Square Enix’s long-awaited remake ended in an unexpected manner. Let’s talk about it.
It’s kind of hard to believe that Final Fantasy 7 Remake is finally here. Announced in 2015, it’s been heavily requested since 2005 when that snazzy PS3 tech demo was showcased. This may seem like the generation of remakes but Final Fantasy 7 is a very special game. For many, it was their first introduction to the series, an RPG unlike any other at the time. It was also the reason they bought the PlayStation One, even if those gorgeous CG cutscenes weren’t the actual gameplay. The story and its characters have come a long way since but their tale remains as timeless as ever.
So you’re probably looking at this title and wondering what explanation is required exactly. This is Final Fantasy 7 Remake right? Square Enix has stated multiple times that this is the first part and it only covers the story up till the escape from Midgar. So you’d think this would be the same ending but with some slight twists here and there.
As it turns out, several events are completely new to the story and drastically affect the outcome. The result is Square Enix potentially changing how future events will play out along with the series’ continuity as a whole. If you haven’t finished Final Fantasy 7 Remake, then be warned: Heavy, heavy spoilers abound.
Let’s start with the original game’s ending. Aerith has been captured by Shinra and thought to be an Ancient Cetra who would reveal the Promised Land, ideally containing lots of Lifestream energy for the company to profit from. Cloud, Barrett and Tifa rescue her before escaping on the Midgar Highway, leading to a pretty nifty motorcycle mini-game (at the time, at least), which ended in a fight against Motor Ball. Following this, the gang ventures outside of Midgar to pursue Sephiroth and hopefully find some answers.
Now let’s go back to the final trailer for Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Everything seems to be similar enough to the original. Cloud and Aerith having an awkward conversation; Biggs, Wedge and Jessie having a laugh; the Shinra higher-ups being their general uppity selves; Tifa’s tragic past; and so on and so forth. However, eventually, we’re shown some ghost-like figures called “whispers” or “arbiters” of fate.
Later, Aerith talks about how every time the whispers touch her, she loses a part of herself. We then see something that was decidedly not in the original game – Barrett being stabbed by Sephiroth. Near the end, we see Cloud and the party standing before some kind of portal surrounded by the whispers. They enter, only to engage in a battle with Sephiroth who seems to be powering up in apocalyptic fashion.
What exactly is going on? Well, these so-called “whispers” are actually the Keepers, Watchmen or Whispers of Fate. These ghost-like beings are in charge of ensuring that events in the remake play out exactly like the original game. In a way, they represent “Destiny” and their influence can be felt throughout the remake’s story.
In the original game, when Cloud meets Aerith for the first time following the destruction of the Mako Reactor, she gives him a flower and eventually leaves. However, when Cloud tries to have her leave in the remake, Aerith doesn’t. This causes the Whispers to appear and follow the original’s script (even trying to drag Aerith away before Cloud can see them). The Shinra soldiers appear to apprehend Cloud but are completely oblivious to the Whispers. Eventually, Aerith gets scared and runs away so events are seemingly on track for the time being.
Then we have the interaction between the two in Sector 5. Cloud falls and is saved by landing in Aerith’s flower bed. When Reno shows up, Aerith asks Cloud to be her bodyguard. Unlike the original, instead of immediately escaping with her, Cloud engages in a battle with Reno. Not that big of a deal aside from some potentially ruined flowers, right?
However, events are clearly not meant to play out this way. After the fight, when Cloud is about to finish off Reno, the Whispers intervene once more and whisk Cloud and Aerith away just as the Shinra soldiers show up.
Eventually, we learn that Sephiroth is aware of the Whispers and how he’ll eventually lose if things stay on course. By the time we arrive at the ending of the remake, we see Cloud and his friends willing to fight against fate, against destiny. After a conversation with Sephiroth and the Whispers suddenly swelling in number, they enter the portal seen in the final trailer and engage the Whispers in a huge boss battle. It’s worth mentioning that we see Zack from the end of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 getting ready to fight against hordes of Shinra soldiers to protect Cloud. The Whispers are seen here as well. We’ll come back to this in a bit.
Cloud and his party battle different Whispers while a huge one looms in the distance. During these battles, the party starts seeing visions of the original game’s events. Red XIII sees the original game’s ending where an adult Nanaki and some cubs are running with the remains of Midgar seen in the distance. Tifa sees Meteor bearing down on the Planet. There’s even teases of Aerith’s death.
After defeating the Whispers, the party faces off against Sephiroth before being split up. Cloud fights 1v1 against his nemesis, until Sephiroth rallies and throws a giant piece of debris at him. This is destroyed by Aerith who then joins the battle (which is actually kind of funny to witness in some ways). When the two are restrained, Barrett eventually intervenes and it’s a party battle at last.
This entire sequence is very reminiscent of Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children. We’re talking floating debris and buildings, which Clouds slices through while leaping from one to the next; mid-air battles with cinematic camera angles; a storm-covered setting; the whole works. It’s actually kind of impressive how well this game stacks up visually to the movie but I digress.
After Sephiroth is “defeated,” Tifa and Red XIII show up just as the Whispers get involved, prompting the rest of the party to fight them off while Cloud pursues Sephiroth.
