Square Enix hosted a 25th-anniversary stream last week for Final Fantasy VII. The first big announcement of the evening came with the reveal that Crisis Core would be getting a remake due out this winter. The drop-the-mic moment, however, came at the end of the short stream when a trailer for Final Fantasy VII Rebirth was shown. The sequel to Final Fantasy VII Remake looks to push the meta-narrative of this remake project even further, and clues hidden in the trailer reveal that this project has always been bigger than just a remake. The only difference is that Square Enix has finally begun embracing a truth that, in retrospect, has always been the case.
The FF7 Remake series is actually a sequel trilogy.
In the reveal trailer, Cloud says, “You were here with me, 5 years ago. Where are you? What happened to you?” He’s speaking (perhaps rhetorically) to Zack Fair, the SOLDIER who was at Cloud’s side before he showed up back in Midgar before the beginning of the original FF7 as well as FF7 Remake. Cloud finally remembering Zack is an integral part of the original’s character development for Cloud, something that doesn’t occur until much later in the game. For a long stretch of in-game time, Cloud has amnesia and mistakenly remembers some of Zack’s experiences as his own.
After Cloud and Zack are experimented on by Hojo, they are confronted by a massive group of Shinra soldiers before re-entering the city of Midgar. This is where the stories begin diverging and playing off each other. In the original, Zack dies fighting to protect Cloud. At the end of Remake, however, this same scene plays out. Zack still fights the Shinra soldiers but survives.
This change in fate is only shown to the player after the last fight in Remake, which is against the Arbiters of Fate, which represent the strict path of the original FF7. The Arbiters push the story of Remake as much as possible to follow the original, but with them vanquished, anything is possible. The Rebirth trailer opens with Aerith saying as much: “The future, even if it has been written, can be changed. So, focus on the future, not the past.”
This is where things get complicated, even by Final Fantasy standards. Zack’s story and demise are very much in the past. By the time both variations of FF7 begin, he is dead. So how can this past event be changed? Well, because it is somebody’s future.
There have been hints laid out like breadcrumbs in FF7 Remake that show somebody is going through this story with more information than they let on, information gained from living this story before as it was intended. The culprit? Aerith.
In the original FF7, Aerith and Cloud have a passing meeting immediately following the first bombing mission. Nothing much transpires between the two, and they won’t meet again until Cloud falls into her church later. During the Remake, the two cross paths like in the original, but this time Aerith offers Cloud a flower. “Lovers used to give these when they were reunited,” she says. Those who play the original will know that Aerith and Cloud have a romantic relationship, although it is one that never gets fully resolved due to tragic circumstances.
This hints at Aerith having some sort of knowledge of her history with Cloud, something she could only know if she had some insight into her past life as it is portrayed in the original Final Fantasy.
In this same scene, Cloud experiences a hallucination of Sephiroth, something not in the original. Sephiroth also alludes to the events of the original game, telling Cloud that he “is too weak to save anyone.” Both Aerith and Sephiroth act in ways that suggest knowledge of future events. The Rebirth trailer asks, “What is Sephiroth’s Endgame?” This should be obvious, though. Cloud even says Sephiroth’s plan from the original game immediately before this text appears. It seems like Sephiroth is trying to alter the course of events rather than merely redo the events that led him to defeat in a previous life.
In the fight with Sephiroth in Remake, he asks Cloud to help forge a new destiny.
The thing that links Aerith and Sephiroth is their connection to the Lifestream, the physical essence of the planet itself. It also serves as an afterlife through which people's memories return to the planet. Beings like Aerith and Sephiroth have such a strong connection to the Lifestream that they can retain some consciousness and affect change in the physical world. The inciting incident for FF7 Remake and its sequels could be that a part of Sephiroth that dissolved into the Lifestream at the end of the original Final Fantasy 7 is looking for a way to change his fate.
The Lifestream runs through the core of the planet, so it seems possible that those powerful enough could go back through the memories of the planet and affect change in the past. Sephiroth has been known to enact his plans under a facade while in entirely different places, so who's to say he couldn't do the same thing at a different point in time? If so, then perhaps Aerith followed Sephiroth into the past to foil this exact plan.
Leave it to the legendary Tetsuya Nomura to create a sequel that takes place in an alternate past while also affecting the story of the original.