I’m a pretty big fan of Final Fantasy franchise; a Final Fantasy apologist, if you will. Seriously, I’ve played too many to count. The amount of merchandise I have is embarrassing.
So, when the Remake was released, and it appeared to be a Retelling instead of the Remaster of the game I was hoping for, I was greatly dismayed and admittedly enraged. This was a game I had intended to sit down and play with my boyfriend, who had never played Final Fantasy VII (or any Final Fantasy game). It was scheduled to release on our anniversary and it was pushed back to due to the COVID pandemic, but we were both looking forward to it… until the spoilers began appearing that revealed Square Enix might have… uh, tweaked some things.
As you can guess, I became incredibly upset. Several spoilers indicated that parts of the main story all Final Fantasy VII players were aware of may have changed.
I had purchased the Deluxe version several months in advance, but when it was finally delivered (a whole 24 hours before the scheduled release date!) I didn’t even open the box for a whole week. I was that disappointed.
But then I decided to give it a shot. I wanted to discover for myself whether or not the changes ruined everything I remembered.
All thoughts and opinions below are my own as I try to make sense of this mess that Square Enix has created.
The Original VII Story And Crisis Core
Cloud is a kid who grew up in Nibelheim. His next door neighbor was Tifa—a pretty girl with whom he was infatuated. Although they are considered “childhood friends”, Cloud and Tifa barely ever talked or hung out together. Cloud was an introverted kid who didn’t like the other kids Tifa was friend with.
When Tifa’s mother died, Tifa ventured to Mt. Nibel thinking she could find her on the other side (it was a small town belief).
Cloud followed her in an attempt to protect her but failed to save her when she fell down a cliff and he fell down with her. Cloud came out almost unscathed while Tifa was in a coma for days. Tifa’s father blamed Cloud for the incident believing it was him who brought Tifa to the mountain, and forbade him from hanging out with his daughter ever again.
Ashamed of his failure to save Tifa and angered by the town’s perception of him, Cloud became obsessed with becoming stronger and eventually decided to leave Nibelheim to become a first class Soldier, like his hero Sephiroth. When he was old enough to enroll, he left his town but not before calling a meeting with Tifa where he revealed his plans and promised to return to her if she ever needed to be saved.
Cloud went to Midgar and enrolled with Shinra as planned. Unfortunately, he was never strong enough to enter Soldier and remained as an infantry man for all of his short career, although he did showcase some impressive sword skills for an infantry man. Ashamed of not making it into Soldier, Cloud cut all ties with the other Nibelheim kids who had traveled to Midgar as well. From this point on, no one in Nibelheim has any clue as to what became of Cloud, including Tifa.
During his time with the infantry, Cloud met a newly promoted first class Soldier named Zack with whom he bonded instantly over their similar backgrounds. The two became friends and even had a few missions together.
A few years after enrolling, Cloud was chosen to accompany his hero Sephiroth and his friend Zack to the town of Nibelheim to check on the Mako reactor and deal with the reported local monster population. Once again faced with the shame of never making it to Soldier level, Cloud decided to wear his full uniform, which included a headgear that hid his face so the people of Nibelheim would not recognize him. The strategy worked, even Tifa didn’t recognize him while she stood close to him.
However, the mission went horribly wrong when Sephiroth, while visiting the Mako reactor and the local Shinra mansion, found out the secret of his true origins, which mentally broke him down.
Out of pure rage, Sephiroth went on a murderous rampage and burned the whole town all by himself, killing its numerous inhabitants along the way. Cloud (still in uniform), Tifa, and Zack, all went after Sephiroth but Zack was knocked unconscious and Tifa was severely injured while trying to stop him.
Cloud, however, was able to stab Sephiroth with his sword while he had been distracted. He was then ran through with Sephiroth’s sword but before collapsing, he miraculously found the strength to use Sephiroth’s katana as a lever to hurl Sephiroth in a Mako pit which, according to Shinra records, killed Sephiroth.
Not long after Sephiroth’s death, Hojo arrived in Nibelheim and decided to use all the remaining survivors for human experiments. Amongst the survivors were Cloud and Zack. Tifa escaped such sinister fate by being rescued by her martial art Master Zangan who took her to Midgar.
Zack and Cloud were picked up along with the other remaining survivors and infused with Mako and Jenova/Sephiroth cells.
In VII, the player revisits the town of Nibelheim, which was rebuilt to cover up the incident with Shinra employees hired to play the part of the townspeople. Shinra sealed Sephiroth’s records and he was declared missing in action, but many assume him dead. After resurfacing five years later, Sephiroth uses the backdrop of the incident to manipulate Cloud into doubting his identity.
