Boy oh boy... the price of freedom is steep.Zack Fair
Zack's Final Stand is a pivotal moment in the Final Fantasy VII series where Zack Fair, previously a First Class SOLDIER of the Shinra Electric Power Company, attempts to return to Midgar. The scene serves as a crucial story element for both Zack and Cloud Strife, symbolizing the heroes' fight for freedom.
The scene is optional in Final Fantasy VII and fairly short, but it has been elaborated on in later installments to the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, most notably Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-. An alternate version of the scene appears in Final Fantasy VII Remake.
Having been captured and experimented on for four years following the Nibelheim Incident, Zack escapes confinement. He frees his friend Cloud, who suffers from mako poisoning and helps him escape Nibelheim. While on the run Zack finishes a conflict against Genesis Rhapsodos and reads a letter from Aerith Gainsborough, which he had been unable to receive due to his captivity. Realizing the extent of his absence, Zack decides to return to Midgar to see her.
Following Zack and Cloud's escape the Turks and Shinra Army are ordered to pursue the two and either bring them back or terminate them. The Turks and their leader, Tseng, intend instead to offer them safety, being aware of the inhumanity of Professor Hojo's experiments, which would be brought back upon the pair if returned to custody. Zack refuses their help, believing it to lock him in the role of servitude that previously prevented him from leading a normal life. While initially commandeering a motorcycle, Zack switches to hitching a ride on a car when the bike runs out of fuel. While onboard the truck, Zack plans for his new life in Midgar and decides to open up a mercenary/do-everything business with Cloud.
Intent on capturing the pair and getting the commendation for themselves, members of the Shinra Army ignore the Turks' orders and continue assailing Zack and Cloud, setting up an ambush on the road along the cliffs overlooking the Midgar Wasteland. While surviving the initial assaults, Zack notices the ambush and hides Cloud behind some rocks before walking out to confront the military force.
Despite being a powerful 1st class SOLDIER, the sheer number of Shinra troops wears Zack down until only the memory of his mentor, Angeal Hewley, worry over Cloud's safety, and the hope of seeing Aerith again, keep him going. In the end even that is not enough, and although he takes down the majority of the soldiers, he succumbs when the few soldiers left critically injure him. Left unable to fight, the dying Zack is abandoned atop an outcropping. In the original version the soldiers deem Cloud is not a threat and spare him to go report to Shinra. In Crisis Core, Cloud comes out of hiding to witness Zack's final moments.
Zack, accepting his fate and content he has managed to protect Cloud, hands the Buster Sword to him, telling him to carry on his dreams and honor as his living legacy. He dies on the cliff overlooking Midgar, and Cloud—who has begun to recovery from his mako poisoning and come out of his catatonic state—stays by his body until the rain stops. After Cloud has left, Zack sees a vision of Angeal descend from the sky as an angel; Zack grabs his hand and enters the lifestream. Cloud approaches Midgar with Zack's voice telling him to take care of Aerith if he meets her (say "hi" to her for him in the English versions) and ponders whether he achieved his dream of becoming a hero.
Zack's death, along with the combined trauma caused by the Nibelheim Incident and his mako poisoning, twists Cloud's mind making him believe he was once a 1st class SOLDIER, that Zack's actions in Nibelheim were his own and that he is now a mercenary. Cloud continues to hold onto this facade until it is shattered by Sephiroth and his psyche is restored with Tifa Lockhart's help.
In the Final Fantasy VII Remake, Cloud and his friends destroy the Whispers that were trying to preserve the continuity from the original Final Fantasy VII and Zack's fate changes. He defeats the Shinra Army alone, and takes Cloud to Midgar, his whereabouts from then on unknown.
After escaping the Shinra Manor in Nibelheim, Zack, with Cloud in tow and the Shinra army in pursuit, traverses across both the western continent to Gongaga and the southern island masses to Banora before attempting to return to Midgar where his journey ends on a cliff overlooking the city from the south.
List of depictions in the Final Fantasy VII series
The scene of Zack's final stand is optional, viewed after Cloud rejoins the party in Part 2 by entering the Shinra Mansion basement. The scene is fairly short and does not have music or much dialogue; only the heart beat sound effect plays. After hitching a ride to the outskirts of Midgar, Zack and Cloud are found by a red-coated Shinra officer and two Shinra troopers, who shoot Zack before he can do anything and leave Cloud for the dead, observing that he was already dying. Cloud then gains some awareness and crawls over to Zack to take his sword, and then looks over at Midgar in the horizon.
The Player Turk bears witness to events of both Zack's final stand and events surrounding the incident from Episodes 12, 13, 19 and 21.
Following Sephiroth's rampage through the town and Nibel Reactor, the Player Turk guards Zack and Cloud's unconscious forms until the Shinra clean-up crew arrives, whereupon they are ordered by Professor Hojo to prepare the Nibelheim Mansion for scientific experiments.
