Who is the SOLDIER with black hair?
The biggest unanswered question in Final Fantasy 7 Remake is the identity of the dark haired SOLDIER who appears in the final cutscenes. While the game doesn’t even reveal his name (unless you have the subtitles on, that is), this is Zack Fair, a major character from Cloud’s past.
If you’ve never played the original Final Fantasy 7, Zack’s appearance will no doubt be incredibly confusing, as there is no context given as to why he’s important. The cliffnotes are that Cloud and Zack both used to work for Shinra and were once on a major mission with Sephiroth in Cloud’s hometown of Nibelheim. Oh, and he’s also Aerith’s ex-boyfriend.
In the original game, Zack is dead. Very dead. The mission in Nibelheim resulted in Sephiroth learning his true nature as a scientific experiment, and in his anger he burnt the town to the ground. Cloud and Zack managed to stop him, but both passed out after the fight. They were then taken by Professor Hojo and experimented on as part of a project known as Jenova Reunion, which was an attempt to restore an alien creature that was used to create Sephiroth. That’s the gross thing you saw in the Shinra HQ, and the company believes it is the key to discovering the Ancients’ Promised Land.
Hojo’s experiments produced a group of people infused with Jenova’s cells, and each was tattooed with a number. The hooded man who lives next door to Cloud and Tifa is one of Hojo’s victims. Due to his link to the cells inside them, Sephiroth was able to control them as puppets; we see this in Remake when he forces one of these failed so-called “Sephiroth clones” to murder President Shinra.
Zack eventually managed to escape Hojo, and dragged a severely Mako poisoned Cloud with him. He travelled to Midgar with hopes of building a new life, but was stopped by a group of Shinra soldiers who brutally executed him. Barely conscious, Cloud took Zack’s weapon – the Buster Sword – from his body, and completed the journey to Midgar alone.
In the finale of Final Fantasy 7 Remake, we see that Zack survives his fight with the Shinra guards. Much of his appearance here is actually a shot-for-shot remake of the ending of Crisis Core, the PSP prequel to FF7 that puts Zack as the protagonist. But instead of falling dead, he picks Cloud up and continues his journey to Midgar as planned.
So Zack is alive… well, sort of. In this scene we see a snack bag blow on the wind, passing by the camera just slowly enough to provide a clear shot of the mascot printed on it: a dog wearing a green hat. This mascot is seen frequently through Midgar, although this version of it is different. Instead of the normal beagle wearing a helmet, this is a border terrier with a cap. This suggests that there are actually two timelines; a reality where Zack dies, and one where he lives.
While Zack fights the Shinra soldiers, we can clearly see Midgar surrounded by a swarm of the hooded spectres known as Whispers, suggesting that the actions of Cloud in the ‘prime’ timeline are rippling through realities. Aerith describes the moment as ‘Destiny’s crossroads’, suggesting that Zack’s timeline is the intersecting pathway. That crossing is further hinted at when Aerith and Zack pass the same location in their respective timelines, as they appear to sense each other.
What are the Whispers?
Throughout Final Fantasy 7 Remake, the party frequently encounters hooded spectres that are eventually revealed to be the Whispers. Red XIII describes them as “Arbiters of Fate”, and explains that their sole purpose is to ensure that Destiny plays out according to plan.
As they are directly responsible for ensuring certain situations play out, such as when they restore Barret after he is killed by Sephiroth, and flashforwards shown by them depict key events from later in the original story, it’s clear that the Whispers are there to keep the events of the previous game’s timeline on track. A fate that will, eventually, see Sephiroth defeated.
Where things become more complicated is in Chapter 18, when Sephiroth invites the party to fight destiny. Considering fate has so far doomed the planet to being drained by Shinra, it’s easy to see why Cloud and the team would want to free themselves of that path. However, breaking away from destiny also frees Sephiroth up to succeed in his plan.
The penultimate boss fight is against the Whisper Harbinger, along with its three smaller lieutenants: Rubrum, Viridi, and Croceo. Using the Assess skill on these smaller Whispers reveals that they are each “an entity from a future timeline that has manifested in the present day. It fights to protect the future that gave shape to it.” Based on their weaponry – a sword, a gun, and bare fists – it can be interpreted that these are future versions of Cloud, Barret, and Tifa that are fighting their past selves in order to try and keep destiny on track.
The fact that they are beaten by the player means that the future is now uncertain, and that events of future installments need not adhere to the narrative of the original game. In that way, the Whispers are essentially a great big meta narrative device used by Square Enix to say “things aren’t going to go how you think they’ll go.”
Who is Sephiroth and why does he want to destroy the planet?
Sephiroth makes many appearances during Final Fantasy 7 Remake, but unless you have a working knowledge of who he is from playing the original game, it can be difficult to understand exactly what he wants. By the end of the game it’s established that he is a Shinra war hero who wants to destroy the planet, but his motivations are very unclear. Why are we fighting this dude?
Simply put, it’s because Sephiroth wants to become a god, and part of his plan to achieve that involves finding and exploiting the Promised Land, a legendary place that was supposedly once home to Aerith’s ancestors, the Ancients.
For a little more spoiler-heavy conext, Sephiroth intends to generate godly power by absorbing the Lifestream; a spiritual force within the planet that effectively works as the world’s white blood cells. Sephiroth plans to create an extinction-level event by causing a meteor to collide with the planet, as seen in one of the flashforwards provided by the Whispers. By standing at the impact point, he can absorb the Lifestream and become all-powerful. Sephiroth believes the Promised Land is the ideal point for all this to happen.
Where Remake further complicates things is by revealing that Sephiroth apparently knows that his plans for godhood are doomed to fail. How he knows this is unrevealed, but considering the levels of meta the finale is operating on, it could be that this Sephiroth is actually from the original game’s timeline, and Remake has its own continuity. By invading this new timeline, Sephiroth has the chance to thwart Cloud and ensure his scheme plays out.
Alternatively, this could be the Remake continuity’s Sephiroth who has been informed of the original Sephiroth’s failure, or it could also be a… Well, you get the idea. With what we’re given, it’s impossible to know what Sephiroth’s deal is for sure. One for the sequel, I guess.
Oh, and as for when Sephiroth abandons Cloud at the edge of creation, claiming he has seven seconds left before the end? Honestly, it’s hard to understand if even the writers know what the heck that means. Another cryptic cliffhanger left to be addressed in future games.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake: Over 100 Screenshots
What is the unknown journey?
The very last scene of Remake displays the words ‘The unknown journey will continue’. This suggests that what lies ahead will be unknown to even those who know the original story inside and out. With the destruction of the Arbiter of Fate, anything could happen next.
Provided Sephiroth still plans to become a god using the same scheme, it’s likely that the journey will take us onwards to the Temple of the Ancients, where he’ll obtain the Materia vital to his pursuit. Chances are, though, that the events will play out in different ways to what you remember, especially with the revelation that there are multiple realities. Will these intersect in the sequel? And how will Zack become involved? Only time will tell.
Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News and Entertainment Writer. You can follow him on Twitter.