While Cloud suffered from Mako poisoning and the affects of the experiments on his body, Zack was able to resist the experiments due to his body being used to Mako after his Soldier training. Hojo eventually gave up on them and labeled them failures before placing them in a cryogenic sleeping state and leaving them in their pods in the Shinra Manor basement.
About five years later, Zack was able to break free from his confinement and took with him a now vegetative Cloud whom he clothed with one of his old first class Soldier uniform. The two ended up on the run for almost a year with Cloud sick and barely conscious throughout it all. On their journey, Zack talked a lot about his own life and his plans for both of them to become mercenaries in Midgar, confident that Cloud would recover soon.
Unfortunately for Zack, the Shinra forces finally caught up to them and Zack was killed in the fight that ensued. The soldiers then left, ignoring a distressed and delirious Cloud, assuming he was too far gone already to survive on his own. But it was then that Cloud regained some awareness and crawled over to Zack who entrusted his Buster Sword to him, telling him his legacy will live on inside Cloud, before dying. Buster Sword in hand, Cloud trudged off towards Midgar.
And that’s when everything became unclear in our story because Cloud underwent a major transformation due to the multiple traumas caused by the Nibelheim incident, his Mako poisoning, and witnessing Zack’s death. Cloud, who has been injected with Jenova/Sephiroth cells (Jenova being first and foremost a shape shifting being), imprinted Zack’s memories and fighting abilities into his own, along with Tifa’s memories of him and his own ideal image of himself as a SOLDIER, creating a new set of memories with an accompanying personality. What emerged in Cloud’s mind was a reality in which he did joined SOLDIER and was Sephiroth’s partner—Zack did not exist—and in most of Cloud’s twisted memories he took Zack’s place. Cloud presented himself in Midgar as a former 1st Class SOLDIER, now a mercenary for hire. And that’s when Tifa found him.
You see, Cloud believes he is a clone because his confidence is seriously shaken by Sephiroth and the Jenova cells inside of him, and he has no idea who he really is anymore. It’s only when Tifa is given access to his subconsciousness that his real story finally emerges.
Cloud can also be seen having short internal conversations with a voice only he can hear inside his head. That voice is actually Zack’s consciousness inside of him.
Lucrecia Crescent And Sephiroth’s Birth
It’s important to remember that Lucrecia Crescent is Sephiroth’s birth mother. Lucrecia married Hojo and became pregnant. They agreed to use their unborn child as a test subject for the Jenova Project by implanting him with Jenova cells in the embryonic stage.
This had an unexpected side effect: Lucrecia was frequently in pain and experienced visions of her son and the future atrocities he would commit. I think this hints that those affected by Jenova cells are capable of seeing visions (more on that below in The Remake).
Lucrecia was designed by Tetsuya Nomura. 🧐
Part Two: ‘The Remake’ aka ‘FFVIIIR’
Still following? That was a mouthful. Whew.
What’s Up With Zack?
First of all, everyone knows Zack Fair isn’t supposed to be alive. He’s quite clearly dead from past events. He dragged Cloud’s unconscious body to Midgar and died.
Why is this so important, you ask?
If Zack hadn’t died, Cloud’s entire persona would make no sense. Cloud having Zack’s Buster Sword (which, by the way, has a very unique description in the Remake referring to Cloud being Zack’s “living legacy”) would make no sense. Cloud being a mercenary? That would make no sense. Aerith mentioning her late boyfriend wouldn’t make any sense. Visiting the reactor in Nibelheim in Final Fantasy VII and finding Vincent along with texts from Hojo and Gast? It would make no sense. Tifa and Cloud having flashbacks to Nibelheim? The strangely tattooed men? No. Sense.
That video I linked above? That’s some pretty important content. Zack’s death shaped Cloud into who he is.
Let’s attempt to take a closer look at the comparisons in the video. The videos shows both endings fro Crisis Core and the Final Fantasy VII Remake.
In the Remake, whatever happens at the end changes time. Zack has the same dialogue in the Remake from Crisis Core, but some weird dust appears, and Zack asks, “Wait, was that all of them?” surrounded by dead Shinra soldiers. Something is off. The dust appears where Zack should have died. “Hey Cloud, you see that?” and Midgar looks like it’s disappearing into dust. There’s this shiny, yellow dust all around him. We don’t see Cloud.
The screen shows the people we’ve met in the Midgar Remake and there’s even more dust falling from the sky, including some new cutscenes—Biggs is alive, for one. In every scene that was changed from the Original VII, we see the dust, possibly hinting at an alternate timeline being shown.
