'kay so if anyone wants to watch the original thing, it's from about 3:20 in this video (warning: long). First, for people unfamiliar, the basic background the player knows at this point: Our famously spiky-haired, impractical-sword-wielding protagonist, Cloud Strife, is a former member of the Shinra Corporation's supersoldier corps, appropriately named SOLDIER. Sephiroth is the famous star war hero of that group. Cloud is childhood friends with another party member, Tifa, and when they were kids and he said he was going to join SOLDIER, she made him promise that if he became a famous hero like Sephiroth and she was in trouble, he'd come back to help her out, but modern-day Cloud is murky about remembering that and needed to have his memory jogged. Earlier, when breaking into Shinra's headquarters, the gang ran across a tank with some sort of freaky headless woman monster in it, and Cloud briefly passed out after saying it was "JENOVA." Not long after, someone cut a bloody swath through the HQ, including totaling that tank, and when I say "bloody swath" I mean you follow a huge, smeared blood trail through the offices until you find the president of Shinra sitting at his desk with a seven-foot katana stuck through him. Cloud takes one look at the sword and says Sephiroth did this. The gang wants to know what he knows, but it has to wait until they're at an inn in a village well outside the city before he has time to tell them. Cue very long segment where he explains how he was sent with Sephiroth on a mission to Cloud's hometown of Nibelheim, which ended with Sephiroth going nuts and burning down the town, and Cloud having to chase him down to a reactor in the mountains. Now, the Big Cloud Spoiler, which is one of the two big plot twists of the game and the one that not everyone knows by osmosis, so don't click the spoilers in this post if you don't want this 20-year-old game spoiled: Spoiler Cloud isn't actually a member of SOLDIER. He flunked the intro exams basically for being too weak-willed and susceptible to mental influence, and was in fact an ordinary, dime-a-dozen grunt soldier. He was so ashamed that the entire time he was back in town, he refused to take off his helmet so Tifa wouldn't recognize him and he wouldn't have to explain that he didn't make it. There was a SOLDIER First Class along for the flashback events- a guy named Zack Fair who was basically a human labrador retriever with a buster sword. After the events of the flashback, Zack and Cloud got locked in a basement and experimented on for years, and while Cloud conked the hell out under the effects of what they were dosing him with pretty much immediately, Zack stayed lucid and talked to Cloud constantly. Zack broke them out while hauling Cloud like a sack of potatoes, eventually died heroically, and Cloud was left for dead because he was still comatose. When Cloud woke up, his grasp on his own identity was still nearly nonexistent, so at present his memories are soup and he's mixed up all his impressions of Zack with his own memories so he basically thinks Zack is him. Modern-day Cloud's persona as Toxic Masculinity McMercenary, Too Cool To Care About Things Or People, I'm Just In It For My Money is his somewhat addled brain going, "I'm an ex-SOLDIER 1st Class who turned mercenary. What would a supreme badass sound and act like?", and the game uses your own impressions of a Badass Mercenary, Too Cool To Care to hide the fact that he's actually an awkward, insecure dork with severe psychological problems who's playacting at being cool in plain sight. Tifa knows something is wrong- before the game started, she found Cloud passed out and incoherent and took him in, and since she knew him as a kid she knows he's not acting like himself and his memory is a mess. And she was there for a lot of what happened in Nibelheim, and knows the SOLDIER whose role Cloud is putting himself in as he tells the story wasn't Cloud, but that Cloud is still getting most of the rest of the details of what happened right, even though as far as she knew before, he wasn't there. So the Nibelheim flashback has to 1) introduce us to the main villain, 2) set up a lot of things about the world and the backstory, and 3) write around the Big Cloud Spoiler the entire way in such a way as to not give it away, but still set it up so when it happens, it's foreshadowed. And it does a really good job of that. The stuff that really struck me the first time, when I only knew the Big Cloud Spoiler in the absolute most vague terms, was how well it uses gameplay to drive home just how powerful Sephiroth is. By this point, you've had Cloud in your party for a while, and know him as a solidly well-rounded character who can do pretty good damage on all fronts and take a few hits. In the flashback, almost everything kills Cloud in one hit. He has less than 1/20 of Sephiroth's HP, and does damage in the teens when Sephiroth is doing 3000 damage at a single normal attack. Sephiroth takes zero damage from basically everything, and you can't control him; since Cloud dies if anything hits him, whether you even get to act depends entirely on whether Sephy's RNG decides to raise him after he goes down (and that's assuming he doesn't nuke everything out of existence with an All-[Element] 3 spell). Sephy, meanwhile, has a bunch of maxed-out materia when you've almost certainly only got the level 1 versions and only even seen a couple of the level 2 spells. But at the same time, his actual damage output here