Return my mother... Tifa... and my village! I respected you... and admired you, but... You bastard!!Cloud Strife to Sephiroth
The Nibelheim Incident, also referred to as the Sephiroth incident and the Nibelheim Case, is a pivotal event in the Final Fantasy VII series where Sephiroth, acclaimed hero of SOLDIER, descends into madness and destroys the village of Nibelheim. The town's destruction marks the beginning of Sephiroth's villainy after he learns of his "true" origins. The incident is frequently depicted in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, and has been subject to numerous retcons, although the basic chain of events has remained the same. It has become Sephiroth's iconic scene, and is the reason that in numerous promotional materials he is depicted surrounded by flames.
The incident takes place between September 22nd and October 1st, 0002 of the Final Fantasy VII timeline.
The Nibelheim Incident is first told to the party by Cloud when the group stops at Kalm. Cloud tells that after leaving his hometown of Nibelheim he joined SOLDIER and became 1st Class, and befriended Sephiroth despite him rarely talking about himself, and that they came to trust one another. They helped Shinra put down any resistance after the Wutai War and afterward were dispatched to Nibelheim with two guards to investigate a Mako Reactor on Mt. Nibel, where monsters had been reported appearing.
During the ride Cloud was excited (to the annoyance of Sephiroth) at the prospect of seeing some action, as he had joined SOLDIER too late for the Wutai War, and wanted to prove himself. The truck ran into a dragon (implied to be one of the monsters created by the Nibel Reactor), and Cloud and Sephiroth stepped out to face it, with Cloud stating he did nothing as he was mesmerized by the way Sephiroth fought. Cloud explains to his listeners Sephiroth's power surpassed any other person he has met, and is beyond any story they may have heard about him.
The group arrived in Nibelheim and Sephiroth asked Cloud how it felt returning to his hometown, curious as he had no hometown of his own. Sephiroth revealed his mother's name was Jenova, but said nothing about his father. Sephiroth, Cloud and the two infantrymen who accompanied them stayed the night at the inn even if Sephiroth asked whether Cloud wanted to stay with his family. Cloud visited his mother, but could only remember bits and pieces of their conversation. He also visited Tifa's house, but found it empty. Tifa's father was unreceptive of Cloud due to him joining SOLDIER, and he learned from instructor Zangan that Tifa had become a talented martial artist under his tutelage.
Next day, Sephiroth hired Tifa to guide them up the mountain and they set off after a fan took a photo of him, Tifa and Cloud together. During the expedition a rope bridge snapped, and one of the guards was lost in the fall. After passing through several mysteriously colored caves they came into a Mako Fountain and Sephiroth revealed what he knew about Materia and magic.
At the reactor Sephiroth and Cloud entered alone and discovered a series of tanks with makonoids—vaguely humanoid monsters that were once people—submerged in Mako. At the top of the chamber was a sealed door with the plaque "Jenova". When Cloud wondered if the makonoids were being made in a manner similar to the process of empowering SOLDIER members, Sephiroth questioned if the disconnection he had always felt from others meant he was created this way as well.
After they returned to town Sephiroth retreated to the abandoned Shinra Mansion where Shinra Electric Power Company scientists once worked. When Cloud had come looking for him, he found Sephiroth in a secret basement full of books and journals on Jenova, whom the Shinra scientists Professor Gast and Professor Hojo had discovered in the North Crater and believed to be a Cetra, a member of an extinct species of humans thought to have supernatural powers. Their research had led to the Jenova Project, and Sephiroth spent three sleepless days perusing the research notes, wondering why he was never told the truth. When Cloud asked if he was alright, he told Cloud to leave. The next time Cloud checked on Sephiroth he discovered Sephiroth has gone insane.
Sephiroth had come to believe Jenova is a Cetra from the time their civilization was abandoned to die by normal humans during an ancient catastrophe. Sephiroth believed he was Jenova's son, artificially produced from her cells, and therefore the last Cetra. He set off to meet his "mother" with Cloud in pursuit but Cloud was too late to stop Sephiroth from setting the village ablaze and slaughter many citizens. As Cloud and Zangan searched for survivors, Sephiroth headed off to Mt. Nibel.
