“There was a distinct feeling that ‘nothing was true’ anymore and that the future was not as clear-cut as it had seemed. Nor, for that matter, was the past, Therefore, everything was up for grabs. If we needed any truths we could construct them ourselves.”
– David Bowie

“The human mind isn’t a terribly logical or consistent place. Most people, given the choice to face a hideous or terrifying truth or to conveniently avoid it, choose the convenience and peace of normality. That doesn’t make them strong or weak people, or good or bad people. It just makes them people.”
― Jim Butcher

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth Ending Explained (by Goggle Bob)

Do I even need to elaborate that this article contains a lot of spoilers? It does.

Hey, it's been funDenial and acceptance are considered to be opposites. Denial is separating yourself from reality, putting yourself in a different place, and claiming that your exclusive worldview is the correct one. Acceptance is joining everyone else and acknowledging the truth. But, as we all learn over time, the truth is subjective. Two plus two equals four, but where did you get those twos? What is your data source? In the end, “the truth” contains a weird level of democracy, where “reality” is something that is not necessarily “real”, but merely something the majority has agreed upon. The past should be concrete, but memories are faulty, and all that ultimately matters is where you are now.

At the finale of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, Aerith is no longer a member of the party. The majority of AVALANCHE believes this is because Aerith is dead, gored by Sephiroth. Cloud believes this is because Aerith is alive, but must stay behind to pray to save the planet. The present is the same for everyone, though. Aerith isn’t here anymore. What happened doesn’t have to impact “now” either way.

Tifa is crying, though…

Let us examine the past of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth: Chapter 14: The End of the World objectively. Throughout this story, we have seen glimpses of a parallel universe. We know this universe is an alternate (and not just a flash to “our” bat country Midgar) because there is an alternate version of AVALANCHE where the majority of the party died in the immediate aftermath of the finale of Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Aerith survived, but she is in a coma. And Cloud apparently never awakened from his Nibelheim coma, so they are both coma buddies. And, hey, Zack and Biggs are alive, too. That’s different!

We must investigate Biggs ‘n Zack for a moment. In some fashion, they are both not from this world. They both recount situations where they were mortally close to death, but were then instantly transported to this world where the danger no longer existed. And, even more confusingly, they are both from separate timelines, as Zack only knows a Cloud that has been comatose for years, and Biggs identifies a Cloud that was an active part of the AVALANCHE resistance. It is unknown if either of these men truly “belong” to this world, but their pasts are mutually exclusive. And speaking of their pasts, they have one thing in common: Cloud was present for both of their deaths. Fun! So it makes perfect sense that when Cloud and Aerith die at the end of Chapter 13, they wind up in this timeline, too.

(Look, they fell off a vine or something. It sure looked fatal there for a minute.)

When they were happySo Cloud and Aerith both wake up in the bodies of their alternate selves. What happened to the consciousness of Coma Cloud & Unawake Aerith? Zack and Biggs don’t worry about it, and neither should you. What is important is that Cloud and Aerith are back in Midgar, and Cloud decides to take that in stride. Meanwhile, it is extremely possible that, at this point, Aerith has regained the “I know what happens next” memories of the future she possessed in Final Fantasy 7 Remake. It is stated plainly at the start of Rebirth that she has lost her comforting precognition abilities since the battle with the Whispers at Remake’s finale. It is also stated that the Whispers sucked out the juice from her Holy Materia at this point, too. This universe’s Holy Materia is still a dazzling white, so it is evident that the Whispers were not as effective here. And “Aerith knows what’s going to happen” certainly explains what happens next…

Cloud and Aerith go on a date. This is their town, they haven’t had a day off since Cloud started playing Queen’s Blood, and now it is time to get out there and enjoy the sights and sounds of the slum. Oh, wait. Did I mention that there is a giant scar in the sky, and everyone knows they are going to die? Well, that is happening. It is Meteor all over again, just a whole heck of a lot earlier in the timeline. And you know what the end of the world means, right? $avings! Everyone in Midgar is having a going out of business sale, so Cloud and Aerith can have a fun time picking up trinkets in the streets. Cloud picks out a gift for Aerith… but it is not for sale. They get a nice consolation bauble instead. Cloud picks out some candy for himself… but the owner offers a new kind of candy as an alternative, and the duo gets a taste of something sour. And then, when Cloud and Aerith compete in a cutest couple contest, they are damned to lose regardless of their preferred pose, because Cloud just cannot shake off the constant look of a man that just got back from Claudia’s funeral.

