerkers:
    • Cloud catches Aerith as she falls, and cradles her broken body to him, murmuring to himself that this can't be real. Sephiroth, ignorant to the depth of Cloud's pain, tells him that Aerith will soon be part of the Lifestream before going on about his own plans for the future. Still grieving, Cloud cuts his speech off and tells him to "shut up", and that the cycle of nature and Sephiroth's stupid plan don't mean a damn thing because Aerith is gone. The way his shoulders move and his speech on how his eyes are burning heavily imply that he's crying. Even more heart wrenching is when he says "What about my pain?", because it makes it clear that at that point, Cloud cannot focus on anything — not the impending doom of the planet, not even the fact that his archenemy is standing right there — but his grief over Aerith's death.
      Cloud: Aerith is gone. Aerith will no longer talk, no longer laugh, cry... or get angry... What about us... what are WE supposed to do? What about my pain? My fingers are tingling. My mouth is dry. My eyes are burning!
    • Even though they both had romantic interest in Cloud, Aerith had become Tifa's closest friend along the journey. So when she's dead, Tifa pays her respects by kneeling in front of the dead Aerith and caressing her face gently. Then she starts to sob, and then just stands up and runs out of the area sobbing her eyes out. Bear in mind that it takes a lot to make Tifa cry.
    • Barret walks up to Aerith's body, looks for a second, and then simply places his hand on Cloud's shoulder. Having lost the woman he loved, as well, Barret's empathy was very appropriate for that scene. Remember too that Barret owes a lot to Aerith for her having saved Marlene.
    • Red XIII's mournful howl.
    • Cait Sith's half-hearted attempts to cheer Cloud up. His reaction may seem out of place but it's in-character to try and do what he does best...but even he realizes it's no use, and he simply looks at him as he orders his Moogle to walk away. Even worse is if you think about it is that Reeve must have been watching the entire thing via the feed. Imagine how he feels on the other side of the moogle he's controlling?
      • Cait Sith is most likely operating on his own here; Reeve would be unable to control Cait Sith directly because of his own grief and the astronomical bombshell he has to give to the people under his protection, Elmyra and Marlene, both of whom were very close to Aerith. This is probably one of the next major incidents that forced Reeve to realize he's been on the wrong side this whole time, and indirectly, as he was a product of theirs, Shinra caused this.
    • But for many fans, Yuffie of all people has the most unexpected reaction. Here we have a selfish little thief who tags along with your party for little reason other than greed... but when faced with Aerith's death you can see her struggling to maintain control of herself. Then she completely loses it and flings herself at Cloud crying. And Cloud just hangs onto her and lets her cry. And even when she leaves, her sprite is shaking to show she's still crying. It makes the scene afterward, when she basically bitch-slaps Cloud and tells him he's not going after Sephiroth solo (because of course they're all coming along) more impactful. It was this moment which convinced her doubters that Yuffie actually had a heart after all.
      • Her appearances in Crisis Core makes this worse through Fridge Horror. In that game, her appearances all stem from wanting to take revenge on Shinra for the Wutai War. Imagine how much she lost during that war. And guess who spearheaded the final crushing blow that left her homeland a shell of its former self? Hell,she was just a kid back then, and even now is still the youngest of the party in terms of age and maturity. Now he's taken yet another life of someone she got to personally know, even consider a friend. Aerith being cruelly murdered by the SOLDIER that led the final battle of the war probably hit closer to home than anyone thought, and she couldn't hide her grief under her bravado anymore.
    • Vincent basically just silently glared at Cloud emotionlessly, though you can argue that he was disturbed by Aerith's death, but because of his own traumatic past and zombiefication, he's unable to express any emotions to convey it. And as you discover his past, this becomes even sadder: Vincent was there to witness his lover Lucrecia effectively ruin herself for the sake of her experiment with Hojo then disappearing, and unable to do anything about it and he, along with Cloud, let a similar tragedy befall Aerith.
