But it was Final Fantasy 7 who brought a major theme of the series into sharp relief: love in the face of loss, and love extending beyond death.
“Each carries their own feelings and love for Aerith. In this story, Cloud also carries his undying feeling for Aerith even to this very day…” Tetsuya Nomura Interview, Dengeki Playstation 2007 Square Enix wrote:
A huge inspiration for Sakaguchi to make the game came from his own experience of loss with his mother. Not only did he want to reflect on how our relationships with our loved ones continue beyond death, transformed but not lost in the face of our grief, but he also wanted to subvert portrayals of loss and sacrifice in the media at the time.
When we were creating Final Fantasy III, my mother passed away, and ever since I have been thinking about the theme “life”. Life exists in many things, and I was curious about what would happen if I attempted to analyze life in a mathematical and logical way. Maybe this was my approach in overcoming the grief I was experiencing. This is the first time in the series that this particular theme actually appears in the game itself. See if you can spot it! wrote:
He felt that often sacrifices and loss in movies were anticipated, presented as heroic but lacking emotional depth. By contrast, he wanted to create a story of loss where the death was sudden, unanticipated, and painful to the player.
Sakaguchi wanted to get away from the Hollywood-style noble deaths they’d had in past games and present something more shocking and raw, which he probably wouldn’t have done if his real life hadn’t been so raw during development. wrote:
All of this is masterfully handled as a central theme of Final Fantasy 7. When we first meet Cloud, he is unattached - he cares little even for the Planet he’s living on, going so far as to put the price up for his participation in the second Reactor mission despite the personal cost to AVALANCHE.
We also see his disconnect from childhood friend Tifa, shown when her reminding him of the promise is not enough to convince him to participate in the mission as a favour.
This all changes when Cloud falls into Aerith’s church. Having been attracted to the eyes and smile of this girl on seeing her before, Cloud now begins to demonstrate attachment to another person for the first time in the game.
[mention]She’s a girl with impressive eyes. If this smile costs only one gil, it is a good purchase. FFVII Dismantled
Aerith used to smile like a flower, all the time… I won’t ever hear her innocent laugh ever again. FFVII Dismantled[/mention] wrote:
Cloud accepts the job as Aerith’s bodyguard in exchange for the payment of one date, despite being unwilling to help others out for anything but money previously, and the two of them escape from the church together. And for the first time, Cloud shows friendly, sociable actions - he laughs and teases Aerith, which are behaviours he hadn’t exhibited before now.
On seeing her home, Cloud’s kind behaviour continues. He listens to Aerith’s mother’s wish for her not to be hurt by another SOLDIER and sneaks out of the house.
When she catches up with him, Cloud continually expresses concern for her safety and urges her not to put herself in dangerous situations.
Aerith doesn’t listen, and guides him through Sector 6 to Sector 7. It’s also noticeable that Aerith is concerned she’s intruding into Cloud’s life - she tells him she can get home fine by herself if the player offers to see her home, and asks if she'll be in the way if you take her along - but Cloud doesn’t seem to think so.
Not only does Aerith’s sudden presence in his life not bother him, it didn’t even occur to him to think of it that way. It’s very early in the relationship, but Cloud is clearly liking having her around.
And we then we get this:
There were scenes of characters talking and discussing plot points and motivation leading to this, but this scene stands out in its willingness just to stop the action of the plot to let two characters get to know one another. FFVII’s character building was notable especially in the Western market at the time for scenes like this, as there were few games on the market of its kind.
Most notably in this scene, Aerith brings up her first love Zack but states it was all in the past, and Cloud expresses noticeable interest in who she’s talking about. In other words, Aerith shows her desire to move on, and despite the romantic undertones of Cloud being compared to Aerith’s last boyfriend, he doesn’t flinch or pull back. Instead, he seems to be finding out if she's unattainable or not.
Cloud expresses further concern for Aerith when she runs off after Tifa, and refuses to let her go into the mansion alone. Considering how he was cold to AVALANCHE earlier, this unwillingness to put someone he's just met in danger is particularly interesting.