Cloud pursued Sephiroth to the reactor and found Tifa outside the inner chambers, standing over her father's body with Sephiroth's Masamune stuck in his corpse. Tifa, full of anger and hatred, grabbed the katana while proclaiming her hatred towards Shinra and Sephiroth. She ran after Sephiroth trying to stab him, but he disarmed her and knocked her down the stairs before entering Jenova's chamber. Cloud carried the severely wounded Tifa aside and followed Sephiroth, witnessing him tear off a mechanical effigy of Jenova from its setting, revealing Jenova herself suspended in animation in a tank. Fueled by grief over the loss of his home, friends and family, the enraged Cloud confronted the remorseless Sephiroth who proclaimed Cloud didn't need to be sad as his mission was to take back the Planet for the Cetra. With Cloud seeing Sephiroth is no longer the man he looked up to, he raised his Buster Sword in preparation for the incoming battle, but cannot remember anything beyond this moment. Cloud doubts the news of Sephiroth being dead because Shinra controls the media, and also because he knows he did not have the skill to kill him, wondering why Sephiroth spared his life.
After the party tracks Sephiroth down at the Whirlwind Maze, he projects an illusion of the Nibelheim Incident, showing a black-haired SOLDIER in Cloud's place, telling Cloud he was never at the scene. Sephiroth tells Cloud his memories are a lie for he is nothing but a Sephiroth Clone. Sephiroth shows Cloud a picture taken of the three by a villager, showing the black-haired SOLDIER in Cloud's place, holding the Buster Sword. Cloud refuses to accept these visions, until Sephiroth notes Tifa's hesitation.
Tifa admits Sephiroth's words are true, and that Cloud was never at the town, although she refuses to believe Cloud is not the true Cloud she knows from her childhood. Cloud suffers a mental breakdown and comes to believe he is just another drone to Sephiroth made in memory of a kid called Cloud Tifa used to know. Cloud hands the Black Materia to Sephiroth who uses it to call Meteor. The Weapons rouse and the party flees without Cloud who falls into the Lifestream, but surfaces at Mideel where Tifa and the others find him at a hospital suffering from Mako Poisoning. Tifa volunteers to stay with Cloud while the party leaves to deal with the Weapons and Shinra's new mission of collecting Huge Materia. An earthquake destroys Mideel and Cloud and Tifa fall into the Lifestream and into Cloud's Subconscious.
Tifa is convinced Sephiroth was lying about Cloud being made after her memories of a kid called Cloud she knew from her childhood, and attempts to repair the damage caused by Cloud's mental complexes, leading into a retelling of the Nibelheim Incident. The incident as remembered by Tifa involves the black-haired SOLDIER, Zack, in Cloud's place, but otherwise proceeds as Cloud told it until Tifa was attacked by Sephiroth and knocked unconscious.
Cloud's true memories surface and he reveals he was at the town when it was destroyed—he was a Shinra guard who accompanied Zack and Sephiroth, and was the lone guard to survive the climb up Mt. Nibel. As he had pledged to join SOLDIER upon leaving town, Cloud had concealed his face by his helmet and asked Zack not to mention him by name, ashamed to face the town with his failure. With Cloud's true memories restored, he tells Tifa what happened from his perspective.
Zack and Sephiroth, accompanied by Cloud and another guard, arrived at the town and visited the reactor. Sephiroth returned to read the research notes in the library as Cloud originally remembered. After Sephiroth razed the town, Cloud regained consciousness to see Zack chase Sephiroth up the mountain. At the reactor Zack tended to Tifa before he confronted Sephiroth in Jenova's chamber, but was quickly send flying in defeat. Cloud arrived and picked up Zack's Buster Sword, attacked Sephiroth off his guard, and stabbed him through his lower back.
Sephiroth was greatly weakened, and Cloud returned to move Tifa's unconscious body aside. Sephiroth stumbled from Jenova's chamber carrying her severed head, and Cloud followed him to the reactor entrance, a catwalk over a pool of Mako. Cloud attacked Sephiroth again, but Sephiroth impaled Cloud on the Masamune. Cloud summoned unknown strength and used the sword as a lever, hurling Sephiroth into the Mako pit where he was consumed by the Lifestream.
