Warning: This article contains spoilers.
I was a huge cheerleader for the “Final Fantasy 7” remake. I spent countless hours compiling Twitter threads analyzing every new render, screenshot, and trailer, as well as retweeting nearly everything from developer Square Enix’s account regarding the game.
When the game was released on April 10, I didn’t livestream my play-through or tweet about my experience. “Final Fantasy 7” is my favorite work of fiction, and I wanted to experience the remake purely on my own without input from anyone else. I completed the game in about 50 hours, since I took my sweet time exploring every nook and cranny and viewing all the breathtaking scenery.
I was enthralled. I fell in love with the characters and story all over again. Throughout development, I supported every change Square Enix said it would make: From combat to story tweaks.
I trusted Square and Director Tetsuya Nomura, who designed the characters for the original “Final Fantasy 7” and the remake. I understood when they said combat would need to be updated because a realistic remake just wouldn’t allow for characters standing in a line taking turns to attack enemies. I understood when they said some changes to the story were necessary to make the game more realistic.
When the game finally came out, I accepted those changes because they were relatively minor, while the major beats of the original story were intact. I looked at the changes more as an expansion of the original, rather than an undoing.
And then I saw the ending.
Throughout the game, black, hooded, ghost-like creatures appear around the main characters. Sometimes the ghosts help the characters; sometimes they hold them back. Red XII (Nanaki, for those of you who know and don’t want to call him by his prisoner name) explains later that these are “whispers”: arbiters of fate who make sure things go according to plan.
The whispers, then, are making sure “Final Fantasy 7: Remake” stays more or less true to the original story. They make sure Cloud goes with Barret and Tifa to blow up the second reactor like he did in the original game, when in “Remake” it looked like he was going to get left behind. The whispers also bring Barret back from death near the end of the game, because he didn’t die in the original.
The first episode of “Remake” ends when the team escapes Midgar as they chase after Sephiroth. Or that’s what we were told. After you beat the final Midgar boss, however, the game goes beyond the original and has you fight fate itself.
Cloud had been having both flashbacks and flash-forwards throughout the game, and as the characters are about to escape Midgar, Aerith opens a portal where you will fight the Whisper Harbinger and unshackle them from their original fates—the fates set forth in the original “Final Fantasy 7.” Aerith, who appears to be keeping information from everyone, says moving forward at Destiny’s Crossroads is the only way to change the future, which includes her once-inevitable death.
We learn during this time that “Final Fantasy 7: Remake” takes place in a different timeline than the original “Final Fantasy 7,” hence the whispers. There are likely multiple timelines, as Zack, a minor character in the original but the main character in the spinoff “Crisis Core,” is seen surviving an attack during which he died in the original.
Since you destroy the Whisper Harbinger, it means the remake is no longer tied to the original story and the whispers will no longer make sure things happen the way they should.
This is terrifying. One has to wonder what Square will do to the remaining episodes of “Remake.” Will they completely rewrite the story and destroy the promise they made when they announced the remake?
That’s my biggest fear, although I think a complete “screw you” to fans is unlikely. My hope is that future installments keep the major beats of the story with minor, necessary tweaks.
Perhaps this is all a “you can’t change your destiny” fake out. Maybe the only way to make gamers relive the worst-kept video game death in history is to make them think it won’t happen. Perhaps Square will include places and story lines from the “Final Fantasy 7” spinoff games.
The town of Banora and its famous dumbapples didn’t exist in the original “Final Fantasy 7” (it appeared in “Crisis Core”), yet Cloud passes an ad for Banora dumbapple juice. Perhaps the remake will include Banora and other villages added in spinoffs, like Modeoheim and Healen Lodge. I wouldn’t be against that, per se, or other town and story additions.
But “Remake” makes it seem like major plot points will change, particularly Aerith’s death. Her death is central to the plot, because it saves the planet. Aerith summons Holy before Sephiroth summons Meteor, yet Holy shows up late and fails. It is the lifestream, which we believe to be controlled by dead Aerith, that ends up saving the planet. Aerith again saves everyone with a healing rain in the sequel movie “Advent Children.”
I want to give Square Enix and Nomura the benefit of the doubt about the future of the “Final Fantasy 7” remake. In just about every interview given during the game’s development, they said they balanced the original story with new and expanded content. The ending of “Remake’ makes it seem like they are throwing that out the window for some convoluted multiple timeline saga.
Hopefully we learn more information about episode two so these fears can be alleviated.