The Final Fantasy 7 Remake ending was as surprising as it was confusing. Rather than a faithful adaptation of the classic original, we got something completely unexpected, taking the episodic Remake saga in a brand-new direction.
Plenty of questions naturally spring up from this shocking conclusion, which we will try and answer in as much detail as possible.
There are obviously going to be massive SPOILERS here for the original Final Fantasy 7, along with Final Fantasy 7 Remake.
NOTE: This article relates to the main Final Fantasy 7 Remake ending. We have a separate article explaining the ending of Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade Intermission, which you can check out here.
Here’s the confusing Final Fantasy 7 Remake ending explained, as best we can.
What are the Whispers of Fate?
These ghostly, dementor-esque creatures repeatedly popped up during the story, and are ultimately the key to understanding the events of Final Fantasy 7 Remake.
It all starts with alternate timelines. Remake is not a simple retelling of events, but actually occurs in a different timeline to the original game. The Whispers are responsible for ensuring the key events of this timeline do not deviate from the events of the original, meaning Aerith is able to summon Holy and protect the planet from Meteor.
There is some wiggle room within the timeline, as long as the Whispers keep the most important parts of it intact.
It’s best explained by Red XIII in Chapter 17, whilst he refers to them as “Arbiters of fate”:
“They are drawn to those who attempt to alter destiny’s course and ensure they do not.”
Once this is understood, the various whisper appearances throughout the story make a lot more sense. At first it was unclear whether they were friend or foe, but they are merely intervening to keep the timeline on the same general path as the original game. Sometimes that seems welcome. Other times, not so much.
For example, when it looked like Cloud was not going to join Avalanche on the second bombing mission, the Whispers showed up and injured Jessie so Cloud ended up on the mission in her place.
The Whispers later prevented Cloud from killing Reno, slowed the party down on the way to Sector 7 plate and stopped Hojo from revealing Cloud’s true identity. Towards the end of the game, they save Barret from being impaled and even prevent the party from being blown up in the truck.
All of these interventions, plus many more, were to prevent things occurring that did not occur at that point in the original game. If, for example, Cloud had learned of his true identity in the Shinra Building, it would have sent the timeline spinning in a brand new direction that may have not seen Holy summoned.
There’s a handy translated spreadsheet here explaining every Whisper appearance and its purpose throughout the story.
What happened during Chapter 18?
The Whispers seemingly had everything under control, but there’s a catch. Somehow, Sephiroth knew that fate was against him. At the end of the highway, he slashes open a portal and invites the party into a battle with the Whispers themselves.
Aerith, being an Ancient, knows far more than the others. She steps forward and says the dimensional rift contains “Boundless, terrifying freedom”
This can be considered a meta reference to the original game. By defeating the Whisper Harbinger, the Whispers are no longer able to influence the events of Remake. With these out of the picture, we no longer know where this story is going to go. The new story may branch off into a completely different direction.
On the one hand, this is indeed terrifying. If Cloud does not defeat Sephiroth at the Northern Crater, Gaia may be destroyed.
On the other, perhaps there is a silver lining – can Aerith be saved from her death in this timeline?
Despite Aerith’s warning of the threat Sephiroth poses to the planet, Cloud is unable to defeat him. The party are transported out of the void and walk out into the world, ready to hunt Sephiroth.
We’re left with the words “The unknown journey will continue”.
This story is no longer travelling in a predictable direction, and could go anywhere from here.
So is Final Fantasy 7 Remake a sequel?
Technically, yes. Final Fantasy 7 Remake could be considered a sequel to the original. Or perhaps somewhere between a sequel and a reboot. The word “Remake” has a double-meaning, and relates to the ‘remaking’ of the timeline rather than the original game.
Granted, Remake does not directly follow on from the same story and sort of happens on the side, but the story does not make sense without full knowledge of the original game. It is clearly intended to be played as follow-up to the legendary RPG.
