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So You Just Beat Final Fantasy VII Remake – An Ending Breakdown

by May 20, 2020 8 comments

Congratulations. You made it. You just reached the credits of Final Fantasy VII Remake and no longer need to avoid spoilers. But there’s a problem: what the hell just happened? With this article, I hope to define what we know so far, walk through the events as they’re shown, and outline what’s been theorized within the community.

First and foremost, let’s examine the Whispers. Red XIII states the Lifestream’s flow (i.e. the cycle of life and death) is fixed from a planet’s birth to its death. Those who try to alter that flow are disrupted by Whispers.

Red XIII: “Whispers. Perhaps best described as arbiters of fate. They are drawn to those who attempt to alter destiny’s course and ensure they do not.”

Tifa: “Like capital D… ‘Destiny’?”

Red XIII: “The flow of the great river that is the planet, from inception to oblivion.”

Tifa: “And you’re saying that that flow is somehow… fixed?”

Red XIII: “Yes. For it is the will of the planet itself.”

Though currently unexplained, yet possibly related to the Whispers, Aerith is now clairvoyant. The extent of her foresight is unknown, but throughout the game she exhibits knowledge of things she was never told. Examples include knowing Sephiroth is alive, knowing Marlene is Barret’s daughter, and knowing Red XIII is a child within his species.

At the end of the Midgar highway, the party is surrounded by Whispers. When they howl, Zack’s last stand is shown. Zack is the original owner of the Buster Sword and plays a pivotal role in Cloud’s past. He was hunted down and killed by Shinra while protecting a comatose Cloud before the events of the game. The scene is a one-to-one recreation of his last stand as it was shown in Crisis Core, except now we see Whispers are among the Shinra troops. Given Red XIII’s previous definition, Whispers are present because Zack is dangerously close to altering fate. The scene ends and the party proceeds to challenge Sephiroth at Aerith’s request. They seek to destroy the concept of fate itself. As they fight, the party receives visions of key moments from the original game.

Barret: “What the hell did I just see?”

Red XIII: “A glimpse of tomorrow if we fail here today.”

However, destroying fate has unimaginable consequences – Zack is shown surviving Shinra’s assault. As Aerith claimed earlier, changing fate will change who they are.

Aerith: “I’m asking you to help me. I know that, together, we can do this. But if we do… We’ll be changing more than fate itself. If we succeed… if we win… we’ll be changing ourselves… I guess… maybe, that’s why I hesitated.”

It’s time to bring our attention to one small, important detail: a bag of potato chips. The snack in question flies into view during Zack’s ending scene and features an altered version of Stamp, Shinra’s propaganda canine. Throughout the game Stamp is portrayed as a beagle, however, the Stamp that appears here is of a terrier breed. This is hotly theorized to be a hint that what we see of Zack takes place in an alternate timeline.

stamp comparison

With that in mind, let’s walk through the ending:

At the same time the party fights Sephiroth, Zack fights for survival against the Shinra army. The two conflicts are connected across time and space through the Singularity. When Cloud lands the finishing blow on Sephiroth (who earlier was shown to have absorbed the Whispers), it causes a ripple effect (the explosion we see around Midgar from Zack’s perspective). Life and death are no longer bound to fate. The Whispers dissipate into a golden rain that showers Zack, the residents of the Sector 7 slums, and the Leaf House (which is to say both spacetimes are showered). Later, at the same spot where the party departs from Midgar, Zack and Cloud approach from the opposite direction. Their presence is felt by Aerith. She becomes fearful of the possibilities they’ve created.

It’s not clear yet how these two conflicts became connected through the Singularity. However, theories have begun to form around the Stamp discrepancy mentioned earlier. To aid further discussion, let’s use Stamp’s breed to differentiate the possible timelines we’ve seen so far. The Beagle timeline is where the majority of Remake takes place. The Terrier timeline is where Zack’s scenes take place. A big thank you to forum user Suzaka for coining these fantastic names!

Theory #1: Intersecting timelines

In this theory, the timelines exist independently. They intersect in unexpected ways and time is not parallel across them. For unknown reasons, the Beagle and Terrier timelines intersect at the Singularity. The defeat of the Whispers allows for Zack to survive in the Terrier timeline.

intersecting timelines diagram

Theory #2: Diverging timelines

In this theory, the timelines diverge from a source. They branch in unexpected ways, but time is parallel across them. For unknown reasons, the Singularity connects two points across time. The defeat of the Whispers allows for a diverging timeline in which Zack survives.

diverging timelines diagram

Theory #3: Timeline overwrite

There is only one timeline in this theory. It does not unexpectedly intersect with or branch into other timelines. For unknown reasons, the Singularity connects two points across time. The defeat of the Whispers allows for Zack to survive, but the past is consequently overwritten to avoid paradoxes.

overwritten timeline diagram

Regardless of which theory is correct, the key takeaway is that Zack is alive somewhere. For how long or in what ways this’ll affect future FF7 titles is up to speculation.

One final note on Sephiroth: in Japanese, Sephiroth uses the pronoun “watashi” for himself, which is a formal way to say “I”. He started using this pronoun after meeting Jenova five years before the events of the game. Jenova is an alien life form and Sephiroth’s “mother” of sorts. However, the Sephiroth that appears in Chapter 18 uses the pronoun “ore”, which can be used to imply familiarity. This is the pronoun Sephiroth used before he met Jenova. The Final Fantasy VII Remake Ultimania even highlights this detail. It’s possible the Sephiroth in Chapter 18 is altogether different from the one fans are familiar with. Furthermore, this new Sephiroth speaks of a threat that will bring an end to both himself and Cloud. After his proposal for allyship is denied, he leaves with a warning:

Sephiroth: “Seven seconds till the end. Time enough for you. Perhaps. But what will you do with it? Let’s see.”

The real question is what will we do with the time between now and the next FF7 title? It’s been about a month since release and I’ve talked more about dog breeds in that time than I have in my entire life prior, so at least we can rely on discussion being interesting. Know something I missed? Have I lost the plot entirely? Let me know in the comments below or on the forum! Thanks for reading.

8 comments

  1. bbv
    #1 bbv 23 May, 2020, 13:15

    What a shitty ending..

    Reply to this comment
    • Simon
      Simon 27 June, 2020, 14:05

      I couldn’t agree more. What on earth were they thinking?

  2. NagromXII
    #2 NagromXII 27 May, 2020, 06:03

    Nice job with the ending explanation and the theories. Interesting read. I am excited for what is coming next from the other remake parts.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Akito
    #3 Akito 11 June, 2020, 07:50

    It could also be that the Remake’s timeline is not the same of the original. The story could not already be the same even without Whispers, because Cloud flashbacks were changed a lot. So some events wouldn’t have happened anyway.

    Reply to this comment
    • JT
      JT 14 June, 2020, 21:14

      That, and didn’t Cloud see sort of… “flash forwards”? Like, a vision of Aerith’s death while trying to cast Holy, a la the original game, complete with dropping materia?

      My spouse and I have a theory that someone was mucking about with time/dimensional travel, which is what caused the instability that introduces the Whispers (and whatever that ending was supposed to depict, whether alternate timeline or changed one) .

      Some people, going on similar hypotheses, have suggested that the one DOING the tampering may well be the Aerith from the original, first, OG timeline, depicted through most of the Compilation, who in the past has been shown (in say, “Maiden Who Walked the Planet”, “Case of the Lifestream: White”, and “Advent Children”) to be more in command of the powers of the Lifestream after dying and merging with it, than she was while alive, and more aware of certain Things involving the Planet and Lifestream too. Which makes sense – she is, after all, considered the “last of the Cetra”, who were notable for being more connected to the Planet than the average person is now, and it’d be presumably easier to manipulate the Lifestream itself if you were actually within it – thought it’s notable that she sometimes already heard “voices” from the dead in the Lifestream, so we KNOW it can make contact with the living, and even directly communicate with, say…someone whose mother was a Cetra?

      Getting to the point: some have suggested that the Aerith from the original timeline is the one trying to change fate, and that the reason THIS Aerith (Remake!Aerith) is more “clairvoyant” and seemingly more in touch with the Lifestream, despite sometimes saying these things and then showing uncertainty as to how she even knows them? Is that the OTHER Aerith (OG!Aerith or Original!Aerith if you will) is using the Lifestream(s?) to contact her and feed her information to try and change things. Which would admittedly be pretty trippy for Remake!Aerith to experience, huh?

      When you consider the Aerith cut scene you can get if you have her affection higher than Tifa’s, which…I mean if you’ve seen it…does that seem to you more like OG!Aerith, say, the Aerith we saw from AC maybe, than the one we have in Remake? She literally even tells Cloud things that…imply she knows what her fate is (namely, that Cloud might lose her), or at least could be, right?

      That scene in particular would seem to lend credence to the idea that either she’s being fed information on the original/Planet-ordained timeline of events…or possibly the version Cloud sees a vision of in that cut scene *isn’t* Remake!Aerith at all, but rather her counterpart from another timeline trying to brace him for what might come.

      Not guaranteed, but it’s one of those interpretations that makes a surprising amount of sense.

      Also, it occurs to me that if it WAS Aerith, it would make the Sephiroth content make a bit more sense, wouldn’t it? Consider:

      – She insists at one point to the Whispers that “it started” with “Shinra” but also “they aren’t the real enemy”,; we of course, are left to assume that she’s indicating Shinra as a whole is small potatoes compared to…what? Presumably, Sephiroth and/or Jenova?

      – at the very ending, Remake!Aerith is convinced that Sephiroth needs to be defeated BEFORE Cloud even makes his case, notice; she recognizes him as a huge threat to the Planet and all life on it. But she ALSO, despite hesitating to initiate going forward at first, indicates they NEED to defeat him at any cost…*including* Altering Destiny and trying to rewrite their fate, AHEM.

      – Sephiroth is MUCH more direct MUCH earlier, in Remake, in trying to make contact with/influence Cloud than he ever was in the equivalent Midgar sections of the OG. Even without pronouns coming into play, he’s UP to Something, and that Something seems to be somewhat more than what he got Up To in the OG, given he shows himself (albeit probably only mentally) a lot sooner here.

      -…or does he? IS that Sephiroth? Is that the ORIGINAL Sephiroth, the same one? Remake makes it clear (from context, for people who know the other canon) that despite initially appearing as Sephiroth, a Jenova-infected clone IS the one who directly kills President Shinra…but the President’s death also happened DIFFERENTLY than in the OG! You don’t find him with Masamune in his chest sitting at his desk, it’s nothing like that, despite the end result being about the same.

      – Exactly how merged with Jenova IS Sephiroth?? Or is Jenova just using his image at this point? (We do know Jenova could mutate and shapeshift, right? So…) That could explain something about the differing pronouns, either…

      idk, it’s just…interesting to contemplate. It’d almost be too easy to suggest that it’s just Sephiroth (or a version thereof) pulling the same “Mother and I will go to the stars” routine, especially when even Squeenix is making a POINT of the pronouns being distinct between Remake!Sephiroth and post-Jenova Compilation!Sephiroth.

      One even wonders if Sephiroth is truly merged with/cooperating with Jenova anymore, given the pronoun thing, but regardless…it being Aerith, or a version of her anyway, who instigated the change, is…an interesting thought, especially if it was a risky decision taken for the sake of defeating what she considered the biggest threat to the Planet and everyone on it.

      It also gets…intriguing? When you consider Remake!Aerith is insistent on changing Destiny….when Nanaki explicitly says the Whispers are said to be doing THE PLANET’s own will re: how its life cycle is intended to ultimately go. What…what exactly is so bad about the Planet/Lifestream/humanity’s fate that is so horrible she would go against its own collective choice!?