By this point, the writers have set up a subtle journey for Cloud, through showing him expressing care for Aerith. His attitudes towards other people also change after he falls into her church - when the Sector 7 plate falls, you can express sentimental attachment towards the dying members of AVALANCHE if the player so chooses.
But the love story begins in earnest after the pillar falls. Sector 7 is crushed, both Barrett and Tifa’s base- Seventh Heaven- has been wiped out, the rest of AVALANCHE is dead and Aerith has allowed Shin-Ra to capture her in exchange for Marlene - Barrett’s daughter - to be safe. And while Tifa and Barrett debate the possibility of Marlene having been saved from the devastation and whether the destruction is their fault, Cloud just…walks away. He doesn’t tell them what he’s doing and doesn’t invite them along. He decides to save Aerith come hell or high water.
This is the first time the fate of one of the main party is in serious jeopardy - the first time there is the threat of loss to the cast we are most invested in. And the whole sequence is heightened by the greatest show of emotion Cloud has had since the opening of the game.
Cloud: If only she was not involved in this battle, between me and Shinra… Shinra was entirely impetuous this time. If Shinra changed the strategy all of a sudden, then no one can guarantee her safety. I need to get in Shinra building. I need to rescue her……by all means! FFVII Dismantled wrote:
After getting the full picture about Aerith’s past from her adopted mother, Cloud indicates to Marlene that he hopes for Aerith’s affection - the first sign of him seeking out a connection with another person in the game.
Marlene is a sharp girl — Even though she’s only 4 years old, Marlene is perceptive and well attuned to the woman mind. The scene where she ascertains that Aerith has favor for Cloud and tells him so, then says “I won’t tell Tifa!” demonstrates this grownup behaviour. FFVII Ultimania wrote:
This is the first notable instance of the hero and heroine being separated in the middle of their budding relationship, and in so effectively building their relationship with one another, the player feels invested in ensuring they are reunited.
No matter what route into Shinra HQ the player takes, Barret is impressed at Cloud’s passionate determination to rescue her against any odds. Barret reminds the player of the start of the game, where Cloud’s sole motivation was money.
Even when things go wrong, it is never clearer that Cloud has fully committed to someone else’s welfare for the first time in the game’s run. He repeats the bodyguard promise, and Aerith says she felt confident that Cloud would come for her, even though they hadn’t long since met.
This is in stark contrast to Barret, who tells Aerith he won't leave her behind because he owes her for helping Marlene. Barret talks of repaying debt, whereas Cloud talks to Aerith as someone he wants to protect personally.
The Ultimania is likely referring to this scene in the following quote:
…Cloud and Aerith developing their world together… FFVII Ultimania wrote:
This separate world is the bond Aerith refers to, somehow knowing Cloud would show up to help. Giving herself up to save Marlene must have been frightening, but in this scene Aerith seems oddly calm - because she already knew Cloud would be there for her, no matter what. This is the beginning of not only an emotional bond between the two characters, but a mental one too.
At this point, the game has not only made us invested in Cloud and Aerith as characters - both exhibiting acts of admirable heroism and perseverance - but the creation of a romantic relationship is well underway.
They continue to build that separate bond in Gongaga. Aerith gets upset when she learns that her previous boyfriend, who she lost contact with, may have died. She again shows that it’s all in the past. By now, any lingering memories of Zack are just that - memories.
Cloud’s reaction is also interesting and shows a desire to move forward and continue building that separate world with Aerith. At this point one of the dialogue options the player can choose is having Cloud react with envy.
[quote="Aerith : Are you… jealous? Hmm? Hmmm? Are you, Cloud?
He turns away.
Aerith: I’m kidding. I’m sorry.
Disk 1 Script"][/quote]
At first Aerith is genuinely teasing him, as always, but when he can’t face her and admit his feelings, she’s surprised by the depth of his reaction and tries to backpedal. It’s another show of rare and uncontrollable emotion from Cloud. Usually Tifa is jealous of Cloud and Aerith because she fears the bond they have formed in such a short time. But now Cloud is envious of the relationship Zack and Aerith might’ve had, because he wants it for himself.
