Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s biggest twist is concealed in a tiny detail

2024-04-02 16:35

Entertainment


A screenshot from Final Fantasy VII Rebirth featuring Cloud and Sephiroth.
Image: Square Enix

I’m in awe of how smart the developers of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth are. After seeing a post comparing Cloud during the Nibelheim flashback and his arrival at the city much later in the game, my mind is reeling from the subtle brilliance in how Square used the tiniest of animation details to convey one of the biggest, most shocking plot twists in Final Fantasy narrative history.

Spoilers for Final Fantasy VII Rebirth to follow.

In a clip shared on X by pwtizza, Cloud, with one of his big-ass swords strapped to his back, is seen sitting at the top of Nibelheim’s famous water tower. In the right half of the clip, Cloud removes his sword before sitting at the top of the water tower. In the left half of the clip, he doesn’t; Cloud simply sits down, Buster Sword and all.

The left half of the clip was taken during the game’s opening hours that retell the infamous Nibelheim incident that takes place five years before the events of Rebirth. Because it happens so early in the game, and no matter if you’re familiar with the story or not, the lack of animation in that moment doesn’t really mean anything.

But when you put that moment in context with the rest of the game, that absence of animation becomes mind-shattering. Seeing the clip and realizing what the developers did was so exciting because it completely recontextualized one detail that my mind fixated on while playing Rebirth: Cloud’s physical relationship with his sword.

The Buster Sword (and the rest of Cloud’s equally unwieldy arsenal of oversize swords) is an integral part of Cloud as a character. But practically, it seems like it’d be annoying as hell to lug around. I’ve often wondered, since I first played the original Final Fantasy VII, just how Cloud manages his moment-to-moment life with that thing on his back. It’s so long that I often imagine the sound it makes scraping against dirt. In putting myself in Cloud’s SOLDIER boots, I can feel the phantom discomfort of the sword’s tip dragging on uneven ground or clanging against the stairs as he runs up the Shinra headquarters building.

In the original Final Fantasy VII, you hardly see the sword outside of combat. Cloud whips it out when it’s time to fight, the large weapon miraculously appearing out of his backside because well… the game was made in 1997, and technological constraints likely prevented characters’ weapons from being on display all the time.

In Rebirth, however, I was delighted to see Cloud moving around his sword. When he sits for a rest on those benches at Chocobo Stops and in dungeons, he pulls on the sword handle to move it out of the way. Every Queen’s Blood table comes pre-equipped with a special place for Cloud to put his weapon — kinda like the umbrella stands you see at fancy retail stores. Before resting in a bed, Cloud always takes the time to rack his gear before lying down.

I love when gameplay reinforces a game’s narrative, and Rebirth’s developers were so insidiously clever in how they planted the seeds for [what will be?] the [trilogy’s?] shocking twist.

The big revelation in the original Final Fantasy VII is that Cloud fabricated his version of the events at Nibelheim. Everything we’re shown from his perspective is a lie made up of false memories. In fact, he shouldn’t even have his iconic Buster Sword at all because the events that lead him to wielding it haven’t even happened yet. In Rebirth, there are several moments during the Nibelheim sequence that hint at the reality of the situation. If you’re familiar with the story, they’re easy to catch, like the “security officer” crawling toward Cloud’s burning house, his cries of “mother” cut short.

Rebirth’s developers put all that effort into showing us across so many tiny moments how Cloud moved with his sword to make the moment when that action doesn’t happen incredibly significant. In the left half of the clip, Cloud doesn’t adjust his sword to sit because the developers sacrificed that level of realism for simplicity. He doesn’t move his sword because there is no sword to move.

In this one easily overlooked detail — one that I’d wager the developers were counting on players ignoring outright — we get the biggest hint that what we’re seeing at Nibelheim is actually all a lie. It is utterly mind-blowing because it reveals so much in so little and highlights the clever, meticulous genius of the game’s developers.


Source: https://www.theverge.com/2024/4/2/24119195/final-fantasy-vii-rebirth-plot-twist-buster-sword-animation