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7 Biggest Story Changes in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth

Warning: this article contains full spoilers for both Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth and the original Final Fantasy 7.

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth continues the work of its predecessor, which means it not only recreates the original 1997 classic with modern graphics and gameplay, but it also makes substantial changes to the story. Interestingly, Rebirth isn’t quite as radical as Final Fantasy 7 Remake was, and for much of its runtime is a mostly faithful adaptation of what you remember. But the closer you get to the end, the bigger the rewrites become. Ahead lies the seven biggest changes, which naturally means huge spoilers for Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth and the original game. Read on at your own risk!

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The Gi Created the Black Materia

In the original Final Fantasy 7, the Black Materia is a mysterious, ancient magical orb that’s capable of summoning meteor, a space-faring rock that can destroy planets. Very little is known of its origin, but its destructive powers are revealed in a mural when the party visits the Temple of the Ancients.

Rebirth partly reimagines the Black Materia, giving it a full origin story. It was created by the Gi, the undead tribe that haunts the tunnels beneath Cosmo Canyon. In a brand new sequence for Rebirth, the leader of the tribe, Gi Nattak, takes you to his village, where it is revealed that the Gi have been living in a restless purgatory for centuries.

In the world of Final Fantasy 7, your spirit is created by the Lifestream and returns to it when you die. Unfortunately for them, the Gi are not born of the Lifestream. It's never explained where they originally came from, but their outsider status means they cannot return to the Lifestream and thus are trapped as ghosts for eternity. In an effort to release them from their curse, the Gi developed a materia that turned black “with pain and spite”. They planned to use it to summon a meteor that would obliterate both themselves and the planet that held them ‘hostage’. In short: absolute nothingness is better than a tortured eternity of undeath.

Before the Gi could use the Black Materia, Aerith’s ancestors – the Cetra – stole it and locked it away in the Temple of the Ancients. Gi Nattak asks Cloud and his friends to retrieve the Black Materia for him, and while they agree to his request, they only do so in the aim of keeping it away from both the Gi and Sephiroth.

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Character Introductions Have Completely Changed

Rebirth introduces four new characters to the party: Yuffie, Cait Sith, Cid Highwind, and Vincent Valentine. If you’ve played the original, only Cait Sith will be introduced in the same way you remember.

This time around, Yuffie is not randomly found wandering the world’s forest. Instead, she washes up on the beach at Junon Harbour, with her early moments replacing the CPR scenes with Pricilla from the original game. Yuffie made her way to Junon with the aim of assassinating Rufus Shinra, and her attempt to do so happens as part of Rufus’ military parade.

Cid is also met in an entirely different part of the world. In the original game he’s recruited from his home in Rocket Town, where a disagreement with Shinra turns into an explosive escape. But in Rebirth the party never goes to Rocket Town. Instead, Cid is depicted as a pilot-for-hire. Summoned by sending up a smoke signal at Gongaga airfield, Cid’s initial role is as a fast-travel system, flying you from location to location in the Tiny Bronco. Later, he pledges himself to the party after revealing that he once met Aerith’s biological mother, Ifalna. Upset to learn that she died, Cid agrees to help Aerith in any way she needs.

Finally we have Vincent, who does still remain locked in the Shinra Mansion basement, but is this time met when the party seeks out a computer terminal that will reveal the location of the Temple of the Ancients. Vincent agrees to help, but when the group stumbles across Professor Hojo’s old Reunion lab equipment, he forcibly steps in to stop them. And by forcibly, I mean he transforms into Galian Beast, the werewolf-like monster that was his Limit Break in the original game. After being defeated, Vincent is convinced to tag along with the party because of his past association with Sephiroth and Shinra.

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Cloud Tries To Kill Tifa at Gongaga Reactor

Throughout the game, visions of Sephiroth try to convince Cloud that Tifa is an imposter. This all comes to a head at Gongaga Reactor where a tormented Cloud lashes out at Tifa, believing that she is a manifestation of Jenova. He tries to kill her, but Tifa manages to dodge backwards and escape the reach of his sword.

While Tifa survives Cloud’s attempt on her life, she instead falls into the reactor’s lake of liquid mako. She’s then swallowed whole by a Weapon, one of the whale-like protectors of the planet. Trapped inside the Weapon’s huge materia-like belly, she watches as it swims through the Lifestream. On the journey she experiences visions from the past, including memories of her childhood conversation with Cloud when she made him promise to save her. This is all very similar to a sequence from the original game, but it took place much later when Cloud was recovering in Mideel. The sequence ends with Tifa watching a vision of Sephiroth guiding Cloud away from her, foreshadowing the villain’s grip over her friend.

The Weapon eventually resurfaces at Gongaga Reactor and, surrounded by Whispers, releases Tifa. The suggestion is that, much like when Barret was ‘killed’ and resurrected by Whispers in Final Fantasy 7 Remake, it’s not Tifa’s time to go yet.