The game has now done all the ground work to create the beginnings of a romantic relationship, and this in turn keeps the player invested in the story line. Throughout the characters’ travels, the deep bond continues to the point that the hero and heroine announcing their love appears an inevitability…
Cloud shows he wants to be there for her himself, personally, but gets embarrassed and tries to pretend he was referring to the group...
Cait Sith’s lines, which seem to expect Cloud and Aerith’s wedding, now makes it more painful. Final Fantasy VII Ultimania wrote:
(Cait Sith's prediction is especially significant when we consider that he has a good track record when it comes to actually predicting significant events - he foreshadowed Cloud losing Aerith long before it actually happened).
The love story has reached its peak at this point. The hero and ‘tragic heroine’ have followed all the usual steps in a love story - the initial attraction, the sudden meeting, spending time together, dating. Cloud has gone from an unattached cold mercenary who has to be paid to do favours for friends, to someone who accepts a date as payment for a dangerous mission, will put his life on the line for someone he just met and tries to offer comfort - twice! - to his love interest, the lonely Cetra.
But just as it seems victory is within reach, everything goes wrong. Sephiroth uses his influence over Cloud to force him to hand over the Black Materia. In one of the most frightening sequences in the game, Cloud separates from himself, leaving the player in control of an illusory ‘child Cloud’, who is powerless to stop the harm Sephiroth forces him to inflict.
The young Cloud is crying while trying to stop Cloud’s body. FFVII Ultimania Omega wrote:
Simply put, the ‘child Cloud’ the player controls while ‘normal Cloud’ is commanded by Sephiroth is the spirit of the true Cloud. He is in despair at being made to hurt someone he cares for, and the true Cloud is beginning to break free from the illusion Cloud has been living in.
It’s at this point in the story that the second theme kicks in - not just love, but love beyond death. Despite not being physically near one another, Aerith is able to pass a message onto Cloud, projecting a vision directly into his mind. This is building on their eternal bond, where Cloud is able to see and hear Aerith despite the fact she isn’t with him. The feeling engraved in his heart - the eternal love - is what makes this happen.
Their relationship is also at its most intimate here, making what’s to come even more painful. Cloud apologises for earlier, and Aerith tells him not to worry about it. His response?
Cloud, formerly so unattached and cold, is unable to stop himself caring for Aerith. On Aerith’s side, her comments are flippant and light, but it’s clear she knows that Cloud is beginning to find the real him, just as she’d hoped, but she is also concerned for him.
Yet again the player has a feeling of helplessness as Aerith runs off to stop Sephiroth - Cloud reaches out to stop her and tries to follow even before Sephiroth appears in the vision, but can’t move from the spot. On coming around, the player finds that the dream was truly a message from Aerith to Cloud, as she has left the party. The mental bond where Aerith knew she could count on Cloud to help her out has grown into shared dreams and purpose, and the player feels acute unease and loss at Aerith’s exit from the party.
The status quo of Aerith and Cloud being together, developing their world together, has been interrupted, and with Sephiroth on her heels the emotional stakes are set high for the player - and Cloud - to find her again. This is the second sudden separation between Cloud and Aerith, and ties in with Sakaguchi’s wish to make loss sudden and painful. Aerith told Cloud and the player in a dream that she was leaving to stop Sephiroth - it comes suddenly and there’s nothing the player can do to stop it.
After reaching the Forgotten City, Cloud and Aerith’s mental bond is again seen when Cloud says he can feel not only Sephiroth’s presence, but Aerith’s as well.
This is the moment we’ve been building to for some time. In a normal love story, the hero and heroine would be united, and express their feelings. But Final Fantasy 7 is not a normal love story, but an expression of bonds that continue beyond loss and even after death.