It’s a somewhat risky move from Square Enix for several reasons. Firstly, the creative decision to deliver a different story is not going to appease the purist fans expecting a like-for-like retelling. Furthermore, appealing to a new audience may prove more difficult when relying on a plot now decades old. Obviously Square Enix had enough confidence in the Final Fantasy 7 legacy to take the chance.
In fact, this may even prove ingenious. Newcomers who were reluctant to play the original to avoid spoilers now actually have every reason to play it for the first time. We are not heading in the same direction anymore, and it’s certain there are plenty more surprises in store for everyone.
It should be noted that this is absolutely not a retcon of the original canon story. Those events happened, and will always have happened. Square Enix may have been willing to take a risk with Final Fantasy 7 Remake, but they wouldn’t go that far.
How is Zack alive in the Final Fantasy 7 Remake ending?
A crucial element of the original story was the death of Zack Fair. To recap, Zack was the SOLIDER who actually travelled to Nibelheim five years before the events of the game. Cloud never made it in SOLDIER, but accompanied Zack and Sephiroth on the mission as a regular Shinra foot-soldier.
When Sephiroth lost his mind and burned Nibelheim to the ground, he defeated Zack in combat. Against the odds, Cloud managed to get the better of Sephiroth and hurl him into the Lifestream, but he and Zack were abducted and subjected to experiments at the basement on Shinra Mansion.
Zack broke them out and the pair travelled to Midgar to become mercenaries, with Cloud heavily poisoned and basically incapacitated. Upon their approach to Midgar, Zack was killed by a small army of Shinra soldiers. Cloud was left for dead, with Mako poisoning thoroughly messing with his mind and memories. He took up the Buster Sword and unknowingly adopted the fake persona of Zack, believing he was a first-class SOLDIER.
In the original, much of this is explained in an optional scene if you visit the basement of Shinra Mansion in Nibelheim on disk 3.
Part of the Whispers’ task would have been to ensure Zack’s death on the mountain overlooking Midgar. We see him commence his battle just before we enter Destiny’s Crossroads, where he was doomed to die. However, when the Whispers were defeated by Cloud’s party they also dissipated in Zack’s scene. Without fate in the way, he beat the Shinra soldiers and made his way to Midgar with Cloud in tow.
Crucially, this does not mean Zack is alive in the Remake timeline, as there is a clear hint that this is another timeline altogether. During the ending, an image of Avalanche’s canine mascot Stamp blows past, and the camera lingers on it long enough to indicate its signficance. This version of Stamp is different breed of dog, suggesting Zack occupies yet another alternate version of the story. The theory is reinforced by the fact the party seems to walk out of Midgar at the same time Zack walks towards it. Other than Aerith (presumably due to her Ancient powers), they do not perceive him or the alternate Cloud at all.
Honestly, this is the part that could get even messier. It’s unclear what relevance Zack’s survival in another timeline could have to the Remake story, but it’s got the potential to be crazy.
How do Sephiroth and Aerith know the future?
Aerith remained fairly coy about what she knows during Final Fantasy 7 Remake, but her dialogue at the end of the game suggests she has more knowledge than everyone else. She is aware of the threat posed by Sephiroth, and explains the consequences of facing the Whispers before they enter the final battle.
There’s even a strong suggestion that she knows about Cloud and Zack’s history, as well as her own tragic fate. If you meet with Aerith during chapter 14, she says to Cloud:
“Whatever happens, you can’t fall in love with me. Even if you think you have… it’s not real”
Let’s also remember that Cloud himself had some flash-forwards during the game. When he landed on Aerith’s flowers, we briefly witnessed a snippet of the moment Aerith is killed. This was the first real ‘WTF’ moment of the game, shortly followed up with Cloud shedding some mysterious tears on the way to Wall Market.
Since Cloud is also privy to some of this precognition, the most likely explanation is surely related to the Lifestream, which is the very essence of the planet itself (being harnessed by Shinra for Mako energy).
As an Ancient, Aerith can tap into this and hear the voice of the planet. Sephiroth was also cast into the Lifestream at Nibelheim, and his real body is inside the Lifestream in the Northern Crater. Finally, the Mako experiments on Cloud before the events of the game could explain his own link to the Lifestream.
