Okay, the first thing that a lot of people scour the internet for once they’ve beaten Final Fantasy 7 is almost undeniably the answer to one question. “Can Aeris be revived?” Of course, when Final Fantasy 7 first came out an overwhelming amount of people on the internet cried out in unison “I’m sure she can, and I’ll find the way!” So over the next few months in late 1997 and early 1998, a multitude of gamers flocked to online sites that covered Final Fantasy 7. Rumors sprung up and a few infamous letters, like the Lansig letter, professed that she would make a return if you only did a few certain things. These things ranged from using spells on Materia you can only get after obtaining obscene amounts of AP to using the two items you get from the two WEAPONs and the guidebook (which you morphed from pirate ships in the Shinra walkway to the underwater reactor in Junon).
Of course, none of these ideas panned out. But nobody gave up hope. As Final Fantasy 8 hadn’t been announced yet, people like Ambigore (who started FF7 Citadel, viewable here) fashioned the concept of FF7-2, or a direct sequel under the name FF8. He believed that Squaresoft (now Square-Enix) was planning on keeping up the FF7 storyline for the next few Final Fantasy games.
This was later disproved, but people of course still wanted Aeris back. An online petition was started urging Squaresoft to re-master FF7 and re-release it, completed. This followed the new idea that Aeris was intended to be resurrected and that Squaresoft, in their rush, was forced to leave that part out. Strengthening this belief was the statement an employee (I forgot which) of Squaresoft released, stating that originally more endings had been planned for Final Fantasy 7 (much like Chrono Trigger). When asked to elaborate he said something along the lines of “Well, we were going to make one to show Vincent if the player had Vincent, one for Yuffie, one for both, one for neither, and maybe a few more.” Many players took this to mean that one ending would accompany the fact Aeris had been revived.
This gathered steam when an online Aeris site, The Flower Girl in the Slums (viewable here), posted an excerpt from a statement made by a Squaresoft rep in response to a letter on why Aeris’ ghost appeared in the chapel. “...in the original storyline the main character, Cloud, was intended to fall in love with Aeris yet this changed later.” TFGS also included a small section saying that originally Aeris was meant to be revivable but this was changed later. As a result this caused confusion and things like Aeris’ ghost’s apparition. There were a few other sites out there that posted the same thing, but I can’t remember any of them. This was, of course, in mid-1998. A lot of fans around the internet also got the idea in their heads that Cloud wouldn’t have promised to take Aeris on the Highwind and not delivered in a complete game. It didn’t make sense to them that Squaresoft would include this - a memorable dialogue event - and never actually follow through. Not only this, but Aeris’ CGI imagery shows her standing in front of the Highwind. Everything, to them, seemed to point towards one undeniable fact - the Highwind event was supposed to happen at one point in the game but it never did. And, Complimenting this, was the recent discovery that Aeris could be reclaimed using a Gameshark for the PS1. This was later proved to be irrelevant because all the game data was stored on each Disc, minus the FMV’s which were mutually exclusive to which disc you were on. Therefore, Aeris was able to be used in Disc 3 not because there was a way to revive her but because Disc 3 contained all her data - the same as Disc 1 and Disc 2. Still, at the time it seemed important, especially coupled with the statements about Aeris’ original future.
Final Fantasy 8 approached and the first images were released, showing people who were obviously not members of the FF7 crew. Still, some of the more hardcore FF7 fanatics held fast to their claim that FF8 would continue the FF7 story. And, all the while, Aeris ressurectionists bombarded the internet with petition after petition and Squaresoft with letter after letter. Things didn’t seem to be changing much of course, and FF8 was released. Squall and his buddies weren’t the cast people had hoped for, but FF7-2 was still being pushed by many. But it was obvious to even the most stalwart fans that Aeris wasn’t going to be gracing their Playstation console anytime soon, so many of them, myself included, turned to the ending to justify their fanfics.
The two most popular questions that people ask concerning the ending are probably “Does mankind survive?” and “Are Cloud and Aeris reunited?” In terms of mankind’s survival, the community generally remained split for some time and not many debates broke out over the issue, both sides accepting the other’s point of view. Even as FF9 rolled around people were still arguing over Aeris, however. The fans of Cloud and Aeris coupling and the fans of Cloud and Tifa coupling of course had a field day over that debate, C/T’s claiming all the evidence pointed to her staying dead and Cloud ending up with Tifa and the C/A’s claiming that the opposite was true. Of course nobody got any official confirmation, and the debate continued to rage. As of late it has of course cooled because six years will do that to any game. But still, there are places where it is discussed avidly and often.