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Aerith (and Red XIII) Knew Her Fate

In the original Final Fantasy 7, Aerith had no idea of the death that awaited her at the Forgotten Capital. But in Final Fantasy 7 Remake, it was suggested that Aerith was able to see the future. Rebirth reinforces this, and reveals that Red XIII also had the ability to see the future, too (provided you take him on a date at the Gold Saucer.) However, since leaving Midgar, both Red XIII and Aerith have lost their ability to see what’s ahead.

But how could Aerith and Red XIII see the future, and why can’t they now? The answer seems to be Aerith’s White Materia. In the original game this special orb was used to summon Holy, a protective magic that can defend the entire planet. In Rebirth, Red XIII explains that materia is formed of knowledge and memories, and so it seems that the White Materia is the vessel for Aerith’s visions of the future. Red XIII was presumably able to tap into those visions, perhaps as a result of his time spent at the spiritual retreat of Cosmo Canyon. The problem is that by the events of Rebirth the White Materia is no longer white – it’s colourless and ‘empty’. The memories are gone, as thus so is its power to call Holy.

Those memories were taken by the Whispers. Last year,
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that each time the Whispers touched Aerith in Remake, they stole away another memory. By the time the Whisper Harbinger had been defeated, every one of her future memories had been taken away, leaving her none the wiser of her fate.

In Rebirth’s final chapter, Cloud is taken to a new reality where he meets an alternate version of Aerith who has her own working White Materia. She tells him “Whatever happens, don’t blame yourself,” clearly demonstrating that this Aerith also knows of her fate thanks to her materia. She gives her orb to Cloud and sends him back to his reality, allowing him to reunite his Aerith with a working White Materia, those future memories, and the power to call Holy.

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Sephiroth Wants the Multiverse, Not Just the Lifestream

Sephiroth’s plan in the original game was to ascend to godhood via absorbing the Lifestream. While he still seems pretty set on that ascension in the remake trilogy, Rebirth reveals that his master plan also involves conquering the multiverse via something called Reunion.

Reunion is not a new thing for Final Fantasy 7 fans, but in the original game it referred to the reunion of Jenova’s cells. In Rebirth, it refers to Sephiroth orchestrating the convergence of many different worlds or realities. He calls this a ‘homecoming’, and when it begins he says their joining is a “confluence of worlds and emotions.” It seems, then, that the mass collection of both realities and the emotions of those who live within them is important to Sephiroth’s overall plan. And since he still wants the Black Materia, it seems pretty obvious that mass destruction of not just one world but many is on his bucket list…

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Zack and Aerith Are Still Alive, Sorta

In the original Final Fantasy 7, Aerith was killed by Sephiroth at the Forgotten Capital. However, the final cutscene implied that her spirit lived on in the Lifestream, and that she was able to protect the planet from meteor from there. This idea has been kept for Rebirth, but it is presented in a very different way. Aerith still dies by Sephiroth’s sword, but her spiritual form lives on and can directly communicate with Cloud – although sadly the rest of the party are unaware of her presence. In the final cutscene, Aerith promises Cloud that she will stop the meteor – a clear nod to the original game’s finale.

While Aerith’s fate is only somewhat different to the original game’s version, what we see of Zack is very different. He outright died in the original, of course, but the creation of multiple realities in the remake trilogy means that Zack lives on in different worlds of the multiverse. We actually see multiple different versions of Zack across Rebirth in worlds separate from the ‘main’ reality our heroes live in. At the very end of the game, though, the Zack that fights in the final battle ponders on something Sephiroth told him: that worlds unite and part. He wonders if that means that worlds can reunite a second time. The implication – or at least the hope – is that Zack’s reality will unite with a world where he can live happily with alternate versions of Aerith and Cloud, as the ones in his reality appear to be terminally sick.

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Glenn Lodbrok and the Shinra vs. Wutai War

The original Final Fantasy 7 briefly established that Yuffie’s home of Wutai was once at war with Shinra. The remake trilogy has expanded on that, and it becomes a notable secondary plotpoint in Rebirth. There’s currently a cease-fire agreement between Wutai and Shinra, but Glenn Lodbrok – a former SOLDIER who defected to Wutai – is attempting to stoke the fires of war again and destroy both Shinra and Midgar. In a public address he claims that Shinra has massacred Wutai soldiers – a situation he almost certainly engineered to increase tensions – and also falsely blames the emergence of the Weapons on the company.

In the finale, it is revealed that Glenn is actually a puppet of Sephiroth, and that the attempts to reignite the Shinra vs. Wutai war is a ploy to distract Rufus. Sephiroth does not speak plainly about why he’s doing this, but he does say “our promised land will become a reality”. Based on this, it’s logical to assume that he’s trying to divert Rufus’ attention away from his goal of discovering the Promised Land. In the original Final Fantasy 7, Sephiroth sought the Promised Land as it was a place where he could absorb the mass amounts of Mako energy required to use the Black Materia and cast Meteor. Meanwhile, the late President Shinra hoped to find it and use its energy to build Neo Midgar. We know Rebirth’s version of Rufus still hopes to complete his father’s work, and it makes sense that this version of Sephiroth still requires the energy. Thus, if Rufus is distracted by a war with Wutai, then Sephiroth can more easily beat him in the race to the Promised Land.

Matt Purslow is IGN's UK News and Features Editor.

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