It's the anniversary of the North American release of Final Fantasy 7's CGI sequel movie, Advent Children, so let's take a look at how it's still relevant to the new FF7 story.
Some 23 years after its initial release, one of the gaming's most influential titles is seeing a major resurgence. Final Fantasy 7 Remake is not only very good, it has revitalized a classic story with a new retelling that expands on all its best parts--at least in its first installment.
As many of us know, there's a lot more to the Final Fantasy 7 story than just what's covered in the remake. While we have to wait for more FF7 installments to see this new telling, the original game is still widely available. And this weekend is the anniversary of the North American release of the original FF7's animated film sequel, Advent Children. You can stream it for free on Crackle, if you want to revisit the place where the FF7 story officially ended (in a cliffhanger sort of way) way back in 2005.
If you're finished with FF7 Remake, you might want to fire up Advent Children for its birthday, because the movie has some serious implications for where FF7 Remake might go next.
Warning! Spoilers for FF7 Remake's ending, the original FF7 story, and Advent Children beyond this point!
You might remember Advent Children as being a bit, uh, confused. It's largely about Cloud and company dealing with three silver-haired guys who show up and start hassling people about the location of their "mother." They look a lot like Sephiroth, but of course, Cloud and co. killed Sephiroth at the end of FF7. Turns out these guys are Sephiroth "Remnants"--essentially, people willed into existence by Sephiroth still-sentient spirit. The mother they're after is a chunk of Jenova, the alien creature that once threatened the entire planet and whose cells were used to create Sephiroth.
The Remnants want Jenova because they can use the alien monster's last remaining chunks to resurrect Sephiroth; in fact, that's what happens. Kadaj, the leader of the remnants, manages to get hold of Jenova's head toward the end of the movie and literally turns himself into Sephiroth. He fights with Cloud, but Cloud wins, and Sephiroth is again eliminated. But Sephiroth pointedly says that he will never be just a memory, implying that he could, in fact, stage another attempt to come back from the dead--FF7's own unkillable Emperor Palpatine.
It's not just Sephiroth that reaches out from beyond the grave. Cloud has visions of both Aerith and Zack, both dead at this point, who help him gain the strength he needs to defeat Sephiroth. Aerith even manages to heal Cloud of Geostigma, the disease that's slowly killing him and a bunch of other people in the wake of FF7's conclusion. Just as Sephiroth is seemingly influencing events despite being dead, Aerith does some important but inscrutable magic to save her bud Cloud, and then, help to get rid of the evil skin rash that's infecting most of the movie's children.
So Advent Children mostly amounts to being a story about how Cloud and his friends again wailed on Sephiroth, and not much else. The whole affair is pretty heavy on fan service, with a plot that's poorly explained and hard to follow, and seems to echo pretty much all the same story arcs as the game, but in a much less satisfying way. But Advent Children seems to serve one other major purpose: It sets up Final Fantasy 7 Remake.
Through FF7 Remake, Cloud has visions of Sephiroth, who constantly goads him with cryptic nonsense about being weak and failing to save people. In your first playthrough, whether you're experienced with the FF7 story or not, these visions all have the feel that Sephiroth is referencing his past experiences with Cloud. If you know what happened in Nibelheim, it's natural to assume Sephiroth is talking about the past, and Cloud even has a few flashbacks of those events, even though they're only alluded to in the remake and never explained in full.
By the end of the game, though, Sephiroth's taunts take on a new meaning. FF7 Remake isn't just a straight retelling of the original story--it's also about Cloud and his pals running up against the Whispers, the "arbiters of fate" who intervene in events when people stray from their assigned destinies. The Whispers intervene throughout FF7 Remake to force Cloud and his friends into events and decisions that mimic the story of the original FF7 story. The Whispers weren't in the original game, though, which raises the question: Why are they in this one?
It seems like Advent Children is providing the answer, or at least some of it. In the movie, Sephiroth is able to influence events and even create pseudo-clones of himself through sheer force of will, despite being dead and, as in FF7 lore, "returned to the Lifestream." Sephiroth is so powerful that even as a spirit who's back in the big river of souls that gives FF7's planet life, he's trying to do a bunch of evil junk (but hey, Aerith is able to do stuff too, so that's cool). In Advent Children, Sephiroth's spirit attempted to bring himself back to life using the Remnants. And it appears that in FF7 Remake, Sephiroth's spirit is using time travel to influence events in the past and change his destiny. Near as we can tell, it seems like Sephiroth is using the former SOLDIERS with number tattoos, found throughout the game, to make his influence felt; those guys are infused with Jenova cells, which allows Sephiroth to control them, and makes them very similar to the Remnants in Advent Children.
The Whispers reacting to keep things on track really only makes sense if there's something trying to push things off track--and that thing must be Sephiroth. His scenes are ambiguous enough that he could be talking about things from Cloud's past, or events from the original game that will come in later remake installments. It all culminates in Chapter 18, when Sephiroth cuts a portal to the Whispers' dimension and sends Cloud in to challenge the Whisper Harbinger and literally change fate. As the group fights the Harbinger, they even see flashes of the future: "a glimpse of tomorrow if we fail here today," as Red XIII says.
All that really makes it seems like Sephiroth is the driving force behind the FF7 Remake story; after his defeat in FF7 and Advent Children, the Man in Black is still trying to come back to life, but this time, he's using Cloud to do it. We don't know exactly how yet, but it's Sephiroth who drives Cloud and his friends to change the FF7 Remake timeline by defeating the Whispers. That completely upends the timeline, since the Whispers no longer exist to make sure things go the way they're "supposed to" as seen in the original game. We even see a scene where Zack survives his death as it occurred in the original game and its prequel, Crisis Core--which seems to mean that other events still to come in the story may or may not take place the way they did in the original. So at the end of FF7 Remake, as it turns out, Sephiroth is at least partially successful in his plans.
And all that means one important thing: that FF7 Remake isn't a retelling of FF7, it's actually a sequel to Advent Children. Good news! You can watch the animated FF7 Remake prequel right now for its anniversary. It's like a reunion!
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