      • Alternatively, despite his lack of apparent emotions, who's not to say that he's distraught that Hojo's mad experiments, which he failed to stop and blames himself for, have ultimately claimed the life of another innocent, one that he personally got to know, even if not for very long. Aerith's murder would be yet one more sin he feels he needs to atone for.
    • Cid is unable to show his face to anyone, not even Aerith's. All he does is just stare upwards at the sky, as if silently asking the gods why they would do something like this, and then walks away without even looking at Cloud. Probably because he can't bear to let Cloud see his sad face.
  • Even the interface gets in on it. When the player visits a shop, it shows all party members, arranged nicely in a square after you get all nine, so you can see how new equipment will affect them. Likewise, changing party members with the PHS also shows the six backup party members nicely arranged in two rows of three. After Aerith dies, her spot in the left column is simply left empty instead of rearranging the party members who joined after her, and the second row of inactive party members now has a conspicuous blank space. For the rest of the game, you are forced to stare at that empty spot, as if the party will never be whole again.
  • Before going to the Temple of the Ancients (which is just before the City of the Ancients), after Aerith and Cloud ride the gondola at Gold Saucer, she says "I had fun tonight. Let's go together again." and "Next time let's take our time and go on more rides." Anyone who's either played before or already heard/saw what happens later will know there won't be a next time, and for these players, this could hit harder than Aerith's death itself.

The Original Game

  • Aerith's whole life is one long Tearjerker. Born the daughter of the sole remainder of an ancient race and her scientist lover, her only family was tortured and eventually killed at the hands of the Shinra Power Company, and she was left alone in the slums of Sector 7 before being adopted by Elmyra. She grew up on those mean streets and was endlessly stalked and watched by Shinra Inc. under the directions of Dr. Hojo, the man responsible for all her suffering. Even when she managed to meet her eventual first Love, Zack Fair, he eventually lost his life due to Shinra Inc. and she only discovered this years after his death despite hope he was still alive. She would eventually meet a new love in Cloud and have new friends, before being abused and captured to be experimented on by Dr. Hojo, who admitted he could have done so at anytime and simply waited for her to mature first. All of this before her infamous death in a bid to save the Planet from destruction. How she managed to keep a positive attitude in spite of all that horror is nothing short of miraculous.
  • Cait Sith's faux Heroic Sacrifice was still very touching... particularly when the moogle tripped and Cait Sith fell on the floor, then turned to the camera and made that adorably cute shrug. "Even I can save the world!" Some people, even the ones who are ambivalent about Aerith, started crying at this point even if they know the circumstances. The music "Words Drowned by Fireworks' and the moment when he swings his arms cheerfully, then stops and slumps over for a second... Jeez, that was Alas, Poor Scrappy at its finest, and could be considered Rescued from the Scrappy Heap. You find yourself agreeing with what he said: Another Cait Sith body may (and does) come along, but there's only one of this Cait Sith... and you're going to miss him.
  • Then there’s the part when Cait Sith tells Aerith that she and Cloud are perfect for each other. It's made even worse if you have Tifa in the party: When Cait Sith mentions that he doesn't want to tell their fortune in front of Tifa, who is clearly distressed, Aerith encourages him to, replying, "Oh don't worry, I don't mind!"
  • To a number of people, the death of Aerith pales in comparison to the scene where Tifa finds Cloud after he falls into the Lifestream. Great!, we all think, He's in this town! ... In a hospital... Wheelchair bound... Nodding his head in a comatose state... completely unresponsive. It’s so despairingly similar to finding someone you know and deeply care about in a doddering or vegetative state: You know they’re 'alive', but you just can’t meaningfully communicate with them. Tifa is so devastated by it that she leaves the party to watch over him, and Cid has to step up as party leader. And considering this sequence comes fairly soon after Aerith's death, a new player may well assume that Cloud's not gonna get better.note  The moment Cloud rejoins the party may have you crying for two reasons: Either tears of joy because Cloud's back, or tears of sadness because we've just witnessed his traumatic origins.