Nonetheless, questions remain and always will. Squaresoft made a few hints towards re-releasing FF7, FF8, and FF9 for the PS2 but the idea never panned out. These were most likely rumors started based around the fact Squaresoft was reselling older FF titles, most notably FF6 in FF Anthologies. Chrono Trigger was also re-released with more story elaboration and more endings, one of which provided for another tie-in to the (weak) sequel, Chrono Cross. FF7Gold, the unofficial name fans christened the FF7 re-release, never came, and all through 2002 peopled waited and prayed. But it never came.
FF7-2 ideas had remained strong for the most part, but an overwhelming surge in the popularity of such an idea and in widespread belief in the fact it may become a reality occurred following the announcement of FF10-2. Many people said this was the harbinger of a new age in Squaresoft, where Squaresoft would began to franchise out its existing games. As rumors swirled about stating Kingdom Hearts, Squaresoft and Disney’s title, would be getting a sequel, many were left in anticipation o FF7-2. Then, on November 11, 2002, heart rates jumped as IGN (viewable here) posted an article (viewable here) with the following quote from Yoshinori Kitase:
“A sequel to FFVII?” comments Kitase while laughing. “In truth, there are many who'd like to make such a game, Nomura, who's working on Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, included. Many of the Square staff participated in the development of FFVII, and the memories are strong. Additionally, expressing the world of FFVII using today’s technology would certainly be interesting (laughs).
“However, FFVII still has many fans,” he continues. “We couldn’t make a bad product (laughs).”
This seemed to validate many people’s claims that FF7-2 was a reality and would soon be handing us all Aeris’s loving smile on a PS2 CD. More Aeris stuff blew up all over the internet and for a time the ending to FF7 seemed irrelevant once more. But that would of course change soon enough.
On May 7, 2003, Gamespot (viewable here) released a news article (viewable here) that, basically, said FF7-2 was “unrealistic.” Tetsuya Nomura, the character designer for a few FF titles, said that since FFX was a PS2 game to begin with, they utilized the same engine for FFX-2. FF7 was a PS1 game, however, so they’d have to remake everything from scratch for the PS2. Therefore, it would take a much longer time; in fact, it would take the normal development cycle for a game, which is about 15 months if I’m not mistaken.
Of course, this didn’t mean FF7-2 was NEVER going to happen. But it certainly did seem that way when it was announced. Many hopes were crushed as the article spread around the internet and found its way to forums everywhere. IGN recently released an article (viewable here) on June 19, 2003, stating that FF7-2 still had a chance, but that instead of being a PS2 game it would be a PS1or PSP (Playstation Pocket, Sony’s answer to Nintendo’s Gameboy) game. Hopes didn’t increase nearly as much however, because this was not only from the mouths of unreliable IGN staff (and not from Squaresoft employees as the other articles had cited) but it was also an admitted rumor with no real evidence to back it up. Still, many still hope to this day, three months after the fact, that Squaresoft will confirm that article…
But the ending was always there. Final Fantasy 7’s worst feature was also simultaneously its best feature. Because the ending was so ambiguous in nature it left a lot of ground for interpretation and not just frustration. In this way, Squaresoft effectively removed the need for an official sequel. There still was and is a huge gap between what we do know and what we think we know. The ending of Final Fantasy 7 still remains largely unexplained.
That is why this theory exists. While FF7-2 and FF7Gold failed to materialize, the ending to FF7 was always there. Where Square-Enix failed to provide, FF7’s ending stepped in. Many of the things we hope for in a sequel or remake are already in the ending, just people don’t see it.
I hope this article I’m writing (because referring to it as a theory is an understatement) helps clear up many of the questions you have regarding FF7’s ending. I hope once you’re done reading it (or whichever parts of it you would like to read) you realize that we never needed FF7-2 to see Aeris again or to see what happened to Humanity. I’m not being sappy and saying that she was in our hearts and that good always wins - I’m telling you that if you pay attention you’ll see the answers. They’re there, just hidden. Using facts from the game and dialogue from the ending I hope to clarify your misconceptions and vanquish your frustration.
Therefore, without further ado - on with the show!