Why Has the Internet Spent Nearly 20 Years Begging These Boys to Kiss?

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/SquareEnix
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/SquareEnix

To say Final Fantasy VII has immense staying power would be the understatement of the century. Despite coming out in 1997 on the original PlayStation, the game has stayed culturally relevant on an international scale for nearly three decades—so much so, developer Square Enix rebooted the game into an epic-scale series slated to have three installments. While the second, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, released Feb. 29 on PlayStation 5, the pre-release excitement was already so overwhelming that the game even made the front page of the New York Times’ website (albeit for controversial reasons).

You could point to so many different reasons as to why Final Fantasy VII has such staying power. The horror of greedy corporations and politicians’ destruction of the planet at the story’s heart is even more resonant now than it was then. You could also point to how Nobuo’s Uematsu’s score is among the best in gaming history; the enthralling twists and turns of its epic story; to the sprawling map populated with fascinating towns; or the incredible cast of well-fleshed-out, complex characters, which include a refreshing number of badass ladies. Or you could say it’s because most of those characters are super hot. To play Final Fantasy VII is to watch all those hot people (plus a stuffed cat and a more hardcore version of Simba) have very fraught emotional experiences around each other. It’s the perfect equation for fireworks among the fandom. Everyone has their ships, but in particular, the sexual tension between our protagonist, Cloud Strife—the most fraught of all—and his mortal enemy, Sephiroth, is truly a popcorn-worthy spectator sport.

At the outset of Final Fantasy VII, Cloud is an ex-member of an elite group called SOLDIER, who are scientifically doped-up to become super-soldiers. Sephiroth was the greatest of all members of SOLDIER, someone Cloud both looked up to and called a friend, until Sephiroth discovered the truth of his identity and went rogue. And by “went rogue,” I mean, “decided that everyone on the planet except him and the remains of his mom should die.” Cloud therefore feels personally betrayed by Sephiroth, and therefore hates him very much.

But there’s “hate,” and then there’s … whatever Cloud and Sephiroth share. They’re obsessed with each other. Whenever the two of them are together, the emotions are so high, the tension so fraught, that you can’t quite tell if they’re about to kill each other or have the best sex of their lives.

Accordingly, if you Google “Sephiroth and Cloud,” among the top 10 suggestions Google will give you are “relationship,” “ship name,” “matching pfp” (i.e. icons for social media), and “kissing.” The people want to see these two hot boys make out, badly—or just share tender moments.

It’s worth stressing that these two boys are both very hot in their own rights, and Square Enix loves to let you know that it knows. When Sephiroth was released as a DLC character for the Nintendo Switch game Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, he came with an alternate costume that’s simply him shirtless. Yes, there’s an in-game reference being made, but still.

A close up shot of Sephiroth from Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth


Square Enix

Meanwhile, Cloud is not just a beautiful boy. When Remake brilliantly adapted the original’s HoneyBee Inn scene, in which Cloud has to cross-dress for a mission, the game showed us that Cloud makes a beautiful woman, too. The sexiest men are comfortable expressing their feminine sides, like Link from Breath of the Wild. Even the women in the game are into it. Plus, Rebirth allows Cloud to pick any member of his party to go on a date with at a central point in the game no matter the gender. Hell, it seems like you can even take Red XIII, the aforementioned hardcore Simba,I on a date. So the sexual tension possibilities are by no means limited to Sephiroth - especially considering how the game has reignited the ship war between fans who want Cloud to end up with either Tifa, the punch-em-up badass from Cloud’s childhood, or Aerith, the iconic flower girl/healer.However, put Cloud and Sephiroth together, and oh, Daddy, do the sparks fly. The Rebirth series—alongside other high-fidelity Final Fantasy VII installments, like the prequel game Crisis Core or sequel film Advent Children—does a lot to fan the Cloud-Sephiroth shippers’ flames. Sephiroth and Cloud are very fixated on one another in the original Final Fantasy VII, but there were few fully animated scenes in the original game, which pushed the poor PlayStation to the limits of its capabilities. The character models in those scenes weren’t able to be as expressive as the technology of the PS5 now allows, either. Full voice acting was a distant dream.

