Final Fantasy VII‘s cast is nothing short of memorable. In fact, it is arguably the most recognizable. For me though, Tifa ended up being my favorite for a couple of different reasons. While the cast is pretty solid, Tifa stood out to me in ways the other characters did not.
Tifa and Cloud’s Childhood Friendship
Tifa grew up with Cloud in a small village called Nibelheim. As a child, she played with many of the other children in town, but her group often excluded Cloud a lot for being different. However when Tifa was eight, she learned of her mother’s death and instantly became depressed.
While she tried to deal with her mother’s death, her friends were very unsure how to handle this. Even Cloud was concerned for Tifa. As Cloud expressed that concern, Tifa was still reluctant to let him in and continued to be cautious around him.
When Tifa decided to climb Mt. Nibel to look for her mother, her friends tagged along. As she climbed higher, one by one her friends turned and left leaving only Cloud behind her. Eventually Tifa lost her footing and Cloud did his best to save her but they both fell into the ravine below.
Everyone in town blamed Cloud for what happened, but Tifa knew the truth and even though she kept it to herself, her opinion of Cloud was forever changed that day. This was certainly what sparked their friendship and finally allowed Cloud to get closer to Tifa.
The Nibelheim Incident
When Cloud and Tifa were a bit older, he told her about his plans to join SOLDIER and become a war hero just like Sephiroth. At the time, Tifa wasn’t sure if Cloud was serious but after they parted, she continued to check newspapers to see if he ever lived up to his goal. She also often thought of the promise he made to her about coming to her aid if she was ever in need.
A few more years went by and Tifa studied martial arts and overcame her fear of the mountain and even became a tour guide for Shinra employees that needed to visit the mountain. As the mountain and surrounding areas got overrun by monsters, SOLDIER sent Sephiroth and Zack to take care of the situation. Overall, it was a successful mission but later, Sephiroth learned the truth of his origin and set fire to the entire village of Nibelheim leaving very few survivors.
In my opinion, this is truly what shaped Tifa into the character we see in Final Fantasy VII. This moment certainly played its part in shaping Cloud too, but I think it was more powerful for Tifa. She lost her father, her faith in Sephiroth and SOLIDIER as a whole, and was stripped of her childhood home. This certainly explains the more reserved yet strong-willed woman we see throughout the game.
Cloud, Are You Okay?
The way Final Fantasy VII tells its story is absolutely genius. During the first part of the game, Cloud has memories of the past that we see as flashbacks. Some are of his childhood with Tifa, but others are of his time with SOLDIER. However we later find out that the times with SOLDIER are not his memories, but Zack’s.
As Tifa observes Cloud when they are reunited in Midgar, she can tell this is not the Cloud that she grew up with. Desperate to make sure he sticks around so she can keep an eye on him, she convinces him to stay with Avalanche, at least for now, reminding him of his promise to her. However, his cold personality is alarming to her as he only stays when he finds out there’s money in it for him. Had SOLDIER changed him? How can he remember things he did not do?
As the game progresses, Tifa withholds her feelings more and more, starting to doubt her own memories because of how sure Cloud sounds when he recalls his own. In the span of everything else going on, she never really felt like it was the right time to talk. Instead, she even ends up lying to him about some things because she can’t comprehend what is happening to Cloud and whether it is his memory failing him or hers failing her.
Fight Through The Pain
I think this dynamic is what stood out to me the most about Tifa. She had finally gotten to a place in her life where she felt like she was doing something productive to get revenge on Shinra for her father’s death, when Cloud showed up and stirred up all of those feelings again. Not to mention the fact that she ended up blaming herself for both the plate falling, and Aerith being kidnapped. She really has a lot on her mind and never really got to express all of it, since she felt like the mission should come first.
I think it speaks volumes to the kind of person that Tifa is though. Despite having to relive the moments that took her father and home from her, she is also dealing with uncovering more of just how awful Shinra is. Tifa truly puts her friends and their mission first every chance she gets but you know deep down she is also in pain.
The breaking point for her is when Cloud finally snaps and loses control of his own mind. He even questions if he was a real person and because of this, gives Sephiroth the Black Materia. Meanwhile Tifa, having held on to her own emotions and feelings this whole time, tries to stop Cloud but becomes overwhelmed by everything. Many see Cloud overcoming his mental anguish as the moment he really becomes a hero, but Tifa is also in the same boat.
For me, it is interesting to see just how intertwined Cloud and Tifa are. While many of the characters get missions or memories to flesh out their story, Tifa gets very few of her own. I think that is because her story is so tangled with Cloud’s and telling it the right way is how Final Fantasy VII sets itself apart from other entries in the series. Her memory is almost as compromised as his while she watches him recall moments that they did not share together.
Tifa is absolutely instrumental when the time comes to rebuild Cloud’s mind. It is in that moment that she is finally able to be honest with him and start rebuilding his memory based on the ones they shared together. She finds out he was there during the incident, just not in the way that he first remembered. She was also able to finally get the closure she needed knowing this was the real Cloud and not a clone like Hojo had implied.
In the end, Cloud is able to keep his promise to Tifa. With her family gone, and Sephiroth finally obtainable, she realizes that Cloud is all she has left. Much like that moment on Mt. Nibel, Cloud is the only one left to protect her. Even though they are still unable to fully discuss what they mean to each other, their friendship remains intact with the understanding that they would do anything for one another.
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