My best guess is that the planet can see its own fate, and those with a sufficient connection to the Lifestream can witness snippets of this. This may well be explained further within the future instalments of Final Fantasy 7 Remake.
What did Sephiroth mean by “Seven seconds till the end”?
Cloud and Sephiroth’s battle at the Edge of Creation didn’t end well for Cloud, but Sephiroth has clearly got ulterior motives here.
He comments that he does not want to end, nor see Cloud end. Somehow, Sephiroth’s intended future is one that depends on Cloud. In the original, Cloud is the one who hands the all-powerful black materia to Sephiroth, but I would wager there’s probably a bit more to it.
There was one comment in particular that seemed even more cryptic.
“Seven seconds till the end. Time enough for you. Perhaps. But what will you do with it? Let’s see.”
To date, frankly we still have no idea what this means. Some have suggested this is the length of time Cloud will have to stop Sephiroth stabbing Aerith, but this doesn’t match with the timescale of the original scene.
This is a mystery we’ll have to file in the “wait and see” category.
Pure speculation on my part, but Sephiroth’s friendly vibe also has me wondering. He says “Lend me your strength. Let us defy destiny…together”. Maybe there’s another possibility altogether – is this version of Sephiroth an ally? After this bizarre ending, I’m not ruling anything out.
What about Biggs and Avalanche?
This is another one that remains unclear. Biggs looked very much dead during Chapter 12, but somehow woke up in the Sector 5 Leaf House orphanage during the ending.
Defeating the Whispers may leave the party free to forge their own fate, but this would seem to have undone the events of the past.
It’s fair to say we didn’t actually see the body of Biggs in the original after the plate fell. I suppose it is possible he survived all along, but I doubt it. This is something to do with the Whispers.
I also consider it very unlikely Biggs is alone. Jessie’s accessories were laying by his side, and the Avalanche trio generally come as a package deal.
My current theory is that this version of Biggs – and probably Wedge and Jessie – are in another alternate timeline. Perhaps the same one occupied by Zack. This speculation is expanded upon during our discussion of the FF7R Intergrade Intermission ending.
Why does Aerith miss the steel sky?
The final line of dialogue in the Final Fantasy 7 Remake ending has been directly explained by Tetsuya Nomura:
“For Aerith, the sky symbolises sadness. The people who were dear to her, such as Zack and her mother Ifalna, had all returned to the sky … The calamity that destroyed the Ancients, Jenova, also fell from the sky”
There are plenty more pieces of trivia in the interview. A list of some of the more interesting revelations can be found below.
Is Marlene an Ancient?
A theory that has been speculated since the original perhaps has some further credence after the Final Fantasy 7 Remake ending.
Marlene appears to hear Barret calling her name from the outskirts of Midgar whilst in Aerith’s house. Hearing faraway voices is something very familiar to the Cetra.
There was also the moment when Marlene hugged Aerith in Seventh Heaven. The screen flashed green (the colour of the Lifestream) and it seemed framed as Marlene sensing something rather than Aerith. As she slowly pulls away, she appears confused and prompts Aerith to say “Huh?”. To me this looks like Aerith’s response to Marlene’s reaction.
There are some further parallels to suggest a similarity with Aerith. Marlene’s adoption into Elmyra’s home mirrors Aerith’s own backstory, and even in the ending to the original game we see Marlene somehow sense “The flower girl” (who is long dead) before Holy’s magic tries to stop meteor. She’s even tending to some flowers in the Remake ending!
Players of the original will remember that Marlene is not Barret’s biological daughter, but is actually the daughter of Barret’s friend Dyne. It’s likely we’ll explore this in the next Remake instalment, where this revelation could well be revealed.
There you have it. The Final Fantasy 7 Remake ending explained, to the best of our ability. Whilst there are still many things still unknown, we have to admit our interest is piqued. Whatever comes next on the unknown journey, we can’t wait.
Check out our full review of Final Fantasy 7 Remake, along with our discussion of the new ending scenes in Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade Intermission: