One of the most dramatic scenes from the original Final Fantasy VII involves the entire party parachuting down into the city of Midgar amidst total chaos. Developers reportedly first considered a drastically different outcome for the sequence that would have involved killing off several characters close to the game's big finale.
Considering how much of the story has changed with Final Fantasy VII Remake, whenever the series reaches this point in the narrative in Part 2 or a later entry, developer Square Enix ought to reconsider this more dramatic approach. The perfect way to do it is by emulating Mass Effect and its sequel.
Spoilers follow for all FF7 and Mass Effect games.
Polygon's oral history of FF7 by Matt Leone, published online in January 2017 and in book form in September 2018, features interviews with around 35 individuals involved with the original game's creation. One of the most intriguing details revealed through the interviews were early plans for more characters to near the end of the game, long after Aerith's infamous demise at the end of Disc 1. It was revealed during a conversation between co-director Yoshinori Kitase and character designer Tetsuya Nomura.
"If I hadn’t stopped you, in the second half of the game, you were planning to kill everyone off but the final three characters the player chooses!" Nomura said to Kitase. "In the scene where they parachute into Midgar. You wanted everyone to die there!"
Here's the sequence in question from the original game.
This gnarly plan was scrapped because it went against the game's core theme of "life," and it would have "dilute[d] the meaning of [Aerith's] death." But the threat it presents lingers all these years later.
Particularly because FF7 Remake seems more about changing destiny than anything else, future installments have the opportunity to make more adventurous narrative choices ... such as killing off other characters instead of Aerith. Given how much of the original story the first FF7 Remake covered, the scene where the party parachutes into Midgar would probably happen in FF7 Remake Part 3 or 4, but Square Enix could do interesting things with continuity if they consider tracking progress between installments.
During the original game's second disc, the planet generates several bio-mechanical kaiju called WEAPONs to defend itself, but rather than target the villain Sephiroth, the WEAPONs attack major cities that are draining Mako from the planet. Shinra defends Midgar with a massive Mako cannon called "Sister Ray," but not before the DIAMOND WEAPON destroys a huge swath of the city. The mad scientist Hojo wants to fire the cannon again, but doing so would level Migar, so Cloud and friends parachute into the city amidst all the chaos to stop him.
Diving down into the city is nothing short of epic.
While you do select your two companions for this FF7 mission, nobody dies. (This mission is also clearly the inspiration for the parachuting scene in FF7 Remake Part 1 where Cloud, Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie dive down from the top plate into the Sector 7 Slums.)
But what if the FF7 Remake series followed through on Kitase's original big twist? All of the other party members not selected for the mission might die in dramatic fashion, and then after stopping Hojo, the only thing left to do would be to confront Sephiroth at the Northern Crater to complete the game. The game's ending could be different based on these choices.
Both FF7 Remake and the original track Cloud's overall intimacy with other members of the party based on sparse dialogue choices and who he spends the most time with. The results are subtle or meaningful — like who shows up to fight alongside Cloud first in Remake's final battle. If subsequent games explore a similar kind of intimacy ranking, key decisions could influence who lives and who dies in a more nuanced way. In fact, the FF7 Remake should invest in this mechanic even more by emulating what happens in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2.
Mass Effect famously features one mission where your group splits up, and you have to choose which of your teammates to rescue: Alliance marine and human biotic Kaidan Alenko or hardened human soldier Ashley Williams. Whoever you neglect nobly sacrifices their life for the cause. The survivor will be mostly MIA in the direct sequel and then rejoin your squad in Mass Effect 3. So there are significant lasting consequences at play here. These kinds of impactful narrative structures are what made BioWare a big deal throughout the early aughts and what make the Mass Effect trilogy so beloved in particular.
Perhaps an even more compelling feature came with Mass Effect 2's Loyalty system.
Essentially, if you talk to your squadmates enough, you'll be able to do optional side missions where you help each them accomplish some personal goal. If you don't complete these optional missions, then characters die in the final "Suicide Mission" at the end of the game.
Most of Mass Effect 2 is spent either recruiting the 12 characters or completing their Loyalty missions, but rather than feel like a chore, the experience is a meditation on human intimacy. You know, despite the fact that most of the crew are aliens.
When the Final Fantasy VII Remake series reaches that thrilling parachute scene into Midgar, it would be perfect opportunity to take a similar approach to what Mass Effect 2 does with Loyalty ratings.
The FF7 plot already has a series of missions that feel like Loyalty Missions for the various characters, so if Remake were to make them totally optional and give the player consequences for neglecting them, it would really enhance the role-playing aspects of the game.
By all accounts, the frist FF7 Remake makes it seems like Aerith might live in subsequent entries, so it stands to reason that one or more other characters might have to take her place at some point. If Square Enix were to borrow the core Loyalty mechanic from Mass Effect 2 to create divergent and surprising plotlines, then it would make for some seriously dynamic storytelling unlike anything Final Fantasy has delivered in the past.
Final Fantasy VII Remake Part 2 is currently in development.