|Appears in||Final Fantasy VII|
Lance Bass (Kingdom Hearts)
George Newbern (all other appearances)
Toshiyuki Morikawa (most appearances)
Shin-ichiro Miki (Ehrgeiz)
- "I will...never be a memory..."
- ―Sephiroth, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
Sephiroth (セフィロス Sefirosu) is a fictional character in the role-playing video game Final Fantasy VII developed by Square (now Square Enix), where he is the main antagonist. Character designer Tetsuya Nomura conceived and designed Sephiroth as an antagonist to and direct physical opposite of the game's main character, Cloud Strife. The character was portrayed in Japanese by voice actor Toshiyuki Morikawa and in English by both Lance Bass in Kingdom Hearts and George Newbern in all his subsequent appearances.
Sephiroth is revealed in Final Fantasy VII to be the result of an experiment by the megacorporation Shinra, in which they injected him with cells from the extraterrestrial lifeform Jenova when he was still a fetus. Upon discovering this, Sephiroth decides to follow what he believes to be his destiny and take control of the Planet, whilst Cloud and the game's other protagonists attempt to stop him. Sephiroth's role in the story, as well as his background, are expanded in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII. Additionally, he appears as a boss character in the Kingdom Hearts series, and other video games developed by Square. Sephiroth has been well-received within the video game community, and is highly ranked on many lists of the best video game villains and Final Fantasy characters.
Concept and creationEdit
Sephiroth was designed by Final Fantasy VII's character designer Tetsuya Nomura. His name comes from the Kabbalah, in which the ten sephirot on the Tree of life represent the ten attributes through which God can reveal himself. His character existed from the earliest stages of development, as originally, Nomura thought that the game's plot would deal exclusively with Cloud Strife pursuing Sephiroth, who was always the game's main antagonist. Nomura wanted Sephiroth to appear early in the game, and then have the plot dealing with the protagonists following him, so that gamers would not meet the final boss until extremely late in the game. Sephiroth was initially going to be Aerith Gainsborough's sibling, as indicated by their similar hairstyles. Later, however, he was changed to Aerith's past love, whom she would remember upon meeting Cloud. This character was then changed to Zack Fair, however, and Sephiroth’s prior relationship with Aerith was dropped. In early drafts of the game, Sephiroth's personality was already brutal and cruel, with a strong willed and calm ego. He was to suffer from Mako addiction, resulting in a semi-conscious state as a result of high level exposure to Mako energy. Sephiroth was also intended to manipulate Cloud into believing that he was a creation of Sephiroth's will, but this aspect of the story was later abandoned. In another excised scene, when Sephiroth's physical body is first seen in the Northern Crater, it was to be female.
Sephiroth has long platinum hair and bright cyan eyes with cat-like pupils, and is depicted in a black coat decorated with metallic pauldrons. Since appearing as Safer Sephiroth in the final battle of the game, Sephiroth has had a single black wing on his back, referencing his theme music "One Winged Angel". When Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII was released, the staff stated that the reason the wing was black was to suggest evil. Nomura has stated that Sephiroth was made to be a complete contrast to the game's main protagonist, Cloud, who was originally designed to have slicked-back, black hair with no spikes. His weapon, the "Masamune", which has been featured in numerous Final Fantasy titles, is an elongated nodachi that he learned to use during his days in SOLDIER. The Masamune is named after the famous Japanese swordsmith Goro Nyudo Masamune, whose blades are considered national treasures in Japan today.
Director Yoshinori Kitase believes Sephiroth's role in Final Fantasy VII to be one of the main reasons why the game became so popular. Nomura has called Sephiroth "the ultimate antagonist in the Final Fantasy VII saga. There can't be anyone else," and regards him as an enemy from a previous generation, in contrast to his "Remnants" who appear in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.
For Advent Children, the film sequel to Final Fantasy VII, script writer Kazushige Nojima thought that the film's plot would be less entertaining without Sephiroth. His revival in the film was introduced in the early stages of development, but the official decision as to how to bring him back was not reached until later. Nomura originally planned to have him appear from the start, but as it took the staff two years to develop his design, the idea of his presence throughout the film was scrapped, and it was decided instead to have him only appear on screen for a short time. Sephiroth was designed for the film in such a way so as to emphasize his other-worldliness, such as the fact that he never blinks or is seen breathing, and his voice remains always monotone and calm. In the film, the staff stated that his strength had considerably increased, to the point that he had "ascended to a new level of existence." Despite initially encountering problems as to who would voice him, Nomura said that once Toshiyuki Morikawa auditioned for the role, they knew they had their actor. Morikawa was instructed by the staff to speak all of Sephiroth's dialogue as if he felt superior to every other character in the film. The voice director and Morikawa agreed to make Sephiroth's voice sound calm to the point that he believes he cannot lose to Cloud, suggesting to Morikawa that he may reappear at some point in the future.
