Despite what the creative team at Square Enix would have us think, Destiny and Fate probably still have a major role to play in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth and beyond. Even though SOLDIER Zack Fair seems to have escaped death and joined the rest of the cast in a new timeline, the most likely outcome is a totally different—but equally tragic—twist of fate.
Spoilers for the original game and FF7 Remake follow.
In the original Final Fantasy VII timeline, Cloud and Zack are wounded by Sephiroth following what’s known as “The Nibelheim Incident,” five years before the events of the main game. The mad scientist Hojo kidnaps and experiments on them for four years, enhancing Cloud’s strength but scrambling his brain. After Zack breaks them out, they travel around for about a year until Shinra catches up to them on the outskirts of Midgar. Originally, Zack dies fighting Shinra troopers, but because the party defeats the Whisper Harbinger at the end of FF7 Remake, events in the past, present and future are altered.
Remake’s ending cutscene shows that Zack survives the battle and helps Cloud make his way toward Midgar. It’s plausible these events happen in an alternate timeline distinct from the new continuity. However, it’s totally possible that when the party entered the Singularity at the end of Remake and destroyed the Whispers, they didn’t return to their original world. Instead, they were taken somewhere different: a timeline created by the destruction of the Whispers in which Zack is alive.
Producer Yoshinori Kitase has confirmed already that Zack plays a bigger role in FF7 Rebirth than the original game.
“Within the original Final Fantasy 7, Zack Fair doesn’t appear as much,” Kitase told IGN in a September 2023 interview. “As for Rebirth, there will be a new episode with Zack that will contain even more of him than the Remake. I’m not able to say much more than this as I would like for players to play and experience this with it in their own hands.”
How is all of this going to shake out exactly? Well, Rebirth Creative Director Tetsuya Nomura confirmed on the official PlayStation blog in September 2023 that the second part of the trilogy ends at the Forgotten Capital, which is where Sephiroth kills Aerith while she’s trying to the White Materia to summon Holy.
“The future — even if it has been written — can be changed,” Aerith says in the June 2022 First Look Trailer for Rebirth. The original timeline has already been “written,” so to speak, which is why the Whispers strove to preserve this specific future. In other words, events can and should play out as they originally did except for in instances where characters make different choices.
The Whispers may not be around anymore to ensure that everything goes exactly according to plan, but it’s all but certain that Aerith will still try to summon Holy herself and be threatened by Sephiroth. Assuming everybody exists in the same continuity, what will Zack be doing while Cloud and friends pursue Sephiroth? In all likelihood, after arriving at the Sector 5 Church in the post-credits scene of the Remake Intergrade INTERmission chapter starring Yuffie, he’ll try to track Aerith down.
A fittingly tragic culmination of all this could be for Zack to finally catch up to Aerith at the end of the game in the Forgotten Capital just in time to push her out of the way and take the hit himself. The Whispers may not be around to ensure that Zack dies, but his continued existence in the timeline presents all sorts of cosmic continuity issues. This could be the perfect tragic ending to Rebirth that inspires Aerith and Cloud to continue their mission to stop Sephiroth in a way that thematically echoes the original without getting too convoluted. In this fashion, Aerith could successfully summon Holy to stop Meteor earlier than in the original, but who knows what kind of repercussions all of this would have.
Is it fair for him to make the ultimate Zackrifice? Probably not, but something about it feels fitting nevertheless.