Weakened by the confrontation, Zack, Tifa and Cloud laid unconscious within the reactor. Zangan found the three and took Tifa away, but Shinra had already arrived when he attempted to return for Cloud and Zack. Professor Hojo learned of Sephiroth's deeds and put his "Jenova Reunion Theory" into action, injecting the town survivors, including Zack and Cloud, with Sephiroth's cells, and bathing them in Mako, turning them into Sephiroth Clones. The town was rebuilt to cover up the incident with Shinra employees hired to play the part of the townspeople. Shinra sealed Sephiroth's records and he was declared missing in action, but many assume him dead. After resurfacing five years later, Sephiroth uses the backdrop of the incident to manipulate Cloud into doubting his identity.
The Nibelheim Incident is mentioned when Cloud is confronted by an illusion of Sephiroth after blowing up the Sector 1 mako reactor. Sephiroth warps the surroundings to make it look like the burning Nibelheim. Unlike in the original, Cloud believes he had killed Sephiroth with his own hands, and also remembers himself on the ground unable to do anything while his family's house burned. Sephiroth does not refute Cloud's claims, even calling Cloud's supposed defeat of him was a "crowning moment" to their time together. Sephiroth mocks that Nibelheim burned so bright and says Cloud's mother had begged him to spare Cloud before he had killed her, not by the fire, but by his blade.
Cloud also remembers Tifa crying over her father's corpse and Sephiroth proclaiming himself as an Ancient in later recollections.
Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- retells the Nibelheim Incident through Zack Fair's eyes. The journey to the reactor with Tifa, Cloud, Zack and Sephiroth is the same as the true events told in Final Fantasy VII, until Zack and Sephiroth arrive at the door to Jenova's chamber and Genesis Rhapsodos appears. Genesis goads Sephiroth into a breakdown by telling him the Jenova Project had two branches, G and S, and that Angeal Hewley and Sephiroth are the two "monsters" created by the project. Genesis wants Sephiroth's help in curing his degradation as Sephiroth is immune to the effect, but Sephiroth rejects the offer. In Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Genesis's revelations directly inspire Sephiroth to read up on the Jenova Project to discover whether he was told the truth.
In Final Fantasy VII Cloud said Sephiroth spent three days reading in the library, but in Crisis Core (and subsequent creation materials), it is said he spent a week. When tapping on Sephiroth's Digital Mind Wave (DMW), Zack is shown conversing with Sephiroth regarding his belief of being an Ancient created artificially from Jenova's cells. This appears to have happened before Sephiroth left the manor and Zack pursued him, but was too slow to prevent Sephiroth from destroying the town. Cloud also emails Zack (despite being knocked out in Final Fantasy VII), saying that Sephiroth set the village on fire and that Tifa and her father have gone after him.
At the reactor, Zack not only tends to Tifa, but is rejected by her; she declares she hates him as a SOLDIER. Zack cuts down the Jenova door instead of it already being open. While Zack was quickly defeated and ejected from Jenova's chamber in Final Fantasy VII, in Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Sephiroth first knocks him to a lower platform where the two have an extended duel before Zack is tossed out of the chamber. Cloud and Sephiroth do not exchange words when Cloud stabs him. Cloud's impalement and Sephiroth's plunge into the Lifestream occur in Jenova's chamber instead of the reactor entrance. Cloud uses the Buster Sword against Sephiroth rather than trying to attack him head on unarmed, but is flung back into Jenova's chamber, disarmed of the Buster Sword, and stabbed in the abdomen, resulting in Cloud using his unbridled rage to defeat Sephiroth.
While the incident remains hidden to the general public due to the cover-up, a reporter wrote an article—which Zack receives via email in Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-—regarding an unknown incident at the location, and also reported the sudden lack of the local spoken accent among the town's inhabitants, which was previously native to the village and region.
When taking on a simulation of Sephiroth created by Hojo, Experiment No 106 and 107, Hojo mentions the incident twice: he laments he did not arrive soon enough to record the data of the duel between Zack and Sephiroth, but concluded that Sephiroth used a significant amount of his strength to defeat Zack, even though he cannot say for sure if Sephiroth was really going all-out.
