Few video game villains are as well known as Final Fantasy VIISephiroth. The character is famous for burning down hero Cloud’s hometown and murdering a potential love interest. His devastating scene has become one of the most iconic moments in video game history, and his antagonism towards the hero is similarly regarded. It’s easy to see why Square Enix is dedicated to keeping it in the public consciousness. However, a constant feature of these cameos is that they increasingly glorify Sephiroth’s accomplishments and inflate his power.
Although he was a great warrior in the original game, he was still only a man who could be killed with enough skill and determination. In the moment of Final Fantasy VII Remake, apparently it has become a transcendent being capable of warping space-time. While fans of the character may enjoy this increased prominence, such elevations can counterproductively turn him into a less impressive antagonist.
In the original game, Sephiroth was compelling due to his intellect. It was certainly powerful, but by no means unbeatable. In fact, his abilities throughout the Nibelheim flashback are only slightly above what the main characters can achieve. Long before players fight the man, the game’s own mechanics confirm that it is not beyond them. In fact, Sephiroth spent most of Final Fantasy VII in a weakened state, forcing him to work through agents to enact his will. This created an illusion of omnipresence that made him appear stronger than he actually was, tying in perfectly with the game’s subtle horror elements.
By comparison, the modern Sephiroth does not need such stratagems. He enjoyed a significant power boost in the sequel film. Advent children, gaining the strength to level buildings and warp the weather with a single hit. Core of the crisis He reinforced this representation and further emphasized his strength and speed beyond anything the protagonist was capable of. While the extent of his power in the Redo Unknown, what players have seen makes it clear that he has surpassed even these incarnations.
From an aesthetic perspective, this makes sense. The world of FFVII has become more and more like anime since Advent children, and its creators want to keep fans engaged by showing how dangerous their favorite villain is. However, while the resulting shows are impressive, they also undermine the plausibility of the story. After all, if Sephiroth has always been a person of mass destruction, then there is simply no way Cloud has ever won at the reactor.
Compare this to the way the original game depicts Sephiroth. Although he certainly regards his means with monstrous terror, FFVII he is surprisingly dismissive of the man himself. He is described, literally, as a loser; being canonically defeated in every duel with Cloud, only approaching divinity through deception. Sephiroth has to resort to deception because he cannot win in a fair fight. This is why most of her appearances turn out to be disguised aspects of her genetic ancestor Jenova. From a certain point of view, the game’s writers hint that their villain is so weak that he requires his mother to beat up his enemies for him.
This may seem like a funny observation, but it is not the only time FFVII describes Sephiroth as pathetic. In fact, the game draws bold parallels to the story throughout the Nibelheim sequence. The flashback makes it clear that his heroic reputation is simply the result of being ShinRa Corporation’s favorite attack dog. When he discovers the research that went into creating it, he becomes convinced of its supremacy and goes on the now-infamous rampage. Like the fascists of reality, Sephiroth proclaims himself part of a superior race and sets out to exterminate those he now considers inferior, all based on nothing but bad science and his inflated sense of entitlement. To further underscore these flaws, his final form is the infamous one-winged angel; not the god he wanted to be, but a comparatively minor and incomplete being.
This unglamorous representation of is, appropriately, the apotheosis of FFVIIThe theme of self-improvement. Cloud idolized Sephiroth as a child, but as an adult he must admit that he was never worth emulating. Enjoying the fantasy of succeeding someone known only for his strength, even without knowing it, is what leaves him vulnerable to the manipulations of the villain. Only when he accepts himself does he break Sephiroth’s control, symbolically rejecting the hollow force of his enemy. FFVII He concludes on the note that such men are cruel, abusive, and utterly unworthy of respect, and rightly so they don’t look at him with any at all.
Yet despite being the ones who wrote this incredibly important message, Square Enix seems to have largely forgotten it. Every appearance Sephiroth has made since the original game has downplayed his callous traits in favor of making him stronger and cooler. He can strike a man through the sky, destroy buildings with a single swipe of his sword, and even be on the verge of killing Mario himself in his Super Smash Bros. debut. He is consistently depicted as the series’ strongest warrior, and any mention of his attempt at ethnic cleansing is dismissed as the world’s most uncomfortably hot potato.
It’s understandable why Square Enix might want to dilute Sephiroth for side effects and cameos. The character is among the darkest villains in the series. The most faithful depictions would probably be too gloomy to justify appearances at party games. That is not an inherently bad thing, marketing and popularity can affect positive character growth. But, his miserable past has not been replaced by anything beyond mere power. Without any limitation to force creative thinking, Sephiroth has become an incredibly dull shadow of his former self. One can only hope that, like the RedoAs the story progresses, its writers find some way to help Meteor’s master regain the impact he once had.
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