Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, a journey into denial

Grabbing your bag and heading off into the unknown means discovering yourself. By setting off for new horizons, we leave the trials and tribulations of everyday life behind us. In this way, we put ourselves to the test, as a succession of new situations will come our way, confronting any certainties we thought we had. Montaigne praised travel as a profitable exercise, because it plunges the soul into a continuous excitement that encourages it to notice unknown things. There will always be a moment when we discover a new facet of our personality. A situation, a conversation, simply contemplating an unusual landscape. The most beautiful moments on the road are often the simplest and most authentic.

Rebirth frees us from the sinuous, disquieting corridors of Midgar, the decadent megalopolis on which Remake focused. It’s an opening onto the vast lands of Gaia, the planet that serves as the stage for the events of Final Fantasy VII’s extended universe. Like the post-Midgar events of the 1997 adventure’s first disc, Naoki Hamaguchi’s project takes up this idea of the journey. Rebirth is a moment suspended in time, during which the main plot around Sephiroth doesn’t progress much. The important thing is to follow this motley crew on the road. With them, we discover the habits and customs of different regions, all more or less marked by the fall of this distant Republic to the corporatist ogre embodied by the Shinra. We dive with them into the heart of their joys and doubts. We see them marvelling and questioning themselves in order to better understand the star they tread with their faltering yet determined steps. It’s a journey of initiation in which each of them learns a little more about themselves and their comrades. Seriousness and light-heartedness follow one another with uncommon elegance.

Despite the beauty of the journey, there’s also a downside. If we’re not careful, this adventure, essential to self-fulfillment, can also become a long, drawn-out headlong rush. Like Tristan Ludlow in Légendes d’Automne, who flees his native Montana to discover the world, unable to overcome his grief and guilt. It’s easy to forget to deal with our problems at root, so we sometimes find ourselves in a vain attempt to escape them, hoping that the solutions will take care of themselves. Deep down, perhaps we’re all running away from something along the way, like the trivial boredom of everyday life. The flight is latent, always in the background, accompanying a need for freedom, a search for intimacy, a love of nature and encounters with other cultures.

A cocktail of emotions. A funambulistic road trip that sometimes gives the impression of seeing what a Final Fantasy XV developed under the right conditions could have given. To play Rebirth is to experience an ode to travel. The world opens up to our young group, ready to take it on with determined, joyful steps, despite Barret’s occasional grunts or Cloud’s falsely cold pouts at a potential source of amusement. It’s a time-consuming adventure that takes hold of us as we contemplate the road we’ve travelled and recall the memories of everything we’ve done along the way. Joys and sorrows accumulate, as we sail with the wind on this planet in agony, despite its apparent vitality. Isn’t it said that a fish suffocating on the bank moves more than the one in the water? In the midst of all this, the figure of Cloud Strife is more central than ever. He is, of course, the major protagonist of the entire VII saga, but he also crystallizes the notion of denial that Rebirth carries. His personality disorder ensures that this multi-hued adventure never loses its balance. He’s the cool, cold hero who leads the way in tracking down Sephiroth, as much the bloodthirsty warrior as the jovial child ready to follow Aerith and Tifa into their summertime effervescence. This trip is an opportunity for him to try to piece together his fragmented psyche, under the helpless eyes of his comrades, as he sinks into an inevitable madness by wearing this mask that prevents him from facing the loss of his bearings and the difficulty of his emotional state.

I think Cloud is really weak. Sometimes I even wonder how he can be so weak. On the other hand, that’s what makes him human. He’s a hero, but I don’t think there are many heroes as weak and tangible as he is.

Tetsuya Nomura

We recommend that you finish Final Fantasy VII Rebirth before continuing reading.

Point’n Think

The dichotomy of a bucolic journey

Here we are, four years after our adventures in the heart of Midgar’s corporatist city hell. When we embark on Rebirth, it’s as if we’d never left this universe. We find these five characters right where we left them at the end of Intergrade, as the sumptuous city of Kalm loomed on the horizon, on the edge of the wastelands caused by the incessant drainage of the vain Shinra. After an enigmatic start, to say the least, followed by the story of Cloud and Sephiroth’s shared past, we’re dropped into this small town of Germanic inspiration, with a hint of steampunk in the large pipes that remind us that the spectre of the monster city of the previous opus is not so far away. This is a first opportunity for the player to wander around, gradually getting to grips with the controls and the various skill evolution systems cleverly integrated into the work’s diegesis via the Maghnata bookshops, as well as discovering the pleasures of sitting down at a café table to indulge in a boisterous game of Queen’s Blood. This is followed by some intimate dialogues with our comrades, including a touching exchange with Aerith at the top of the town bell tower, before the reality of our fugitive status catches up with us. It’s time to flee and dive headfirst into the vast expanses of this immense planet.

Like our heroes, dazzled by the opening of the gigantic gateway that stands like a frontier between the arid lands of Midgar and the rest of the planet, we find ourselves in awe of the green meadow of Kalm, where the vegetation intensifies as we move forward. For the first time since 2020, players can see that the world of Gaia is not all buildings, suffocating pipes and parched land. On the contrary, it’s a resplendent, magnificent planet traversed by countless forms of life that seem so far removed from the vicissitudes of mankind. Unfortunately, as RED XIII points out in the face of the young florist’s amazement at discovering the outside world for the first time, this vitality is merely a façade to hide the slow death that is gangrenous. It’s a clever way of reminding us of the sword of Damocles waving dangerously over our heads. The ride will be beautiful, but we mustn’t lose sight of what prompted our band of merrymakers to take to the road in the first place.