Episodes 12 to 13 are a retelling of the Nibelheim Incident from the point of view of the Player Turk who is sent to Nibelheim to investigate a problem at the reactor. Called in due to reports of the staff manning the Nibel Reactor disappearing, Tseng pilots the Player Turk to the mountains where they were supposed to parachute to the reactor, but a rogue wind sends them off course. Forced to traverse the mountainside to reach the reactor, the Player Turk comes across Tifa chasing after her cat.
Following the discovery of multiple dragons massing around the reactor, the Player Turk is ordered to fall back to Nibelheim to await further instructions. Taking Tifa with her/him, the ropeway back to town is destroyed by a dragon, forcing the pair to traverse the rest of the way on foot. When Sephiroth and his company are sent in to deal with the monsters, the Player Turk recruits Tifa to guide them up the mountain as the ropeway was destroyed.
Following the investigation party's return, Sephiroth locks himself away for several days until emerging and massacring the town. The Player Turk pursues Sephiroth to the reactor, clearing the path along the way for the incoming Shinra forces. After confronting Sephiroth, the Player Turk is knocked unconscious, coming to when Cloud arrives. As Cloud pursues Sephiroth deeper into the reactor, the Player Turk looks over Tifa until Zangan arrives to take her away. He/she witnesses Cloud's stand and Sephiroth jumping into the Mako pit and informs Tseng of the events.
When the Shinra clean-up crew arrives the Player Turk is instructed to help look for survivors, but upon reaching the town he/she is given new orders by Tseng to enter and check on the laboratory equipment in the basement of the Nibelheim Mansion for Professor Hojo. Entering the mansion, the Player Turk is ordered to liquidate certain documents, after which ghosts and monsters start appearing.
Clearing the mansion of monsters, the Player Turk finds the documents and attempts to read them only to become confused. Veld arrives and leads the way into the laboratory where they are trapped in an illusion of the Player Turk's first encounter with Avalanche in Sector 8 during their first day on the job, conjured by Lost Number. When that proves ineffective, Lost Number changes the illusion to that of Kalm's destruction where Veld's wife and daughter were thought to have been killed and Veld was responsible for the incident's coverup. Lost Number paralyzes Veld with guilt, but is defeated by the Player Turk and his illusion vanishes, freeing Veld. As the Nibelheim survivors are gathered up they are to be shipped to Hojo's laboratory. The Turks are indecisive over the morality of it and are allowed to leave while Veld handles the operation.
The OVA retells the Nibelheim Incident after Sephiroth's attack on the town in flashbacks as Zack Fair and Cloud Strife flee Shinra's military. The OVA was released as a bonus feature with the film Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, but was not dubbed in English for its western release, only subtitled.
The incident's depiction takes many liberties with the story; various characters interact in different places and new scenes are present; for example, Cloud and Zack arrive at the town during its destruction, and Cloud volunteers to find survivors while Zack follows Sephiroth and Tifa, and Tifa finds and mourns her father outside the reactor instead of inside, and regains consciousness and speaks to both Zack and Cloud at the reactor, with Zack actually responding to Tifa's proclamation of hatred, stating he won't ask her to forgive him but at least allow him to stop Sephiroth. Similar to Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-, Zack and Sephiroth have a longer battle than originally shown, but it takes place inside Jenova's chamber instead of beneath it. Cloud gets impaled by Sephiroth twice instead of once. As Sephiroth props Cloud up with the Masamune impaled in his body, he holds him over a ledge and Cloud has to pull himself forward. Cloud professes he will never forgive Sephiroth, who notes Cloud's eyes glowing green in confusion. Instead of being thrown into the Mako pool, Sephiroth leaps into it willingly. He does not take the Masamune with him as it is still within the impaled Cloud.
The Nibelheim Incident, and especially Sephiroth's involvement in it, is shown during a flashback where Lucrecia Crescent is pregnant with Sephiroth, and has a vision of what her baby would ultimately become.
