Final Fantasy VII Remake has finally arrived, nearly five years after it was first announced at E3 2015. For the most part, fans and critics have responded enthusiastically to Square Enix's ambitious (and swoon-worthy!) retelling of one of the most beloved stories in gaming history. While the first installment of this multi-game project leaves off precisely where most long-time fans had expected, a massive ending twist is sure to leave players gobsmacked. Here are three of our biggest questions after completing FF7 Remake, and our best predictions for what it might mean for the sequel.
Endgame spoilers for FF7 Remake ahead.
What happened at the end of FF7 Remake?
Here's a little recap if you're befuddled by all the drama that closed out the first installment of Final Fantasy VII Remake. After busting Aerith and Red XIII out of Hojo's lab, Cloud and his companions head to President Shinra's office, where they encounter Sephiroth. This is where things start to deviate from the original story. Sephiroth stabs Barret – he's temporarily incapacitated – but then the mysterious Whispers of Fate (they look like ringwraiths or dementors) intervene. Sephiroth has become aware that he's destined to fail in his quest to destroy the planet by summoning Meteor, so he's trying to reshape his own destiny, and that of our heroes as well.
After being pursued down the Midgar Highway by Motor Ball, Cloud and his friends enter a portal, where they fight several manifestations of destiny itself. By defeating these "arbiters of fate," as Red XIII calls them, the events of the original game are no longer guaranteed to transpire the same way as in the original FF7. This is underscored by a final message displayed across the screen before the credits roll: "the unknown journey will continue."
3. Is Zack Fair alive in FF7 Remake?
Zack Fair was a friend of Cloud's when they both worked for Shinra. Zack was also romantically involved with Aerith, but we don't learn much about this stuff in the early hours of the original game. Much later, it's revealed that Cloud never actually made the cut to be a member of SOLDIER, but was was just an ordinary soldier. Zack, who was SOLIDER First Class, took Cloud under his wing for a short time. Zack died after the infamous Nibelheim incident, where Sephiroth lost his wits and burnt the city to ash after learning about his genetic ties to Jenova.
Traumatized, Cloud pulled a Don Draper and adopted his dead pal Zack's identity and backstory, using his trademark Buster Sword and unwittingly acting as though Zack's memories were his own. (It helped that they looked a lot alike, only Zack had black hair.) This was all explained much later in the original FF7, and fleshed out in more detail in the PSP spinoff game dedicated to Zack's backstory, Crisis Core.
Since 1997, Zack has become a beloved character in his own right among FF7 fans, but we haven't known whether or not Square Enix would incorporate elements of the broader lore into the remake. Zack's prominence in the ending suggests this is indeed the case.
In the final moments of Final Fantasy VII Remake, we see a flashback Cloud and Zack leaning on each other as they make their way to Midgar, suggesting an alternate reality in which Zack did not die of his wounds as he did in the 1997 game. As Aerith and Cloud pass by the same point on the city's outskirts, she seems to sense Zack's presence. Cloud, on the other hand, does not.
It's not clear if this means Zack is alive in the FF7 Remake timeline: Aerith's reflective conversation with Cloud in Evergreen Park certainly seems to suggest Zack is still dead, and Cloud still uses Zack's old Buster Sword. That said, we saw Barret revived in Shinra HQ, so it seems those "guaranteed deaths" might not be so inevitable in this new version of the story.
2. Will Aerith die in FF7 Remake?
That seems a bit less likely now. We saw Barret get the ol' Sephiroth special, just like Aerith did in the Temple of the Ancients in the original game. Barret bounced back pretty fast, so who's to say Aerith can't survive? There's no rule that we know of in FF7 lore that says she must be dead to use the White Materia to summon Holy and protect the planet from Meteor.
Some of Aerith's dialogue in Final Fantasy VII Remake hints that she's aware of her tragic fate. Her optional scene with Cloud in Chapter 14 definitely seems to underscore this; she warns him, "You can't fall in love with me." It's not clear yet if the party's battle with the Whispers of Fate were enough to prevent Aerith's demise, even if it doesn't transpire exactly as it did in the 1997 game.
1. Is FF7 Remake set in an alternate timeline?
For now, it certainly seems that way. But, again, that doesn't necessarily mean that Zack and Aerith survive this time. Throughout Final Fantasy VII Remake, the "arbiters of fate" interfered with Cloud and his allies to keep the course of events consistent with the original story. It's highly likely they could do so again.
Still, there's much to suggest that at least some of FF7 Remake's characters are aware of things they "shouldn't be" at this point. Sephiroth clearly knows the full course of events of the original FF7 story. Cloud has a brief glimpse of Aerith's death at the Temple of the Ancients when he first meets her in Chapter 2, and sees a vision of Sephiroth place a hand on her shoulder. Cloud's also far more powerful at this point in his journey. In the original game, he wasn't able to go toe-to-toe with Sephiroth until the endgame events at the Northern Crater. (Yes, this is technically a "projection" of Sephiroth, but that doesn't totally negate Cloud's power-up.) Cloud's impassioned words to Elmyra about the need to rescue Aerith from Shinra HQ suggests he remembers a lot more about Professor Hojo and the Jenova project this time around.
Cynically, how the story plays out from here will likely depend on how fans react to the first installment of FF7 Remake. Development on Part 2 is probably in the very early stages, and while there's likely a loose plan for the story, none of that is set in stone. If there's a lot of backlash about the ending, the first installment leaves things open-ended enough to allow the development team to take a more conservative approach to the next installment.
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