Just about every RPG-er will admit that Final Fantasy VII is game with an incredibly deep and complex story. You enter the scene as a rogue group of “environmental terrorists” and leave as a cohort of cosmic-rock defying heroes.
There is something within the confines of the three PSX discs that may elude some gamers. You see, there is this ultra-mysterious bit of programming in the game that calculates your “affection level” towards certain characters. Throughout the game, you have some interesting conversations with the main cast, and your very own choices dictate the outcome of certain scenes.
One quick disclaimer before I continue: The affection meter does not have any major affect on the story itself, it simply alters one specific (and plot-unrelated) event, as well as some dialogue towards the end of the game.
This game has many themes; some being love and friendship. As you play, Squaresoft fools you into thinking that you have control over who Cloud loves. You don’t, and you’ll see why.
Well, towards the end of the game, there is the famous (and heart wrenching) scene with Cloud and Tifa outside the airship, The Highwind. If you know the story, the main characters are coming to terms with the fact that they are about to fight the most powerful being on the planet, and possibly die. Cloud and Tifa (being long time friends) exit the ship for a little bit to talk and take a quick breather. What happens next is dictated entirely by the “affection meter,” and how you have treated Tifa or the others.
I recently played through Final Fantasy VII for probably a 7th time (ironic). I still love everything about it, but that’s beside the point. This time around, I wanted to give all (Cloud’s) affection to Tifa. Every last bit of it. That means that I had to be mean to Aeris (which is difficult, because she d**s for Pete’s sake), and lavish attention onto Tifa. During my playthrough, I encountered several dialogue options that I was unsure about, so I did a web search for this issue specifically. This is when I came across the affection meter, and the debate on whether or not Cloud actually admits any love to Tifa.
So I bet you are saying, “jeeze Cloud… Tifa is actually alive… what’s the problem?” I know, that’s cold, but we have to analyze what Squaresoft gave us.
As I was searching, I found a borderline thesis project on this very subject! CHECK IT OUT, it is full of interesting discourse on this seemingly simple subject.