Here’s where things start to get trippy.
Cloud’s sword strikes Sephiroth’s and suddenly, the two are transported to some strange place in the cosmos. Cloud starts getting headaches, likely from more visions, before Sephiroth grabs his hand and says: “Careful now. That which lies ahead…does not yet exist. Our world will become a part of it…one day. But I…will not end. Nor will I have you end.”
When Cloud asks what this place is, Sephiroth responds with “The edge of creation.” He then asks Cloud to lend his strength so that they can defy destiny together. Naturally, our boy refuses and fights. After Sephiroth comes out on top, he disappears and eventually Cloud leaves the “edge of creation” as well.
Here’s where things start to get really trippy. Remember Zack’s final stand in Crisis Core? It’s not his final stand here – Zack actually survives. A giant blast pushes him back but ends in a rain of little glowing lights. We cut to Biggs, who is revealed to be alive; Marlene, who’s tending to a vase of flowers; the slums being rebuilt; and eventually, the party being reunited, deciding to pursue Sephiroth.
But wait – there’s more. As Aerith and Cloud move forward, they pass by Zack carrying Cloud in what seems to be the past, as the two different timelines seemingly intersect. Aerith then stops and proclaims that she misses the “steel sky.”
With the Whispers seemingly gone, it’s implied that the entire timeline of the series has been altered, which the rain of glowing lights being felt and seen across different times could signify.
Events of the past have seemingly been rewritten. Think of it as a completely alternate timeline for Cloud and friends, not unlike the 2009 reboot of Star Trek (except without the time travel complications). Of course, there are numerous questions. The Zack that survived the events of Crisis Core – is he part of this new timeline? Is he simply an alternate timeline that doesn’t lead directly into the events of Final Fantasy 7? Does he potentially spin off into his own series of events separate from the original storyline?
Why were the Whispers only now visible to Cloud and friends and not in the original game? How did Sephiroth know about them? If “that which lies ahead” doesn’t exist yet – which seems like a clever wink from the development team about how the second part isn’t ready yet – does this mean that certain characters like Aerith could survive? Could we see others like, say, Tifa die instead?
It’s a lot to take in but the door is apparently now open for Square Enix to take the remake’s story into new directions. It’s highly likely that we’ll see familiar areas but presented in a new light. The entire quest to stop Meteor, the Sephiroth clones created by Hojo, Jenova, Cloud’s past and how it relates to Zack – there are so many different plot threads that could change. We may see Marlene have a happy reunion with her father Dyne, somewhat invalidating her involvement with Tifa and Cloud in Advent Children.
Aerith could end up with Cloud instead of Tifa, which changes so much in terms of the dynamic for the entire group, both in the original game and in Advent Children. Would Cloud still lose his motivation and blame himself for not being able to save Tifa? Would the Geostigma still be an issue if Aerith is around? Will we run into the likes of Yuffie, Cait Sith, Cid and Vincent in part 2 of the remake? Will they have the same backstories? Could any of them survive to see the end?
On the one hand, I’m kind of excited to see where the development team goes with this. On the other hand, when you throw in this new seemingly alternate timeline and then another timeline with Zack being alive, things start to get convoluted. It’s possible that the Whispers serve a higher purpose, which is still out there and probably still trying to get things back on track. It’s also possible that we learn that these events have happened before and will happen again, the cycle continuing for some unknown purpose.
I also wouldn’t put it past the development team to consolidate these different timelines together, creating some sort of “Crisis” where the fabric of space, time and all creation is at risk. Whoever is trying to maintain this balance could end up being the final big bad that our heroes have to overcome, perhaps creating a new “timeline” in the process. Who knows – this could all be the work of Gaia, or the Planet, in a strange attempt to perpetuate its cycle of existence for all eternity. If that were the case, one would have to ask whether the Whispers were present in other entries but in different forms.
Keep in mind that even with what we think could happen, there’s no guarantee that any of this will actually happen. Square Enix could be changing the entire original story or very little of it. Depending on fans’ reactions, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a similar balancing act in part 2 where familiar locations, story beats and battles play out but with changes happening in the background, culminating in another big cliffhanger.
There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical, not the least of which is director Tetsuya Nomura being at the helm of the remake, infamous as he is for the overly convoluted Kingdom Hearts series. You could argue that the original Final Fantasy 7‘s story was already pretty complicated but the counter-argument is whether it needed all of these elements to make it even more so. I’m not writing these changes off completely but I’m also cautious about whether the development team can wrap everything up in a satisfying fashion while still remaining faithful to the original’s spirit and themes.
You have to wonder though – why did Square Enix take this direction with the remake at all? Would fans have really complained about experiencing the same storyline again, especially with how receptive they’ve been to new interactions and more expanded events? I’m not sure this was done solely to motivate players to “tune in” for the next part. Perhaps the company wants to create a new universe and tell all kinds of different stories in it. It’s possible that we’ll just get an epic rebuild of Final Fantasy 7 and nothing more.
However, we won’t really know until the second part comes out. Whether fans will stick around for the ride or not remains to be seen.