One of the best video games in history showcases one of the darkest endings in history, but was it intentional, and will it be changed in the remake?
MAJOR SPOILERS FOR FF7 AND FF7 – ADVENT CHILDREN FOLLOW. WITH THE IMPENDING RELEASE OF FF7 REMAKE WE’RE PROVIDING A SPOILER ALERT HERE.
Final Fantasy 7 is revolutionary because it’s weird, but not too weird. Let me unpack that totally ridiculous sentence. The story is convoluted and dense, but not impossible to manage. It requires the player to connect to the backstory and dig deep into the characters but it offers absolutely incredible pay offs if you fully understand what’s happening beat by beat. The result is remarkable, the people who connect to the material become fans for life. Their study of the material becomes devotion. It birthed a mountain of extra content because investment in the story makes you want more of that story, (more on that extra content later).
With any great story, it’s hard to stick the landing. That’s true across mediums. Films, books, games, songs, virtually all of the most impressive ones are judged by their ending. And when it comes to endings, FF7 packs a doozie. That ending, combined with a couple of other hints earlier in the game, have led many gamers to a fairly dark conclusion about what happens in the world of Gaia.
FINAL SPOILER WARNING
I’ll try to wildly oversimplify here. At the end of Final Fantasy 7 we see that the meteor headed for the planet is stopped and humanity is seemingly saved. It’s stopped by a combination of the life force of the planet, along with the spell known as “HOLY.” HOLY is essentially a blinding force of white light that covers the surface of the planet and stands in the way of the meteor. Next, we see many of the main characters staring at something blindingly bright and that’s it. The game ends.
Okay, great, no meteor. So we’re good, right? Wrong.
Long before post-credits scenes were the norm, FF7 utilized one of the best ones I’ve ever seen. When the final credit rolls on FF7 we suddenly see a tag on the screen that says “500 YEARS LATER.” Then we see Nanaki (Red XIII) leading a new litter of cubs to a cliff side. The camera gazes out into the distance and we see the massive city of Midgar overgrown with plants and green life. It’s clearly deserted and nature has reclaimed this last bastion of human greed. And there, you have the final scene of Final Fantasy 7.
Nature has reclaimed the part of the planet humans were abusing, great. But it also leads to a massive question. Did all the humans die?!?! Yes, the sound of children’s laughter can be heard in the post credit scene but it’s most likely the laughter of Nanaki’s children and probably not human laughter. So again, DID ALL THE HUMANS FREAKING DIE?!?!?
The answer to that question has grown only more complicated over the years as new content has been added and existing content has been ret-conned (See: Final Fantasy – Crisis Core). I wonder if we’ll get a definitive answer to that question with the end of Final Fantasy 7: Remake?
So What Killed the Human Race?
Earlier in the game the player is given an explanation of the spell HOLY by an elder name Bugenhagen. The elder explains that HOLY is a purifying force that does what’s best for the planet. He says that HOLY is a force that will take away all the bad and leave all the good. Then he posits a question,
“I wonder which we humans are?”
He goes on to say, “It’s up to the planet to decide.”
In other words, if HOLY saves the planet from the meteor, it might also decide to wipe out all human life, if humans are deemed bad for the planet. Cut to the final scene and we see an ambiguous shot that gives strong indications that the planet is fully devoid of all human life. In this conversation with EGM some of the FF7 team discuss that they did believe the ending of the story meant the end of the human race.
Final Fantasy: Advent Children came out years later, in 2005 and tackles a series of events that happen after FF7. So it’s true that FFAC does show that the human race survived HOLY. It’s also true that the FF7 writers possibly didn’t intend that when they were writing in the 90’s. They may have meant to show the end of human life, or they may have wanted ambiguity for the player to decide. The story of Advent Children wasn’t a thought yet. Either way, in the above linked article it’s clearly stated human life is, at some point, over.
If FFAC is cannon then the question becomes; how soon after Advent Children does the human race expire? We know that the FF7:Remake team wants to “shake things up.” So then if the ending of FF7:Remake proves that humans were destroyed, that would mean Advent Children is no longer cannon. Or perhaps FF7:Remake isn’t cannon?
My head hurts.
Final Hope for Final Fantasy
If I was running the show over at Square Enix I would keep the ending just as ambiguous as it originally was. Mysterious endings are often times frustrating but this game nailed it. Another reason keeping people tied to this game is the nearly endless discussions about the ending (see: this article). Giving the audience a solidly firm answer on what happens is frankly a turn I hope FF7:Remake doesn’t take us down.
Nathan is the co-host of the world renowned Splash Damage Bros. podcast. He lives in Atlanta, GA by way of Midgar, GAIA. He can be found at @thenatejc and @splashdamagebro