Aerith’s death upset many fans, including yours truly. I wanted so badly to believe we could revive her, to no avail.
But what I didn’t consider is that I had all of the resurrection tools I needed to save Aerith. Of course, the game wouldn’t let me use them, and they probably would work if I could use them. Think back to the time when Palom and Porom turned themselves into stone. Final Fantasy IV gave you the option to use items on the twins but to no avail. This would have been similar to Aerith if you had the choice.
So what’s the deal here?
Consider that Aerith didn’t really die, she was just unconscious due to shock. Normally, in Final Fantasy depleting your HP leads to a K.O. status. Labeling the “Death” status as “K.O.” started in the NES days to keep these games “family friendly”. Death became “RUB” in the original version. It’s description:
Instantly kills one foe.
However, mentioning death and a party member dying was out of the question, so your character’s death became “K.O.”
Aerith’s death was another break from Final Fantasy’s Nintendo days when they couldn’t show deaths.
After Aerith had to trek through to the Lost Continent on her own, she probably used a lot of Manna. She couldn’t heal herself. And her HP was probably low. But just then, Sephiroth finishes the job.
The move he uses in Dissidia is called Hell’s Gate, and is a call back to the finishing blow to Aerith. Of course, her wound looks fatal, but it probably wouldn’t have been if not for Cure.
Also, consider this video.
So then, perhaps Cloud did drown her in the pool after laying her to rest. But that I don’t think that’s the point. The true point of her death is to express shock for the players, about the finality of actual death. I’m sure this was the point of Aerith’s death. According to Nomura,
“death should be something sudden and unexpected, and Aerith’s death seemed more natural and realistic.” He said: “When I reflect on Final Fantasy VII, the fact that fans were so offended by her sudden death probably means that we were successful with her character. If fans had simply accepted her death, that would have meant she wasn’t an effective character.”
not enough to make ‘life’ the theme, you need to depict living and dying. In any event, you need to portray death”
[“In the real world things are very different. You just need to look around you. Nobody wants to die that way. People die of disease and accident. Death comes suddenly and there is no notion of good or bad. It leaves, not a dramatic feeling but great emptiness. When you lose someone you loved very much you feel this big empty space and think, ‘If I had known this was coming I would have done things differently.’ These are the feelings I wanted to arouse in the players with Aerith’s death relatively early in the game. Feelings of reality and not Hollywood.”]
We couldn’t we just cast Life, or use a Phoenix Down, on Aerith because that would ruin the scene’s power. It would also ruin Sakaguchi’s vision of a story without the restriction of the PlayStation days.