Though Final Fantasy games often place the focus on lead characters with comically large swords and steely gazes, the other members of their party are nothing to shrug at. This is especially true for Final Fantasy VII and its stellar 2020 remake. Seeing Cloud Strife and the Avalanche crew realised with better graphics and a story that was deeper than it originally seemed intrigued and excited old fans, and also drew in new ones who likely only knew of the 1997 juggernaut by reputation. Tifa Lockhart often captures attention the most, most recently thanks to an unfortunate interruption during an Italian government meeting where porn of Tifa was played during the Zoom call.
Funny and strange as it was to hear about this over the week, the ribbing and memes of the Tifa video eventually looped into a celebration of the character, and it makes you wonder why Square Enix never pulled the trigger on giving her the character a spotlight of her own outside the orbit of her childhood friend Cloud. Tifa was already pretty popular back in the day, with strong debates over who was better between her and magic-user Aerith. For as much as fans fell in love with her appearance, they also came to love her capacity for empathy and ability to keep the rest of the party centered in their fight to save the world.
With Remake, fans have learned or perhaps rediscovered why they love Tifa on a deeper level. Maybe it’s because you can look at her and see her and Cloud’s friendship evolve, or maybe it’s because she and Aerith are gal pals who make Cloud an aloof third wheel. It could also just be the remake’s combat, which is extremely good. Though all four characters — Cloud, Barrett, Tifa, and Aerith — are fun to play, she’s easily the best of them. Designed around Final Fantasy’s Monk class, Tifa’s strength and speed put her a few steps removed from a character action game that Remake flirts with being when playing as fellow frontline fighter Cloud. If you spec her right, you’ve got a beast on your hands who can bring down enemy health pretty fast. (The upcoming Final Fantasy Origin also gives you an idea of what playing as a Monk in a single player experience could be, and it feels like it’s in conversation with how Tifa plays.)
Square has had no trouble spinning FF7 into its own universe over the years. During the 2000s, there was extended media digging into past events for its characters (see Crisis Core), along with exploring the aftermath of the original game with the film Advent Children. With the first chapter of Remake out the door, they’ve returned to expanding the universe with the episodic mobile game Ever Crisis, which retells events from the 1997 game and various spinoffs, and the mobile battle royale The First Soldier. Outside of that, episodic adventures starring party members are nothing new for the series — FF13 and FF15 gave their party members expansions, and FF7 has both Dirge of Cerberus and Remake’s Yuffie expansion.
Smaller, bite-sized adventures for supporting characters have become a recurring trend in recent AAA games, from Spider-Man: Miles Morales to Gears 5 and Uncharted. Those shorter stories often can’t do everything their larger scaled brethren can, but they’re still appreciated for the insight they bring to a character or just by giving a character more room to breathe. In Remake, Cloud, Barrett, and Aerith’s journeys get fairly prominent screen time. Tifa, meanwhile, has maybe the least development of the core four, with much of it happening offscreen or muddled thanks to Cloud’s glitchy headaches. As much as she’s in the game, it can feel like you don’t really know her as well as the other three.
A lot of that may be from the fact that she was originally going to get a special chapter of her own during Remake. Created during the game’s development phase, she would’ve had her own spotlight during the game’s middle section that would’ve turned attention towards her relationship with the Avalanche crew and also dig into her psyche and previous trauma at the hands of Shinra. That content was ultimately cut, and it’s a shame that it was, since Tifa is an interesting juxtaposition to the other characters. She isn’t apathetic like Cloud, not overly devoted to her cause the way Barrett is, and she’s not seemingly cognisant of her place in this world like Aerith. She’s the party’s Normal Person who knows that things need to change in the world, but isn’t entirely quite sure how. For a story that is in part about the characters taking back their agency, she’s the one who deserves a chance to take it back the most: not just to be The Sensible One, but one whose hero’s journey is about accepting that if you want to save the world, you can get your hands dirty and not compromise your ideals.
Tifa isn’t the only party member of FF7 who could handle their own solitary adventure, we all know that. But Ms. 10/10 is perhaps the one who a lot of fans would go to bat for if you asked them what party member should have their own game, and one whose narrative potential seems to align with whatever Tetsuya Nomura and the writers are interested in playing with.
And if a Tifa game did happen, she’d be trending on Twitter for the “right” reasons.