Seems like there were a lot of different ways that date could have gone, but it all ended up with the same results in the end.

I always call him WedgeSpeaking of choices, the audience gets to watch a Zack for all seasons. In one timeline, Zack ventures to Shinra HQ to seek out Hojo, but winds up facing a hail of bullets instead. In another timeline, Zack does his best to save Biggs from becoming a suicide bomber, but winds up in a hail of bullets instead. In a third path, Zack decides he would rather pick flowers, and winds up… Surprisingly not perforated at Aerith’s church. Mostly. And he just misses Aerith and Cloud going to the same location, where Aerith returns a working Holy Materia to Cloud, and sends him back to reality.

So Cloud is back on a planet where there isn’t an enormous scar in the sky, and Aerith has apparently survived (or never experienced) her fall. Like in OG Final Fantasy 7, she has run ahead to the City of the Ancients, and the party is left to play catchup. The gang pushes forward, and, in the end, only Cloud can find Aerith praying at the ancient altar. As he must, Sephiroth shows up…

And that’s when things get fuzzy.

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth starts with the infamous Nibelheim Flashback. It is an event from the original Final Fantasy 7 that is so well known and analyzed that it holds an official title. There are a number of ways this sequence could have been modified from its original version, but it is mostly played the same. Like everything in Rebirth, there is more to it here (and slightly less underwear fondling), but it is still the same event. Cloud Strife describes the events of Sephiroth’s fall from grace and the subsequent destruction of Cloud and Tifa’s hometown. And we all know the “secret” truth of this flashback: Cloud is not recounting his own memories, but those of his mentor, Zack, with a few legitimate Cloud memories sprinkled in. Tifa knows most of this story is bunk (as she was there for a healthy chunk of it), but she listens intently anyway, because she wants to learn Cloud’s deal as much as the rest of the party. Regardless, though, given Final Fantasy 7 Remake/Rebirth has very obviously been built for fans of the original Final Fantasy 7, it is assumed you, the audience, likely already know the twist. There is overt foreshadowing here and there (the anonymous trooper that will eventually be revealed to be Cloud being unconscious right outside his own home is a big one), but a veteran Final Fantasy 7 fan knows what is up from top to bottom.

Working together!And the in-universe reason “why” the Nibelheim Flashback is consistent is worth exploring. There is some science-magic involved here (Cloud distinctly knows everything Zack knew because they were tube buddies while Hojo experimented on them, which conveniently provides a plot excuse for why Cloud has firsthand knowledge of everything Zack did), but the main reason Cloud has sublimated his own personality and memories with an imagined version of Zack is simple: trauma. Cloud thought he was too weak to save Tifa, his mom, and his entire world from Sephiroth, so when he finally physically recovered from the incident, he mentally recovered by projecting himself as a person that would never let that happen. This is ludicrous for multiple reasons (Zack, strong SOLDIER or not, patently did not prevent this tragedy), but Cloud is a dumb teenager. He went into a mercy coma at 16, and popped out five years later, having only learned “Be Zack”. Given the tight timespan between Tifa finding confused, Zack-just-died Cloud and the bombing run that kicked off Final Fantasy 7, this may be the first Cloud has really thought about Nibelheim at all. Things are muddied, but the guy is still mentally a sophomore in high school. He has not come to grips with the indescribable trauma of losing his entire life.

And we may now return to the New Death of Aerith with a plain statement: you are watching Cloud’s Nibelheim Flashback in the present tense.

After our favorite duo got tossed into whatever hole was left by the Temple of Ancients, Sephiroth was blathering about alternate dimensions determined by the choices we have made. While in what appeared to be one of these dimensions, Cloud experienced a world that was wholly separate from his own. Given he eventually discovers he has the Holy Materia that was given to him by “that” Aerith, Cloud likely acknowledges this was some kind of reality, and not “just a dream” as Aerith comfortingly claimed. And, of course, we the audience have been watching the adventures of Alternate Zack since the game started, so we “know” there are alternate universes in Final Fantasy 7 land. We are primed and ready to believe that Final Fantasy 7 Remake Universe, a timeline separate but equal to Final Fantasy 7 OG Universe, might see an Aerith that survives this encounter with Sephiroth. When Cloud lifts his Buster Sword to block Sephiroth’s impromptu surgery on Aerith’s spine, it is thrilling! He did it! And, even though the world is bouncing back and forth between one where Aerith is talking and another where she is bleeding more than anyone ever has (you notice how every other death in Final Fantasy 7 Remake has only ever resulted in exactly as much blood as we needed to splatter on someone’s face?), we are allowed the release of believing we are going to get at least one dimension out of all this where Aerith lives. We did it, guys! We complained about something for twenty years, and that fixed it! Let’s collectively bitch about capitalism next!

