“Good to see you… Cloud.” Few lines of dialogue have stuck with me more over the years than that uttered by Sephiroth when he makes his grand Final Fantasy Advent Children appearance. The One-Winged Angel is, for me at least, the quintessential JRPG villain, and one that has tormented both myself and Cloud across multiple IPs over the years. Now he has resurfaced in a playable capacity in the Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth demo on PS5, I’m already in love with what Square’s cooking up this time around.
When Tyler Hoechlin picked up Masamune for the first time he had big, Nomura-esque shoes to fill. A generation had been raised on George Newbern’s portrayal of Sephiroth – Advent Children is a testament to that – and taking on the role of one of gaming’s most iconic villains is no easy feat. While Hoechlin put on a strong first showing in FF7 Remake, the direction for this installment in the best RPG games series is already noticeably better.
This really helps Sephiroth’s characterization shine, as we finally get to dive into the Nibelheim incident – the tipping point that drove Sephiroth’s character from super SOLDIER to ultimate evil. Though Cloud notes that ‘all the signs were there’ early on in the demo, you’d be forgiven for thinking that he’s capping. There’s not a single shred of apprehension or skittishness in Sephiroth’s countenance throughout – his icy cold veneer unphased until we reach the Nibel Reactor and he learns the truth of his origins. It’s surreal – otherworldly, even, and this element of Sephiroth is fully realized during the razing of Nibelheim.
With FF7 Rebirth, we also now finally get the opportunity to control Sephiroth in combat, and it was everything I was hoping for. My initial introduction to the character didn’t actually come from Final Fantasy, but Kingdom Hearts. Serving as a secret boss in the first two mainline games, Sephiroth is a whirling death ball that will mercilessly tear you apart like Elden Ring’s Malenia – he is the blueprint.
In Rebirth, Sephiroth’s moveset is a perfect blend of furious flurries and magical mastery. Though the disparity between his and Cloud’s abilities isn’t quite as pronounced as in the original Final Fantasy 7, I’m fine with this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, as a reflection of Cloud’s personality, I enjoyed the fact he puts himself on a similar level to his archnemesis during his flashback – there’s a level of childishness to it that adds flavor to the game’s protagonist.
Additionally, we have to remember that the Nibelheim incident serves as the tutorial for Rebirth’s combat. We’d be several hours deep into the original at this point, and Rebirth adds a few new bells and whistles that require explaining. With much stronger abilities, Sephiroth is still several leagues ahead of Cloud – I can’t imagine anyone opted to control Cloud throughout their playthroughs. Yes, he isn’t one-shotting everything, but we also know that he loves to play with his food. This is perhaps why he’s happy for Cloud to take point throughout the demo until he finds something worth his time.
Though we won’t be seeing any more of Sephiroth now until Rebirth launches on February 29, I’m stoked to see what else Square is planning to do with him. FF7 veterans already know the broad strokes of what happens narratively, but getting him there is going to be a wild ride, I’m sure.
For more of the latest Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth news, check out the crucial character we could finally meet in part two of the demo, as well as why that Final Fantasy 7 moment is going to hurt even more this time around.