Rebirth is a ride that manages to disguise its profoundly anxiety-provoking nature thanks to the way it plays with the player’s sense of wonder and excitement. This isn’t a frantic epic adventure, but an experience that encourages detours to tame this wild world and our comrades. The game makes a point of varying the pace of its progression, offering us great moments of freedom followed by more padlocked and dirigiste passages. Naoki Hamaguchi’s seemingly academic project isn’t easy to get into at first. We have to wait until the second open zone to understand the experience we’re being offered. The hunt for Sephiroth is crucial to the fate of mankind, yet we enjoy wandering along meadows or through canyons that stretch as far as the eye can see. The link between Cloud and the antagonist is so palpable that it’s obvious the latter won’t move his pawns on his Machiavellian chessboard until we follow suit. So why not simply take the time to become one with nature and its inhabitants?

On the road with the alterglobalists

This is a game based on reality, not in terms of its universe, but in terms of the themes it raises and its deep-rootedness in the little things of everyday life, as evidenced by the innocuous gathering of mushrooms to prepare a hearty dish for two parents desperately awaiting the return of their missing son. Between two card games or pigeon shoots at Costal Del Sol, there are moments suspended in time that allow us to indulge in long moments of introspection and contemplation. Here we find a relationship with summer imagery not unlike that of Kikujiro’s Summer. In both works, we open an enchanted, rural parenthesis far from the claustrophobia of big cities. There’s the same concern to prolong pleasure by chasing away all sad thoughts with laughter and joy. Like Kitano’s film, Rebirth is packed with humor that oscillates between the absurd, the good-natured and the tender. It’s a humor that’s at once very Japanese and universal, sometimes evoking the tales of Akira Toriyama as much as Tsukasa Hōjō, which punctuates a long journey tinged with melancholy. A wild road-game. An odyssey-like tale of initiation, where the characters have to learn from each other. Rebirth is a stroll that blends the poetry of laths with the poetry of flowers.

While the world of Rebirth is magnificent and sometimes gives the impression of being a permanent party brimming with mini-games of all kinds, like a Disneyland without fences, it is also profoundly sad. In particular, I think back to a moment when I stood for several minutes by the wheelwright’s hut in the Juno region. In the distance, the imposing Shinra military fortress loomed, casting its imperialist shadow over the entire area. All that remained of the ancient Republic were ruins, left to decay amidst shell craters for the pleasure of our sad eyes. A whole story is told without a single word. The evocative power of this environmental narrative keeps the harshness of the adventure in the background. There was a time when Gaia was more than just an earth under the yoke of a vain, energy-guzzling monster. So, lest we forget that glorious past, that phantasmagorical image that allows us to glimpse the possibility of a life without the use of Mako energy, we gladly take the byways to reach out to the masses and immerse ourselves in the proletarian struggle so dear to the whole Final Fantasy VII universe.

It’s a long, initiatory feast that constantly moves from laughter to tears, the better to make us adhere to the friendship that builds up between these good souls who try to carry the priesthood of their mission, even if it means sometimes giving the impression of forgetting it by taking refuge in fleeting pleasures. It’s as if fear of the inescapable drives them to take refuge in a carefree pomp and circumstance. At heart, this sometimes unsettling plurality of tones finds a certain echo in certain characters. There’s Aerith, of course, who alternately embodies the urban naiveté of the discovery of rural wonders, and the savior of the planet dispossessed of her memories of an earlier future, but above all there’s Cloud, whose fragmented identity suits the work perfectly. There’s something touching when the supposed Ex-SOLDAT puts aside this hardness that doesn’t belong to him to let this jovial, playful child emerge. In this way, contributing to the reconstruction of a society parallel to the established order testifies to the importance of remembrance, for without acceptance of the past, it is impossible to find one’s way in the darkness.

When the mask falls

To our lost memories

It’s not the first time you’ve had to read it, but Final Fantasy VII is all about identity and how it’s formed through our memories and the bonds we forge with others. Rebirth understands this very well, involving us in the daily lives of those left behind by globalization. By keeping alive the memory of those who stood up against the Shinra, the world they fought for continues to exist in traces where it can. More importantly, it allows all Avalanche members to discover themselves, or reconnect with the reasons that drove them to take up arms. Guilt and the weight of the past can unfortunately lead us to lose sight of why we do what we do.

Sometimes mistakenly considered a mere humorous character because of his theatricality, Barret embodies the heart of the ecological morality of Nojima’s story. He is the leader of Avalanche, the one who fights so that his daughter’s generation can live in a society in harmony with the planet, but not only that. Rebirth brings a slightly thicker layer of development to Remake’s revolutionary leader. Corel’s child, who pushed his native village to abandon traditional coal-mining for the energy “benefits” of a Mako reactor, is a magnificent representation of the working-class hero in search of redemption. His past vanity has indirectly led to the place where he grew up being consumed by the flames of Capital. This leads us to reflect on the dangers that surround the abandonment of tradition for ever greater modernity and easy comfort. Barret’s strength comes from the anger he feels towards himself for believing in the fables of an easy, prosperous life. So, when he expresses an almost hysterical hatred of the corporation he’s fighting against, it should be seen as penance, based in part on the Corel survivors’ bullying of him as a social traitor. His revolt resonates with a desire to try and forgive himself. That’s why he’ll never lay down his arms as long as the Shinra continues to operate, even if it means staying with his daughter Marlene. His face-to-face meeting with Dyne confirms his deep sense of guilt. For all the souls who perished because of his naiveté, he is condemned to remain on the battlefield and survive to continue carrying his cross. For this reason, and not just because of his age, Barret embodies a form of parental figure consolidated by his relationship with Marlene. Of all of them, he’s the only one who knows what it means to carry a fragile being under construction.