is mostly that of a well-equipped but non-minmaxed near-endgame party member; on a replay, it's apparent that despite how completely and utterly he outclasses Cloud, he's still human at this point. Spoiler: Big Cloud Spoiler Additionally, just how weak Cloud is here serves as foreshadowing for the plot twist later. At this point, you've fought SOLDIERs as random encounter enemies, and Cloud the alleged "SOLDIER 1st Class" has lower numbers and worse gear than those SOLDIER 3rd Class random enemies, who are level 13. Cloud starts the game at level 6 and is level 1 in the flashback. There are other little details, too- e.g. Cloud's in the back row, most likely because as a grunt, he'd have been issued a gun, not a sword. The first fight with Sephiroth in the party also uses the beginning of "Those Chosen By the Planet" on a loop as the background music instead of any of the usual battle themes, but without hitting the main melody. So that's your first impression of Sephiroth in a fight: absolutely butchering a gigantic dragon as you stand by helplessly and an ominous thudding heartbeat plays in the background. When the full song kicks in later after he snaps, it's so fantastically ominous that it pretty much carries the scene. It also does a really good job of buildup and drawing out the tension in the bit just before Sephiroth's rampage, as you have to locate him inside Shinra Mansion, go back down to check on him to that same thudding heartbeat, and then go all the way back up two screens of dungeon and a spiral staircase up a well with Those Chosen By The Planet playing in full before you come out and find the town in flames. And then there's the Big Cloud Spoiler. Spoiler One of the first things you notice when the flashback begins is that Cloud is not acting at all like the Cloud you've been seeing in most of the game so far. He's outgoing, enthusiastic, wants to know how everyone's doing and feeling, and wears his feelings on his sleeve. This comes across on a blind playthrough as younger!Cloud's inexperience and excitement to be on a mission with his idol, and his current demeanor being due to hardened cynicism he's picked up since. However, this isn't the case- the reason he's not acting like Cloud is because that wasn't Cloud. The Shinra grunts who came with Team Sephiroth are steadily there in the back of the group for almost the entire sequence. There's even a bit where "Cloud" talks to Sephy alone, and as you talk to him one of the grunts chooses right then to come up the stairs next to you and walk past. "Cloud" talks to the mooks in a couple of bits and you can interact with them more, but they never talk without being spoken to first, and Sephiroth pays them very little attention or concern and basically just goes "oh well" when one of them falls off a rope bridge into a chasm. You kind of forget them, because you've seen dozens of identical mooks in that uniform with that model already this game, and killed most of them. They just seem like background NPCs, and why should you remember they exist when you have special people front and center? And it's not as if you have any reason to believe that dialogue like this means anything but that NPCs think you're cool and wish you well: A lot of the NPC dialogue is in this vein- the game just... lets you draw conclusions, so you don't notice it means anything unless you already know what it means. That said, it does quickly establish that something is wonky about Cloud's narration. When you're walking around Nibelheim talking to people, sometimes the screen whites out, and it cuts with no explanation. It's especially bad in his mom's house, where large chunks of the conversation are just missing, skipping later in the conversation several times. What is shown is mostly her expressing worry that Cloud's not taking care of himself and should settle down with a girlfriend who will take care of him, and Cloud seeming mopey and pushing her away; easy to write off as "Cloud is prickly and emo and moms fuss"... if you don't remember that five minutes ago "Cloud" was doing squats in the truck from excitement that he might get to hit things with his sword. He eventually stops talking about it entirely to the others because "I can't remember much else," and if you try to walk back into the house, he won't. NPCs in town often don't recognize Cloud at first glance, and this either fades into the background, seems like an indication that he grew way up and got big and buff, or just seems vaguely absurd (since how do you not recognize that hair) the first time through... but is actually an indication that he's wearing a face-concealing helmet. Despite the fact that the flashback is framed as Cloud narrating the events to the group, there's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment where he narrates something that the onscreen "Cloud" was not there to witness: And after Sephiroth sets the town on fire, "Cloud" gets all the way to the reactor offscreen, "alone," despite this taking him through an area where the random encounters were one-shotting him earlier. I'm just really impressed about how much thought went into it and how well it does its job. You get to know Sephiroth, you get to be impressed by and scared of Sephiroth, you get to learn more about some things that make the plot tick, and it manages to sneak in a huge amount of incredibly subtle foreshadowing alongside the big whopping hints that's something's up, without ever giving away what that "something" is.