With Final Fantasy VII’s overall theme of “life”, the sense of loss is experienced by every character, losing loved ones and being haunted by those past traumas. Independent, caring, and strong, Tifa Lockhart turns to be a much darker character as the story progresses. The players watch as her hometown is harrowingly burned to the ground, and, in dialogue provided by Last Order, Tifa proclaims her immense hatred of Shin-Ra as she attempts to unsuccessfully take on Sephiroth. Even elements of her past, though very little ultimately revealed, revolve most around the deaths of her parents.
Perhaps due to her introversion, Tifa’s past largely remains mysterious for the initial half of the game. Carrying secrets that would be devastating to Cloud’s identity, her hesitance in informing him about the truth served as the primary conflict in her character arc. Despite this, there are several hints during the game where Tifa seems to know much more or something else than she lets on. Hence, her surname “Lockhart” manifests in this manner: In consciously withholding critical information about the past buried deep in her own memory, she is the key to releasing Cloud’s true self and is the one who will be able to piece the both of them back together, at least emotionally. In a game about identity, Tifa knows more about Cloud than he himself. However, these so-called secrets do not come without consequence. In the second half of the game, Clouds sudden realization of his actual identity is so traumatic that it puts him in state of dissociation from the body, which Tifa feels responsible for. Tifa’s guilt manifests in a way that ultimately puts the team in danger.
Thus, we are faced with a hard truth: at the end of the day, Tifa’s character arc is to primarily serve the male protagonist. As I write the other pages of this site, it becomes increasingly clear that the part which makes her so interesting is her connection to Cloud. It ultimately affects not only her emotional state, but her perception of reality as well. This isn’t to undermine her character by any means as she is still a concerned party member looking to save the planet, much like the others. Tifa, like the other characters, had her own set of goals and motivations, and her own set of interests. It gives her inner nature subjectivity, allowing players, especially female ones, the opportunity to relate and empathize with her.
Despite the game’s darker overarching themes, Tifa’s story is one about love; it becomes a kind of hopeful glimmer at the end of a dark tunnel. Tifa’s “love” isn’t restricted to just a romantic one shared between her and Cloud. Her treacherous hike to Mt. Nibel to find the spirit of her mother, her affection for Marlene, her willingness to adopt Denzel despite his condition, heading to the reactor to save her father risking certain death at the hands of Sephiroth—all of this was done out of her ability to love so strongly that it sometimes puts even herself at risk. Her love sometimes goes quiet and comes unnoticed, but it is also reckless, unyielding, and unconditional. But even her love is intertwined with a whole web of feelings—feelings of guilt, of jealousy, of anxiousness and of hope—feelings Tifa displays throughout the story that make her the complicated and intricate character fans we’ve all come to know and appreciate.