You carry that guilt…that weight…

Dyne, FF VII Rebirth, chapter 8
Barret and the weight of his mistakes

For others, it’s much harder to bear the traumas of the past. Tifa, drawn into the ecological struggle by Corel’s former miner, is more timid. Doubt accompanies her at all times. She found it hard to feel at home in Midgar when she arrived a few months after her native Nibelheim was destroyed by Sephiroth. Meeting Jessie made her daily life easier, thanks to this surrogate big sister. If this friendship wasn’t enough to put an end to the inner conflict that consumed her, between her desire to save the planet and her concerns about Barret’s radical methods, Cloud’s return to her life was the trigger for her greater involvement in the fight against the Shinra. His childhood friend reappears like a ghost after several years’ absence, bringing with him a host of questions in his wake. What has he been doing all this time? Why is he so different from the child she once knew? The fact that he knows things he shouldn’t is the icing on the cake in this nostalgic cocktail that explodes in Tifa’s face. She’s going to encourage him to stay with her. After so much loss, she can’t risk losing the little boy she was once in love with, if we’re to believe Traces of two past, Kazushige Nojima’s latest short story. The Seventh Heaven barmaid is not out for revenge. Nor is she driven by a desire to save the planet at all costs. What characterizes her is the need to save those she loves, especially Cloud.

As she dives into the heart of the lifestream after her childhood friend suffers a fit of madness, one of the keys to her shared past with him is restored to her. Cloud has always wanted her to see him as a hero. This partly explains his overprotective nature during their childhood. This deep attachment to her can be seen in his every action in her presence, as evidenced by the care taken by the developers in his gestures as soon as danger begins to lurk. This is something Tifa is unconsciously aware of. He has always acted as a protector, even to the point of sometimes seeming a worrying observer, unable to get a word in edgewise because of the sickly shyness that drives him to over-intellectualize the slightest social interaction. It was for this reason that, during their adolescence, he followed her to Mount Nibel after the death of Tifa’s mother, to keep an eye on her as she attempted to cross the dangerous mountain pass. He found himself unwittingly responsible for the fact that she remained in a coma for a week, while he was only slightly injured in the knees after their fall.

The village blamed him, but the truth is that the girl would almost certainly have died without him. She had no idea he’d gone looking for her until she woke up. He took a huge risk for her, knowing full well that he would reap no laurels. If for years she had wondered what had really happened, her memory of the event somewhat lacking due to the after-effects of the fall, she now knew from the planet’s knowledge stream that Cloud had not harmed her, contrary to the village’s claims. This is where the balance of their relationship comes into play. Tifa is a giver, and Cloud usually plays the role of a lone wolf. The two understand and read each other with disconcerting naturalness. The former SOLDIER knows that Tifa will never be inclined to ask for help even when she needs it, and she understands that Cloud has always taken care of her in his own way, even when he has nothing to gain. As she becomes truly aware of the intimate bond that has united them for so many years, and overcomes the superficiality with which she characterized their relationship as a simple childhood friendship, she comes to terms with her past and realizes that she is Cloud’s anchor to reality. For different reasons, it reminds me of the bond that can unite the character of Edward Elric, in Full Metal Alchemist, with Winry Rockbel. Both form an emotional bond that keeps our hero’s world together. No matter how events turn out, or where they are, they retain a home and a link with reality as long as this vestige of those long-ago happy times endures.

The story of an eternal promise

When it comes to the importance of memories in building one’s personality, it’s hard not to dwell on Aerith, especially in this retelling of the myth begun by Remake, which looks more like a sequel than a remake. I’ve already talked about it in an article you can find on our Patreon, but to fully understand this new trilogy devoted to Final Fantasy VII, you need not only to be familiar with the original episode, but also to have seen Advent Children and read the Nojima short stories. Whereas in the previous opus, the young flower seller clearly hinted at a form of omniscience on her part with regard to future events, she seems to plunge into the same vagueness as the player with regard to the uncertainty of the future following the rupture of destiny. In her own words, the spinners have robbed her of the memories of this threatening future. Like a symbol, the white materia, inherited from his mother and the last line of defence against the meteor, is completely emptied of its essence. It’s nothing more than a translucent glass marble, just waiting to be filled with memories. This adds complexity to her questioning of identity. Not only does she have to come to terms with the fact that she is the last living representative of the Cetra people, but she also has to come to terms with the knowledge of this other her, who is an integral part of the planet’s flow.

This scenaristic construction densifies the character. In the 1997 version, she was the quasi-christic figure whose death enabled the White Material to awaken and Sephiroth’s plan to fail. Now, she’s his nemesis. As for him, her “death” has enabled him to reach a threshold of consciousness on the order of the divine. Aerith and Sephiroth are two sides of the same coin. They embody duality, the confrontation between God and the Devil, between day and night. There’s something both fascinating and frightening about watching Sephiroth glare at Aerith or name her in the final chapter, as if he were clearly displaying his contempt for the woman who has been mercilessly battling the meanderings of his mind for decades in the heart of the planet. This iconography makes it clear that she is a modern female figure, whose courage makes her the real opposition to this destroyer of humanity. I was particularly moved by chapter 9, which offers a magnificent visual representation of Lifestream Black & White, as these black and white spinners clash relentlessly in the planet’s stream of consciousness, amidst the entities charged with protecting our stars. Rarely has a spiritual concept been so elegantly represented through the power of image. More than ever, Gaia appears as a living being and as one of the central characters of the adventure.

