At the end of Final Fantasy VII Remake, Cloud and company dispatch the Whisper Harbinger, creating alternative timelines. The game shows Zack, who died in the original game’s version of events, alive, suggesting the developers at Square Enix were planning to not just create a beautiful modern remake of the beloved 1997 PlayStation JRPG but completely reinvent the possibility space for its characters in the process.
The newest trailer for the sequel, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, doubles down on that, mostly showing stunning PlayStation 5-worthy recreations of familiar scenes and environments from after the party leaves Midgar. We see Cloud, Tifa, Aerith, Barret, and Red XIII traveling to Juno, visiting Cosmo Canyon, and even riding Chocobos. Highwind, the Shinra airship, even appears to loom large in one split second of the footage.
However the beginning and the end of the trailer has fans wondering if much bigger mysteries are afoot. The trailer opens with news footage of Avalanche apparently failing to blow up a reactor, and Cloud missing from the wreckage. Near the end things pivot to a detailed look at the game’s infamous Nibelheim Incident with new dialogue by Sephiroth that has fans playing with bonkers theories.
According to one translation of the Japanese version of the trailer, Sephiroth tells Cloud, “I was the one who killed Tifa. If so, who is she?” With the dialogue appearing when Sephiroth slices Tifa with his giant Masamune blade, it can be taken as simply a modernized rendition of the original events or an alternate version that implies Tifa might have actually died back during the Nibelheim incident and the one we know from the start of Final Fantasy VII Remake is actually a clone or some other sort of imposter.
On the other hand, unreliable memories and psychological cleavages have always been a cornerstone of Final Fantasy VII’s story, and Sephiroth’s comments in the trailer could simply be Cloud’s false recollection of what happened that day, or maybe even Sephiroth trying to confuse Cloud by lying about it. The things that made Final Fantasy VII such a memorable classic in the first place are also what have laid the foundation for such a rich and varied set of guesses about where the remake sequel will take things.
The Cloud from the original game is a clone with alien cells and Mako energy infused into his body who also doesn’t remember the most important events in his life. Sephiroth, meanwhile, is on an apocalyptic crusade to bring about the planet’s destruction after learning about the personal violence, corporate megalomania, and ancient prophecies swirling the scientific experiment that created him in the first place. The Nibelheim Incident, which seems like it might be Rebirth’s climax, is the inflection point for these past events and their future repercussions.
It makes sense that it would prove the most fertile soil for Square Enix to potentially explore alternative timelines for Final Fantasy VII’s characters and stories. At the very least it’s proven to be a bountiful promised land for fans who want to round wild with their favorite pet theories about the most surprising ways the publisher could upend its own hit franchise.