Forgotten-City

10

That we’ve been fighting for a planet that may not even want us is a real game changer for me. “The future of the planet” is the kind of vague and selfless goal that doesn’t demand any scrutiny or defense as a course of action. Knowing that the good of the planet may very well diverge drastically from the good of mankind, from the security of your own future, is the biggest challenge you can present to moving forward.

It’s also the final blow to the sense of player control the game has been slowly eroding since Aeris’ death. We couldn’t save her; we couldn’t control Cloud; we couldn’t stop Meteor; now, we revisit the moment when we were probably the most vulnerable to learn how powerless we are, that what we’ve ostensibly been fighting for all along may lead to the emptiest of victories.

At the same time, it doesn’t feel hopeless. Here more than ever is the point where faith takes over. The group finally learns what Aeris has done and there isn’t anything left to do but follow it through, but they do it without hesitation. Even balanced as they are on knife’s edge, they trust she knew what she was doing, that she did the right thing, however much a risk it was.

I never really see it brought up, but Aeris must have known that calling Holy was gambling with the fate of humanity. Using the White Materia was not as a last-ditch effort, either. She prayed for Holy before Meteor had even been summoned. She was always playing the long game, but I think she must too have had tremendous faith, either in her own power or in humankind’s collective worth and ability to withstand a planetary Judgement Day.

Clerith in the Forgotten City: Prologue

The Forgotten City is arguably the most important place in the entire compilation. The end of disc 1 is in many ways the defining moment for Cloud, Aerith, and Sephiroth. The scene was designed with two goals in mind:

1. To demonstrate that Cloud hates Sephiroth.
2. To demonstrate that Cloud loves Aerith.

I consider Cloud’s time at Gongaga a part of it as well, as it sets up for how the forgotten city starts and finishes, so I will start there.

After the temple of the Ancients, Cloud has a dream; it can be broken up in two phases. The first phase is where Aerith tells him about her going to the City of the Ancients. Cloud tries to run after her but isn’t able to make progress and Aerith gets away.

Once Aerith is out of sight the next phase of the dream starts, where Sephiroth shows himself and says:

Sephiroth: Hmm…… She’s thinking of interfering? She will be a difficult one, don’t you think?
Sephiroth: We must stop that girl soon. (Game script)


He speaks to Cloud in a way that he assumes Cloud will help him stop Aerith, hence the use of “We” It’s forshadowing of Sephiroth controlling him later to try and kill her.  

After this Cloud wakes up and talks to Barret and Tifa about Aerith and Sephiroth.

Tifa: Then we must go. What’ll we do if something happens to Aerith? If Sephiroth finds her, she’s in trouble.

Cloud: Sephiroth…already knows.

Barret: Hey! Why are you still sittin’ around?

Tifa: Let’s go, Cloud.

Cloud:No.

Cloud: I might lose it again.

Cloud: If Sephiroth comes near me I might……(Game script)

What Sephiroth did to him at the Temple of the Ancients and what he said to him in the dream convinced Cloud that he could end up hurting Aerith again.

Cloud has been searching for Sephiroth since Midgar. And now he knows that Sephiroth is at the city of the Ancients. And furthermore he knows that Aerith is there too. Everything he is searching for is there, but doesn’t want to go because he doesn’t want to hurt Aerith again.

So Cloud chooses not to go because he refuses to risk Aerith’s safety. This isn’t the first time he sacrificed being with her in order to keep her safe. Earlier in the game, Cloud left Aerith’s house alone to go to sector 7. This was his reasoning, according to dismantled:

(Cloud’s POV)“Well, it’s midnight already, seems about time to leave for the 7th Street.
Aerith declared that she’ll show me the way. But if I let her, it seems hard to tell who’s the bodyguard.
I’m gonna slip out of here. ” - Cloud at Aerith’s house, awoke from a nap. FF7 Dismantled, pg 141

But Aerith catches up to him on his way out.

Her safety is so important to him that just like before, he will stay away from her if it means that she will be alright. Cloud has done a variety of things to make sure Aerith would be alright. He dressed up as a girl so she wouldn’t go in Don Corneo’s mansion alone.

He also stormed through the shinra building to rescue her. Tifa and Barret joined him, but he planned on going alone before they agreed to fight with him:

(Cloud’s POV)“So far, it seemed the Turks had never tried to forcibly take her away in violent manner. They just persistently asked for her cooperation.

But, Shinra was entirely impetuous this time.

If Shinra changed the strategy all of a sudden, then no one can guarantee her safety.

I need to get in Shinra building.

I need to rescue her……by all means!” - Cloud in Aerith’s house. FF7 Dismantled, pg 145

So Cloud is being consistent here. He is looking out for Aerith’s best interests like he always did. But this isn’t the only reason he won’t go.

Back to the conversation in Gongaga, Cloud admits another fear.


Tifa: Cloud, we came this far… Aren’t you going to settle up with Sephiroth?

Cloud: No…

I’m afraid.

If this keeps up, I may go crazy!

I’m afraid…(Game Script)

And when everyone leaves, he says to himself:

Cloud: ……I’m afraid to find out the truth…? But……why? (Game Script)


So he also doesn’t want to go because of his fear of the truth. It’s a continution of the struggle Aerith and Sephiroth have over Cloud’s mind and spirit, which is a recurring theme that continues in the forgotten city and the rest of the compilation.

But nevertheless Cloud and friends go to the forgotten City. In the next part I will talk about the moments leading up to end of disc 1.

9

If Sephiroth and Aeris are foils to one another, Cloud walks between the parallels their arcs draw. All of them are on journeys to reconcile their own identities, but Aeris and Sephiroth represent the radically different poles that Cloud will have to choose between to move forward.

Aeris leaves Midgar in search of answers about a part of herself she’s always kept hidden, and though her Ancient heritage has brought her much suffering and a heavy burden, she hasn’t let it define her or stop her from embracing her own truth. She still may not know everything about the ancients, but she has come to know herself. That self discovery has granted her the faith, courage and power to trust herself and keep going. 

Sephiroth’s been at once defined by and refusing his identity since Nibelheim. He strives to reshape his identity into something that suits him while simultaneously being completely overcome by the hatred, sorrow and rage his history has brought him. 

Cloud, at this point, only knows enough to understand that he doesn’t know himself at all. He’s afraid of what the truth might be, but he wants it anyway, and his vengeance along with it. He’s still pretending to be someone he’s not and walking a path that’s been laid out for him, but before much longer he’ll have to find his own way.

The Forgotten Capital (or City of the Ancients) -

The city lies beyond the Sleeping Forest, past Bone Village, on the arctic of the Northern Continent.

The city was the capital & home to the Cetra civilisation, until Jenova (the calamity from the skies) caused the near-extinction of the Cetra.

Survivors integrated into human society, leaving the city abandoned in ruin - Eventually they died out & left just one - Aeris/Aerith.

There is a sad irony to this place.

I expect you already know.

/walks through wall.

8

The Forgotten City is one of my favourite locations in the game for how rich in atmosphere it is. It’s design, the music, and your purpose there all coalesce into a shroud of dreadful mystery and eldritch peace that blankets the place. There is something barren and harsh about it, all the houses of the dead standing empty, even amidst its stunning beauty. 

It feels like an Otherworld - one that Aeris has already passed into, and one that you know you won’t emerge from unchanged.