The hostility between Cloud and Sephiroth in Final Fantasy 7 is one of the most iconic rivalries in the game. However, even die-hard fans may have trouble unraveling the origins of their legendary feud. Cloud is an unreliable narrator in FF7, and the truth is not revealed until the end of the game. While the pivotal events that set off the pair’s defiance remain unchanged – Sephiroth destroys Nibelheim, Cloud’s hometown, mortally wounding a childhood friend, and Cloud fights back – history and Cloud’s reality depict changes in the feud between the two characters.
Initially, Cloud identifies himself as a former member of Shinra’s elite unit, SOLDIER. He joins Avalanche as a mercenary fighting alongside Tifa, who had recognized him since childhood. When Cloud first describes the devastation of Nibelheim, FF7 depicts Cloud as a feisty young soldier serving under Sephiroth –the show’s most prominent member. Cloud says he joined the army because he wanted to be like Sephiroth and claims they have become friends; however, Tifa still seems to have doubts.
Cloud and Sephiroth are sent to Nibelheim when the Mako reactor malfunctions, spawning dangerous monsters. Tifa is their local guide escorting Sephiroth and the rest of Shinra force. The discovery of the reactor causes Sephiroth to question his origins and seek answers. Revelations about his existence lead him to slaughter most of Nibelheim’s inhabitants and burn down the entire town. He returns to retrieve Jenova’s head, his biological mother’s head; however, before doing so, he pierces Tifa before fighting Cloud for the first time.
Why does Sephiroth remind Cloud of his defeat in Final Fantasy VII
In FF7, Sephiroth’s origins are later explained in more detail, revealing that Jenova is a destructive alien entity and not a member of the Cetra race, as Sephiroth originally believed. The game also clarifies Cloud’s past. He was trapped in his own head as a vegetable while Tifa took care of him by his side. Tifa enters Cloud’s consciousness when an earthquake throws them both into the stream of life. Together they overcome the obstacles of self-deception and trauma clouding his memories.
Tifa is skeptical of Cloud’s earlier account of the events in Nibelheim because it contains half-truths. Most of these facts are accurate, but she doesn’t remember Cloud being there. Instead, a soldier named Zack accompanied Sephiroth. False memories aside, it is known that Cloud was present as one of the masked support troops accompanying Zack and Sephiroth to Nibelheim.
He joined Shinra hoping to become a soldier but failed to advance and was instead assigned as a regular Shinra infantryman. Cloud was so embarrassed that he failed Project Soldier that he put on a mask and didn’t appear in front of Tifa. When Sephiroth went mad and injured Tifa, Zack tried to fight him but failed. Cloud then takes Zack’s sword and stabs Sephiroth in the back before throwing him inside the reactor.
Why is Cloud’s first battle with Sephiroth so important
Cloud’s shame and pain led him to identify himself as Zack, a successful soldier betrayed by his idol. During the Lifestream sequence, Cloud reveals that he served Shinra to impress Tifa. Though he loved Tifa from afar in his youth, they were not close. One of the few moments they shared was when Cloud confided in her under the stars, expressing his desire to become a soldier. Cloud left Nibelheim with the aim of becoming one of Shinra’s elites to gain Tifa’s approval, not because he admired Sephiroth. By reimagining his origins as Zack, Cloud has forgotten what truly motivated him in the first place.
The later stages of Final Fantasy VII show that Cloud despises Sephiroth because he reminds him of his own failures and weaknesses that nearly led to Tifa’s death – it was Tifa who inspired him to join SOLDIER from the beginning. To Sephiroth, Cloud is just another unknown foot soldier who stood up against him as he attempted to claim Jenova’s power inheritance. For Sephiroth, Cloud is a constant reminder that even seemingly insignificant people can go through great hardships to protect those they love.