PartyCloud Strife. Our hero. Hired by AVALANCHE as a mercenary, he's now on a quest to stop Sephiroth. Brain's a bit addled. And when I say a bit, I mean like "Waffles is a bit impulsive."
Tifa Lockhart: Owner of 7th Heaven bar in Midgar, former neighbor of Cloud in Nibelheim. She joined the rebel group AVALANCHE after Sephiroth torched her town, killed her dad, and nearly killed her.
Barret Wallace was a coal miner at Corel, until Shinra torched the town, killed his wife, shot off his hand, and inspired him to join the rebel group AVALANCHE. (I don't know who was in charge before him). He rescued his best friend's baby, Marlene, from the ashes of Corel and raised her as his daughter.
Aeris was a flower girl of the Midgar slums raised by her stepmother Elmyra. Aeris inherited Cetra powers to commune with the planet and living things from her birth-mother, Ifalna, but she generally hides that side of herself and acts like an ordinary, down-to-earth young woman.
Red XIII (lab name) / Nanaki (birth name) is a member of a nearly-extinct warrior race that protects Cosmo Canyon, home to shamans and sages. He's an adolescent. I'm not sure how long he was Hojo's prisoner or how he was captured.
Cait Sith: This double dose of annoying is a mute mog puppet (bottom) being ridden by a sassy and talkative black cat puppet (top). The black cat is a living doll somewhat like Lulu's moogles, except it seems to be more self-aware (maybe; I'm avoiding spoilers.)
Not yet encountered: Yuffie, perky Ninja thief; Cid, foul-mouthed dragoon (spearman) and airshop pilot; Vincent, ex-Turk and unwilling subject of one of Hojo's lab experiments. (It turned him into a Goth.)
Elmyra, Aeris' stepmom, who's off somewhere looking after Marlene.
Johnny: I can't remember if he turns up again. He came from Nibelheim to Midgar, had a crush on Tifa, and was jealous of Cloud.
Bugenhagen: You'll meet him soon; he's an archetypal Old Wise Man, Nanaki's mentor.
Dio: Owner of the Gold Saucer. Rin in a Speedo.
The Shinra, or Shinra, Inc: The power company and monopoly which controls a good chunk of the planet, owned by the Shinra family. It has its own army and runs the capital city, Midgar, via a puppet government.
Sephiroth: SOLDIER gone rogue. Superhuman product of Shinra's Jenova Project, which was meant to create a living Ancient, aka Cetra. It...went wrong.
Jenova: Well, she's better-looking than a tick. Professor Gast excavated this organism and thought it was an Ancient. She seems to be able to reconstitute herself from bits and pieces.
Don Corneo: Not in the same league with the main villains, but since he pops up again, a reminder: he was the petty crime boss in Wall Market. Sexual predator. Ick.
Shinra, Inc Executives
President Rufus Shinra: son of the late president, big cheese.
Heidegger, head of Security. (Including the Turks and the Army.) He was in charge of destroying Sector 7.
Reeve, head of Urban Development. I love and want to strangle him. He protests Shinra's worst atrocities, but not loudly enough to get fired (or shot). He created Cait Sith, and that's not the worst of his sins. But in Dirge of Cerberus, set a few years after ff7, he's trying to help rebuild what Shinra destroyed, and he's my favorite character. Cognitive dissonance ahoy.
Scarlet, head of Weapons Development. Efficient, ruthless. Responsible for destroying Barret's hometown (she shot off his hand.)
Shinra's dirty tricks squad and Rufus' personal henchmen/ hitmen.
Rude (right) The bruiser. Formal and formidable, man of few words.
Reno (left): Sly, shady fox, dress casual. A gossip. These two are more sinister in FF7, more slapstick in Advent Children where they are also all kinds of awesome.
Dead or Missing People:
Jessie, Biggs, Wedge: members of AVALANCHE. Jessie and Wedge both fansqueed the bigshot SOLDIER, Cloud; Biggs never quite trusted him.
Zack: Aeris' first boyfriend, member of SOLDIER. We don't know much about him...yet.
Dyne: Barret's best friend who went nuts. Marlene's biological father.
President Shinra, Sr, killed by Sephiroth.
Professor Gast, former head of the Shinra science department. He discovered Jenova and founded the Jenova Project trying to resurrect the Cetra race.
Dr. Lucrecia Crescent: You'll hear about her soon. She's another former scientist of the Jenova Project. She's not actually dead, but I don't think she can be revived.
SOLDIER: Special ops in Shinra's military; they've been showered in Mako (basically liquid pyreflies) to give them superhuman strength and reflexes.
Shinra army: I never know what you call the rank-and-file soldiers, so I call them grunts or infantry.
Mako: the life-force / spiritual energy of the planet, consumed by Shinra's reactors to power cities, weapons, even cars and motorcycles. Mako can be distilled and crystalized into Materia orbs that can be slotted into weapons and armor, used to cast spells, special skills (Steal, Counterattack, etc), and summons.
The Final Fantasy VII Compilation
FF7 was so popular that there were a jillion spin-offs, known collectively as "The Compilation." I occasionally refer to these three:
Advent Children (AC): Full-length CGI movie set two years after FF7. Cloud and friends must deal with some nasty leftovers from Jenova. The plot of this movie can be summed up as "everyone takes turns prodding Cloud's posterior until he pulls his head out of his butt and kicks ass."
Dirge of Cerberus (DoC): PS2 game set three years after FF7, a first person shooter that nobody likes but me. Vincent is the main playable character, Reeve is the dweeb trying to organize rebuilding efforts, and Hojo's leftover experiments are once again coming back to cause havoc. Cloud & friends make brief or not-so-brief cameos. Flashbacks to Vincent's backstory once again prove that Hojo is the most vile character in Final Fantasy history.
Crisis Core (CC): PSP game that begins 6? years before Final Fantasy VII, following the story of Zack and Sephiroth before he went off the deep end, plus a few other SOLDIERs and Turks who are dead by the end of the game. CC covers the all-too-brief Aerith/Zack relationship. The last third of the game includes Cloud, Tifa, the crisis at Nibelheim (Sephiroth going crazy) and what happened afterwards. I haven't played this one, but I've seen most of the cutscenes.
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