Four years later, ordered to pursue two "research samples" that have escaped the Nibelheim Mansion, the Player Turk finds him/herself in competition with the Shinra army to locate them. While searching the Nibelheim forest, the Player Turk questions why he/she is hunting the subjects whom he/she was partially responsible for imprisoning four years previously.
Coming across the escapees on the beach, the Player Turk discovers the "research sample" is Zack. Conflicted, the Player Turk attempts to do her/his duty and capture him, but after seeing the extent of damage the experiments have done to Cloud, he/she reports that Zack is no longer in the forest and lets Zack escape while the Player Turk returns to Nibelheim to investigate the mansion where the experiments on Zack and Cloud were conducted.
When the fugitives are sighted, the Turks, although now near-fugitives themselves, launch a Priority-S retrieval attempt, but are unable to acquire them before the Shinra military ambushes the pair in the Midgar wastelands.
I hear two research samples have escaped from Nibelheim. And might you be one of them, Zack? If you are, watch your back, because now a whole battalion of infantrymen has been called in. They're coming after you in crazy numbers. Man, what in the hell did you do to deserve this? I don't care if you've made an enemy out of Shinra. I'll always be waiting for you to come back. Just make it back alive, buddy. Promise me.Mail "Just as I thought" from Kunsel received just before leaving Gongaga
Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- depicts Zack's story from a member of SOLDIER at the end of the Wutai War to his final stand at the hands of the very institution he helped into power.
After four years of captivity in the Shinra Manor, Zack is freed with the assistance of Lazard Deusericus, although Zack is unaware of this and thinks he has received help from his deceased mentor, Angeal. Taking Cloud with him and running into the surrounding forest, Zack is wanted by both the Shinra Military and the Turks, who have been ordered to pursue the two escaped "research samples".
Coming across the escapees on the beach, the pursuing Turk turns out to be Cissnei. Conflicted, Cissnei attempts to do her duty and capture Zack, but ends up reporting Zack is nowhere to be found and lets him escape, handing him keys to a motorcycle with a sidecar (presumably hers) to assist in his escape.
Instead of fighting only a couple soldiers as in Final Fantasy VII, Zack fights an entire army division by himself. Although the player can control Zack during the scene, the battle is scripted; Zack is unable to be knocked out, and his Digital Mind Wave reels break down until he succumbs to his opponents' predominance, and receives fatal bullet wounds from the few remaining members of the army. Before his death, Zack has a few words with Cloud who is in a more coherent state than he appears in the original version, and gives him his Buster Sword as a symbol of passing down his legacy, as Angeal did with him years before.
The Last Order -Final Fantasy VII- OVA illustrates the events surrounding Zack and Cloud's escape, overlapping with incidents depicted in Final Fantasy VII and Before Crisis -Final Fantasy VII-.
The OVA particularly covers the Turks' role during both the Nibelheim Incident and events leading up to Zack's final stand against the Shinra military, addressing the Turks' pursuit of Zack and Cloud through the Mythril Mine, and their ill-fated search for the pair in the Midgar wasteland.
The remake portrays a completely different outcome where Zack defeats the Shinra troops despite suffering heavy injuries. Zack's "final stand" is shown by the Whispers, but at the defeat of the colossal Whisper within the "Singularity", has a new ending. The scene starts like the ending of Crisis Core, with Zack declaring that the price of freedom is steep and pressing the buster sword to his forehead, but after a prolonged battle, realizes he has defeated all the infantrymen and is free to help the delirious Cloud get to Midgar. Zack's further fate in the Remake continuity is unknown.
Two years after the events of Final Fantasy VII, Cloud has used the Buster Sword as a marker for the site where Zack fell. Aerith's death, Zack's sacrifice, and his inability to prevent either, haunt Cloud to the point of crippling depression who believes he should succumb to Geostigma as punishment for letting two of his closest friends die. As his battle against the resurrected Sephiroth escalates, Zack's spirit appears to support and remind Cloud that his continued heroism is Zack's living legacy.
As an added scene at the end of Advent Children Complete, flowers grow where Zack fell during his last stand, signifying the beginning of the wasteland's revival. Denzel asks if it is a grave to which Cloud replies it is where a hero began his journey. The Buster Sword has been restored to its former glory and moved into the Sector 5 slums church.
The original scene in Final Fantasy VII has no music, making the scene unusual among the game's cutscenes. In Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-, "The Price of Freedom" plays during Zack's final battle, and the song "Why" starts during his final moments with Cloud and carries on to the ending credits.
