Aerith Gainsborough is a playable character in Final Fantasy VII Remake. She is a ranged character who provides support and healing spells, and wields a Staff weapon. Rather than striking enemies with her staves physically, she focuses on sending out magical projectiles from a distance that home in on her target, only dealing physical damage when an enemy is at very close range. Aerith is the best spellcaster in the party, and provides excellent supporting abilities.
Aerith joins the party in Chapter 8, "Budding Bodyguard". During this chapter, she can partake in many Odd Jobs, which both determine Cloud's affection score with her, and the audition dress she wears in Chapter 9, "The Town That Never Sleeps". She remains in the party until the end of Chapter 12, "Fight for Survival" and then rejoins in Chapter 17, "Deliverance from Chaos".
If Aerith is transformed into a toad, she has a little pink ribbon on her head and switches to physical damage entirely.
Aerith is a ranged support character with the highest Magic and Spirit attributes, making her most powerful spellcaster. Her basic attacks consist on shooting slow moving projectiles that hit hard, and deal damage based on her magic attribute. Enemies that stand close to her while she attacks will take physical damage from the staff itself. Her ability is Tempest, a ranged attack that can be charged to a greater effect. Aerith is also unique in that her limit breaks heal and strengthen other party members rather than deal damage. Aerith is one of only two ranged attackers in the game along with Barret, though her attacks are distinct in that they are purely magic based at a distance, and are only physical at very close range if the enemy is struck by the staff itself.
Aerith is locked into a spellcasting role, and the only variation is if she focuses on defensive spells, offensive spells, or a mix. Aerith excels in this role, as she has the greatest spellcasting damage potential, particularly when using the more powerful "-ga" spells, making her unmatched at exploiting enemies' elemental weaknesses in burst magic damage. Her abilities, such as Arcane Ward, capitalize on this even further, helping both herself and her allies cast spells at a high rate.
Aerith's weaknesses lie in her poor HP and Vitality attributes (both the lowest in the game) and limited mobility, which can cause her to be overwhelmed by enemies in close range. Her low durability means she relies on the other characters to protect her, and she is best staying at as far a distance as possible. Her damage output is also primarily magical, with only her basic attacks dealing physical damage when enemies are very close, and since she is best kept out of danger, this doesn't come into play often.
Aerith wields staves used as a focus for her magic. An addition to performing a basic physical combo with them, she shoots non-elemental magic orbs from the tip at enemies while attacking; these can hit enemies in area when they are near to each other. Because Aerith's normal attacks rely mostly on her magic attribute, the main choice between her staves often comes down to the unique abilities they unlock when leveled up, rather than choosing between an increase in Magic Attack and Attack Power. While high Attack staves can be used for a melee build, this is niche at best due to her poor range, survivability and strength. Aerith can earn SP for her weapons with Telluric Scriptures manuscripts.
Many of Aerith's weapons have upgrades that reduce the cost of spells, as well increasing her magic attack power and maximum MP. With two exceptions, most weapons eventually unlock Reprieve, allowing her to survive powerful attacks at 1 HP, greatly helping with her durability problem.
Aerith's default staff is the Guard Stick, which provides varied upgrades that improve her MP regeneration and attack damage a modest amount, but more notably provides abilities to increase her durability slightly. Her Reinforced Staff has a similar role and can lengthen the duration of buffs, as well as improving her resistance and healing.
Silver Staff provides the best MP regeneration boost at +50%, while also having abilities that greatly reduce spell costs. This makes it her most MP-friendly weapon. Mythril Rod provides her the highest raw magic attack increase of any weapon, as well as Bloodsucker to allow her to recover HP after defeating enemies. Between the two, Silver Staff can be better for sustained fights if Aerith is having MP issues, and also in fights where she needs Reprieve to survive, as Mythril Rod does not have it. However, Mythril Rod can deal more raw damage when casting spells, making it often the best weapon for her.