    • Cloud's Heroic BSoD at the Northern Crater. At this point, he's pretty much hit rock bottom. He's a puppet. He doesn't have a real past. All of his drives and motivations were just programmed into him (or so Sephiroth claims). He failed to save the Planet. He failed to save Aerith. He actually washed out of the SOLDIER program. Now he's begging to at least be numbered, to be recognized as anything, and he begs Hojo to give him a number... and Hojo tells him he's a failure even as a puppet. Ouch!
      • After being tormented and mind-fucked by Sephiroth since the start of the game, he still turns to Tifa and sadly tells her "I hope you find the real Cloud". Made worse by the fact that Tifa, the only one who could snap him out of it, had been rendered mute by Sephiroth at that moment.
  • Cloud's "true" backstory. To recap, 1) he was raised only by his mother, since his father died before his birth; 2) as child, he wanted to befriend his peers, especially Tifa but he was too much of a Shrinking Violet to ask them to join, and ended up lonely; 3) when he was 9, he was blamed by everyone in his town for an accident involving Tifa that mostly wasn't his fault, which he never told his side of the story to anyone out of guilt, but the event turned him into an outcast and he became arrogant while also picking fights with anyone to cope with his status; 4) as a teen, he left his hometown to become a Soldier, only to fail and become an infantryman, due to his mental issues; 5) after returning to Nibelheim for a mission, his own village was destroyed and his mother killed by Sephiroth who went crazy; 6) after defeating his idol, he was subjected to inhuman experiments for 5 years, which left him comatose from Mako poisoning, once he was freed by his mentor and best friend, Zack Fair; 7) he woke up too late to stop Zack from being killed in his Last Stand to protect him, and watched him die. Is any wonders he became an Empty Shell of himself filled with Fake Memories? And then there's the matter of Aerith's death on his watch, one that he almost did himself, and was forced to be unable to do anything when he resisted. The man's life is full of feeling like he's nothing but a failure. Hojo's last Kick the Dog moment was the rotten cherry on the horrible sundae he was getting served until this point.
  • Meeting Zack's parents in Gongaga—If you already know Zack's fate (or were playing the game through again). They wonder why Zack hasn't written to them, not knowing he's long dead.
    • It gets worse when you play Crisis Core: You know Zack's going to die, and you know his parents have no idea what happened to him. Oh, what's that? Zack just arrived in his hometown?
  • The moment where Nanaki learns the truth about his father, Seto. When Nanaki starts referring to himself as "Nanaki, son of Seto!", he says it with such pride. This causes the petrified Seto to start weeping. (Even though he's paralyzed and in stone, Seto is somehow still conscious and trapped like that forever, unable to go home or reunite with his son.) Bugenhagen can't even finish stating the obvious, just trailing off after a broken response, and Nanaki stands and gives his mournful howl until the fadeout. The fact it's easy to time this scene to the most poignant part of "The Great Warrior" only turns on the waterworks more.
    • On top of everything else mentioned here, the description text for the Seraph Comb you receive after this, "Memento of father", can make you tear up.
    • Like with Aerith's death, the piano reprise of the Cosmo Canyon theme really hits it home. The same music plays again... when you have Red XIII visit Bugenhagen on his death bed.
    • Another, though much more low-key, moment comes after Bugenhagen dies. Nanaki/Red XIII comes out to rejoin the others. Something about the cliche euphemisms (he'd left, gone on a journey, was tired and had to rest) seemed much more poignant coming from the well-spoken, rather innocent Nanaki.
  • Shortly afterwards, the party is gathered around the Cosmo Candle, and Aerith comes out from speaking with the elders, having learned much about the Cetra... and in the process learning that she's alone as the last remaining Cetra on the planet. She's in a melancholy mood for the rest of the evening, and brushes off Cloud's attempts at comfort. Every time you try to speak to her, she just looks away.
  • Dyne. There is no rhyme or reason to anything he does, having rationalized the destruction of his hometown as the random whim of a cruel universe. Convinced that everyone he knew and loved is dead, and that his best friend was to blame, his only wish now is to "destroy everything"—including his daughter, once he learns she survived the Corel attack. Then, once some sense is finally beaten into him, he knows that his mania is just around the corner, so he hurls himself to his death rather than risk harming her.
    "Don't ever... make Marlene cry."
    • And then Barret has to watch his best friend fall into a chasm again, arriving too late to prevent it.
  • Barret's complete breakdown after the Sector 7 plate collapses and crushes everything under it. Especially since Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie — all of whom were likable characters with well-developed personalities — got killed in the disaster. Speaking of said breakdown, just watch the scene of him shouting hopelessly at the wreckage... That kind of body language only became possible (or, rather, memory-practical) when they made the switch to polygons, but this moment showed just how powerful it could be.
    • Speaking of the Sector 7 plate collapse, there's also watching the plate start to fall... from the point of view of the people looking up in horror; a TV broadcast from inside Sector 7 is abruptly cut off; and then we pan out from the horrific devastation until we see it from the point of view of President Shinra, who orchestrated the mass destruction and is watching it while listening to some mellow opera. Repugnant.
    • The death of Jessie is particularly sad. Wedge is the plucky comic relief and Biggs is kind of a generic rebel guy, but Jessie in particular gets quite a lot of character development in the first few levels of the game. She's intelligent, very personable to Cloud, loves her dorky puns, and spends a lot of time flirting with him. She can even say, as her final words to him, that she always liked him despite his gruff demeanour. Out of all the AVALANCHE members, she is also the first to show real remorse that AVALANCHE itself took innocent lives - she even rationalises her own death as karma for this. Which somehow makes it all the sadder, considering that Shinra are a lot more evil.
  • Elmyra waiting for her husband to return, and finally finding out from Aerith that he died on the way back from the war. Later, Cait Sith mentions that he (as Reeve) told her of Aerith's death, and that Elmyra, along with Marlene, didn't take it well.
  • Just about everything pertaining to Vincent, and let’s look at the facts. First, he falls in love with a woman who doesn't return his affections, but instead shacks up with a mad scientist. Instead of holding it against either of them, he states "As long as she's happy... I don't mind". When she becomes very unhappy very fast (i.e. knocked up with his baby, which she has injected with alien cells but comes to regret that later on), he does his best to avenge her, but is shot (and possibly killed, depending on what fanon you hold to). He's further subjected to an untold number of horrific experiments for an untold amount of time, and is cursed to transform into hideous creatures the moment his health get low, so he can't even put himself out of his misery. Once Hojo gets bored with it, he locks Vincent in a coffin for thirty years, the entire time spent unaging, unchanging, trapped in a perpetual nightmare state, until AVALANCHE frees him (and even THAT depends on the player's ingenuity/walkthrough). And the kicker? He believes he deserves it all. But the icing on the cake is showcasing his lover insane, encased in crystal, and still not caring whether Vincent is alive, and it's no wonder he manages to out-Woobies even Cloud.
    • Adding to that is Lucrecia's backstory. And you can find her, all alone, in that cavern... desperately wanting to die. She doesn't even know what became of Sephiroth, her son, and deeply regrets what she did to him. When she asks whether he's still alive, Vincent chooses to spare her the knowledge of what he became by claiming that he's dead. And if you return to the cave at a later stage... she's gone. Hopefully, her soul finally rests in peace.
    • Hojo's attitude to all this qualifies, too. From Vincent's perspective, Hojo is the man who he hoped Lucrecia would be happy with - and instead Hojo barely even refers to her by name, considering her little more than a vessel for his experiment and drove her to despair with no remorse shown over it. He's also single-handedly responsible for turning Vincent immortal and putting demons in his body to possess him, completely altering his life and existence. But despite wreaking total havoc on Vincent's life, too, Hojo has barely any regard for him either, talking about Vincent in his note more like an obstacle and an experiment he was passing the time with. The power imbalance is huge - to Vincent, Hojo ruined both his and Lucrecia's life and needs to pay for the latter, but to Hojo Vincent and Lucrecia are just footnotes in the story of his path to greatness (and Hojo seems to find Vincent's obssession with him amusing in Do C, as he comments 'You just can't leave me alone, can you?') The only way the player can balance this out a little is to recruit Vincent and take him along for the Hojo boss battle - and after that's done, Vincent pretty charitably says 'Rest in peace, Hojo', as if he himself has come to realise how pitiable Hojo ultimately is.
  • If you did at least most of the Fort Condor battles it can hurt a little bit to watch the condor you've been protecting the entire game die and unceremoniously tumble off the top of the fort during the Huge Materia story arc. And then, when you go check on the newborn baby that just hatched, it immediately flaps its wings and flies off, never to be seen again.
  • The aftermath of the Ancient Temple, where after going through the effort of retrieving the Black Materia, Sephiroth manages to control Cloud, forcing him to hand over the Black Materia, and then forces him to beat up Aerith! Imagine Aerith, her face bruised, possibly bleeding, her eyes full of pain, shock and betrayal. This is how Cloud last saw her in person until they find her at the altar where she dies.
  • For some, the Game Over screen can be tear-shedding. The broken film reel, followed by sad synth orchestral music, can be quite heart-wrenching.
  • Even Sephiroth himself, magnificently & iconically evil as he may be, still has a rather sad story if you think about it. He was lied to and essentially used as a tool his entire life, born to parents who saw him only as a guinea pig, and likely grew up having a very poor childhood given he was raised by the likes Hojo and Shinra. Even before his Sanity Slippage, it's seen in Crisis Core that he hardly had any friends even as an adult and SOLDIER's greatest warrior, and by the end of that game he's lost every single one of the ones he did manage to have. It's little wonder that he eventually snapped, but reflecting on the sheer scope of every atrocity he went on to commit afterwards, it drives one to wonder, if he'd gotten to have a more normal life, what could have been for him.

On the Way to a Smile

  • Case of Tifa provides an in-depth look at Cloud and Tifa's relationship as they struggle to adapt to a normal life in the newly-founded city of Edge. Needless to say, there are many heartwarming moments, but also some very strong tearjerkers, as the two of them try and often fail to communicate their feelings to each other effectively. This is only exacerbated by Cloud's dwindling emotional state as a result of his having failed to save the lives of Aerith and Zack, thus further straining his relationship with Tifa.
    • Perhaps the best example is this exchange:
    After making certain that Cloud was asleep, she spoke to him.
    Tifa: “We’ll be all right, won’t we?”
    Of course, there was no answer. She could only heard the sound of him sleeping. She wondered if the fact that he was sleeping here meant that he was part of the family.
    Tifa: “Do you love me?”
    Cloud woke up, a perplexed look on his face.
    Tifa: “Hey, Cloud. Do you love Marlene?”
    Cloud: “Yeah. But sometimes I don’t know how to approach her.”
    Tifa: “Even though we’ve been together this long?”
    Cloud: “Maybe that just isn’t enough.”
    Tifa: “Even we aren’t enough for you?”
    Cloud didn’t answer.
    Tifa: “Sorry for asking some strange things.”
    Cloud: “Don’t apologize. It’s my problem.”
    Cloud closed his eyes.
    Tifa: “Let’s work hard together.”
    Tifa waited for his answer, but there was none—not even by the time that morning came around.
  • Though she manages it better than Cloud, Tifa herself struggles with her own bout with Survivor's Guilt at the start of the novella between Aerith, Sector 7, and the overall state of Midgar post Meteorfall.
  • Once the party revisits the Forgotten Capital, Tifa finally allows herself to grieve and promptly breaks down, again wracked with sorrow and guilt for the tragedies of the game proper.
  • Case of Nanaki shows what Red XIII is suffering from a strange affliction which he calls "Gilligan," as representative of the feeling of loss. This rears its head when he takes on two bear cubs, raising them as if they were his own after their mother was killed by a hunter, only to lose them to other hunters two years later.

Alternative Title(s): Final Fantasy VII On The Way To A Smile