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** Author's Note: I know this is approximately three years late, and I do not really have an answer to why I have not sent this in yet, but I really do believe Final Fantasy VII's ending is not that abstract, and my observations are quite valid.
The Misunderstood Final Fantasy Finale
If forty hours of gameplay had not proceeded, it would not have made much sense: a group of people seem to be standing in the control room of a blimp-like flying object. They talk negatively about a meteor and hopeful about something called 'Holy.' An animal, some kind of dog and cat hybrid, speaks abstractly about the planet and its ability to make decisions. Said meteor lets itself be seen and approaches a towering city. Suddenly, there is the appearance of a bright light: beams of ivory are seen dancing across the scene. The meteor approaches, the light continues on its path, the meteor grows closer still, the light reaches its destination, the light and the meteor's destruction mix, a girl's face is shown and the screen goes black. Credits role, the screen indicates a five hundred year passing of time and the dog and cat hybrid is seen leading two cubs of the same species up a ridge overlooking a grown over vision of the same towering city. The screen goes black and children are heard laughing. The words 'Final Fantasy VII' realize themselves, quickly disappear and are replaced by 'The End' written on a starfield cherried by a sobering piano score.
Final Fantasy VII's ending has been a debated topic over the years, but despite the confusion made in the original viewing, surprisingly, there is only a need for minimal information to have the scene make sense. The meteor is a threat to the Earth, this is apparent through the visuals. The ivory lights are called 'Lifestream.' Lifestream is comprised of the energy that living things give off when they die, and serves as a true protector of the planet. The girl's face which is seen is that of Aeris', a friend to the party seen in the airship, and a girl who had summoned Holy and gave her own life to strengthen the Lifestream. Holy is, in essence, anti-meteor and also serves as the ultimate protector of the planet. The animal spoken of is Red XIII, the sole survivour of his species whom lays claim to an extended lifespan. The city seen serves as a symbol of all that is negative about humanity. The question of whether or not humans are a good or bad thing to the planet had been proposed earlier in the plot. The predominant theme of Final Fantasy VII is Life. Now, to explain.
The party watches the sight before them. There is obviously something important about to happen, and then the scene is interrupted by Aeris' face. Here is what happened: it is noted by Cloud, one of the party members, that the Lifestream and Holy seem to be enhancing Meteor's strength. The Lifestream and Holy's sole purpose is to protect the planet, and so they use Meteor to rid the world of its greatest threat before they destroy it for the threat it poses itself. The decision is made to destroy humanity. The game's central theme is, of course, Life and the idea that it will find a way to go on. The planet has obviously decided that humanity is more a threat to life than a help. The point at which Aeris' face is shown is the point when the planet has made its decision: humans have died, the party is dead; it is the party entering the Lifestream. Aeris becomes synonymous with the Lifestream, the energy of the planet, albeit the reality of Aeris' death is more personal. The decision made by the planet greets the party to the Lifestream, and incidently, to Aeris, hence her appearance.
Of course, there is a problem: humanity was decisively killed, but one party member was not human. What happened to Red XIII? The credits role as this is pondered and then the answer is given: he survived. Furthermore, he is seen with two cubs, despite the fact that he was the only remaining of his kind. This should not be seen as an inaccuracy, an oversight, or fallout by the producers, but rather as the stressing of the Life theme: life will find a way. The laughing of children at the end is an array of things: to the story, it serves as the memories of Red XIII's past, a reminder that humanity was not solely evil, and the promise that humanity, through both their heroism and ultimately fatal mistake, will always be remembered; and to the game's audience, it stands as a warning to humanity that, here on real Earth, humanity reaching the point where, with respect to all other living things, it is better they be destroyed than survive, is not an impossibility, and may be, in fact, fast approaching.
The ending in short: the planet decides to destroy humans as they are a threat to its, and consequently Life's, survival. Aeris' face is the scene of the party entering the Lifestream. The only questions left then are, what happened to the rest of the planet, and what happened to Red XIII, who is non-human? The planet is then shown intact and Red XIII proudly being father to his children. Human children are heard laughing as a synopsis of the game's central theme: Life, and a note to not abandon this theme once the Playstation has been shut off.
Final Fantasy VII's ending is no more confusing, nor less conclusive, than any other game's if it is seen correctly through the theme of Life.
** Author's humourous post script: the most amusing explanation I have heard, however, was that the giggling at the end was Marlene making noises as she made love to Red XIII to make those cubs. I apologize for that and all ensuing nightmares.
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