      Because…I mean we know Jenova (at minimum) in AC was able to ~infect~ living people whose souls/life energy would have come from the Lifestream (i.e. people born on Gaia/the Planet, who contracted Geostigma by the time the film starts)…what if…I mean all of this is just spitballing here, but…

      …what if Jenova was capable of literally infecting THE LIFESTREAM ITSELF?

      What if Jenova actually WON, effectively, at some point (possibly in the future from our perspectives) and THAT’s why the “will of the Planet” isn’t acceptable to Aerith anymore??

      What if…basically… the whole Lifestream is effectively suffering from the Planetary equivalent of an autoimmune disease? Into a state where it’s tricked into attacking its own metaphorical white blood cells, thus aiding the “invader” by accident? I mean we LITERALLY see Sephiroth (Jenova? Jenovaroth???) ABSORBING the Whispers, manipulating them, DIRECTLY using them against the protagonists…how and why would he/it be able to DO that, if he/it weren’t already capable of influencing or ~infecting~ the Whispers (which are agents of the Lifestream/Planet after all).

      I mean, it’s a TERRIFYING prospect, but I could see that kind of circumstance pushing Aerith and possibly others into Changing Destiny, considering at that point, it’s NOT actually the Will of the Planet anymore, because the Planet herself is effectively sickened and ailing and unable to act in a “rational” way to protect itself, but instead aiding the ….virus or cancer or whatever you want to imagine it as, that wishes to destroy/use the Planet and Lifestream for its/their own purposes.

      I can see how the ending would tick off a lot of people (especially since most were expecting just an expansion and pretty-fying of the original story!), don’t get me wrong.

      But personally I’ve always thought the complex, weird lore and epic scale of FFVII was pretty neat (if a little muddied and hard to follow at times, granted), like a very odd puzzle, and I’m a big fan of exploring altered timelines and their impact on characters and relationships in general, so…honestly? I was excited and intrigued by the ending and changes and basically all the new content.

      Mostly because, to me, “playing it over again but prettier, in more detail, and with a different combat system” would be fun, but a Whole New Story is even more interesting because it pushes the narrative forward instead of letting it stop in place with “Dirge”. We’re getting MORE STORY, not just… “more detail to Midgar”, ya know?

      Sure, not everybody will LIKE what happens in that “forward”, and you’re absolutely entitled to dislike where the story is going now, but hey, not everybody liked AC, or CC, or (especially) Dirge either! That’s just to be expected. We all have points where a story either continues to interest us, or stops, and it’s different for everyone.

      Those who were pretty satisfied with how the OG and/or rest of the Compilation ended, are allowed to not like Remake and the story it’s putting forward.

      But – and perhaps it’s BECAUSE I was pretty late to the bandwagon (got into the series via contact with the fandom well after Dirge was published), but I, for one, am more excited about the Compilation/series than I have been in ages, because for me, it’s the FIRST TIME that I have something I can experience as New Content alongside the rest of the fans, and that’s pretty neat! To join a decades-old fandom and after a few years, suddenly get Surprise New Content is a pretty cool feeling 😀

    • Akito
      Akito 16 June, 2020, 18:02

      Very interesting theory. Personally I was angry about the ending of this Remake, because I find it deceptive to call it that way. If Square-Enix had said right away that it was a rebuild/sequel I would have bought it anyway, but at least I would have had no illusions. Anyway, I think the ending is badly written anyway, but I remain with the curiosity of what they will do in the future, I think they will stay about on the tracks of the original until we find the other 4 characters, then the story will change radically already from the Temple of the Ancients, if they want to save Aerith.

  4. Simon
    #4 Simon 27 June, 2020, 14:06

    What a terrible ending. I’m furious. They have shown fans and the original storyline absolutely no respect.

    What on earth were they thinking with the Watchmen Of Fate and Fate Ghost Demons? 🤦🏻‍♂️

    Reply to this comment
  5. Kenny
    #5 Kenny 4 July, 2020, 17:55

    I’m also wondering if we’re going to see more tie-ins with Crisis Core, namely making Canon Zack’s fight with Minerva. https://finalfantasy.fandom.com/wiki/Minerva_(Final_Fantasy_VII)

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