Aerith actress from FF7 Rebirth discusses capturing the essence of her character and reflecting on the game’s unforgettable ending

  • By Tom Richardson
  • BBC Newsbeat

Image source, Square Enix

Image caption,

Final Fantasy 7 character Aerith Gainsborough’s role in the remake trilogy has been a source of speculation

A response from a job application. A note from last night’s date. The public transport.

But what about the world’s reception to your leading role in a reinterpretation of “one of gaming’s most iconic moments”?

That’s the anticipation Briana White, from the ensemble of Final Fantasy 7 (FF7) Rebirth, awaits as BBC Newsbeat catches up with her via Zoom.

The game constitutes the second installment of a trilogy that overhauls the renowned, influential 1997 Japanese role-playing game (JRPG).

Briana delivers the English language voiceover for Aerith Gainsborough, a flower vendor with a connection to a mystical race that could potentially rescue the planet.

It probably won’t be revealing too much to say – but avoid reading further if you desire – that her destiny in the original FF7 is one of the renowned plot twists in gaming history.

“It’s what gamers remember as one of the greatest gaming moments,” expresses Briana.

“It was a jolt, it was a revelation, it was incredibly unconventional.”

It’s common knowledge that the moment is being revisited in the new game but its predecessor, 2020 incredibly successful Final Fantasy 7 Remake, hinted at the potential alteration of Aerith’s fate.

And since Rebirth’s launch last week, players have been in a race to reach the conclusion of the game to ascertain if that departure from the original storyline actually takes place.

The challenge is, not many of them have reached that point yet.

Image source, Briana White

Image caption,

Briana’s at ease in the voice recording booth now, but transitioning from traditional acting had its obstacles

“It’s already been six days,” Briana remarks. “And most people I know are still in chapter three.

“So there’s a whole game for them to go through still.”

Rebirth is massive. There’s a central quest which can be finished in about 50 hours. But it’s also loaded with side activities and mini-games that can extend the play time closer to 100 hours.

Hence, while fans are advancing through attempting to reach the conclusion, Briana is predicting their feedback on the ending.

“I’m certainly anxious, awaiting to see how people respond,” she says.

“However, it’s also somewhat soothing,” Briana adds, speaking after an “astonishing” launch week.

“Now it’s tranquil, because everyone’s involved in playing the game,” she remarks. “And I simply get to unwind and take a breather for a bit.”

That has also allowed her the opportunity to ponder on how she arrived at this point.

Unlike many video game voice actors, Briana is an enthusiastic player and recollects sitting on her mother’s lap as a youngster playing PC adventure games. Prior to being chosen as Aerith she had garnered a substantial following on streaming platform Twitch on her channel The Strange Rebel.

She is also a trained actress, and had taken on roles in conventional theatre, TV, and film earlier in her career.

Yet Final Fantasy was her premiere voice acting gig, one she did not anticipate receiving and one that she initially undervalued.

Image source, Briana White

Image caption,

Briana says portraying Aerith in the high-profile game series has been life-changing for her

Briana states that she “bounded” into the recording booth on the initial day, but “the excitement started to gradually dissipate” as the reality sank in.

Recording and re-recording lines, adjusting her delivery to eliminate minor speech idiosyncrasies, “those extremely detailed technical challenges truly threw me off”, she remarks.

Briana admits she was “plagued by self-doubt” during the Remake project, and recollects sitting on her bed at home and breaking down in tears following an especially challenging week of recording.

“I simply did not believe they had selected the correct person,” she states. “My inner critic was saying, ‘you do not belong here’.”

She ultimately managed to silence that voice, and when Remake was released, performances across the board were lauded.

Thus Briana mentions she returned for Rebirth feeling more self-assured, “more whimsical and more open in the voice recording booth”.

In spite of the latest game’s scale, she does not consider it was significantly more work for her overall, as the game expands the core characters to include a larger group of allies and party members.

However, the additional content in Rebirth, those diversions and detours that elongate play time, can become peculiar. Extremely peculiar.

While the main storyline touches on weightier themes and a grand quest to safeguard the planet, players can also allocate time to tackle obstacle courses as toads, participate in dolphin-riding stunt races, and ride chocobos – yellow bird-like creatures that have become a signature of Final Fantasy.

That is entirely standard for a JRPG like this, but Briana confesses that the shifts in tone kept her on her toes.

The cast do not receive scripts in advance, and hence have no clue whether they are going to be in a serious state or “doing something rather goofy today”.

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