Aerith is brutally murdered in the Forgotten City, and here we reach a pivotal point of Cloud’s development. Not only does Cloud break free of Sephiroth’s control and stop himself hurting Aerith - something he is never able to do the other times Sephiroth controls him - but he has come so far from the beginning of the game. He has gone from being someone who doesn’t care about the Planet or the people fighting for it, to someone who cares so much for another human being that Sephiroth’s plan - a plan that will endanger the rest of the Planet - no longer matters to him. Where before he prioritised getting revenge on Sephiroth, mostly notably when his hometown was attacked, now he’s completely disinterested in anything Sephiroth has to say in the face of his grief.
As Cloud struggles to take it in and holds Aerith closer, his words reflect Sakaguchi’s original vision of loss - that it comes suddenly from an indifferent world that doesn’t concern itself with the deep, personal and emotional pain it costs us. In this scene, Cloud’s grief is all-consuming, and he tries to shut it out, denying that this is reality.
But neither the player nor Cloud can escape. During a touching water burial, Cloud raises his hand to Aerith’s one last time before she sinks out of reach.
Millions of players all over the world felt their hearts break at this scene. It goes without saying that they aren’t alone:
It was the sound of Cloud’s heart cracking. It was the cry of his heart that could never be healed, of the grief he had towards Aerith’s death, the blame towards himself and the hatred he had for Sephiroth. Maiden Who Walks the Planet wrote:
Interestingly enough, Maiden is written from Aerith’s perspective. Yet again we see a psychic bond that exists between Cloud and Aerith, as she feels his pain at the moment of her death. The theme that Aerith is engraved on Cloud’s heart is reinforced by the statement that her death has created a scar that will never heal - as we will later examine, moving on whilst honouring the ones we loved is a theme in Final Fantasy.
With this tragic scene that closes the first and longest disk of the game, we reach Act 2 - from establishing love to how love continues after death.
At first, Cloud is bent on seeking revenge against Sephiroth but is helpless in the face of the power Sephiroth has over him. Cloud learns of his true self, and after an arduous process of putting his mind back together, he is finally ready to confront the villain threatening the Planet.
The group soon realise they needed Aerith’s help, and when they consider what it is they’re searching for, Cloud says this:
Cloud: I remember Aerith a lot. No… not that. You haven’t remembered. You haven’t forgotten. That’s not it… How would you say it… Aerith was right there all along. Right by our side. She was so close, we couldn’t see her. What Aerith did… The words she left behind… wrote:
Disk 2 is notable in that other than Cloud’s declarations of revenge, the group don’t talk about Aerith much directly. This is one way of dealing with grief - trying to press on regardless. Tifa behaves in a similar manner when she implies part of her motivation for going to rescue Aerith is distracting herself from the deaths of the rest of AVALANCHE after the Sector 7 plate falls.
But here we see that just because someone is gone, it doesn’t mean our relationship with them ends. Cloud has been thinking about Aerith a lot as they travel, realising he assumed she’d always be around. He remembers the message she gave before she went to the Forgotten City, and he comes to understand her better as he realises the fight she tried to take on by herself. He basically dedicates his continuing fight to her in his next words:
Cloud: Aerith…I’ll do the rest. Disk Two, Final Fantasy VII wrote:
Note Cloud uses ‘I’ not ‘we’, as he did in the Cosmo Canyon scene. This shows his personal desire to be the one to fulfill Aerith’s quest, just as he wanted to be there for her exclusively to support her. This fits in with a later scene, when Barrett points out that while they all might have been claiming they were fighting for the Planet, it’s more accurate to say that they’re each fighting for a loved one.
Cloud: I know why I’m fighting. I’m fighting to save the planet, and that’s that. But besides that, there’s something personal too… A very personal memory that I have. Disk Two, Final Fantasy VII wrote:
And when the fight is at last over, Cloud understands the nature of the ‘Promised Land’ - it is a spiritual place, among the energies of the Planet, where he and Aerith can reunite. Through playing Final Fantasy 7, the player - and Cloud - were introduced to Aerith, growing attached to her just as Cloud does. Being separated from her causes great emotion within Cloud, and the player attempts to reunite with her throughout the story.