So there was a lot of room for Square Enix to decide how to make Cloud and Sephiroth interact in Remake and Rebirth. The developers actively went for the simmering, horny interpretation. In one trailer for Rebirth, we see Sephiroth grasp Cloud and (tenderly?) whisper in his ear. An early scene from Rebirth’s pre-release demo features Sephiroth teasing Cloud poutingly, “You’re such a puppy.” The shippers had a field day. The sexual tension between these two is so thick, you wonder if Sephiroth [infamous spoiler redacted] out of jealousy.

To use yaoi terms, Sephiroth—with all his grand schemes and hunger for power—is totally the seme (top). As the comments on many a TikTok video point out, Cloud is definitely a babygirl. And while that term has many possible meanings, one common interpretation of “babygirl” is a man who’s “vulnerable and submissive.” And the more you learn about Cloud and his absolute roller coaster of a backstory, the more thoroughly he becomes a babygirl.

Bizarrely enough the babygirl / dominant relationship between Cloud and Sephiroth is beautifully summed up by … an officially licensed commercial released ahead of Rebirth in Japan for instant udon. The commercial features brilliantly repurposed footage from the Remake series, in which a furry version of Sephiroth implores Cloud to eat his noods.

Cloud, ever the late-’90s “too cool for school” type, rejects Sephiroth’s initial advance. But Sephiroth’s velveteen voice and dogged persistence wear Cloud down, and he eats his noodles as commanded. (Furry) Sephiroth watches him and coos, “Gooooood boy.

Again, this is an officially licensed commercial. Square Enix is serving this ship on a silver platter.

(Warning: Huge spoilers for the original Final Fantasy VII, and therefore Final Fantasy VII Rebirth and beyond, ahead! Stop reading here if you want to avoid them!)

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth ends in the Forgotten Capital—if you know, you know. But director Tetsuya Nomura has hinted there will be “some changes in the order of the locations” of the original Final Fantasy VII, which means that Rebirth will likely follow its predecessor in tweaking the story and its presentation. The Remake series is not a true remake, but is more akin to the Evangelion Rebuild series, which is more of a reaction to the original work than a remake of it.

This is all to say that I’m currently playing the original Final Fantasy VII for the first time (it holds up astonishingly well). As I played, I was cheering on Cloud and Sephiroth shippers (and the Cloud and Aerith shippers, and the Cloud and Tifa shippers, I just want my boy to be loved). And then, at a point after the Forgotten Capital, Sephiroth gives Cloud a shocking revelation: Cloud was actually made five years ago. Because he is a clone of Sephiroth.

When this twist happened, I fully lost logical faculties for hours on end. It’s not incest, but it might be even weirder.

If Rebirth includes that information alone, it will be a devastating—but admittedly rather hilarious—blow to the Cloud and Sephiroth shipping community. It would be the ultimate tease from Square Enix. I had to mull over my newly confounded feelings for days. At least, until the game gives its next twist—that Cloud is indeed Cloud, a real person with incredibly deep insecurities who got roped into a messed-up scientific experiment. But if there’s years between those two revelations for people playing through the Final Fantasy VII story for the first time with Rebirth—it’s going to get absurd out there. Both during the heat of the “Clone Crisis” and in the revelation afterwards, Cloud is in prime babygirl territory. He’s completely destroyed and reconstructed as a character, and the way we view him—and that he views himself—changes multiple times. It’s one of the best, most engaging feats of character development I think I’ve ever witnessed in media.

But also, if we’re purely looking at it from the angle of Cloud babygirling around Sephiroth—we’re about to have a lot of fun. Either way, we’re about to embark on one of the most thrilling gaming experiences of our time. The delicious sexual tension between its central character is just one small facet of that enjoyment.

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