Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth showed a scene that fans have wanted for 26 years

The only thing more evil than Sephiroth is pitting Tifa Lockhart and Aerith Gainsborough against each other.

Ever since the original Final Fantasy 7 came out in 1997, fans have debated which character Cloud should date. There’s Tifa, the childhood friend with a warm smile, or Aerith, a bright vision of hope for a dying world. The first game established a classic love triangle, and now — 26 years later — Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth has revived the debate by showing a never-before-seen romantic side to its spiky-haired hero.

The original Final Fantasy 7 did little to stoke genuine love between Cloud and his love interests. Although he has various moments where he can express interest in either girl, choosing one over the other often resulted in jealousy or hurt feelings from the rejected party. The original framing created a bit of a competition between Tifa and Aerith, and it didn’t exactly age well. Fortunately for those of us who adore both of them, the developers left these parts out of Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and the young women get to share a loving and supportive friendship.

Rebirth continues this general approach, and further develops the bonds between Tifa and Aerith. Still, even these two characters can’t escape the tendencies of the larger fandom. When Square Enix released Rebirth, fans flooded social media with with posts discussing which pairing they support and why they feel that way, given new developments in Rebirth. The game reignited the classic “Clerith” versus “Cloti” discourse, and it’s all because of one big scene. If you’re into the characters and the romance in the game, it’s a monumental event that came a surprise to fans.

[Ed. note: The post contains spoilers for the intimate Gold Saucer date in Chapter 12 of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth.]

The key art for Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth with a huge spoiler warning slapped on it Graphic: Julia Lee/Polygon | Source images: Square Enix

Now that we’ve got through the non-spoiler section of this post, I can just cut to the big thing that happened: Cloud and Tifa kiss… gasp!

To see the kiss, you need to get the “intimate” version of the second date with Tifa. In it, Cloud will pull her in for a hug, and then afterwards, the two kiss. It’s a stunning moment in the game. Glittering fireworks light up the sky through the windows of an adorned Ferris wheel carriage. They both have gone through a lot of hardship by that point, and seeing them together provides a fleeting sense of relief in a shattered world.

Given how the developers handled the romantic elements of the game prior to Rebirth, Cloud’s grand romantic gesture shocked fans. The awkward hero has never kissed another character before, and Tifa’s date in Rebirth is the only one that ends with a kiss from Cloud. To many, the smooch gives a clear sign that Cloud and Tifa have a special bond that’s exclusive to the two of them — but even then, there are still some ambiguities.

This isn’t just because people have different interpretations of events or the characters’ intentions. It’s also because people might play through slightly different stories. In Rebirth, players nurture their relationships with specific characters, and ultimately, Cloud goes on a date with the character who has the closest bond with him. Fans of Aerith might go on a date with her and would pay attention to the sweet moments that unfold, whereas Tifa stans could go and do the same. Players see different cutscenes depending on who has the strongest bond with Cloud, and of course it would make sense to favor one or the other in any one specific playthrough of the game.

So while we finally got to see the big kiss that’s been on fans’ minds for 26 years, at least fans of Aerith can get their fair share of sweet moments too. All’s well that ends well, and either way, I’m just interested in any opportunity to make Tifa smile. So if you’re like me and want to pick who you date based on this information, Polygon has got you covered with a guide.