Square Enix made it clear with Final Fantasy VII Remake that the trilogy of games is more than just a modern upgrade of the classic 1997 RPG, but a reinvention that wrestles with the legacy of the original. With Rebirth, the second part of the Remake series, it's anybody's guess what could happen as the timelines are changing.
One of the biggest cliffhangers of Remake was the reveal that Zack Fair is alive and well — but a new theory suggests he won’t get the happy ending he deserves.
Despite barely appearing in the original FF7, Zack Fair is one of the most important characters in the story of Cloud and Aertih. He was a member of SOLDIER and a close friend of Cloud Strife. Though throughout the game, we learn (SPOILERS) that Zack sacrificed his own life to save Cloud. Through spinoff titles like Crisis Core, Zack has become a beloved character, despite his tragic fate. Which made his appearance at the end of FF7 Remake, alive and well, all the more surprising.
His survival is linked to the climax of Remake, in which Cloud and company defeat the Whispers and change the course of destiny. The Whispers were one of the biggest new additions to Remake, ghostly specters that try to keep the characters on the path of the original. It is Remake’s most metatextual element, acting as a representation of the audience's desire to see a shot-for-shot remake of the original FF7. With the defeat of the Whispers, anything can happen going forward.
That leaves the fate of everybody, especially Zack, unknown. He isn’t supposed to be in the story at all from this point on, so his involvement can change things even further. Though YouTube channel Final FanTV suggests Zack’s new fate won’t be that much better than the old, as Zack could become the villain of Rebirth.
While the Whispers were seemingly defeated at the end of Remake, Rebirth (and its eventual sequel) is still metatextual under scrutiny from audiences who hope that the game will follow the plot of the original. Without the Whispers, Zack may become the narrative vessel for those themes. As the man out of place in the narrative he presents a new wrinkle and possible problem for Cloud to deal with.
Cloud and Aerith constantly wish that Zack could have survived and been by their side, but the reality of Zack's existence could lead them to question those desires, as Zack’s demise is a necessary event that leads to the rest of the game. This will put Zack in conflict with the main party, with Rebirth possibly culminating in a climactic battle against his friends.
As a replacement for the Whispers, Zack’s antagonist role could tie together the themes of Rebirth and the Remake trilogy at large by asking what even is a remake. In the decades since the original FF7, fans have constantly theorized what-if scenarios. Most relate to Aerith, but Zack living is equally wish fulfillment for some fans. As Remake tried to show the constraints of adhering to the original game, Rebirth’s use of Zack could show the dangers of feeding fully into fan wish fulfillment. In a Monkey’s Paw scenario, having Zack back only leads to more tragedy as he turns against the ones he loves.
The Final Fantasy VII Remake project has been anything but predictable, and while seeing Zack is welcome it likely comes with strings attached. Using one of the game’s most beloved characters as a villain would be a heart-wrenching twist that makes players question everything.