But when a sudden, senseless loss takes away the promise of Aerith and Cloud’s future, the player feels grieved alongside Cloud. Cloud loses himself, first in grief, then confusion, then in a willingness to surrender his self control to Sephiroth. When he regains himself, Cloud has new focus, though it appears the only path left to the player is to get revenge on Sephiroth and save the Planet. What was lost can never be regained.
But while the promise of the future may have been lost, the love between the protagonists was not. Because this time, Aerith is able to pass into the world of the living, however briefly, to let Cloud know that she is still with him. She was always with him, and always will be - in his heart.
Aerith Gainsborough - A girl with the blood of the Ancients flowing through her veins, who is engraved in Cloud’s heart for the rest of his life. Dirge of Cerberus Manual Direct Translation wrote:
The theme of loss comes full circle, as Cloud loses Aerith yet again, but this time knows that she is always in his heart, and they will one day be reunited.
The theme continues in Advent Children, set two years after the end of the first game. From the Distance featurette:
The incredible guilt Cloud feels because of what happened to Aerith can only be lifted by forgiveness from Aerith herself. Kazushige Nojima, Advent Children: Reunion Files wrote:
Aerith is therefore a part of Cloud, and that part endures within his heart.Their minds and souls are literally linked.
In the film, Cloud leaves Seventh Heaven after he contracts a fatal disease, which makes his feeling of worthlessness and guilt from Aerith’s death even more acute.
We can see that despite two years having passed, Cloud is still immensely hurt over Aerith’s death and blames himself. Prequel novel On the Way to a Smile: Case of Tifa shows him delivering flowers to Aerith’s mother, and the thought of going to the Forgotten City for the delivery - the place where Aerith died - drives him to drink. Aerith is again associated with his heart, underlining their bond.
She knew that Cloud was in great pain because he couldn’t protect Aerith. Cloud was on the verge of overcoming it but now, going back to the place where he and Aerith got separated meant that his sorrow and regret was going to tear his heart apart once again. It was night and they had closed the bar. Cloud was drinking wine even though he rarely does. Case of Tifa The Forgotten City is tied to Aerith throughout the film. Here, Cloud is constantly reminded of her no matter how painful it is for him. Nojima, Advent Children: Reunion Files wrote:
Cloud then spends most of the movie spiraling in guilt and trying to pretend as if he has command of the situation. He asks Vincent if sins are ever forgiven - because he knows Vincent can empathise with the pain he’s carrying, as Vincent spent years blaming himself for the death of his own love.
Cloud searched for help from Vincent, and Vincent, who carried his heavy past in the same way, said that he had never tried. FFVII Ultimania wrote:
The turning point for Cloud only comes when he can get catharsis for the guilt he’s been carrying from Aerith herself - he hears Aerith in his mind, telling him that she never blamed him and he should forgive himself.
From then on, Cloud is able to take decisive action. He joins up with the rest of the gang, and he and Aerith deliver the final blow against a summoned beast, echoing the scene from the first game.
Cloud and Aerith still being a team is further emphasised by Aerith healing Cloud’s Geostigma, and saying ‘Let’s go, Cloud.’
While Aerith does not come back to life in Advent Children, their bond clearly exists - she is able to speak directly to Cloud’s heart and give him the reassurance he can’t find from any other source. Cloud longs to see Aerith throughout…
…but it doesn’t happen fully until the end, when Cloud gives the most genuine smile of the movie on seeing Aerith. Throughout AC, Aerith has tried to let Cloud know that he can live his life, true to his love for her, without letting his guilt over the past consume him.
We see Cloud understand this when he tells Sephiroth ‘there’s not a thing I don’t cherish!’ In both versions of the movie, he thinks of Aerith first, and in Complete he thinks of Zack second. While Cloud can now stop his guilt holding him back from being a part of the Seventh Heaven family, the ones he lost are still in his heart, and his first thoughts are of them in a moment when his life was in peril.
This is reinforced in the new photo on the desk - where before Cloud looked awkward and stood stiffly to one side, now he is at the centre of the picture, the ‘big brother’ figure Denzel always longed for.
