Back in 1997, Final Fantasy VII established Sephiroth as one of the most iconic antagonists in gaming history. In 2020, Final Fantasy VII Remake greatly expanded his role in the first act of the beloved RPG, and in 2024, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth hopes to give us even more context for the One-Winged Angel. We played a portion of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth and spoke with several members of the development team to learn how Sephiroth is depicted in the upcoming second act of the Remake trilogy.
While Sephiroth’s role in this middle portion of the original Final Fantasy VII is more understated, often simply being described by NPCs rather than actually seen, the team behind Final Fantasy VII Rebirth wanted to change that. “Remake covers your encounter with Sephiroth, and now within Rebirth, we wanted to make Sephiroth this very clear antagonist and target for the characters to go and pursue through their journey in Rebirth,” producer Yoshinori Kitase says. “Within the original game, Sephiroth was not seen very much in the world map, but in this title, we put this element forward.”
In my hands-on, the first thing I do is join forces with Sephiroth in the fated flashback mission from the original game. Players of Final Fantasy VII remember this expedition to Mt. Nibel to find the mako reactor. At this point in the story, Sephiroth is still a heroic figure, and Cloud is a naive and inexperienced Soldier, so the two team up to complete this mission. Meanwhile, a young Tifa serves as a guide but not a party member.
Just like in the original version of this sequence, Sephiroth is a powerful force, slicing through foes with his Masamune. However, he’s not quite as overpowered as he was in the 1997 sequence. He’s still a blast to play, and even though he’s only playable in a tiny part of the game, Square Enix invested in developing his gameplay, even giving him a Synergy Ability with Cloud.
“When developing Sephiroth as a character who players are able to control in a limited area, we’re still considering that you’re able to play as this very iconic character,” battle director Teruki Endo says. “Taking this into mind, I really took care into providing the sort of resources and cost as equal to those of other playable characters into developing Sephiroth in a battle sense.”
But the team was cautious in its approach to handling Sephiroth. After all, he’s one of gaming’s most iconic and influential antagonists, so naturally, fans will be touchy about any substantial changes. “We felt it was necessary to have this very clear depiction of how he came to be the person that he is now in Rebirth,” director Naoki Hamaguchi says. “Even as a developer creating this game, seeing Sephiroth discover the truth and fall further and further into darkness – like falling from grace – and depicting this in his expressions, I could truly feel bad for him. Throughout the course of Rebirth, I believe players will not only grow to relate to and understand Cloud, but also Sephiroth through this game much more.”
Obviously, Sephiroth plays a huge role in Rebirth, and in particular, the scene that the story of Rebirth leads to: the events at the Forgotten Capital. I can’t help but wonder how much more those events will impact players with these more in-depth explorations of the characters. We’ll find out when Final Fantasy VII Rebirth arrives on PlayStation 5 on February 29. For more on Rebirth, be sure to visit our coverage hub by clicking the banner below!
Parts of this article originally appeared in Issue 362 of Game Informer.