Behind the scenes
According to Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Omega, Zack's death scene was originally planned to be part of the scene where Tifa saves Cloud from the lifestream in Mideel; after washing up on the shore with Tifa, Cloud would have been unconscious and Tifa would have had to revive him with CPR. During this stage Cloud would have had a vision of being experimented on by Professor Hojo in Nibelheim, and recalled his escape with Zack. The scene was removed to be instead viewed in the Shinra Mansion basement in the game's final version.
Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- further elaborates upon the event. Before even beginning work on the game, the development team knew Zack would have to die. The game's director, Hajime Tabata, has confirmed the dramatic irony of Zack's predetermined fate was the primary reason he was chosen to be the game's protagonist. He has said that when he saw the ending rendered by the Visual Works team, he felt he was able to fulfill his duties to the Final Fantasy VII development team and fans. Tabata has later described the scene with "Zack and Cloud changing places and entering a new generation of gaming through human emotion."
The original version of Zack's death scene did not have much blood due to ratings restrictions. Tabata thought that without the blood and that overall feeling the emotions would not be the same. So the team slowly put more blood on Zack until Tabata was pleased with the scene.
Hideki Imaizumi, the producer of Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-, has stated that building a story around an inevitable ending involves enormous pressure. Imaizumi compared it to telling stories of historical figures where it is known how certain people died and lived, but films about them are always different because they show the story from a different perspective.
When the player party visits Gongaga in Final Fantasy VII, Zack's hometown, his parents still wait for his return. Oddly, when Zack visits the town on his way to Midgar in Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-, he does not react to it having been destroyed by a mako reactor explosion in the time he was imprisoned.
While planning out his future, in Final Fantasy VII Zack states he and Cloud would start work as mercenaries, but in Last Order -Final Fantasy-, Zack states he and Cloud would open up a business that "does everything."
In Crisis Core, Zack's DMW reels break in a specific order based on the significance of the character in Zack's life.
- Sephiroth, his hero; Cissnei, his friend; Tseng, his comrade.
- Angeal, his mentor; Cloud, his legacy.
- Aerith, his love.
There is a slight continuity error in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-. When Cloud is remembering Zack in Advent Children, he remembers Zack running to him, yelling at him to flee. Based on the background, it occurred during Zack's conflict with the Shinra Army. The scene is not included in Crisis Core. Cloud remembers Zack's final stand in Advent Children Complete as if he were standing behind him during the battle when Crisis Core shows Zack placed Cloud behind a rock formation and walked several yards away.
In the scene showing Cloud and Zack right outside Midgar in Final Fantasy VII, the Midgar upper plate for Sector 4 is absent. While Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- states the Sector 4 plate is last on the schedule for completion, Final Fantasy VII shows it fully complete and in place, while Sector 6 is the sole sector still under construction as of the game's opening.
In the Final Fantasy VII Remake, Zack's Final Stand has a different ending. A picture of Stamp, a mascot Shinra uses for propaganda, also flies by carried by the wind. Co-director Motomu Toriyama has noted that in the ending when Zack makes an appearance, Stamp's dog breed is different. Stamp elsewhere in the game looks like a hound , but briefly during Zack's "final" stand he looks more like a terrier. Also in Final Fantasy VII Remake, if the player chooses to climb the stairs to the Shinra Building, Barret talks about a "suicidal last stand" being preferable to climbing so many flights of stairs as the player reaches floor 49, the SOLDIER Floor where Zack was stationed in Crisis Core.
Flowers are often used as symbols to signify the cycle of life. Some flowers, such as irises and lilies, are used in burials as symbols referring to resurrection and life, while others, such as daisies, are symbols of purity and/or innocence. Some mythologies depict flowers that grow only where those of brave, pure or heroic natures have died and passed on.
It was a custom in medieval times to mark the grave of a warrior with their weapon as a grave marker. Sometimes, if the body was not able to be retrieved, the weapon would be positioned where the warrior fell as a symbol to their memory. This custom was not always limited to warriors or weapons and has carried on to modern times where mourners place items of relevance to the deceased on or within their graves.
last stand is a general military situation in which a body of troops holds a defensive position in the face of overwhelming odds.A
- Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Omega, p.528 (translation)
- Crisis Core Preview - We discuss the FF7 prequel's inner workings with director Tabata (dead) (Accessed: August 09, 2016) at 1UP.com
- Fantasy Star: Talking to Final Fantasy Scenario Director Hajime Tabata (Accessed: August 21, 2018) at GameSpot
- Unser Interview mit Hajime Tabata (Accessed: August 21, 2018) at JPGAMES.DE
- Crisis Core: Interviewing Yoshinori Kitase (Accessed: August 21, 2018) at Bit-Gamer
- MKillerby translating the July 22nd Famitsu interview with Naoki Hamaguchi (n.d.) . Translation: Toriyama and Hamaguchi (FF7R co-directors) interviews in Famitsu. Archived from the original on July 22, 2022.