Final Fantasy VII seriesEdit
Sephiroth is the main villain in Final Fantasy VII, who initially appears after assassinating President Shinra. As revealed over the course of the game, Sephiroth was once the most powerful member of SOLDIER, Shinra's elite military division, who was celebrated as a heroic veteran of the Shinra-Wutai war. After the war, however, Sephiroth was sent on a mission to the village of Nibelheim, where he discovered that he was the product of a biological experiment that combined a human fetus with tissue from the extraterrestrial lifeform Jenova. Learning that Jenova, who he comes to consider his "mother," attempted to take control of the Planet 2000 years previously, Sephiroth decides to follow in her footsteps and become a god who would rule over the Planet. He burns down the entire village and kills many, but is assumed dead after a confrontation with Cloud inside a nearby Mako reactor. However, a few years later, Sephiroth appears once again, determined to continue with his mission. Sephiroth also kills Aeris Gainsborough the adopted daughter of Elmyra Gainsborough and the last surviving Cetra. However Reeve Tuesti Shinra's Head of Urban and Development witnesses Sephiroth killing the latter and brings the news of Aeris' murder to Elmyra consoling her when she was devastated to hear this news.
His plan to become a god is based upon his belief that he can merge with the Planet's Lifestream, taking control of it, and thus the Planet itself. In order to do so, he must summon Meteor, a destructive meteorite entity from outer space that can catastrophically damage the Planet. At this point, the Lifestream will flow to attempt to heal the injury, thus allowing Sephiroth to merge with the exposed Lifestream. Despite appearing multiple times throughout the game, it is revealed that Sephiroth's physical body is actually sealed in the Northern Crater, and that the manifestations seen by Cloud and his allies was Jenova taking his form. In the game's last battle, Sephiroth takes two forms; Bizarro Sephiroth (リバース・セフィロス) and Safer Sephiroth (セーファ・セフィロス). After his defeat, Sephiroth reappears in Cloud's mind, but is once again defeated.
Sephiroth appears in numerous titles throughout the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII. He makes several cameo appearances in the Final Fantasy VII prequel, Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII, in which he supports Shinra in their battle against the eco-terrorist organization AVALANCHE. The incident at Nibelheim is also featured in the game. The OVA Last Order: Final Fantasy VII also depicts the Nibelheim incident. Sephiroth also appears in Advent Children, a CGI film set two years after Final Fantasy VII. In the film, Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo, the "Remnants" of Sephiroth, try to reincarnate him. Although Kadaj eventually succeeds, Cloud once again defeats Sephiroth, whose body changes back to Kadaj's upon his defeat. Sephiroth is also the focus of the On the Way to a Smile novella "Case of the Lifestream — Black and White". Set after the end of Final Fantasy VII but prior to the events of Advent Children, the story deals with Aerith and Sephiroth's journeys through the Lifestream, and Sephiroth's creation of Geostigma, a disease that infects anyone who came into contact with the tainted Lifestream. He makes a very brief appearance in Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII, a game set one year after Advent Children, in which his biological mother, Lucrecia Crescent discusses the experiments which gave birth to him.
He is one of the main characters in the Final Fantasy VII prequel game Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, in which he and the protagonist Zack Fair go in the search of two missing SOLDIERs, Genesis Rhapsodos and Angeal Hewley. This game also depicts the Nibelheim incident, where Sephiroth appears as a boss. Executive producer Yoshinori Kitase was pleased with Sephiroth's role in Crisis Core, feeling that he was given a "much more human side."
His first appearance outside Final Fantasy VII was as a selectable character in the fighting game Ehrgeiz. A redesigned Sephiroth also appears in the North American and European versions of Kingdom Hearts as an optional boss character in Olympus Coliseum. Lance Bass voiced Sephiroth in this game, while in subsequent titles he was replaced by George Newbern. In the Japanese re-release of the game, Final Mix, an additional scene was added in which Sephiroth fights Cloud, although the result of the fight is not revealed. Sephiroth was not included in the sequel Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, as director Tetsuya Nomura could not give him a storyline related to Cloud, and he feared negative fan response if Sephiroth did not have a notable role in the story. His third appearance outside Final Fantasy VII is as another optional boss in Kingdom Hearts II, where he is first encountered by the series' protagonist, Sora, and then Cloud, who is pursuing him. When Sephiroth battles Cloud, both of them disappear, with Sora believing that they went somewhere else to continue their fight. Nomura said that in this game, Sephiroth represents Cloud's dark side, in contrast to Tifa Lockhart, who represents his light side. Although Sephiroth does not appear in the prequel Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, he is mentioned as a hero that Zack Fair aspires to be. The staff, however, did not know if they would portray him as a being of darkness as shown in other titles. Sephiroth's fourth outside appearance is in the Itadaki Street games Special and Portable, where he appears as an unlockable playable character.
