One of the much-talked about topics from latest vision of Final Fantasy VII has to do with one of its major characters. The Final Fantasy VII Remake Sephiroth role is much larger here. Which makes sense for many reasons, the biggest being that he wasn’t really a part of the story until the very end of the party’s time in Midgar. So, Square Enix took a risky approach to his portrayal, and I think it is one that pays off. While he isn’t the “Jaws” of the game anymore, it works.
Editor’s Note: There will be so many Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VII Remake spoilers below.
Sephiroth’s presence is everyone in Final Fantasy VII Remake. His influence is palpable, simply because we’re playing as Cloud. Anyone returning from the original Final Fantasy VII knows the effect the former war hero had on his life, and those who didn’t can gather from the environmental clues and flashbacks Cloud is experiencing throughout the game. The moment he’s going to set the bomb at the reactor during the first mission, Sephiroth’s there looming over him. Is it because the setting and fighting are triggers for memories and experiences with the madman? Could it be the mako influencing him? It’s uncertain.
It’s handled in such a way that it is purposely left vague. While this presence does diminish his original implementation, where he was this unseen figure and wasn’t even revealed as a threat until Cloud and his crew stormed Shinra’s headquarters, I’d say that it adds a whole new series of questions for players to think about. Is Cloud suffering from PTSD? Are the visions of Sephiroth that he’s having triggered by his being involved in Avalanche’s activities? Could it be the mako exposure from heading into the depths of not one, but two reactors? Is it Sephiroth himself speaking to him? It’s very ambiguous. I’d like to think it’s a little of Cloud’s inner voice, the one that doubts himself, speaking through the person he hates and fears most combined with the actual voice of Sephiroth occasionally exerting his presence in a way only Cloud can sense due to their connection. But then, there are also plenty of moments where you could see how environmental triggers could remind Cloud of past horrors.
But it isn’t just Cloud who is haunted by Sephiroth. What I appreciated is his influence over other members of the cast. The first is Aerith, in a clever aside that hints that she might be aware of Sephiroth’s past rampage and the horrors to come. When the two are helping some of the Leaf House orphans and come across remnant number 2, Cloud has a Sephiroth flashback where a vision of Sephiroth tells him the Reunion is nothing to fear. Cloud asks if she knows him, she plays dumb, mentioning him only as a war hero. When Cloud says he thinks Sephiroth is still alive, we’re presented with one of the images focused entirely focused on her downturned head and perhaps mournful expression. There’s a sense of knowing her and, as much of the game suggests Aerith knows of things to come.
There’s also Palmer and Shinra itself. After all, Hojo and the company made Sephiroth what he is. As Cloud, Barret, and Tifa are infiltrating the building to rescue Aerith, we have the first hints that Sephiroth is there too. Palmer sees him roaming about, dropping his tea in shock. When he attempts to bring it up at the board meeting, he’s brushed aside. But we see the unease that his appearance has inspired. This leads into Hojo pondering Sephiroth and his potential.
It may be a stretch, but we could even argue that we see how Sephiroth’s shadow hangs over Tifa’s life in Final Fantasy VII Remake. Many of Cloud’s flashbacks show what her life was like in Nibelheim, right down to the events at the Nibel Reactor. We see her anguish mirrored as she expresses the same desire to do something, anything, when presented with seemingly impossible situations beyond her control. The events in Nibelheim shaped her life too, after all, and brought her to Midgar.
In a way, all of this helps bring up an important point that was lost a bit in the original Final Fantasy VII. Sephiroth is hardly some unknown figure. He was a famous war hero from the war with Wutai, a conflict that is still fresh in people’s minds. (Especially since Shinra is using Avalanche’s actions to generate support for heading into war with the country again.) Even when Aerith is playing dumb, she recognizes him as the war hero. Hell, as people who played Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII may remember, there was a whole Silver Elite fan club that talked about his capabilities and even his preferred hair care regimen. While the official party line is that he died, he was influential and these extra acknowledgements can help hint at the sort of effect he had on other people.
Sephiroth looming over everything may help those playing to acknowledge an important truth even before all the evidence is there. Final Fantasy VII Remake isn’t a 1:1 remake. Sephiroth’s presence, the altered events, and the existence of the Whispers show that we are in the middle of what seems to be a Rebuild of Evangelion sort of situation. There is an awareness of what originally happened in Final Fantasy VII, but major divergences here mean that everything thereafter is up for grabs.
The Final Fantasy VII Remake Sephiroth portrayal is full of major changes, to be sure. They are certain to be divisive too, since it tampers with things in a way that extended scenes with other characters don’t. But they also help us better understand and wonder what sort of influence the warrior had on Cloud’s life and how deeply he’s gotten into his head, as well as have an idea of what his presence has done to other characters.
Final Fantasy VII Remake is available for the PlayStation 4.