Aerith is a beacon in the night who illuminates us as much as she seeks her own light. No matter the situation, whether she is caught in the clutches of Shinra or when she remembers her mother’s fate, or feels Zack’s tragedy, she does it with a smile. She embodies the hope of a saved world. As a result, she constantly strives to find happiness, even in the darkest moments, in order to build memories that are worth lasting. Aerith has been through hell and feels the uncertain future that awaits her. She faces it with a smile, laughs at the situations that come her way and takes care of her friends in a way that could be considered scathing, but which is always sincere. The great tragedy of the character, perhaps even more than in the original, is the awareness she has of her own role. Not just as Cetra, but as a savior of the planet who must deal with her memories of the past and this blurred future. When she displays a form of lightness, particularly towards Cloud, it is her way of forcing herself to accept the prophetic seriousness of her situation. Responsible for saving the planet, she travels the world and time with a smile. She is mischievous, but her vulnerability shows that even she is afraid of her own fate.

Is destiny written in stone?

Fear, doubt, inability to accept reality, these are descriptions that suit Cloud Strife perfectly. For over two decades, he has been my favorite hero in the entire gaming industry. Perhaps even all cultural industries combined. The use of the word hero is wrong as it is singular, particularly in the world of J-RPGs. The term protagonist is certainly more appropriate. Its cracks carry the adventure to the point of making it the vibrant heart of this quest for identity so representative of the epic that is Final Fantasy VII. His false coldness and forced cynicism are only masks intended to hide the broken child seeking approval. He found himself alone with his mother very early on after the death of his father. This loss quickly causes him to close in on himself, only showing interest in Tifa, but in his own cold and awkward way. He’s a somewhat socially awkward individual, a kind of Peter Parker with the face of an angel. Unlike the kid from Queens who quickly seeks to elevate himself as a figure of positivity, Cloud takes refuge in an inferiority complex. If he can’t make friends, it’s because he’s simply different and better than the others. His inability to protect Tifa during her escapade in the mountains, however, puts a violent blow to his shell. Isolated and singled out by the entire village who holds him responsible for the short coma of the bubbly young girl, his psyche must already face pressures far too heavy for any teenager to bear. It is during this period that the figure of the SOLDIER, in particular that of Sephiroth, reaches his small village. His desire to join this elite unit is characteristic of his feeling of helplessness and his deep guilt. The promise under the stars made to Tifa is a way for him to seal the fact that he will never let anything happen to a loved one again. So here we have a young man inhabited by the fear of failing and losing someone else. He seeks neither glory nor performance. He just wants to be good enough. As he pointed out in the 1997 version, he just wanted to be noticed by someone, Tifa in particular.

Unfortunately for the young boy from Nibelheim, joining the elite SOLDIER corps will remain an unattainable pipe dream. Too weak psychologically, he will not have been able to free himself from his own complexes. His inability to become more than just a Shinra trooper is an ultimate shame that he is unable to bear. This bag of complexes and neuroses is the basis of the character, and Rebirth must be recognized for its great mastery in the way it manages and enhances its development. If the original maintains the mystery around its past for longer, this 2024 version wants to be much more frontal regarding the inconsistencies that surround our protagonist. His true identity is hidden, or rather asleep under a false persona that his subconscious has constructed to avoid confronting reality. This memory labyrinth is based on three things: his ideal self built on the iconography of the war hero he wanted to be by reading the exploits of Sephiroth to live up to the promise made to Tifa, the cells of Jenova within him which allow the calamity of the sky to whisper to him what it needs to manipulate him, as well as his memories and the stories of his late comrade Zack which fill in the holes. This personality, crafted from scratch, serves as a coping mechanism to help Cloud move forward. But beneath this character, his true self is dormant and tries to free himself, notably to join Tifa. While the construction and maintenance of this false personality is done through a combination of denial of reality and delusion, his true self tries as best he can to find a way out. Sometimes he even appears suddenly before disappearing again behind the mask. Internally, Cloud knows that something is wrong with him, he confides in chapter 9 that he no longer knows who he is, but he does not really know what to do, preferring to hide behind the fact that he probably undergoes the famous degeneration of SOLDIERS. Rather than confronting reality and his perception of it, he prefers to accept the fact that his degeneration is inevitable.

Most of the coming to the surface of his true personality takes place in the company of Tifa. This shows not only her importance to him, but also his unconscious belief that she is the key to his rebirth. After all, the name Tifa comes from the Latin phrase Theophania, which refers to epiphany. Cloud constantly struggles with the effects of his trauma, Sephiroth’s manipulation, and the Reunion. This is noticeable during the numerous migraines to which he can be the victim as soon as his fragile structure is shaken even a little by reality. He repeatedly attempts to reconnect and reclaim his psyche via his interactions with Tifa by keeping his promise. The rest of the time, his true self resurfaces during moments of jubilation with his gang. When he smiles or lets himself be drawn into the Gold Saucer festivities with undisguised pleasure, he stops pretending reality, he becomes again this young man in search of approval and a united family. We must keep in mind that he loses his last family references at the age of 16. This explains in particular the ease with which he manages to behave like a big brother with Yuffie, or the speed with which he places his trust in Cait Sith. The orphan in him cannot say no to the idea of ​​an expanding family that accompanies him to the ends of the earth. The subtlety of the looks and smiles are unmistakable during his sequences. Unfortunately, these moments fade more and more in the final stretch of the adventure, because he constantly does the opposite of what should be done. Any psychologist would advise adjusting the vision of our ideal self to reality, but Cloud rejects reality outright as soon as the mental house of cards he has built threatens to collapse. Like many families, the small Avalanche troop lowers their eyes in the face of the growing and perceptible madness of their spearhead.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth un voyage
Cloud, an allegory of doubt

