Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth - A Surprisingly Perfect Starting StoryFinal Fantasy 7 Rebirth - A Surprisingly Perfect Starting Story

It seems odd to suggest that Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth — the second game in Square Enix’s weird, sprawling remake project, which embraces the middle third of the 1997 original — should start your relationship with that sprawling story. would be a great place for But honestly, I think it’s true. And it’s true because the Square Enix development team, led by original director Yoshinori Kitase, has made an absolutely impressive choice for the opening chapter of the game.

Rebirth begins with a flashback that serves as both a lesson and an origin story for Final Fantasy 7’s hero, Cloud Strife, and his main antagonist, Sephiroth. It sheds in the essence of both characters, as well as some backstory for Cloud’s childhood friend Tifa Lockhart, and cuts straight to the dramatic and thematic heart of the story. This leaves some lingering questions that are key to understanding the playful, metaphysical line that Kitase’s team is taking with this remake project. Plus, it’s just the right amount of brutally overwrought — a perfect introduction to Square Enix’s unmistakable brand of straight-faced, legendary camp.

If you’re familiar with the original, you probably know what I’m talking about. Yes, Rebirth begins with the Nibelheim incident.


Nibelheim is the hometown of Cloud and Tifa, a humble village clinging to the slopes of Mount Nibel. The mountain houses a mako reactor operated by Shinra, the totalitarian power company, which also operates a research station outside a mansion in Nibelheim. In the events of the episode, which takes place years before the main Final Fantasy 7 story, the Mako Reactor is malfunctioning, and Shinra’s elite foot soldier Sephiroth is sent to investigate with Cloud, a then-teenage recruit. has been sent. What they discover there sets Sephiroth on a dark path and sets the engine of the story in motion.

The Nibelheim Incident as an Ingenious Starting Point for Reincarnation in the Game

There are many reasons why the Nibelheim incident works brilliantly as a starting point for reincarnation. As a flashback, it serves as a blank slate introduction for several of the main characters, without needing to fill in everything that happened in the first game. And since Cloud is a new member in this setting, the game backtracks on what was needed to put a tutorial in the middle of an ongoing story.

The Nibelheim episode also just makes for a compelling, self-contained mission. A mountain climb, a climax in a boss fight, and a dramatic revelation in a reactor, followed by a hellish descent into souped-up melodrama – it’s a clearly defined and satisfying through-line, both in terms of narrative and gameplay. It’s a great place to start the game as Rebirth looks without overwhelming the player and works well with the reset button if you’re jumping straight into it after a remake playthrough.

I won’t spoil what Sephiroth and Cloud discover in the reactor. But, speaking as someone who has only vague memories of a half-finished playthrough of the original game, as well as a vast familiarity with its most iconic characters and story beats, I’d say That this opening chapter of Rebirth has made the Sephiroth a clear focus for me. More than ever: his motivation, his megalomania, his ridiculously cool. Seen from Cloud’s bewildered perspective, Sephiroth is portrayed as a stoic, highly capable combat hero, which only underscores how devastating he can be when he breaks. I really felt like I got it. What’s more, Sephiroth is fully playable as a party member for this mission, and switching between Cloud and his superpowered idol in battle is a delightful joy. Sephiroth Cloud’s dynamic — from hero and acolyte to gayly fierce foes — is also well-crafted.

However, the chapter isn’t entirely clear and surrounds a fascinating mystery that overshadows the rest of the game—much like Cloud’s recounting of the Nibelheim incident did in the original. In Rebirth’s retelling, the chapter is set up through a voiceover conversation between Cloud and Tifa, in which they each reminisce about the events that took place. Barrett, Aerith, and Red XIII are the listening audience (along with the player). What we play is Cloud’s version, but after it’s over and with Cloud and friends chilling in Cloud’s happy city, we return to the present, Tifa says that’s not the case. She remembers such things at all. Some elements of the story seem oddly inconsistent with Cloud’s current reality. This is one of the most intriguing mysteries of the original story, and also the post-mythological and multi-story elements introduced in the remake, suggesting that its diversion from the original plot was the product of someone interfering with the timeline given.

The opening chapter of Rebirth is an emphatic exclamation followed by a lingering ovation. For this game, it’s a great scene-setter. For fans, as a brilliant staging of one of the original game’s most iconic moments, it’s just a big wish-fulfillment. For players who have nothing to do with the story—or even a connection—it’s even better: a fully fleshed-out two hours that teach you everything you need to know about the game. You need to know what makes Final Fantasy 7 great.

On February 29, Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth will be available for the PlayStation 5.

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