Sephiroth was also the representative villain of Final Fantasy VII in Dissidia Final Fantasy. He is featured in his Final Fantasy VII guise, while an alternative outfit features the "Safer Sephiroth" form. His fight against Cloud in the game was based on their fights from Final Fantasy VII and Advent Children. Along with the rest of the Final Fantasy VII figures in Dissidia, Sephiroth appears in the sequel Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy. This game also includes a sightly altered Final Fantasy VII form for Sephiroth, as well as his Kingdom Hearts form. He is featured in the rhythm game Theatrhythm Final Fantasy as an unlockable character, representing Final Fantasy VII. He also appears in the puzzle platformer video game LittleBigPlanet, and its sequel LittleBigPlanet 2 as a character model; Media Molecule's Alex Evans felt "honored" that Sephiroth was allowed to appear in the games.
In Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth is the focus of three pieces of music written by series composer Nobuo Uematsu. His primary theme is "Those Chosen by the Planet" (星に選ばれし者 Hoshi ni Erabareshi Mono), a piece utilizing bells, low drums, and a deep chorus, which accompanies Sephiroth's appearances throughout the game. In the final battle, "Birth of a God" (神の誕生 Kami no Tanjō) plays while the player combats Sephiroth's first form, "Bizarro Sephiroth" (also known as "Reverse Sephiroth"). The most well-known piece is "One-Winged Angel" (片翼の天使 Katayoku no Tenshi, lit. "An Angel With a Wing on One Side") which is played during the final confrontation with Sephiroth. In an interview featured on G4's Game Makers (formerly Icons), Uematsu revealed that this piece was designed to be a fusion of the musical styles of Russian composer Igor Stravinsky and rock musician Jimi Hendrix. The song revolves around his character, as this was what Uematsu was thinking about when writing it. Two official covers have been done of this song. The first is a different orchestration found in Kingdom Hearts, the second is found in Advent Children, which plays throughout the battle between Cloud and Sephiroth, and features the progressive metal stylings of Nobuo Uematsu's band The Black Mages, as well as orchestral elements and new lyrics. There is also a fourth version titled "Vengeance on the World" that plays in Crisis Core.
Sephiroth has served as basis for several types of merchandise. These include the "Extra Knights" action figures first published by Bandai in Japan in 1997. A different model was released as part of the Play Arts collection, following the release of Advent Children. At the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con International, Kanji Tashiro, Square Enix's manager of merchandise, said that this figure was one of their best-selling items. With the release of the movie Sephiroth was also included in a series of promotional material, primarily consisting of posters. Kotobukiya has included the character in numerous merchandise, including a series of cold casts based on his appearance in both the original game and the film sequel. As a result of promotional campaigns organized in Japan by Square Enix and Coca-Cola, a version of Sephiroth drawn in a super deformed style was featured in the first two volumes of a promotional collection.
Products not connected to the release of the games or film have also been produced. These include a figurine as part of the Final Fantasy Trading Arts Vol. 1 series, a set as part of the Square Minimum Collection alongside Cloud, and a rare figure of "Safer Sephiroth" as part of the Final Fantasy Creatures series (Chromium). "Reverse Sephiroth" was also released as a normal figure in volume 2. A figure based on his appearances in the Kingdom Hearts games was released in the second series of the Play Arts Kingdom Hearts sub-line. Some replica weapon companies have produced replicas of Sephiroth's sword, the Masamune, as a 6-foot-long (1.8 m) katana with a stainless steel unsharpened blade. Other types of merchandise includes collectible cards, keychains, lighters, phonecards and plush toys.
On multiple occasions, numerous gaming magazines have chosen Sephiroth as one of the best villains from both the Final Fantasy series in specific and in all of video games in general. GameSpy placed him eighth in their 2001 list of top villains in games, commenting on how difficult it is to defeat him in Final Fantasy VII. In 2005, Sephiroth was the winner in a GameFAQs character battle involving only villains. IGN listed him at number two in its 2006 list of most memorable villains, as well as the fourth top video game villain. He was been named the number one villain in an episode of G4's Filter. PC World placed him second in their 2008 list of most diabolical video game villains of all time. That same year, Sephiroth was listed at the top of IGN's list of Final Fantasy VII top characters, with Dave Smith calling him the "heavyweight champion of Final Fantasy villains," and praising his appearance and backstory. He would take the same spot in the list of top 25 Final Fantasy characters by the same site. In IGN's Final Fantasy reader's choice, also written by Smith, Sephiroth was placed fourth, with commentary focusing on his activities in the game's plot. In a retrospective on Final Fantasy antagonists, GamesRadar listed Sephiroth as their top pick, citing his developed motives and acts of evil. GamesRadar also put Sephiroth in their 2013 list of the best villains in video game history at number six.