Facing the madness of the other one

The other is obviously Cloud. While all of his comrades face their past in one way or another, he is the only one who cannot make peace with his journey. Suffering and trials are fundamental for personal development, as the game likes to repeat on a few occasions, whether by the character of Barret or Rufus. This notably echoes what Nietzsche describes as “chaos”. When we find ourselves stripped of everything, it can paradoxically allow us to glimpse the hidden side of life. A dive into hell doesn’t necessarily mean the end of everything. Those who find a way to move forward and overcome past traumas do so because they are carried by the hope of possible happiness, without ruling out the possibility of landing in another hell. It is no coincidence that he is the only character not to be confronted with his past by the temple of the Ancients. At this point in the adventure, he is nothing more than an almost shapeless shadow that the player can hardly recognize. The degeneration now appears irreversible. The worst part of all this is that at no time did it seem possible to deviate from this path. The players, like the rest of the group, are conscious and helpless spectators. However, it is no exaggeration to say that we have been confronted with many warning signs, starting with Remake. The more frontal staging of this diptych confronts us bluntly with the hallucinations and other delusions of the young swordsman.

He is a character suffering from anxiety as we could already see following the explosion of the first reactor in the previous title. The chaos caused by the attack created enough sensory stimulus to plunge Cloud into the heart of his deepest trauma: the Nibelheim incident. The flames materialize around him, the realities merge allowing us to admire the urban architecture of Midgar on one side of the screen, and on the other the remains of his hometown which go up in smoke. In less than two hours with the character, we experienced violent visual, audible and tactile hallucinations. The sweat visible on his face suggests that he was able to feel the heat of the furnace as if he were actually there. These freshly created cracks in his former SOLDIER shell are then perfect for allowing the Sephiroth/Jenova pair to slip into his head. The destruction of destiny at the end of this first opus does not put an end to Cloud’s psychological fragility and the mental domination that the masamune warrior can exercise over him, quite the contrary. Very early in the adventure, the latter does not hesitate to appear to play on his paranoia by whispering the worst ideas to him. Aware that Tifa is the only person who can connect Cloud to the past, he therefore strives to make him doubt the latter, not hesitating to reveal that Jenova is not a Cetra, but a monster capable of taking the form of those we fear or love in order to submit to his will. A paranoia then takes root in his heart and even in that of some players. The shadow of heaven’s calamity is everywhere. Whether on Twitter or Discord, it is not uncommon to see players succumb to the temptation to believe Sephiroth. How do we know if we are not being fooled by Jenova? Some have gone so far as to look for the presence of red reflections in Tifa’s or even Aerith’s eyes to come up with theories. When Sephiroth seeks to influence Cloud, there is sometimes a distance that can give the impression that he is interacting directly with us. Our hero often moves from one state to another. Sometimes in sincere joy, sometimes worrying and subject to hallucinations. The hunt for blackcoats is a good example. Where he sees a Sephiroth who invites him to follow and join him, the others see these idle sick people who wander around muttering things devoid of any logic. However, his troubles do not go unnoticed, with some not hesitating to share their concerns with each other, but without ever questioning or confronting him.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth un voyage
So far, so good…

His military history and the increases he has received provide him with a form of natural legitimacy. The rest of the group may be rich in skills, but none have this pronounced combat experience. It is therefore natural to see a gang made up of a florist, a barmaid and a former miner place the bulk of the responsibilities on the shoulders of the wielder of the grinding sword. If we add to this his connection with Sephiroth which, although worrying, proves essential in tracking down this antagonist, and we have all the ingredients which make it possible to establish Cloud as a form of representation of the myth of the savior. Indeed, since his arrival in Midgar, he has had the appearance of a providential man. Although never showing any oversized ego, he does it well for them, because one of his main characteristics is this constant quest for approval. This aspect of his personality can already be guessed at the very beginning of Remake when he displays an almost childish satisfaction in the face of Jessie’s admiration. He wants to live up to the expectations placed on him, which makes him the natural and instinctive leader of this heterogeneous troop. Although there are several categories of providential men, the purpose around these characters remains more or less the same. They represent an extraordinary remedy in the face of a problem that no one else seems to be able to handle. Unfortunately, history tends to show that the reality of their actions is often very different from the hopes they had aroused. If men make history, they are not always aware of the history they are shaping. Classical and popular culture is full of these characters, particularly those who begin a long descent into hell. Names such as Anakin Skywalker or Eren Jaeger then come to mind. Two individuals who embodied an ideal, but whom no one was able to protect from their tragic trajectory. Consumed by their torments and their neuroses, they committed the worst.

The paradox of Rebirth is that the accumulation of joys overlaps with the weakening of its hero. The longer the journey, the more he feels the need to rest. The incoherence of his speech becomes more pronounced, the headaches become more and more violent, and the rage he feels during fights becomes more and more uncontrollable. There is a palpable tenderness in watching his comrades encourage him to rest. The most obvious moment of this latent concern is the arrival at the Gold Saucer. While euphoria has taken hold of the entire group, even its taciturn leader, and everyone seems ready to open an enchanted parenthesis, Tifa insists that he stay at the hotel following a new crisis of delirium. However, this concern rarely goes beyond that. The looks and other silences reflect everyone’s concern, but no one dares to cross the line, whether when Cloud almost kills Tifa following yet another manipulation by Sephiroth, or when he acts and speaks like the latter while displaying the same pleasure in killing his enemies. The laughter disappears to give way to a leaden atmosphere. It is the end of innocence and the beginning of torment. This impotence of one’s group is human, because we tend to put into perspective the mental degeneration of those we love, convinced that it is necessarily less serious than what can occur in others, or because we believe that we are necessarily able to do better. Although we question ourselves or ask ourselves questions because of this impression of not really understanding the person in front of us, we are plunged into a form of confusion making us incapable of acting. Having experienced it with a member of my family, there is nothing more sadly realistic than seeing a family believe in a simple “It’s going to be okay”, or that a little rest will solve everything.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth un voyage
A long descent into hell