Aerith's Bladed Staff and Arcane Scepter have unique roles. The Bladed Staff provides several boosts to her critical hit rate and unlocks that improve her normal attacks, making it best if Aerith wishes to improve her regular attacks instead of focusing on improving her already powerful spells. It also provides the highest physical attack power due to the attached blades. Arcane Scepter, on the other hand, increases her regular damage and elemental damage, and reduces spell costs, while also providing Stagger Siphon to recover HP from a staggered enemy. This makes her more well-rounded in terms of regular attacks and spells.
In terms of accessories, early on Aerith benefits from Earrings to boost her magic, or Bulletproof Vest to mitigate her frailty. Later, Aerith is the best choice to equip the Spectral Cogwheel due to her emphasis on spellcasting, meaning that with the accessory, she will quickly build up her limit gauge as she spending MP. The Circlet is also a great choice for Aerith, as improving her magic attribute and her MP simultaneously takes advantage of her best traits. Healing Carcanet is arguably a must for Aerith during tough boss battles, as it increases the recovery effect of all items, spells and abilities, including her Healing Wind limit.
For armor, Aerith should focus more on improving her durability than on increasing her materia slots.
Aerith's abilities add a lot of versatility to her kit and bring unmatched utility to the party, ranging from allowing double-casting offensive abilities to protecting allies from projectiles. She has a good deal of offensive abilities to help her conserve MP. A few of her abilities are costly to cast in terms of ATB.
Aerith's default ability Soul Drain allows her to restore her MP. This is initially lackluster, but improves further in the game. The ability can be useful as she will be casting spells often and her MP is precious, though she has other ways of restoring her MP.
Arcane Ward is core to her moveset. It places a circle on the ground, and party members who stand within it while casting offensive spells will cast the spell twice, at a reduced cost and potency. Depending on good placement of the ward, it can make Aerith a powerhouse for spellcasting, and buff the entire party. Aerith also obtains ATB Ward, which has a similar effect, but will boost the ATB fill rate of those within it when they cast spells. ATB Ward has a high ATB cost to place, but is still a worthy luxury ability. Aerith can use Lustrous Shield to place a shield in front of these wards that can block ranged damage.
Aerith has three offensive abilities. Ray of Judgment is the only ability outside of Tifa's abilities that allows her to boost stagger bonus damage, and is great to use before casting spells on staggered enemies to increase incoming damage thereafter. Sorcerous Storm deals great damage in an area-of-effect around Aerith, making it good for pushing enemies away from her when they gang up on her. Finally, Fleeting Familiar provides supplemental damage to her attacks.
Aerith joins the party with Ice Materia, a Prayer Materia and a Refocus Materia. Because of her magic attribute, Aerith is the best character to equip a variety of Magic Materia, especially those dependent on the attribute, such as offensive magic or healing magic. Generally, she should equip damaging magic materia of whatever element the enemies are weak to, or at least do not resist.
Aerith is the best character to give Magnify Materia paired with a spell to maximize its effectiveness both with her Arcane Ward and her magic attribute. For a defensive role, this can be paired with Healing Materia or Revival Materia to quickly bring the party back up after being hit by a powerful attack, as it is more ATB-efficient than Pray. For offensive use, it can also be extremely potent when paired with a damaging spell.
Other Support Materia that greatly benefit Aerith when paired with offensive magic materia are MP Absorption Materia and HP Absorption Materia. The former provides sustainability and allows her to cast spells constantly, while the latter is an efficient way to heal her. Though she has less use from Elemental Materia with regard to augmenting her damage than others do, she can nonetheless effectively equip it on her armor to provide much-needed sustainability.
Equipping MP Up Materia can be beneficial for Aerith in long fights with how frequently she will be spellcasting. Magic Up Materia can also benefit her spells even further to truly maximize her damage output. Conversely, HP Up Materia can help mitigate her low durability.