Moving on. 😒
Jenova’s Abilities & An Explanation Of Cloud’s Visions
Assuming Jenova is a shape-shifter (see above), and because of how much Mako Cloud has been exposed to, maybe there’s a reason for Cloud’s visions in the Remake. In the Remake, when Cloud lands in Aerith’s church, Cloud sees flashes of Aerith’s death (her Holy materia falling from her ribbon into the water) … this makes no damn sense and that’s infuriating… but if Cloud has enough of Jenova in him, perhaps he has more fragments of Jenova’s being in him than he should have (see the section of Lucrecia above), causing him to see visions of the future, like Lucrecia did with Sephiroth.
Sephiroth is seen to be all-knowing in the Remake (meh, dumb) but if Sephiroth is omnipotent, perhaps Cloud has just a little bit of that power, too. I can’t explain why Sephiroth talks about changing the future or whatever in the Remake, either. If they intend to create a timeline in which Sephiroth can change the future in the Remake… well, that’s retarded.
Early on in the Remake, Cloud also has a flashback of Tifa in her cow-girl outfit in the Nibel Reactor (you know, the scene where she picks up the sword and attempts to stab Sephiroth) and that’s a memory he SHOULD have, but we don’t see that scene until much later in the Original VII. We’ve no idea why SE decided to show that memory so early.
In the Original VII, we witness white screen flashes to indicate Cloud having some sort of vision or, for lack of a better word, a “flashback”, but sometimes we only see flashes of white. Maybe this scene or vision or flashback or whatever in Aerith’s Church in the Remake is intentional and meant to be in the Original VII? Although, I doubt it. A little bit later as you’re making your way to Wall Market with Aerith, he sees that vision again and he cries. Aerith asks him “What’s the matter?” and he says nothing. There’s absolutely no reason for him to be seeing that vision and having an emotional reaction to it.
Some of the visions that Cloud has in the Original VII are actually Zacks’ memories created from the twisted persona-fusion that Cloud has created in his head. There’s plenty of instances where Cloud remembers something that was actually from Zack’s memories that he confuses as his own.
Here’s a great example taken from the Original VII of a memory that Cloud confuses at his own. Tifa doesn’t speak up to correct Cloud’s memories until Disc 3. But in the Remake, we don’t know what Cloud’s weird visions are. The visions of Aerith are totally new and just shouldn’t be there. Its almost as if Cloud is seeing his corrupted memories of the past and he’s witnessing events that take place in the future. The Spirits aren’t there to evoke these future events. What are the Spirits, you ask? No idea.
These Spirits show up randomly and totally unannounced. You see them first when touching Aerith’s hand as you’re making your way back to the train platform outside of Reactor 1. They show up again randomly in the Sector 7 Slums (I’m wracking my brains and I still have no idea why). They show up for a third time inside Aerith’s Church after fighting Reno.
They whisk you off into the Church’s attic to force the Original VII scene—running away from the Turks after beating up Reno. So… Why would SE need to introduce the Spirits if they were planning on following the Original VII plot? Well, who knows? Probably because the Remake is indeed a RETELLING or an alternate timeline which ALSO DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE.
Also, if the Spirits are intended to keep the characters on the Original VII timeline, then they should be showing up more often. There’s plenty of changes to the story in the Remake. The Spirits show up at Aerith’s Church, so why do they not show up for Cloud and Rude’s fight later in Sector 5? I had assumed they showed up to prevent characters from dying (Cloud and Rude definitely weren’t going to die LOL) but they didn’t show up to save Barret from being stabbed by Sephiroth in the Remake, they showed up after.
Remake or Retelling or Remaster?
There are many, many identical scenes of the Original VII in the Remake; it actually varies subtlety until you get closer and closer to the end of the Remake, which hints that the Remake is a “Retelling” and not a “Remaster” or a “story that will flesh out the Original VII”. Let’s be honest, Original VII was a bit of a mess at times. It could take 2-3 playthroughs in order to grasp everything that’s going on in the story. Crisis Core helped make the story much more understandable, but about halfway through the Remake, it does a very good job expanding upon story that didn’t quit make sense in the Original VII. Unfortunately, there’s plenty of pieces that further confuse what we know of the original plot.
For example, the Tattooed Men (Reunion people), were introduced early in the Remake. Only Original VII player’s and Crisis Core players know who these robed men are, but that truth isn’t stretched in the Remake, and it will more than likely be expanded upon. Reactor 5 is greatly expanded upon, SHINRA’s desperate attempts to turn the plot around and pin AVALANCHE as a terrorist group is greatly expanded upon, and I think that’s great. In the Original VII, we see an itty-bitty 2-minute scene of Shinra speaking with Heidegger and planning on blaming the terrorist group (AVALANCHE) for blowing up Reactor 1. This creates an important background for SHINRA’s reasoning behind blow up the plate above Sector 7. Some things like that should be explained better and I’m glad SE made those improvements.
Another scene that was greatly improved upon (although introduced surprisingly early) …The Nibelheim Incident. It is mentioned when Cloud is confronted by an illusion of Sephiroth after blowing up Mako Reactor 1. Sephiroth warps the surroundings to make it look like the burning Nibelheim and seems to appear out of nowhere. This was super disorienting an I’m sure Cloud felt the same way I did. Was he really there? Will we ever know?
A little bit later in the Remake, Cloud believes he had killed Sephiroth with his own hands (it takes a long time in the Original VII for Cloud to remember flinging Sephiroth into the Mako Pit), and he also remembers himself on the ground unable to do anything while his mother’s house burned. That’s two very important scenes that Cloud seemingly forgets about (or just refuses to remember) in the Original VII until Tifa sets him straight.
Sephiroth does not refute Cloud’s claims in the Remake, even calling Cloud’s supposed defeat of him was a “crowning moment” to their time together. Sephiroth mocks that Nibelheim burned so bright and says Cloud’s mother had begged him to spare Cloud before he had killed her, not by the fire, but by his blade (Sephiroth never went near him in the Original VII).
In the Original VII, any indication of Cloud beating Sephiroth was revealed after Tifa helped to construct Cloud’s memories of himself.
Conclusion Of The Remake Part One
Remember when I freaked out about the ending of part one? Zack Fair isn’t dead? Uh… Excuse me? Well, what if he is dead. Square Enix is just hitting us with a cliff hanger.
First of all, Aerith is by no means affiliated with Jenova, so she cannot see visions, but we do know she can see and listen to spirits that are floating around the lifestream. One of those spirits is her mother, and another one was Elmyra’s husband.
In the Remake, Aerith sees a very much alive Zack Fair with Cloud on his shoulder approaching Midgar. In the Original VII and Crisis Core, we know that Zack Fair struggled to carry a vegetative Cloud Strife on his back. We also know that Shinra soldiers caught up to them and fought Zack outside of Midgar. We also know he died and Cloud came to consciousness, he took Zack’s sword, and walked into Midgar, this beginning the story of Final Fantasy VII.
At first, I thought this scene in the Remake meant that SE was trying to say that Zack Fair was alive, but we never actually see him walk into Midgar; he’s just carrying Cloud’s body… in greater proximity to the gates of Midgar than what we know of in Crisis Core.
It’s possible that what Aerith sees is either 1. Zack’s spirit and his wishes of returning Cloud safely to Midgar or 2. Since she wasn’t there to witness the event of Zack’s death, it’s possible she can speak to those who have died, much like how she spoke with Elmyra’s husband. If she knows of Elmyra’s husband passing before the news go to Elmyra, it’s very possible she knows of Zack’s death. She mentions that she will miss the “steel sky of Midgar” …possibly because of the memories it contains, such as Zack’s existence the last she saw him.
Additionally, due to Lucrecia gaining visions from Jenova, it’s possible that Cloud can also see visions… the difference is he has no idea what’s happening and neither do we.
There isn’t any plausible explanation as to why Sephiroth is able to change the timeline/ time travel in the Remake. This whole “We can change the world together Cloud!” is stupid.
They’ve made some great changes, and these changes are enough to change the story forever. However, according to an interview translated by Twitter user @aitaikimochi from Final Fantasy 7 Remake, co-director Yoshinori Kitase says that Square Enix will not drastically change the story of the game to make it completely different than the original.
Quote by Kitase on how different the #FF7R will be from the original story:
"We’re not drastically changing the story and making it into something completely different than the original. Even though it’s a Remake, please assume the story of FF7 will continue as FF7 always has."
— ☆オードリーAudrey☆ (@aitaikimochi) April 28, 2020
This would seem to contradict major elements of FFVIIR, including the new “Whispers of Fate” enemies who are determined to make sure that the story plays out the exact same way. Throughout the game, multiple characters hint that the player is experiencing the events of the game in an alternate timeline, and we even see flash-forwards to certain events that don’t take place in the game. The final boss of the remake is a manifestation of these Whispers called a Harbinger, and Cloud kills it at the game’s conclusion. Several other events of the game also differ substantially from the original, including the possible survival of Cloud’s comrade Zack.
It’s not at all clear what this means for future entries in the FFVIIR cycle, and we’re not likely to know until the next game comes out.