Tifa, despite her sincere desire to help her childhood friend, is sometimes singled out on social networks for her lack of frankness and communication. After all, she could speak up in the first chapter and explain to the group that according to her memories, Cloud was not present during Sephiroth’s destruction of Nibelheim. If communication is essential in this type of situation, asserting with confidence that a frank and frontal rectification would fix everything is very naive. Everything Tifa does is to protect Cloud. She doesn’t know what’s happening to him, but she’s dedicated to doing everything she can to help him. It must be understood that she cannot tell Cloud the “truth” because she does not know it herself, Sephiroth being the only one who knows the whole story. What exactly is Tifa supposed to say? That he wasn’t there five years ago when that’s not the truth and that he was there without her knowing? It is precisely because she lacks this key to understanding that she does not understand how he can know so much about an event during which she does not remember meeting him. She is torn between the fear of causing a mental breakdown in her friend by putting an end to his delusions, and curiosity as to the end of this story.

She therefore chooses silence and support, convinced that it is the gentlest method to put her finger on the truth that unites them. When Cloud confesses to being aware of his identity problems, she doesn’t add to it and makes him understand that she will do anything to help him. Seeing him question himself and half-heartedly confess that he doesn’t always know where reality lies in his stories is a victory for her. The iconography of Cloud is then at its peak. This strong and robust back which supports a head full of troubles far too heavy for its shoulders. The merits of Tifa’s action materialize in Sephiroth. If he strives so hard to turn the ex-SOLDIER against her, or if he shows himself ready to kill her even in Cloud’s absence, it’s because he knows that she is the key to bring out his true personality and free him from his yoke. It is the anchor that connects our protagonist to a common and verifiable past, making it possible to annihilate the fable which claims that he is only a shadow created in a laboratory. This fear of the bond uniting the two young people from Nibelheim is at the origin of the blind spot that Aerith can exploit to both shake Cloud and undermine the machinations of the fallen war hero.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth un voyage
Who am I ?

To your star

On one hand, we have Cloud who embodies the identity themes of Nojima’s story, on the other we have Aerith who, in many ways, is the heart of the adventure. Beneath her appearance as a naive and sometimes ridiculously enthusiastic young woman, lies a strong and independent woman, never hesitating to take matters into her own hands, while moving towards a destiny that she knows is fatal. She is a star that evokes that destiny is not a long, quiet river, through the complexity and sometimes chaotic journey that everyone can have. Her status as a caregiver allows us to draw a certain number of parallels between her and the image of the Saint. The majority of Mary’s appearances in the Gospels show us a woman of the people, authentic in her emotions, with flawless humanity. It’s hard not to see the Aerith of the slums of sector 5 who is loved and appreciated by everyone for her daily actions such as her visits to the shelter for the poor, or her numerous voluntary actions for the neighborhood orphanage. It embodies life, as evidenced by the presence of flowers in its church, as well as around the house, while the rest of the slums lie on dead earth drained by the eight imposing reactors of the megalopolis. Where she differs from the Blessed Virgin is that the journey alongside her friends will place her on a trajectory similar to that of Christ. Like him, she will give her life for the salvation of humanity. Proud and upright, she faces the inevitable with determination. Without his death, granting him an eternal ethereal existence within the lifestream, our world cannot survive. As the last representative of the ancients, she is the ultimate fleshly incarnation of the will of the planet. As is often the case in the saga, its function is reflected even in its name. The katakana used to create his name (E-A-RI-SU) can very easily be read as “Earth”. She is a giver of life and light, where Sephiroth embodies darkness and can be associated with Satan, the king of demons who revolted to become the enemy of humanity and God.

When Cloud meets her, she is a flower amid the squalor of the streets of Midgar. The difference with the original being that the Aerith of this Remake trilogy is the one who awaits the arrival of our hero. She comes to meet him, aware of what is happening in the shadows. This is probably why she can appear much more enterprising and direct towards the Ex-SOLDIER than she could have been in 1997. I am not only talking about her character as a seductress who does not never misses an opportunity to destabilize our character, but in his way of looking for the real Cloud. She does not stop to point out his similarities with her first love to explain her confused feelings towards him, she constantly warns him, while trying to put him back on the right path. Whether in Remake when she invites him not to fall in love with her, because that would only be false feelings carried by an illusion, or in Rebirth where she does everything to remind him of the importance of the bond that unites him to Tifa. Implicitly, it serves as a rampart against the winds of division. Even more interesting is the way she puts Cloud back on Zack’s trail. If we cannot doubt the sincerity of her approach when she goes to meet the parents of her late boyfriend, her way of observing her friend’s gaze while listening to the name of the specter from her past is highly interesting. This is part of her desire to find the real him, because she cannot save the world without her friend coming out of his delirium. This is perhaps the paradox of the character who could be content to let Tifa play this role, but the deep affection she has towards Cloud prevents her from not acting in the face of Sephiroth’s accentuated perfidy. This goes far beyond the love triangle in which she is a part.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth un voyage
Going to the end of the world to find yourself

