As one of the most memorable RPGs of all time, Final Fantasy 7 is full of impactful moments. But when I think back to my own history with the game, there's always one that sticks in my mind: the Nibelheim flashback. In the town of Kalm, Cloud tells his companions about a pivotal past incident involving Sephiroth during a visit to his hometown, and it's the first time we start to better understand what set the silver-haired Soldier on the path to becoming the major antagonist of the story. I first witnessed the scene as I watched my sister play the original 1997 release on the PS1. It's one of my earliest gaming memories, and even at such a young age when I didn't fully comprehend what was going on, I can remember the eerie feeling it left me with. The flashback made a lasting impression, and the iconic cutscene that shows Sephiroth surrounded by flame is forever burned into my memory.
Of course, as I got older and played it for myself, the significance of the sequence became clearer, and I'll never forget how it made me feel. Fast forward to 2024, and I'm reliving the flashback all over again in a demo of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, only this time, it's more impactful than ever. The modern recreation of the famous moment recaptures everything in so much detail, and puts you right into the thick of it in a way the limitations of the original game never could. As I see it unfold before me all over again, I'm left thinking that it's moments like this that reiterate why I'm so glad the remake exists. Not only does it mean future generations can experience this scene in an even more affecting way than I did all those years ago, but longtime fans can also feel even more immersed in some of the most impactful moments.
Nostalgia definitely plays a part as I experience the first two chapters of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, but nothing compares to the feeling I get when I realize I'm about to step back into Nibelheim as a younger Cloud at the start of my hands-on session. In much the same way Final Fantasy 7 Remake effectively reimagines the opening section of the classic game in Midgar, Rebirth brings moments to life for the modern era, making them feel familiar and fresh at the same time.
As a longtime fan, I get such a kick out of seeing so many details I remember from the original sequence, such as Cloud doing squatting exercises as they head into Nibelheim, or the way you can choose to enter certain buildings as part of Cloud's retelling. From the interactions in Nibelheim to the way our spiky haired protagonist recounts the story with the group injecting humorous commentary, I'm impressed by just how well it recreates everything and adds to it.
But even if this is all entirely new to you, I'm willing to bet you'll find it just as entertaining and intriguing as I did, with Rebirth bringing you right into the action and setting the scene for what's to come. While I won't get into why this moment is significant in the context of the story, or go into too much detail about what happens to avoid spoilers, you see a new side to Sephiroth that Rebirth is arguably able to do in a more impactful way. By putting you in direct control of Cloud and later Sephiroth in battle, you spend a bit more time with the pair of them, making the events that unfold hit just that bit harder. I also love the way Rebirth immerses you right into one of the most iconic moments of the flashback in a new way that really made me feel like I was right there, in the sequence, witnessing it unfold before my very eyes.
The beauty of Final Fantasy 7 Remake was the way it balances new with old; it welcomes in newcomers thanks to its modernized reinterpretation, but also dials into the nostalgia factor for longtime players. It's no easy feat to pull that off when it comes to a game that's beloved by so many, and from what little I've played Rebirth, the follow-up looks set to do much the same. It certainly delivers on both fronts during the Nibelheim flashback, and it just makes me more excited to see how Rebirth handles the events that follow. If anything, returning to Nibelheim is a powerful reminder of just why it's so great that we're getting to relive a story that has made an impression on so many in an updated, fresh way.
Look ahead to all of the exciting releases that await us with our roundup of upcoming PS5 games.