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by Brett Smith
The ending to Final Fantasy VII has often been sharply criticized by many of its players. It seems to abandon the epic, flourishing ending of previous Final Fantasy games, which tied up all the loose ends of the plot, leaving everything open and lacking in resolution. With a bit of consideration for the symbolism of various figures throughout the ending, however, nothing could be further from the truth. If you want the short version: everything, with the exception of the city of Midgar, goes on. Yes, that includes the human race. The long version is the rest of this editorial.
It seems very unlikely that Meteor actually hit the planet. Instead, Aeris takes control of the Lifestream and destroys it. Had it actually made contact, Midgar would have been completely flattened -- which is a dilemma when explaining how Nanaki looks upon it five hundred years later.
Also, had it made contact, very little would seem to explain why humankind should be destroyed, but Nanaki allowed to survive. Sephiroth's intent in summoning Meteor was to damage the planet to the point that he would be able to take control of the Lifestream. This has clearly not happened -- the destruction would not have been so selective. This brings another point to the fact that, as there is no such destruction five hundred years later, it is doubtful that Meteor actually made contact with the planet.
There are several other facts -- some of them completely obscure -- which I could bring to light to explain why there is no chance that Meteor hit the Planet. However, rather than doing that, it is much easier to point to a single picture in the entire ending as being indicative of this fact. That picture? Aeris' portrait.
Aeris is a symbol for various things throughout the game, but the most predominant of these is her representation of hope. No matter how bad the situation gets, the party always returns to Aeris for the bit of hope they need to continue -- even after her death. No need to take my word, though; this fact is stated quite clearly throughout the game.
...... Although she's not here, she left us a window of opportunity... -- Nanaki
Aeris... She was smiling to the end. -- Cloud
Aeris gave us great hope... -- Cloud
Therefore, the fact that Aeris appears as the Lifestream overtakes Meteor clearly indicates that there will be a happy ending. It would make no sense for such a clear symbol of hope to be associated with the destruction of the human race. While becoming part of the Lifestream, as some have suggested, certainly would not be bad, it does not seem to be desireable, either.
The fact that Aeris' face -- indeed, the exact same image -- is the first image to appear (after a starfield) in the beginning of the game should be considered in an analysis of the ending as well. As the images are the same, there ought to be a consideration as to how any proposed symbolism for Aeris applies in both images.
It is because of this fact especially that predominantly associating Aeris with the Lifestream is faulty -- it does not serve any meaning when the image appears in the beginning of the game. However, considering her as a representation of hope makes considerable sense. She alone, as a flower girl underneath the rotting pizza, serves to bring hope to the hopeless city of Midgar.
Hence, this single, powerful symbol -- the quick glance upon Aeris' face -- serves to effectively give the ending of Final Fantasy VII substantial closure. Rest assured that the party is successful in their journey.
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