The date in chapter 14 is a moment suspended in time. A sort of lull after Cloud saw his mental balance shattered in the face of the black materia which he hastened to hand over to his master. At this moment, the brave fighter no longer exists. Truth be told, he is now closer to a Smeagol in the face of the ring of power than anything he was before. His return to the surface is only possible thanks to Aerith who decides to no longer fight against her comrade’s impulses, but to simply accompany him by making him understand that, whatever happens, she will be there for him. No confrontation, no physical violence to contain him, just deep empathy tinged with gentleness. What follows is a terrible fall into the abyss of what remains of the Temple of the Ancients, plunging the two into a temporary coma which allows them to commune in another reality. In this convergence of timelines, which takes the form of a world having accepted its imminent death, Aerith invites Cloud to follow her in what she considers to finally be the long-awaited meeting between them. If he follows her with innocence and a hint of incomprehension, she does not forget that Sephiroth continues to hunt them down, especially her. This game of cat and mouse between the two gives a new flavor to the start of Remake which allowed us to find Aerith seeming frightened by a threat lurking in the shadows while the notes of One Winged Angel were added to the gentle melody of the introduction. Here we have a pivotal moment in Aerith’s actions to save the world and put Cloud back on the right path. What I initially thought was a display of romantic love in the final chapter actually feels like a meta-narrative climax of Cloud being consumed by his need to live up to the expectations that he has for himself, as well as having the courage to access his own identity.

Whether through the actions of Aerith or the various merchants of this alternative version of the slums of sector 5, everything is done to prepare Cloud and the player to let go, because nothing will happen as we would like and it must accept it. Life is a great letting go that should not be rejected. At each shop visited during this mystical encounter, the player must choose a gift or something to share with Aerith. If we are unable to know what she wants despite her teasing, our choice is always refused to us by the merchant. The latter offers us something else to our great disappointment, despite his claims to make us understand that by putting our requirements aside the proposed product can prove to be more than satisfactory. You just have to accept having something other than what may have been fantasized. It’s a clever way to bounce off Aerith’s ability to downplay the severity of most events along the journey. It’s a behavior that she never ceases to display until this final embrace in front of the flowers of their “reunion” while she prepares Cloud for his death by asking him not to feel responsible for him. ‘future. This intentionality tends to show that she seeks above all to comfort Cloud and put him at ease in order to alleviate the grief that is eating away at him intensely in Advent Children. She wants him to be in tune with himself and happy, more than she wants to maintain a romance with him.

Normally, this is the time when I should be able to make a connection with Evangelion. My culture has limits, unfortunately I am not able to do this despite what I hear here and there. However, this long sequence makes me think of another work that I had the time to dissect for you a few months ago: L’Attaque des Titans. In both works, we find two protagonists linked by complex feelings in a world difficult to define. A reality that has accepted its imminent end in Rebirth. Another one that could have existed in Attack on Titan if our heroes had not been slaves to fate. There is this idea of ​​the character, who knows more than his companion and takes advantage of this moment not only as a farewell, but as a way to help the other to turn the page. Where Eren asks Mikasa to forget him and live free after his death to trigger a trigger in his lifelong partner, Aerith tries to relieve Cloud of the future weight of his guilt. At this point in the story, this is something Tifa and Cloud cannot know due to their inability to reconcile their memories, which prevents the swordsman from exposing his vulnerability with her. The road to healing the psychological after-effects of our hero will still be long, she knows this and is aware of not being the key to her identity reconstruction. This is the role that will fall to Tifa in the conclusion of this trilogy. As a symbol, after recovering the memories allowing her to charge the white material with her essence, she gives Cloud the colorless sphere of this other reality after asking him to concentrate on the search for his true identity. If I don’t know what this implies for the last part of the adventure, I can’t think of a more beautiful way to symbolize the long road that our hero still has to travel to make peace with what he is and accept complete the delicate exercise of mourning.

The refusal of mourning

Remake ended with a promise: the possibility of defying destiny and blazing a new path. Obviously, the wildest hopes focused on the character of Aerith. His death is probably one of the most memorable scenes in video game history. Like the revelation of the filial bond uniting Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, this is the kind of sequence that even those who have not played the 1997 game know. Whether it’s because they heard about it during a discussion, or because they saw it in one of the countless top 10 most cult scenes in the industry. Playing on expectations around the destiny of this character is a relevant narrative and marketing process, and we can see that the Japanese publisher did not fail to play with this during the marketing phase. Some trailers could even be confusing, suggesting that the destiny of the slum flower seller could become that of Tifa. The teams in charge of communication went so far as to push the vice by publishing a magnificent wallpaper bringing together Aerith and Tifa separated by the worrying presence of Sephiroth in the center of the image.

This unbearable expectation is used latently throughout the adventure and contributes to the sometimes ambivalent atmosphere of the adventure. The player is captivated by the idea of ​​seeing with his own eyes the inevitability of the death of this character who embodies purity. There is a meta discourse on the narrative and thematic necessity of this event, as well as on the place that this segment occupies in the collective imagination. When you think about it, Remake was already starting to play on this, whether through the numerous flashes of this past future in the last third of the adventure, or through the tear that escapes Cloud when he watches her move away into the slum. The game already questioned our relationship to this video game trauma by reminding us of what awaits this character and by almost challenging us to intervene in the face of Sephiroth’s masamune. After dozens of hours spent wandering in the vast expanses of Gaia, the player begins the path of no return in chapter 14. The neophyte knowing nothing of the FF VII mythology advances with determined steps, aware of the danger at -in front of which Aerith threw herself. Anyone who has mourned the 1997 sequence is aware of being at a crossroads. From the moment he sets foot on the ground of the imposing city of the Ancients, he knows that he is no longer very far from having the answer to the question he has been asking himself since April 2020: Can we save Aerith ? A dialogue then takes place between Cloud, the player and the game. The other members of the team have no room for this moment, as highlighted by their efforts to allow us, alone, to pass the veil of fate. “It’s up to you” Vincent tells us, joining in the collective effort. The player must face his success or failure alone.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth un voyage
This is your story