Aerith can benefit from First Strike Materia to either begin a battle with a powerful spell that can pressure an enemy, or to begin it with Arcane Ward. Alternatively, especially for boss battles, ATB Boost Materia also provides her with a quick ATB fill that is useful for emergencies, such as having to heal a party member in a critical state, or to exploit an enemy weaknesses who is staggered.
In Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade, Synergy Materia now allows non-active characters to cast elemental spells for free (no ATB or MP consumed). This means it should always be equipped on magic users, such as Aerith, since the user gets to cast a free spell for every attack command the leader uses, e.g. Tifa or Cloud uses Divekick or Braver, and Aerith would cast a free spell. This completely changes the value of synergy materia in Intergrade, making it a priority to equip at all times.
Aerith's level 1 unique limit break is Healing Wind, which restores health for the party. As this comes at no ATB or MP cost, it is a very strong healing ability, albeit not a substitute for prayer or healing materia. Her level 2 limit break is Planet's Protection, which applies Shield to the entire party for a duration, rendering them immune to physical damage. As a level 2 limit break, setting it to this means her limit bar takes longer to fill.
Aerith is the only character whose limit breaks provide utility rather than damage output. Both her limit breaks are used to aid the party's survivability in dire situations, though they have different purposes. Planet's Protection is very useful for surviving fights against enemies who rely on physical damage, but cannot protect against powerful magic attacks. Healing Wind provides a more simple heal which can be used whenever the party is in trouble.
By equipping the Spectral Cogwheel accessory, Aerith builds the limit gauge further as she expends MP. This can allow her to use Healing Wind much more often, or to use Planet's Protection earlier in a battle. Once obtained, Gotterdammerung allows her to open the battle with Planet's Protection.
By equipping Refocus materia, Aerith can use the Refocus ability. This gives her three ATB bars for a long time, allowing ATB charges to be filled more rapidly. This can be beneficial for her due to the high ATB cost of some of her abilities, and also to aid her role as a supporting character.
Aerith joins Cloud in Chapter 8, "Budding Bodyguard", in "Head for the Station". After Cloud escorts her home, she will ask Cloud to help her deliver flowers to Sector 5 orphanage. Afterwards, she assists Cloud in the Odd Jobs, and fights against Rude at the end of Chapter 8.
Aerith leaves briefly after defeating Rude, but rejoins in Chapter 9, "The Town That Never Sleeps". After passing the Underground Colosseum quest, Aerith leaves and won't assist Cloud with Odd Jobs during the chapter. She rejoins before Honeybee Inn quest and remains in the party until "Evacuation Orders" in Chapter 12, "Fight for Survival".
During the "Rescue Tifa" segment at Wall Market in Chapter 9, "The Town That Never Sleeps", Aerith's audition dress depends on how many sidequests the player completed in the Sector 5 Slums. During the Honeybee Inn segment, Aerith's reactions are more excited the better the player performs in the rhythm minigame during the dance.
After falling into the sewers, the player can progress by talking to either Tifa or Aerith who lie on the ground; the scene is different depending on whom the player picks.
Depending on the player's affection score with Aerith, she may appear in the resolution scene in the quest "Resolve" in Chapter 14, "In Search of Hope" that takes place in Aerith's garden. If the player gets Aerith's scene, Cloud will dream of meeting her in the garden.
Behind the scenes
Among survey respondents, Ray of Judgment was Aerith's most popular ability at 32%, followed by Arcane Ward at 23%, and Healing Wind at 20%. 93% of players reported seeing Aerith's best dress on their first playthrough, suggesting they completed all of the "Buddying Bodyguard" Odd Jobs with her. 42% of players reported seeing Aerith's resolution scene, compared to 56% who saw Tifa's and only 2% who saw Barret's. When Aerith asks about her outfit, most players reported answering "It's alright". at 41%, followed by "Looks comfortable". at 37%, and "It matter what I think?" at 22%.
- Square Enix (August 14, 2020). Results of the FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE Post-Play Survey. Final Fantasy Portal Site. Archived from the original on August 14, 2020.