In 2007, Sephiroth was named the 14th best character of all time in Dengeki PlayStation's retrospective awards feature about the original PlayStation. UGO.com placed Sephiroth 25th on their 2009 list of top Japanese RPG characters, calling him "one of the most visually striking villains of all time" while praising how different he is from previous Final Fantasy villains. In 2010, Famitsu readers voted Sephiroth as the 21st most popular video game character. Sephiroth was also featured alongside Cloud in ScrewAttack's list of top "coolest" characters, although they preferred Cloud. In the Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition from 2011, he was voted as the 32nd best video game character of all time. In 2011, Empire ranked him as the 13th greatest video game character, calling him "just insanely cool" and adding "Cloud may be the hero but the real star of FFVII was undoubtedly its dashing villain, Sephiroth". Complex had him ranked as the 35th "coolest" video game villain ever in 2012, as well as the seventh "most badass" video game character and the third greatest Final Fantasy character of all time in 2013.
A reader's choice poll organized by GameSpot placed Sephiroth as the best boss of all time, as he received five times more votes than Bowser, who finished in second place; most of the comments noted the difficulty of the final fight against Sephiroth, as well as its distinctive elements when compared to other games. In 2005, Electronic Gaming Monthly listed him as number one in their list of top video game bosses. Game Informer ranked the "top-notch" fight against Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII at third place on their 2008 list of top boss battles. PlayStation Official Magazine included him on their 2012 list of ten best boss fights ever, commenting that "after potentially 100 hours of chasing the murdering swine, you finally catch up with Cloud’s nemesis Sephiroth, and it’s one of the most epic battles in PlayStation history."
The scene in which Sephiroth kills Aerith during Final Fantasy VII has also prompted much commentary. For example, when comparing him with Cloud, ScrewAttack noted that with this scene, Sephiroth was established as "the biggest bastard." GamesRadar simply called him "the biggest cock blocker in the gaming world," as writer Shane Patterson found Aerith's character to be appealing, and due to the fact Sephiroth killed her, players were unable to use her anymore. Also referring to the scene as a shocking moment, GameSpot suggested that the FMV sequence of Sephiroth appearing in front of the Nibelheim fire "might be one of the most recognizable cutscenes ever to grace video games." GamesRadar's article "Non-playable characters we wish were playable" featured Sephiroth as a character that they wished would have been playable in Final Fantasy VII so they "could relive skewering Aerith like an annoyingly dainty, needlessly chaste salmon over and over." IGN put Sephiroth in the 2009 articles "Big Boss of the Day" and "Baddie Brawl", with the latter comparing him with Liquid Snake from Metal Gear Solid.
However, some game editors have criticized Sephiroth's character. For example, IGN's Smith has stated that "Sephiroth was certainly a good-looking fellow, but his motivations were about as clear as mud." When comparing Sephiroth with the Final Fantasy VI villain, Kefka Palazzo, GamesRadar commented that he "seems as interesting as a dead accountant painted brown." 1UP.com took a humorous approach to Sephiroth's several appearances after apparent deaths and in other games, ranking him third in their "They Is Risen" feature, which covered the ten most notorious video game resurrections. The publication noted that if the character continued to be used, Square Enix would eventually "run out of ways to remix One-Winged Angel." GameSpy editor Ryan Scott called Sephiroth the "King of Overrated Characters" during GameSpy's villain feature for Dissidia Final Fantasy, arguing that gamers were impressed by him only because of his design and by how he killed Aerith during Final Fantasy VII. On the other hand, AnimeFringe called him "the most notorious villain in the entire Final Fantasy series" and "quintessential bishōnen in the eyes of many fans -- male and female," comparing him with Kefka and praising his complexity.
Critics have also commented on Sephiroth's role in other games. In relation to Crisis Core, IGN AU stated that "even Sephiroth gets his moments in the sun," praising the depth in his backstory, which would later make his boss battle more entertaining. IGN UK agreed, stating that his character was granted "a more human dimension" and enjoying some of the events from before his transformation into a villain. His boss battle was also shown in 1UP.com's "25 More of the Most Badass Boss Fights Ever" in which the staff praised how the original battle from Final Fantasy VII was expanded in the title. A feature published by GamerHelp included Sephiroth's Kingdom Hearts fight in a feature titled "The Hardest Bosses of All Time", noting that regardless of the player's skill "walking away from this match unscathed" is not possible, to the point of saying that the fight was more difficult than the entirety of Final Fantasy VII. AnimeFringe stated that only advanced gamers would be able to defeat Kingdom Hearts' Sephiroth because the player has no backup and that his "devastating attacks can kill in seconds." In 2013, Complex ranked Sephiroth in Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II as respectively the seventh and fifth hardest boss fights in video games; in addition, Safer Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII placed 12th.