Final Fantasy VIIEdit
During Cloud's telling of the incident from his perspective in Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth is a temporary party member. He cannot take damage, acts of his own accord in battle, and his equipment cannot be removed. The player thus can't get a Game Over in the flashback sequences, as Sephiroth will be able to win every battle even if Cloud will fall.
The incident is playable from Zack's perspective, and includes boss battles against Sephiroth.
Behind the scenesEdit
According to the Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Omega, during the development of Final Fantasy VII, there were plans to have a non-player character in Nibelheim tell a fabricated version of the incident so as to explain the event to the general public. According to an NPC in the town, Shinra built the Mako Reactor at Mt. Nibel twenty-five years before the start of the game, and five years ago the townspeople ran Shinra out of town and took control of the reactor for themselves. President Shinra dispatched Sephiroth to the town to put down the uprising, and according to official records, he was killed. There would have been an option, however, to tell the NPC the events are not true, although he would not have listened. Another cutscene involved Tifa telling Aeris the true events of the town's destruction, and Aeris agreeing to help Tifa keep them secret from Cloud.
While Nibelheim's destruction was revised for Last Order -Final Fantasy VII-, the staff of Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- decided not to follow in the same lines. Producer of Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-, Hideki Imaizumi, said this regarding the decision: "When we made that feature, we changed the presentation of that event from the original Final Fantasy VII. And the fan response was—well, there was considerable negative feedback in regard to changing a part of the story that they considered integral to the whole lore. So we listened to that and learned from that. And in fact the Nibelheim incident is presented again in Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-, and we were careful not to make the same decisions that we did in Last Order -Final Fantasy VII-."
Unused text for a different truck flashback exists in the Final Fantasy VII game data as dummied content. It is part of the story Cloud relays to his friends in the Kalm inn, and in it, Sephiroth's personality is more emphatic than in the final game. In the unused scene, Sephiroth worries over the Shinra infantryman's motion sickness, and advises him to look out the window to distract himself. Cloud asks how Materia is made, and Sephiroth explains it is usually made by the Planet in a process that takes a long time, but that lately Materia has been produced by Shinra. Cloud would marvel at how great their company is, which Sephiroth would not appear to agree on, and ask if Cloud has ever thought about quitting.
When the truck encounters a monster there is an unused piece of dialogue where Sephiroth notes the driver is dead. The script is not explicit on whether the driver died from the collision with the dragon, or if the monster killed him directly. This event may explain a possible continuity error in the final game, as three infantrymen are seen in the truck, but only two arrive at the Nibelheim gates. Interestingly, Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- repeats this with three infantrymen assembling in the Shinra Headquarters (Cloud included), but at the arrival in Nibelheim only Cloud and another infantryman are seen.
The context of Cloud revealing his birthplace is different in the unused scene at the truck. In the unused scene the revelation comes when Cloud takes the lead after the driver's death and Sephiroth asks if he knows where they are going. In the final game Cloud says he is from Nibelheim when Sephiroth mentions the location of the malfunctioning reactor. The unused scene is not explicit on whether Cloud would take the driver's seat, or if they would have to walk to Nibelheim. The pointer for the battle also says "Battle: Sephiroth VS Monster", which notably does not include Cloud, who may have been added later to illustrate the gap in power between Sephiroth and him. Although the battle pointer is the last text entry, the dialogue is casual considering a dragon would be waiting outside, making it ambiguous whether the battle would have taken place before they spot the driver's death, or after Cloud reveals he is from Nibelheim.
More unused text salvaged from the game suggests that Cloud's mother would have been found on the town square where she would have given Cloud a "Homemade Potion" item. In the final game Cloud's mother can only be met inside her house.
In another unused scene the innkeeper would have marveled at how Cloud has moved up in the world and is working with Sephiroth. Afterward the player would have got to pick from three dialogue choices, same as in the final game: ask where Sephiroth is, ask for a room, or inquire about the town's situation. One interesting bit that wasn't used in the final game is that when asking about the town's situation, the innkeeper would have revealed Shinra is not popular in Nibelheim, expecting Cloud to understand as he is from the town himself. In the final game it is never implied Cloud would have heard negative things about Shinra when growing up. (Curiously, asking the innkeeper about the situation in the town in the final game prevents the Aeris's ghost event from happening later in what appears to be a programming error.)