But no. Aerith is dead. Deady dead dead.

Seems familiarAerith had tastes. Objectively, there was a gift Cloud could have picked for Aerith that was right, that would have made her quantifiably happier than if he had picked a wrong choice. And your Cloud may have chosen right, but it didn’t matter, because he was always going to be given the consolation gift anyway. Cloud has his own tastebuds, and you could have chosen a candy he liked more than another. But he was always going to be stuck with the sour candy offered last. Cloud and Aerith could never be the cutest couple in Midgar. It was always going to end the same way. No matter what Cloud or you wanted, Aerith was always going to die right here, right now. This is when and where it happens. Aerith had to die.

And you are welcome to believe that or not.

The final fight of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth might be the best usage of a multi-form final boss that has ever existed in the medium. It is a long fight. It is a grueling fight. Amid what could be a simple test of “do you know how the combat system works by now”, we have a series of battles that include…

  1. A typical starting boss fight
  2. A team-up with Zack and Cloud
  3. (Which includes a tutorial on how to use Zack and his totally unique abilities)
  4. A solo fight with Cloud scaling a giant Sephiroth
  5. A fight including everyone in AVALANCHE but Cloud and Aerith
  6. … Which includes individual segments where you fight with specific pairs of allies
  7. A fight against a summon monster
  8. A solo fight with just Zack and giant Sephiroth
  9. A fight with random AVALANCHE members and Sephiroth’s “wings”, which has a specific elemental weakness mechanic
  10. And, finally, a fight with “regular” Sephiroth that includes both Cloud and Aerith (who hasn’t been available since the previous chapter)

Go to townAnd, while you could argue this is as poorly paced as the final dungeon (which I maintain is effectively filler), there is a purpose here. You, the audience, are supposed to be confused by the end of all of it. You are supposed to have cycled through so many configurations, strategies, and surprises that you do not know what is coming next. If Sephiroth started deepthroating the Masamune, and transformed into a one-winged version of Ifrit (complete with furry, white pubes), it would be perfectly cromulent in that moment. Jenova, the malicious force that wants to destroy the world through imitation of familiar faces, is down with a little misdirection. By the time it is all over, you should be hyped on adrenaline, and so confused as to what is coming next, you can barely remember what just happened.

What just happened was Aerith died.

And Cloud is not going to admit that. Everybody else got it. Everybody else understands what happened. They are going to take time to grieve. But Cloud…

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth has a slavish dedication to the source material of Final Fantasy 7. There are winks, nods, and an expanded backstory for Abzu (if that name means nothing to you, don’t you dare look it up like you care). Every boss and monster from Final Fantasy 7 appears in its appropriate section in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, and even weirdos like Lost Number are granted positions of reverence. There are multiple times when characters dramatically pause just so the camera can perfectly frame a replication of key art. There is even such a moment during the very ending being discussed…

All over again

But there is one iconic moment that sees no mirror in Rebirth. Take it away, official strategy guide that spoiled this for me in 1997:


Cloud has no respite with the deceased Aerith. Cloud does nothing to acknowledge Aerith’s death. It was inevitable. It had to happen. And Cloud doesn’t like that. Cloud maxed out Aerith’s relationship meter and her folio sphere grid, and he is not going to let all that effort go to waste. He loved her, dammit. He is not taking this one sitting down. In a different timeline, this tragedy rallied Cloud against Sephiroth. But this time, in this dimension, Cloud is going to set up shop in some other world where she lived. Some part of him knows the price of this. Some part of him knows that this world is going to end.

Sorry, skies
Sorry, guys

But it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters, because she is dead. I mean not dead. She’s not dead. She is still with us, she is still fighting Sephiroth, just like us. We are just going in different directions. She will stay there, and we will move on. We’ll be together some day. Alive. Together. Reunited. Yeah, it’s going to be some great reunion.

I get it. You guys took a vote, and you all agree that Aerith died. But I do not believe that. I am going to continue with you, but I’ll be in my own little world where that didn’t happen. Probably shouldn’t look up. I’ll be with you, but separate. I know she’s fine, and I won’t listen to any objections to that. If you tell me she’s dead… Well, I’ll just have to deny it.

I’m sorry, but that is it for this discussion. The end.

