Even though Final Fantasy VII Remake only came out a few short months ago, it already feels like we've been waiting ages to see what happens next. While Square Enix hasn't formally announced a release date for the second installment in the multipart series, the developer recently kicked off an FF7 Remake crossover with the long-running mobile game Final Fantasy Brave Exvius, and has kept the hype embers flickering with a series of interviews about the making of Midgar. It's possible, if not especially likely, we might hear more about the FF7 Remake Part 2 release date at Tokyo Game Show in September.
In the meantime, the wild ending of FF7 Remake still has our fan-theory gears turning, and it's clear the sequel will have to take a wildly different approach to one of the story's pivotal moments — the Nibelheim incident. Intriguingly enough, Rian Johnson's exceptional (if divisive) installment of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, The Last Jedi, just might be the perfect model for this critical aspect of FF7 lore. Here's why.
Light spoilers for the original FF7 ahead.
The Nibelheim incident takes place in Cloud and Tifa's hometown, roughly five years before the events of the main story, and we learn about it shortly after the party leaves Midgar in the 1997 game. (It's already been heavily alluded to during cutscenes from Final Fantasy VII Remake.) It marks the beginning of Sephiroth's quest for world domination and his fascination with Jenova. Essentially some Big Shit went down at the Mako reactor, resulting in a whole heap of swords and fire shenanigans, and Shinra covered it all up. The incident also proves central to Cloud's mental instability and murky relationships with Tifa, Sephy, Professor Hojo, and Zack Fair.
Oh, and Vincent Valentine's there too. I guess.
The original Final Fantasy VII sees players revisit the city of Nibelheim numerous times, in both flashbacks and in the present day. As the story progresses, we learn more about the events of five years prior, even seeing them from the perspectives of characters other than Cloud. All of these incremental revisions to the story we thought we knew build to one of the most memorable storytelling twists in gaming history, which largely plays out through cutscenes. Next-gen hardware can allow players to experience those jaw-dropping revels in an even more immersive way.
Remember that moment in The Last Jedi, where Luke attacks Ben Solo as he sleeps? We see it from three perspectives — Luke's version, Ben's version, and Rey's version. Each one is a little bit different, in a way that remind us that people aren't always reliable narrators during moments of tremendous stress. (It's a storytelling technique most famously associated with Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, but more people probably remember this recent blockbuster scene.)
Final Fantasy VII Remake Part 2 can explore multiple perspectives in ways the 1997 game never could. The next installment should let us experience Nibelheim as Cloud, Zack, and Sephiroth. There's no reason to limit this stuff to cutscenes anymore. After all, if Square Enix can wring 40 hours of fun out of Midgar, we can definitely spend several more hours in Nibelheim.
The ending of FF7 Remake, which features a startling and ambiguous cameo from Zack, strongly suggests that director Tetsuya Nomura and scenario writer Kazushige Nojima will bring in elements of the "Compilation of Final Fantasy VII," which is essentially games, movies, and comics released after the original FF7 that constitute a kind of extended universe surrounding the game.
In an interview for the Japanese companion book, Final Fantasy VII Remake Ultimania, Nojima said:
I knew that even though at the very core, this story is about Cloud, the works from the “Compilation of FFVII” have greatly increased [over the years], and I wanted to make something that takes all of those works and combine it into one. Each person who played the original version also has their own vision of the world of FFVII, and I wanted to preserve that too. The results of those feelings are shown within the Remake’s story.
Spending more time unpacking what happened in Nibelheim five years earlier in the next installment of Remake would be the next logical step toward uniting all the components of the FF7 story together in one whole. Have you ever wondered what the hell Sephy was reading down in the basement of that mansion for days on end? Now you can find out. It would also be a great way to bring in story beats from Zack's spinoff, Crisis Core. And why stop there? Players could moonlight as Tifa, Vincent, or even Hojo for a few brief sequences. That means Part 2 could bring in elements of the Dirge of Cerebus story too. Many of the FF7 spinoff games aren't easy to play anymore, and there's no sign of any ports on the horizon.
Since Nomura confirmed elsewhere in Ultimania that Zack Fair is alive (in one timeline or another) at the end of FF7 Remake, that opens up a whole lot of possibilities for how the role of Nibelheim in the story could change. At the very least, Cloud may be forced to confront the inconsistencies in his memories far sooner than the original game. Looking to the wilder extreme of possibilities, Zack could play a much bigger role in the overall story of FF7 Remake Part 2 and its sequels, as an ally or even a foe.
FF7's story has been adored by gaming fans for decades, because it gets under your skin. You share every step of the journey with Cloud — his heartbreak, exhilaration, frustration and triumph are yours, too. Letting players navigate these events through the perspective of Cloud's enemies and friends could be another step toward FF7 Remake eclipsing the brilliance of the original — even if we have to wait years to experience the whole dang thing.
Final Fantasy VII Remake Part 2 is currently in development.