When sleeping in the inn the screen fades to black at which point Cloud would have confirmed with Tifa it was the next morning when they left to inspect the reactor, and Tifa would have given a hesitating response. This bit of foreshadowing does not appear in the final game.
During the scene where the town is burning Cloud runs out of the Shinra Manor, Zangan tries to help the townspeople and the lone Shinra infantryman is lying on the ground. This grunt is actually Cloud, and unused text from the game would have given him a line where he calls out to his mother. This early hint was not included in the final game.
In Final Fantasy VII the game code calls the two infantrymen during Cloud's telling of the Nibelheim Incident, "Zax" and "Zako"; "Zax" is what Zack is called in Japanese and "Zako" is a vulgar Japanese word that refers to someone as worthless cannon fodder. "Zako" would be the infantryman who goes missing after the bridge falls, meaning "Zax" is actually Cloud, a play on their role reversal in Cloud's faulty telling of the events.
When Sephiroth's party enters Nibelheim in Cloud's retelling, he turns toward the camera to ask how it feels to return to one's hometown, a feeling unknown to him. After Sephiroth walks further into the town, the others enter the scene, but Cloud doesn’t enter from the side where Sephiroth directed his questions. This hints that he was speaking to the Shinra MP on the right, rather than the "Cloud" on the scene. Later it is revealed Cloud was a Shinra MP during the patrol who had interjected his role as a SOLDIER member into his story.
"FINAL FANTASY VII Symphony in Three Movements" is a symphony arranged and orchestrated by Jonne Valtonen for the Final Symphony concert series. The first movement of the symphony, titled "Nibelheim Incident", is based on Sephiroth. The 3-note motif of Sephiroth is used throughout the first movement as an element of structural integrity. In the final phase "The One-Winged Angel" emerges before gradually distorting as all of the earlier themes are gradually built on top of each other. This distortion is a reflection of Sephiroth's internal chaos as he becomes aware of his past. In the end of the movement things slow down. As Sephiroth is reborn, the familiar pulse is heard "in almost spiritual context".
The Nibelheim incident is alluded to: Sephiroth standing among the fires of Nibelheim, and the destruction of the angelic effigy and Jenova's containment inside the reactor, are just a few of the many scenes from the game that are recreated.
In Advent Children Complete, Sephiroth stabs Cloud with the Masamune and lifts him into the air, paralleling the ending of their battle at the reactor.
The samurai-type enemies can impale Noctis upon their katana and hold him off the ground, similar to how Sephiroth impales Cloud on his katana during the Nibelheim Incident and lifts him off the ground.
Dissidia Final Fantasy (2008)Edit
In the first revealed trailer, a plume of fire bursts from the ground and Sephiroth emerges from it preparing to battle the Warrior of Light. The scene is reminiscent of Sephiroth standing among the flames of Nibelheim. This allusion is continued in the game’s intro FMV where the entire villain cast is standing among the fire alongside Sephiroth.
In Sephiroth's EX Burst, Supernova, his opponent is consumed in a wave of fire from an exploding star. As the animation for the attack ends, the camera pans out to reveal Sephiroth standing in front of the fire, similar to his pose in the flames of Nibelheim.
The game's "Day 1 Edition" includes an exclusive Sephiroth summon. When summoned, he appears surrounded by flames, reminiscent of the Nibelheim Incident.
The incident, and especially Sephiroth's involvement in it, is referred to in Cloud's All-Star ending that shows Cloud glaring at Palutena as she walks towards the flames. Due to the way the image is lit, Palutena's normal green hair appears to be gray in this image in a reference to Sephiroth.
- ↑ Final Fantasy VII script
Tifa: You joined SOLDIER but quit after the Sephiroth incident‚ and now you're a mercenary.
- ↑ Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII UK Interview (Accessed: March 18, 2020) at IGN UK
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 “FFVII: The Unused Text – Part 5” arrives! (Accessed: March 18, 2020) at The Lifestream
- ↑ Final Symphony (Accessed: March 18, 2020) at Game Concerts