SBC #32.3 Cloud Strife & Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

Cloud Strife in Super Smash Bros Ultimate

The expert swordsman

  • He any Good? Cloud forgot to slot Materia into his Buster Sword, and it shows. For being the first Final Fantasy character in Smash Bros, our third favorite merc has a surprisingly limited moveset, and feels weirdly slow. Cloud is technically a very good character in overall rankings (he has great movement options!), but I expected more of the guy that has been metaphorically fighting Link since 1997.
  • That final smash work? Omnislash certainly does the job, but the most important limit break in the whole of the Final Fantasy series is curiously boring. Probably just a side effect of being a Smash 4 DLC character, and not an “event” like the Smash Ultimate DLC characters.
  • The background work? Midgar is easily the best thing Smash got out of Square Enix (you heard me, Sora). It is a cool looking stage from the start, and then the collection of summon creatures that are available are basically a set of assist trophies all by themselves. And the stage layout can change, too! If someone threw in some more Final Fantasy tunes (there are more games than FF7!) this could have been the best stage in the whole game.
  • Classic Mode: A Ride? Not Interested. Cloud fights on a series of moving “vehicle” stages, either referencing the famous “there is no getting off this train we’re on” quote, or how “real” Cloud has issues with motion sickness. I really hope it isn’t the motion sickness factor. That would be mean. The penultimate fight against Star Wolf is either supposed to represent the white/gray-haired Sephiroth, or that one time Cloud flew into space. Dude has had an interesting life. The final battle includes your typical giant hands.
  • Smash Trivia: Cloud’s Final Smash was updated to be “Version 5” when Sephiroth joined the cast. This only impacts Cloud when he is in his Advent Children costume, though. This means there was an Advent Children-based change to a videogame in The Year of Our Lord 2020. That should be illegal.
  • The expert swordsmans

  • Amiibo Corner: Two Clouds to ruin your picnic! It is vaguely amazing that Advent Children Cloud is immortalized as an Amiibo before we get something that is distinctly Remake-based, but whaddya gonna do? What is important is that the Buster Sword is excellent and featured, and Cloud’s SOLDIER duds are properly represented. Come to think of it, I never really thought about how being a sleeveless warrior might lead to issues…
  • Does Smash Bros Remember Today’s Game? I was half expecting those Smash Bros. remixes to squeeze themselves in here somewhere, but looks like those are stuck in other games. If we ever see Cloud Strife in a Smash Bros. game again, I hope he winds up with a moveset that feels closer to his action hero self in the Remake trilogy.

Cloud Strife in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

  • THIS IS A CALLBACKSystem: Really impressed how much of the Playstation 5 RAM can be dedicated to processing grief.
  • Number of players: One less party member by the end of the game.
  • Don’t do that again: Final Fantasy, we do not need to fight a malevolent version of Bahamut during the finale anymore. It was neat in Final Fantasy 8 when Tiamat stalked the castle, it was still acceptable when Caius tried it in Final Fantasy 13-2, but the whole thing is getting a little old in the tooth now. How about another summon to threaten the party? Have you considered Shiva? Or a summon the party doesn’t even get to use? Final Fantasy 6’s Maduin showing up side-by-side with Sephiroth would be delightfully confusing.
  • My other big complaint: Could AVALANCHE unequivocally win, like, one boss fight? I deplete the HP of every big bad through careful strategizing and potion consumption, and it always ends with the opponent in question shaking it off, and walking away like nothing happened. I get that this is part two of three, and everybody important must stick around through the finale, but this even happens when you are fighting anonymous robots and alike. Must we always have some grand finale where it looks like the critter is rallying, and you need a faux-limit break to end the proceedings? It is pointless! I already finished the fight with a limit break! Because I cannot remember if this is one of those RPGs where you get a reward for overkilling an opponent!
  • New Game Plus: I have endless appreciation for the New Game Plus mode that allows you to replay any chapter, and hop around the timeline effortlessly. It is what I always wanted. I am less enthused about how it presents a sort of “accomplishment map” for the relationship system within the game. Something about seeing how the sausage is made behind why Tifa likes you seems… wrong? Like I am grinding down organic relationships to their component parts? Or maybe I am just upset Aerith doesn’t like me more because I was an ineffective member of the Shinra color guard? One way or another, it is disconcerting.
  • This was just funDid you know? Sad but true: Aerith did not live to see Palmer get hit by a car.
  • Would I play again: I always said I would play Remake again before Rebirth was released… but I did not get around to it. Boo. So I want to say I will play Rebirth again before The Final Omnislash… but I might be in denial.

What’s next? I wanna fight! With balloons! Please look forward to it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.