Putting out here again my SPOILER ADJACENT theory about what is Going On with the FFVIIR trilogy and the whole potential for things to go on to a sort of divergent canon, just for posterity’s sake and because I’ll be playing this upcoming treasure with all of this theory in mind.
Also this contains CATASTROPHIC SPOILERS, but for Final Fantasy VII (just in case! You never know) and Final Fantasy VII Remake, as in, the first game in the remake trilogy, not the upcoming game (which I don’t have spoiler knowledge of, I haven’t even been watching trailers):
The whole stuff with the whispers or the crazy ghost guys and the breaking of Fate with that goofy boss fight with Sephiroth at the end was ALL A RED HERRING.
The major established canon events from the first game, especially, especially, with regards to the death of Aerith, will absolutely not change. It will not be reversible. They will let it hit with the full weight, and they will not change things significantly in this regard in the third game. There are going to be additional major events, seems pretty clear they’re going to flesh out the role of Wutai in the narrative, but this is really more about expanding on the source material, not taking it in any speculative alternate directions.
The explanation for the weird ghost guys, the teases of divergent canons or timelines, and of Aerith’s higher or even prescient levels of awareness of the events and their broader contexts in the events of Final Fantasy VII Remake all have an explanation, and it’s a clever diegetic change in perspective of the narrative of the game so far. All of the events in the Remake, and, likely, of Rebirth, and eventually most of the events of the third game, and if I remember correctly this is not the case in the source material, will be revealed to be (original FFVII spoilers ahead) diegetically been occurring within Cloud’s subconscious as he is adrift in the Lifestream. The weird ghosts are the will of the planet or whatever, yes, but not as some kind of fourth wall tickling metaphor to tease a divergent canon, it’s the will of the planet forcing Cloud to confront the recent events of his life as they truly happened, not as he wished them to happen or not as if he had run away from adversity or from giving a shit about the planet or the people around him. Thus their presence during the events in Midgard, when Cloud was perhaps most willing to walk away and retreat in a major way. Perhaps if they reappear in Rebirth it will be in similar moments of Cloud feeling doubt or wanting to give up.
How does this explain Aerith’s higher level of awareness and prescience? Well, Cloud is reliving the experiences he’s had since he came to Midgar, but if he is also physically adrift in the Lifestream, he is also where Aerith is, since, well, she was killed by that point in the narrative. As an Ancient, or perhaps because she died recently, or perhaps a bit of both, she may have particular abilities in retaining her own consciousness after returning to the Lifestream. So, from Cloud’s perspective, he is reliving recent events and interacting with Aerith as he remembers the events happening, but also, she is with him in the Lifestream and communicating with him in critical moments where she can encourage and guide him to face the truth of everything. It’s her way of saying goodbye to him in the present. Then following Cloud recovering after that, the events of the story will diegetically return to the present and proceed in real time.
Maybe this theory makes me one of those You Must Be Really Fun At Parties, kinds of stick in the mud guys when it comes to fan theories and reinterpretations of source material. But honestly I think this is genius, and if I’m correct on all this, it’s anything but a copout. How do you Remake/Rebirth what might be the most famous twist in videogame history? Do you reverse it and make it a speculative work on an alternate timeline? Or… do you find a way to instill Real Hope in that being a real possibility, that you can actually prevent her death or reverse it, and then gracefully descend from above and run it through with a 15ft katana?
It’s an incredible way for them to have their cake and to eat it too. The challenge was not to reinterpret or reconceptualize Aerith’s death with a wish fulfillment alternative canon or just sparkling production values, such that we get something entirely new or the old thing just in a fresh coat of paint that is just as impactful as the original. The challenge was always to honor the creative choice of the source material by killing Aerith again in the exact same way, in the context of a world where virtually everyone who knows anything about the game knows what’s coming from the very beginning. You gotta preserve the twist, not just a shocking event in the narrative that isn’t going to be shocking at all anymore because of the real world context, you gotta find a way to preserve it as a twist of a knife. Or 15ft katana.