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A Fantasy Finale

To this day, I think I must say that Final Fantasy 7 is my all-time favorite game.  I have spent more hours playing that game than any other game, with the possible exception of Lord of the Rings Online. I have played from the beginning to the end of the game no fewer than a dozen times.  I have beat the end boss and the two optional bosses countless times, perhaps even into the triple digits.  I have bred the fastest possible gold chocobo, I have obtained several of each kind of master materia (all without cheating).  I have spent hundreds of hours playing that game.

The single most poignant point in the game is at the very end of the first disc (there are three) when Sephiroth kills Aeris, who is the only remaining Ancient and therefore the only one who can summon Holy to stop Meteor.  It is a very emotional scene.  When I first started playing the game, I hated that part (mostly because she's my favorite character).  Over the years I have come to appreciate it and the emotion it elicits more fully.

Shortly after my mission in Japan, I started a new game in Final Fantasy 7.  This was around the time that I started dating my late wife Karen.  In this (and most) Final Fantasy games, the player is allowed to rename the characters in the game.  Sometimes I keep the default name, but I usually name them something silly.  This time through the game I decided to give people names based on real-life people that I know.   I named the main character (Cloud) Gordon, which is my middle name.  I named Aeris (the girl who dies halfway through the game) Elizabeth, which is Karen's middle name.

At this point in time, I did not know that Karen would die young, but I was aware of the possibility because I knew that she had been fighting cancer for 3 years.  I picked Aeris to name after Karen for several reasons.  Anyone who knew Karen and Aeris would say that their personalities are very similar.  Aeris is first met inside a church, tending some flowers.  She is a very spiritual person, very kind, but also very assertive and stands up for herself.  Karen was the same.  Also, Cloud and Aeris fall in love and (optionally) go on a date shortly before she is killed.  To me, it is a very romantic love story.  Also, I picked Aeris because I know that she dies early, and it seemed to me to be a foreshadowing of Karen dying early.  Perhaps I did it to prepare myself for the inevitable day of her death.

On every run through the game, I dread getting to the part of the story where Aeris dies.  But in this particular run through, the emotion was greatly amplified.  In essence, I just watched my (then girlfriend) have her life shortened.  I thought (as I often did at that point in my life) how it would be if I lost Karen for real.  It was a sad time.  For the first time in my life (and also the last, as far as I recall), I cried to a video game.  I shed tears at the thought of losing my dear Elizabeth.  Also for the first time, I understood the feeling that Cloud describes after Aeris dies and he explodes with emotion at Sephiroth.

A couple years ago, I bought an album called "Distant Worlds" which is a collection of several songs from the Final Fantasy series.  One of the songs is Aeris' theme song.  It is one of my favorite ones to listen to.  It is very sad but also very pretty.  Every time I hear that song, I think of my Karen.  In fact, the reason I wrote this blog post today is because I listened to that song this morning and I have been thinking of her ever since.

I think that Squaresoft did an excellent job with this scene.  Down to the fact that they kept Aeris' theme song playing during the boss battle (one, to avoid ruining the mood with the aggressive normal boss music and two, to further drive home the sentiment of "OMG.  She's really dead.")  And then Cloud peacefully lays her in the pond and she "floats" to the bottom.  The music in this video is not the OST, it is the symphonic production released on the "Distant Worlds" album I mentioned above.  Very beautiful piece.

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