Unfortunately, and unless the third part of this remake project skillfully turns the tables, Aerith’s death is a sine qua non condition for the survival of the planet. Without this tragic event, the Rite cannot materialize in the heart of the lifestream to repel the disastrous star that is about to strike. You know it. I know it. Yet we cling to the slightest spark of hope. Perhaps, because the growing influx of works exploiting the multiverse has accustomed us to variants. After all, if there can be dozens of variations of the same character within the Marvel Universe, why couldn’t we have these same characters multiplying endlessly from one dimension to the next? other. This is surely what gives us strength as we join young Cetra whose prayers we can hear to bring saving light to Gaia. We then arrive at the altar and we fight fiercely against destiny which is doing everything to make Cloud raise his sword. Our fingers work hard on the controller while the Dualsense’s adaptive triggers get harder and harder. The one-winged angel then begins his fall and the impossible happens. Cloud breaks the chains of his servitude and counters the attacker’s sword with a rage tinged with hope so unusual for him. A new window then opens before us, before closing abruptly to let us contemplate Aerith’s lifeless body collapsing after the blow, leaving behind the one who had the naivety to think that another outcome was possible. Final Fantasy VII already talked about mourning in 1997, this revisit will not cut it. She’ll just do it differently. If the PlayStation monument dealt with the acceptance of the absence of the other, Rebirth addresses a somewhat different angle: that of denial.

There is no character more appropriate than Cloud to use a staging gimmick aimed at making people believe, for a short moment, that the unreal is materializing. He is no more capable of accepting Aerith’s death than he was capable of accepting Zack’s or of digesting the failure of his military career. This psychological weakness which pushes him to twist reality to make it surmountable is a powerful narrative tool. Given that Rebirth already introduces the existence of Zack and the inconsistencies in Cloud’s story, while this was done much later in the original, it is a safe bet that the complete restitution of the scene of the death of his comrade is the culmination of his psychological reconstruction alongside Tifa. Hamaguchi does not hide his deep love for the initial story, and often poses as the protector of the elements that he considers essential to respect the myth. The fact that we are deprived of the scene of the immersion of the florist’s body, or of Cloud’s heartbreaking monologue as he holds his friend’s remains, leaves little doubt as to their use in the conclusion of the trilogy.

Aerith is gone. Aerith will no longer talk, no longer laugh, cry…or get angry…what about us…what are WE supposed to do? What is this pain…My fingers are tingling. My mouth is dry. My eyes are burning!

Cloud, Final Fantasy VII, 1997

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth un voyage
A broken hero

Reality will make our hero falls to the lowest point. It will break him for a long convalescence, but acceptance of reality will allow him to regain the impetus necessary to overcome his old demons. The Cloud that we know must “die” to allow the one that it really is to be immersed. Until this rebirth occurs, we will have to wait a few more years. For now, we can only gaze at the shadow of a man hiding behind a veil of illusion, unable to understand that the essence of Aerith he senses at the heart of the planet does not symbolize survival. of the latter.

When the long sequence of final confrontations begins, it is interesting to observe that Cloud is the only character not to start the fight with his Transcendence gauge at maximum. His denial materializes even in gameplay, while his comrades are afflicted by grief and anger. In player memory, few endings have undermined my morale as much as that of Rebirth. The dissonance between the pain visible in the members of Avalanche and the almost joyful attitude of our protagonist is disturbing. If he has never been a model of mental balance, the Ex-SOLDIER here reaches total psychological decline. Tifa’s look of distress as she realizes that her childhood friend is on the verge of a nervous breakdown is a destabilizing uppercut. The time for laughter is definitely over. However, we must continue, because the planet is not going to save itself. So, our brave heroes set off again for a ride aboard the Tiny Bronco, hoping for the best. They thus take refuge in their own denial.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth un voyage
On the edge of the precipice

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is a monumental game that flirts with the unreasonable. He doesn’t do everything right. He is sometimes clumsy, but everything he tries aims to nourish the voluntary ambivalence of his adventure. So we laugh, we cry, we breathe, we have fun. We take turns saving the world and participating in different trivial activities. The game carries us from one state to another, always keen to entertain us in order to forget for a while the harshness of its story, and to better devastate us when it decides to remind us of the sad reality of the world of Gaia . If the model from which it draws its substance celebrated life, this rereading aims to be more intimate, despite its excesses, by focusing on the importance of the connection to the world and to others. I didn’t think this was possible, but by skillfully playing with the collective trauma of Aerith’s death, the game manages to be more depressive than its original model. Discussions between players promise to be fierce over the coming years, particularly between those who accept as best they can the inevitability of this death and those who still cling to the hope that, somewhere, our beautiful healer has survived and that we will find her again during the Reunion of Worlds. Deep down, I myself have to hope for a possible happy ending for everyone, even if it seems impossible to achieve that without going to great trouble. Where Rebirth picked me up when I wasn’t expecting it in this area, it was by allowing me to finally get over my denial surrounding Final Fantasy XV. The opus patched up by Tabata was never able to cherish the dream of becoming even half of what it was supposed to be. I must also confess that I have long been jealous of these fans of games that were broken when they were released, but who had the right to their redemption. Names like No Man’s Sky or Cyberpunk inevitably come to mind when reading these few lines. Final Fantasy XV’s redemption never came, and it’s not for lack of hoping for it. We had to wait for Rebirth, whose science of travel draws much of its essence from the ashes of Noctis’ adventures, for this chimera to come true. Thank you Naoki Hamaguchi for this crazy odyssey which takes me out of almost a decade of denial around a game which ultimately never existed.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth un voyage qui se terminera sans Aerith
No Promises Await at Journey’s End

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