Whispers Of Destiny: Final Fantasy VII Remake Is The Ultimate Remake (Spoilers)Platforms: All
This feature will contain major spoilers for Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VII Remake.
Destiny has long been an obsession for the fantasy genre. The invisible, immovable hand that guides our heroes to triumph or tragedy is almost as synonymous with the genre as massive swords and magic spells.
Destiny plays a key role in Final Fantasy VII Remake. The very nature of a remake can feel like destiny manifest, a story rigidly following some great preordained plan, and what use is there in following a story again if you cannot change its course? That is the very core of Final Fantasy VII Remake, this is a story where resisting the plan, resisting what is known, is the dramatic drive of the entire story. Final Fantasy VII Remake is no mere retread, it is a stunning and audacious work of meta-fiction.
The game begins by following very familiar beats of the original; Cloud, Barret, and the other members of Avalanche infiltrate a Shinra Mako reactor and plant a bomb before making a desperate escape. At this point, the story makes its first notable dramatic deviation, as we discover the Avalanche bomb failed to destroy the reactor and Shinra, instead, destroyed the reactor themselves to frame Avalanche and frame them as conspirators with the nation of Wutai (the home of everyone’s favourite Materia thief, Yuffie, in the original game).
As Cloud makes his way back to home base, the biggest change in the story occurs. Cloud encounters Sephiroth in the streets of a Midgar. Sephiroth did not appear in the original game until long after our heroes left Midgar. Initially, it felt like Square had simply ramped up his presence so the first instalment in this remake saga would feature the iconic villain more prominently, without him this game would have no real antagonist to engage the heroes.
As the story unravelled, it became clear that this was not the case, and something much bigger was happening. The one-winged angel would go on to resurface throughout the game, playing with Cloud’s mind and haunting him with visions of an impending doom, the meteor disaster that he would cause in the original game. Why would a villain tip his hand so soon in the story? Because this Sephiroth is already aware of what happened in the original game, he is operating with complete knowledge of where their story leads and how it ends, and he wants to show Cloud what fate has in store. He wants Cloud to see the path he is on and stoke the idea of straying. He has weaponised destiny.
After Cloud’s first encounter with Sephiroth, this is where the story sees him meet Aerith for the first time. In the original game, the encounter is a simple and sweet exchange between a mercenary and a flower girl from the slums, but the remake starts things off very differently. We first see Aerith being attacked by a horde of floating phantoms. These creatures would reappear throughout the game, usually at major story points. Their purpose is to ensure the story plays out as intended. One of the most notable actions these phantoms take is in slowing down Cloud, Barret, and Tifa on the Sector 7 plate to prevent them from stopping the separation sequence that ultimately destroys the slums below. In the remake, our heroes had a chance to shut down the console but the phantoms prevented them. Destiny stepped in.
Later in the game, inside the Shinra labs, Red XIII encounters the phantoms himself and immediately knows what they are. They are known as Whispers, the arbiters of fate. It is their goal to ensure the timeline remains intact and destiny is fulfilled. They even go to the lengths of bringing Barret back to life after Sephiroth runs a sword through his chest in a shocking moment that dramatically diverges from the original story.
This culminates in the final chapter of the game, which is essentially a sequence of epic boss battles, which sees our heroes battle a series of Titan scaled Whispers that bombard the characters with visions of events from the original story that have not yet come to pass; the post-credit scene of Red XIII and his children approaching the ruins of Midgar, the apocalyptic visions of the meteor colliding with earth, the briefest glimpses of Aerith’s death. Fate is being wielded against them, to disarm them and prevent them from destroying the Whispers.
After defeating the titans, Sephiroth makes his move and seemingly absorbs the power of the Whispers for himself. A massive-scaled battle takes place within the displaced, floating remains of a destroyed Midgar and after a great struggle, Cloud and his friends manage to fend off Sephiroth. They do not beat him, the very fact they managed to reach a stalemate is a victory in itself against someone so powerful. In this moment of calm, Sephiroth takes Cloud to the edge of creation itself and warns him that what’s to come is no longer known. He implores with Cloud to join him and defy destiny together, likely hoping that his psychological warfare on Cloud throughout the game has been effective, but when Cloud refuses he calmly and effectively disarms him. Before Sephiroth leaves, he wonders if Cloud will still have time to stop him but that is something that they will have to find out together.
As we return to reality, we see the Whispers that haunted Midgar throughout the game have now dissolved into stardust. Destiny has finally been broken. As the game fades into the credits, a subtitle promises that “The unknown journey will continue.”
This is one of the most audacious moves I have seen from a games developer in some time. For a title with this level of fan anticipation, it is certainly controversial to tear up the rule book and start writing a new one, but this is the only way a new Final Fantasy VII game could be justified. Simply rehashing what is already established with superior production values would be pointless, the drama would be lessened. It is no coincidence that the best moments in the game are the new character moments, the new plot points, or the variations on established ideas. Going forward, everything that happens in Final Fantasy VII will be something new.
The purpose of a remake is to take a story that is already known and try to find new things to say with it, to find ways to make it better. Final Fantasy VII Remake did not take that title purely for the sake of clarity, the concept of the remake is the core thematic drive of the story. A story about retelling a story. The tragedies and triumphs of Final Fantasy VII are no longer inevitable, new possibilities have opened up to us. Aerith may live, Sephiroth may win, the Golden Saucer’s betting system may become more coherent, anything is possible now and that is the most exciting thing for this Final Fantasy VII fan of twenty-three years.