And on the desk is a flower from Aerith’s flower field as shown in the credits. This image encapsulates the movie’s message - Cloud can go on with his life, surrounded by the complete Seventh Heaven family shown in the second photograph,whilst keeping Aerith in his heart.
The relationship shown between Aerith and Cloud and the theme of love lasting beyond death were so well executed that their legacy continued throughout the next major entries in the series.
While the most overt theme of Final Fantasy 7 was the need to restore balance between humanity and the planet, the next game in the series put love much more to the forefront, quite possibly due to the success in the writing of the game preceding it. From the minute you lay eyes on Amano’s beautiful, stylised logo, you know the central relationship of the protagonists is central to the story.
While this could be a coincidence, the sheer number of similarities between Final Fantasy 7 and 8 show the enduring nature of Cloud and Aerith’s relationship, and their character archetypes.
On a surface level, Cloud and Aerith resemble Squall and Rinoa. Cloud is withdrawn and initially gives others the impression he doesn’t care about the cause. Squall similarly struggles to get close to anyone at the start of Final Fantasy 8. Though the driving factors behind their personalities differ, these surface similarities do exist. And both begin to thaw due to the sometimes forceful influence of Aerith and Rinoa.
Aerith and Rinoa also share similarities. The most obvious one is their ‘mystical’ presence in the game - from the opening cutscene Aerith is established straight away as having a slightly mysterious presence (excellently contrasted against her impoverished upbringing), whilst Rinoa is later possessed by a sorceress and is presented as having an ambiguous magical power in her opening cutscene.
Both of them take a somewhat hard love and straight talking approach when it comes to encouraging Cloud and Squall to open up, and both of them are openly flirtatious from the start of the game.
The 'beats’ of their love story also mimic Final Fantasy 7. In Final Fantasy 8, both Squall and Cloud slowly open up as the story goes on. The two couples share a date, and once the heroes think they’ve lost the heroine, come to a realisation of their true feelings that reaches beyond death and beyond limits.
Rinoa: You can't handle everything on your own. We want you to talk to us a little more, that's all. FF8 Script, Rinoa and Squall Date Scene wrote:
Squall: I want to hear Rinoa's voice. FF8 Script, Infirmary Scene wrote:
Aerith: I want to meet...you. FF7 Script, Date Scene wrote:
Cloud: The Promised Land...I think I can find her there. FF7 Script, Final Scene wrote:
(Cloud again uses ‘I’ and not ‘we’ - he shows a desire for Aerith separate to her place with AVALANCHE).
And in both games, their bond transcends the physical realm, appearing to achieve the impossible - Cloud sees Aerith reaching to him from the Lifestream, and Rinoa’s love helps Squall recover in a dimension of twisted time.
The hand reach scene is especially notable for being another rare expression of joy on Cloud’s part. And both Cloud and Squall give large, genuine smiles when being reunited with their loved ones.
There’s even an interesting visual callback through a panning shot across the stars to the games’ respective love interests. In FF7, the game starts by panning over the stars before moving down to Aerith. In FF8, the last cutscene starts with a pan across the stars before moving down to Rinoa, who is standing on the deck of the Garden.
Final Fantasy 8 also featured a love triangle, though removed the dating mechanics of 7. Squall’s other suitor was Quistis, who mirrors Tifa in several ways.
Quistis: So you'll dance with someone you don't even know, but you can't stand being around me? FF8 Script, post ballroom scene wrote:
Quistis: I thought it was...love. I had to hide my feelings because I was an instructor, but I've come to realise it wasn't. FF8 Orphanage Scene wrote:
Quistis: Actually, I had completely given up when Rinoa came into the picture. wrote:
And like Tifa, she’s a tough tomboy who is close friends with the heroine. Most significantly, Quistis is also childhood friends with Squall, having lived with him in the same orphanage (a memory that was overlooked until later on).
Quistis: It was my childhood feelings as a big sister that lingered. wrote:
But the parallels do not end there. Final Fantasy 9 removed the love triangle in favour of a simple love story. While Zidane is not much like Squall or Cloud - something that made him memorable in the eyes of fans - Garnet falls into the love interest archetype. While not flirtatious, she too is associated with magic, having been born from the mystical summoner tribe. And like Aerith, she is an active heroine whilst being naturally feminine.
Final Fantasy 9 also directly homages the relationship between a flower girl and her knight.
Flower Girl: He's handsome, but he's not exactly Mr Personality. wrote:
Weimar, Pluto Knight [b]VII[/b]: To have the chance to meet a pretty flower like you [b]in a destroyed city[/b]...oh, I'm the luckiest guy in the world! wrote:
This trend continues even more overtly with Final Fantasy X. FFX was the first game to follow up on the theme of love transcending death, as FFX-2 sees Yuna go on a quest to see if she can reunite with Tidus, who was lost to her in the first game. Like Aerith, Yuna also carries an association with magic and the mystical - she too is a summoner, and while much more demure than Aerith, she also carries a natural femininity. Final Fantasy X also follows a similar story structure to Final Fantasy 7, in that the first disaster of the plot all centres around Tidus and Yuna being separated for the first time, and the player is driven by the need to see them reunited. But before they are, tragedy strikes - it is revealed that Yuna will have to sacrifice herself to defeat Sin.
Perhaps the largest example is in Final Fantasy XV. Noctis is once again quite similar to Cloud - reserved but can be moved to anger when the occasion arises. Luna also mirrors Aerith - once again the heroine has a strong connection to magic, and like Aerith’s willingness to give her life for the Planet (as demonstrated in the novellas), Luna has an incredible sense of duty which drove her actions in Kingslaive.
On top of this, the game’s tagline, 'Now the legend has met its match’, directly references FFVII’s currently unparalleled success in the Final Fantasy series. The Omen trailer provided a further nod to the relationship between Cloud and Aerith in its presentation of Noctis and Luna.
Without going too far into spoilers, let it be said that there are several similarities between Noctis and Luna and Cloud and Aerith, the largest being their spiritual connection and the flower motif accompanying it.
But Cloud and Aerith’s love story hasn’t just transcended death and laid out the template for character archetypes in future games, they themselves have appeared in multiple games, continually seeking each other or being reminded of their connection in some way.
The most overt is in Tactics, when Cloud steps in to help Aerith after seeming to recognise her from somewhere.
In World of Final Fantasy, Cloud’s path mirrors that of his actions in Advent Children very closely - a deep guilt over Aerith’s death and a desire to stop Sephiroth by any means necessary. Terra urges him not to take his love for her and turn it to hate.
[quote="Cloud: He took someone from me. Forever.
Terra: This isn't any way to honour her memory. To take your love for her and turn it to hate? Especially when it makes you abandon your friends! "][/quote]
The Japanese is even more romantic in its use of the word 愛する, or ‘aisuru’.
Terra: 誰かを大切に想う心 .. 愛するということるということを憎しみに変えて wrote:
Aisuru is incredibly romantic, expressing a depth of feeling even more serious than the common romantic phrase 'daisuke'.
So in this quote, Terra is not only saying Cloud carries love for Aerith, but that he carries a deep, emotional love for her that the English doesn’t quite grasp the nuances of, to the point that a popular love confession phrase ‘daisuke’ wasn’t enough to express it. This lines up with the love we have seen them develop throughout the game - a deep, emotional one where they both carry the other in their heart.
And in Kingdom Hearts, Cloud is searching for someone during the course of the game. At the very end, he and Aerith are reunited at last, safe in the knowledge that no matter how far they go from one another, they will always find one another again.
Cloud war ihr Freund, ihr Geliebter—er war ein Sinnbild fuer alles, was ihr wichtig war und es galt, ihn zu beschuetzen. Cloud avait été son ami, et son amant. C'etait un symbole important, et une personne qu'elle se devait de protéger. Cloud is [the] woman’s friend, a lover, a symbol of an important thing, it was an existence to protect (Google translate from Japanese)
Cloud was her friend, her lover-he was a symbol of everything that mattered to her and [she] was meant to protect him (More readable Google translate from German)
On the Way to a Smile: Case of Lifestream "][/quote]