The characters of Tifa and Aeris from Square's 1997 release are a beloved duo of women on arguably one of the better Final Fantasy releases. The intricate storyline that introduced these two proved that women can be more than the enemy's bait to the main hero. Stereotypical problems still arise, however, but it is a step in the right direction.
After the murder of her father, Tifa Lockheart joins a band of rebels known as AVALANCE and quickly considers them family. She is depicted as a tough, intelligent, and strong woman who knows what she wants. Her fighting is hard core, relying on brute strength with powerful punches and kicks; no wimpy magic spells for her as her muscle works just fine. She is adorned with combat boots, heavy gloves...and a skimpy leather skirt. Here, at the mention of her physical appearance, is where the debate begins. Tifa is widely known for her buxom breast size, which is many times bigger than is realistic on any woman boxer. Her sexual intrigue was utilized by the advertisers of the game and continues to be a sore point; or, to the other half, a welcome sight to drool over.
Aeris Gainsborough is a mysterious woman with a complex past. She is intelligent and soft-spoken, able to capture the heart of all of the Final Fantasy VII characters; even Tifa (which will be explained later). Armed with a staff and an unusual ability to draw upon the might of magic, she is a powerful ally in your party. Her innocence deepens your love for this character, but it seems a little out of place, considering she grew up in the slums.
The romance in any Final Fantasy story between the main character and the lead woman is a predictable addition. Yet in this particular narrative, the two girls create a love triangle with Cloud Strife, which is unusual in Final Fantasy storytelling. The triangle is not the sole fixation of the game, but it does help to characterize the women. For Tifa, it seems to weaken her character; growing up with Cloud, she has developed a deepened love for him over the years. Aeris is first introduced to Cloud at the beginning of the game, and though she also shares a love for him, she remains in Tifa's good spirits. There is no cat fight between the two women at any time. Yet while Aeris is admirable in her softened treatment of Tifa, the young boxer goes into numerous jealous fits that can be both amusing and annoying.
Though highly debated, the death of Aeris helped to immortalize this woman in the Final Fantasy series. This unexpected plot twist touched many gamers and deepened Aeris' character on another level, as she becomes and controls the life stream. Tifa goes on to aid Cloud as he struggles with identity and past memories. The development of these two women, though not perfect, is light years beyond the standard Rosa had established in a past game.