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Zack's Final Stand

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The following article is based on a subject that has not been officially named in any official Square Enix material; the current title is merely a placeholder.
Zack facing the Shinra Army

Zack faces the Shinra army in his final stand.

Boy oh boy... the price of freedom is steep.
—Zack Fair

Zack's Final Stand is a pivotal moment in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII where Zack Fair, previously a popular first class SOLDIER of Shinra Electric Power Company, attempts to return to Midgar to see his love, Aerith Gainsborough. The scene serves as a crucial story element for both Zack Fair and Cloud Strife, as well as a symbolic example of the heroes' fight for freedom.

The scene is optional in Final Fantasy VII and fairly short, but it has been elaborated on further in later installments to the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, most notably Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-.

StoryEdit

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow. (Skip section)
FFVIINibelheimEscape1

Zack and Cloud escape the Shinra Mansion.

Having been captured and experimented on for four years following the Nibelheim Incident, Zack Fair awakens and escapes confinement. He frees his friend, Cloud Strife, who is suffering from mako poisoning, and helps Cloud escape Nibelheim with him. While on the run Zack finishes a conflict against Genesis Rhapsodos and reads a letter from his girlfriend, Aerith Gainsborough, which he had been unable to receive due to his four year captivity. Realizing the extent of his absence, Zack decides to return to Midgar to see her again.

Following Zack and Cloud's escape from Nibelheim, 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 they were returned to custody. Zack refuses their help believing it to lead being locked within the role of servitude that had previously prevented him from leading a normal life. While initially commandeering a motorbike, Zack switches to hitching a ride on a truck 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.

FFVIIZackLastStand1

Zack's death overlooking Midgar as Cloud lies comatose.

Intent on capturing the pair and getting the commendation for themselves, the 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, the worry over Cloud's safety, and the hope of seeing Aerith again keep him going. Soon even that is not enough and Zack collapses. He is executed by the few remaining Midgar troops, and left for dead atop an outcropping. Seeing that Cloud is no threat, the soldiers spare him and go report to Shinra, but later Cloud comes out of his vegetative state and crawls over to his dying friend.

Zack hands the Buster Sword to Cloud telling him to carry on his dreams as his living legacy. Zack dies on the cliff overlooking Midgar, and Cloud stays by his body until the weather changes and 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 advances towards Midgar with Zack's voice telling Cloud to take care of Aerith (say "hi" to her for him in the English versions) if he meets her, and ponders whether he achieved his dream of becoming a hero.

This event, along with the combined trauma caused by the Nibelheim Incident and his mako poisoning causes Cloud's mind to twist 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. His mind remains this way until his and Tifa's fall into the Lifestream in Mideel, and his true memories return to him.

LocationEdit

Zack'sFinalStandLoc

Route of Zack's Final Stand.

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.

DevelopmentEdit

While the scene of Zack's final stand was originally shown in Final Fantasy VII, the scene is optional, viewed after Cloud rejoins the party on Disc 2 by entering the Shinra Mansion basement, and the scene is fairly short.

According to Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Omega,[1] 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 recall 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- extends on the event and further elaborates upon it. Before even beginning work on Crisis Core, the development team knew Zack would have to die at the end. 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.[2] 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.[3]

Hideki Imaizumi, the producer of Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-, has stated that when it comes to building a story around an inevitable ending there is enormous pressure around it. 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.[4]

Other AppearancesEdit

Before Crisis -Final Fantasy VII-Edit

BCZackCloudCollected

Hojo and Tseng look over Zack and Cloud in the reactor.

The Player Turk bares 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 Nibelheim 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 use for scientific experiments.

Four years later, ordered to pursue two "research samples" that have escaped from the Nibelheim Mansion, the Player Turk finds herself/himself 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 in the mansion four years previously.

BCZackEscape1

The Turk finds Zack and Cloud.

Coming across the escapees on the beach, the Player Turk discovers the escaped "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, attempt a Priority-S retrieval attempt, but are unable to acquire them before the Shinra military ambushes the pair in the Midgar wastelands.

Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-Edit

CCCissnei4

Cissnei assists in Zack's escape.

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 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 "research samples" that have escaped from Shinra Mansion.

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.

VIICC Final Battle

Zack's last stand in Crisis Core.

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.

Last Order -Final Fantasy VII-Edit

LastOrderTruck

Zack and Cloud hitching a ride in Last Order.

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.

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children CompleteEdit

Zack's Resting Place

Flowers begin to grow where Zack fell.

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 and Zack's sacrifice, and his inability to prevent either event from happening, haunt Cloud to the point of crippling depression.

While in pursuit of thwarting Kadaj and the other Remnants of Sephiroth, Cloud perceives he should succumb to his Geostigma infection and die as he had let his two friends die. As his battle against the Remnants escalates into a battle against a resurrected Sephiroth, Zack appears behind him 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 on the spot Zack fell in his last stand, signifying the beginning of the wasteland's revival to nature. Denzel asks if this is a grave, to which Cloud replies it is the place where a hero began his journey. The Buster Sword has been restored to its former glory and moved into Sector 5 Church.

Musical ThemesEdit

{{{image}}}
"Price of Freedom"
Music-harp
FFVIICC The Price of Freedom
Trouble with the audio sample?

The original scene in Final Fantasy VII has no background 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.

GalleryEdit

TriviaEdit

  • When the player party visits Gongaga, Zack's hometown, in Final Fantasy VII, his parents are found still waiting for Zack's return, having not been informed of their son's death. 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".
  • 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 would place items of relevance to the deceased on or within their graves.
  • 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.

ReferencesEdit

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