I’m going to lay my bias out from the start – I don’t like that they changed Aeris’s name to Aerith; it’s purely a personal preference but it has never sat right with me. I’ve spent too much time in Midgar and beyond in the original Final Fantasy VII that I have trouble adjusting. There have been countless spin offs solidifying the change in name to Aerith, including appearances in the Final Fantasy VII sequel film Advent Children, the Kingdom Hearts series and even a DLC costume in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
She’s been Aerith a long time now; let’s find out why. To avoid confusion I’ll be referring to the iconic flower girl as Aeris from now on unless explaining the difference.
Not a Great Original Translation
The original translation of Final Fantasy VII was pretty abysmal. The most famous example is probably in the Sector 5 slums where a sick man is encountered and the translation says “This guy are sick”, which is akin to Final Fantasy X‘s mistake of a young boy saying “I’m gonna be blitzball when I grow up” in notoriety. The classic mistake in Japanese translation of mixing up the L and R is also present, such as the boss Helletic Hojo who should have been named Heretic Hojo. The FMV sequence for escaping Shinra HQ even has Midgal (instead of Midgar) written on the side of the truck. Another notable oversight is the Megalixir item being known as “Last Elixir” in one instance.
There are also typos galore, a particular noticeable error is being able to select “Off course!” instead of “Of course!” to carry on fighting at the Battle Square in the Gold Saucer. Another easy to miss one is Cait Sith saying “I’m so exited!” instead of “I’m so excited” in The Temple of the Ancients. You can find an armour item named “Fourth Bracelet” that should’ve been translated as “Force Bracelet”, given it’s effect on Magic and Magic Defence. The less said about Tifa’s “orthopedic underwear” the better. I actually find a lot of these mistakes endearing. This was Square finding its footing in the fifth generation of consoles, despite major technical barriers to overcome, they managed to transition successfully.
Final Fantasy VII opened a lot of eyes for gamers at the time and made RPGs a viable genre in the US and Europe. A bad translation was no hindrance to this success.
Translation – No Longer an Afterthought
Richard Honeywood, one of the lead contributors to the development of Square’s localisation practices, joined Square as the development of Final Fantasy VII was wrapping up. According to him the localisation of Final Fantasy VII was somewhat of an afterthought. When Final Fantasy VII sold over a million copies in the US, Square realised the financial benefit of a good translation – especially when considering the less risky investment in the CD format over the much more expensive cartridge format of the SNES and NES. Prior to having a whole team devoted to translation like future games in the series, Final Fantasy VII was predominantly translated by one person – Michael Baskett. A game of this size and magnitude being translated in a finite amount of time by mainly one person would be impossible to do completely accurately. Given these circumstances I think he did a great job.
In hindsight, it’s only in recent years that I’ve become accustomed to these errors – most I wouldn’t have spotted myself without researching. In reality, I never took any notice of them at the time and, really, that’s all that matters.
Final Fantasy VII – Naming Origins
With the broad errors in localisation and translation discussed it’s time to get to Aeris in particular. When games are localised from their native languages they are translated, and in the case of Japanese in particular, transliteration is needed too. For instance, the Japanese language has no dental fricatives in its language for the -th sound; a character named Earisu could be transliterated to English as Aeris or Aerith. Both are technically correct. The main villain of Final Fantasy VII could easily have been translated from Sefirosu to Sephiros or Sephiroth for the same reasons, but due to it being derived from the Jewish term of Sefirot (often transliterated in English as Sephiroth) the correct name was chosen. Aeris’s name is a reference to her connection to the planet – perhaps Aerith would make more sense due to how close it sounds to “Earth”?
In fact, it was discovered fairly recently that in the code for the original Final Fantasy VII, Aeris’s default name is actually Aerith. The video below shows a glitch where you skip the original encounter of Aeris and because of this her name is defaulted in your party as Aerith.
This is purely speculation on my part but I believe that her name was originally Aerith but the name was backtracked to Aeris late in development. This was covered by changing it on the name selection screen to default as Aeris. Perhaps the translator felt like it flowed better as a name only for the development team to disagree after the game was published.
Final Thoughts – Aeris or Aerith?
Aeris’s role in Final Fantasy VII has a lot to do with the planet so it is feasible that the development team wished for her name to reflect that; it’s true that Aerith looks and sounds a lot more like “Earth” than Aeris does. Until spin offs and cameo appearances altered her name this was never a big deal. This is only a noticeable oversight in hindsight. For instance, Barret’s name was meant to reflect the English word Bullet, something that has never been altered since the original game and perhaps need not be changed either.
It pains me to say it but even if originally Square wanted her name to be Aeris, it has been consistently changed to Aerith ever since Kingdom Hearts in 2002. That’s 20 years. Retroactively changing it to Aerith in Final Fantasy VII Remake makes complete and total sense. I believe I would have less of an issue if it was Aerith from the start as changing it only makes me think of someone saying Aeris with a lisp; something I’m aware that I’m not the first person to state.
The future of Final Fantasy VII is on the horizon, with a remake of Crisis Core and part 2 of the Remake, and whether or not you’re bothered about translation and story changes – fans of Final Fantasy VII have a lot to look forward to. For people stuck in their ways like I am the name change will continue to bother me but I can be safe in the knowledge that this way of thinking is purely irrational.
So to summarise, in Final Fantasy VII, is it Aeris or Aerith? Well that’s easy – It’s Aerith.
What about the original japanese dialogue? They clearly pronounce her name as “Aerisu”, so in other words, Aeris. English is not my native language, so I could be wrong, but shouldn’t the -th sound like an f instead of s? If it was indeed Aerith, then in japanese they would pronounce “Aerifu”, no?
GET WITH MODERN TIMES YOU OLD FOGGIES. I LIKE AERITH BETTER AND THAT IS MY OPINION. AERITH IS MUCH PRETTIER THEN AERIS. WHAT DOES AERIS MEAN ANYWAY I DON’T THINK AERIS EVEN HAS A MEANING!
AeriTH sounds like you’ve got a lisp. If you want people to think you’ve got a speech impediment then that’s no one’s fault BUT YOUR OWN. Aeris is FACTUALLY better sounding, end of discussion…not that I really give a rip about the overrated ff7.
Theo F.W.K. Cookson
I was always an Aeris guy as well. It always just sounded better to me, but that’s probably just because I read that one first. It’s obvious that they really want it to be Aerith though, so I’m choosing not to die on the Aeris hill, lol.
Next up: is it Tie-dus or Tee-dus?