Final Fantasy VII’s wonderful story goes beyond the main game. Many of its best characters get fleshed out in other projects and this week’s focus, Zack Fair, is no different. Much like Vincent and even Sephiroth, there is more to Zack than the few moments we see or hear from him during the main game.
Zack Fair was born in the small town of Gongaga. Growing up, he lived a humble life since Gongaga was pretty remote. However, this also created a longing for something greater in Zack. A longing he would eventually follow when he was thirteen years old.
He ended up going to Midgar and joining the Shinra military. He wanted to make something of himself, much like his hero Sephiroth. His plan was to eventually make it all the way up to SOLDIER First Class.
Zack Fair excelled within the military not just because of his skill, but because of his mentor Angeal Hewley. Because of this, he quickly gained the rank of SOLDIER Second Class. After observing Zack for a while, Angeal finally made the recommendation to Lazard Deusericus, the director of SOLDIER, that Zack should be promoted to First Class. This was an honor that Zack was happy to hear.
Not long after Angeal’s recommendation, Genesis Rhapsodos deserted Shinra. This gave Zack Fair a great opportunity to prove himself in the field and hopefully win that promotion. To investigate Genesis’ disappearance, Zack and Angeal headed to Wutai. The mission ended with the disappearance of Angeal as well.
Sephiroth pointed out to Zack that Angeal probably left with his buddy Genesis, but this accusation enraged Zack. He couldn’t understand why Angeal would leave or play the villain. It went against everything he knew about Angeal as a person.
Regardless, he had no information to suggest otherwise, and had to continue his career in SOLDIER without Angeal. As missions were being turned down by Sephiroth regarding both Angeal and Genesis, these missions found their way to Zack.
To Zack, this felt like he was Shinra’s last pick. In reality though, Sephiroth had recommended these missions for Zack due to his devotion to Angeal. He felt that Zack would have the best luck bringing Angeal back without any conflict.
The Search For Angeal
Zack’s first mission after Angeal’s disappearance saw him to the town of Banora. Accompanying him on this mission was Tseng from the Turks. This was the town Genesis and Angeal grew up in, so they had hoped to stumble upon some answers.
After searching the town they discovered only one survivor after an attack by Genesis. This one survivor was Gillian Hewley, Angeal’s Mother. She swapped shared stories with Zack of Angeal and his famous Buster Sword. After leaving her alone for a while, he came back to find her dead with Angeal standing over her body.
This was shocking to Zack and he immediately thought that Angeal had killed his own mother. However, Zack was unaware of the larger truth. Since Gillian was involved in Jenova Project with Shinra, her part saw the creation of both Genesis and Angeal. However, due to Genesis being a flawed experiment and beginning to degrade, he was searching for a cure. Instead of helping him, Gillian chose to take her own life.
This saw Zack wrapped up in something much larger than he could have ever imagined. He couldn’t understand Angeal’s flip in loyalty, and it just didn’t add up with Zack. Zack was unable to think of his mentor as a bad guy, and instead just stayed in a constant state of conflict with the issue. When he was finally promoted to First Class, everything else going on seemed to take away all of his excitement from the promotion.
The lack of Genesis and Angeal lead to his promotion, which meant that he had not truly earned it. Instead, Shinra just needed to fill the seats back up. While the promotion was always what he wanted, Zack felt that this wasn’t the way he wanted to acquire it.
Before Shinra could make their move on Genesis and Angeal, Genesis attacked Midgar. That meant that Zack Fair and Sephiroth were sent to defend the city. This would have been a dream mission for Zack if the events that happened earlier had not transpired.
Upon hearing of Angeal’s presence in Mako Reactor 5, Zack made his way there to meet with his mentor once more. He had seen the changes in Angeal and read Hollander’s research notes, but he still couldn’t understand why Angeal was compelled to switch sides. Angeal was aggressive and this eventually lead to Zack falling through the floor of Mako Reactor 5 and landing in the Sector 5 church.
This was where Zack Fair met Aerith. As the day went on, he proceeded to try and win her affections and even had her second guessing her views on members of SOLDIER. This was also the moment he purchased her signature hair bow for her. However, their meeting was cut short when Zack was called back to work.
Genesis had attacked the Shinra building again and Zack was on his way to help when he ran into Angeal again. He couldn’t understand everything Angeal was going through, but had decided that the Angeal he knew was still in there somewhere.
Angeal asked Zack for help and he agreed which lead to them protecting Professor Hojo. After that Angeal gave Zack information he needed to hopefully track down Genesis and Hollander. This information lead Zack to Modeoheim where he, alongside Tseng, searched for Genesis.
A few Shinra soldiers were with them, including a young Cloud. Zack was able to be somewhat of a mentor to Cloud during this mission, encouraging him to follow his dreams. In a lot of ways, it was the first time Zack felt like he was finally able to do what he wanted with his position and help others.
When Zack stumbled upon Genesis and Dr. Hollander arguing, Zack stepped in to break it up. This lead to the duel between Zack and Genesis, which Zack was able to win. This was partly due to his training, but also partly due to Genesis’ degradation. This wasn’t the last they would see of Genesis though, as their were many copies.
Learning The Truth
After his duel with Genesis, he found Angeal where he finally learned the truth about everything. He learned that Angeal and Genesis were bred as part of an experiment called Project Gillian. After learning this, he couldn’t handle his own existence. However, unlike Genesis, Angeal didn’t want to leave the world in destruction, he wanted to retain some of his honor.
This lead to Zack fighting Angeal, and winning. Although it was ultimately what Angeal wanted, Zack was unsettled by having to end the life of his own mentor. Angeal was responsible for so much of who Zack became, so it was a difficult situation for Zack to handle. Without the hope of Angeal returning this time, Zack began to feel a loneliness that he had not before.
Before Angeal died, he handed Zack his Buster Sword. Zack grieved a lot over this loss, and turned to Aerith when he needed support or guidance. They still didn’t manage to spend much time together, as Zack was always working. However, this no doubt strengthened their bond and Aerith was often left worrying about Zack’s safety.
The Nibelheim Incident
When Genesis copies were beginning to be spotted around the world, Sephiroth encouraged Zack to go ensure Aerith’s safety. He was able to for a while and it was during this time he made her flower cart for her. Not long after its completion though, he was called back to work for a mission in Nibelheim. The realization that he may not come back soon, lead Zack to place Tseng in charge of Aerith’s safety.
The high monster sighting in Nibelheim lead to Zack and Sephiroth’s investigation of the Mako Reactor in the area. When they stumbled upon Mako-infused monsters, Sephiroth noted that even the average Mako-infused soldiers were still human. When Zack questioned what he meant by average, Sephiroth spiraled down a road he had not be down before. It had never occurred to Sephiroth that he too could be an experiment.
Genesis arrived just in time to turn Sephiroth’s doubts into realities which lead to Sephiroth seeking more answers in the Shinra Mansion. During Sephiroth’s time in the mansion, Zack confided in Cloud about his doubts and fears towards Shinra and Genesis. Cloud was able to provide some reassuring words and get Zack back to his normal positive self, but that would soon change when Sephiroth attacked Nibelheim.
He wanted to confront Sephiroth and ask why he was able to do such a horrible thing, so he made his way to the Mako Reactor. Inside, the Sephiroth he saw was no longer the war hero Zack had been working with and they dueled. Zack was no match for Sephiroth and although Cloud was, they were both too injured to leave the Reactor. This meant that when the clean-up crew came, Hojo saw an opportunity to experiment on both Zack and Cloud.
Four Years Later
Hojo exposed them both to high levels of Mako and injected them with Jenova cells. After the experiments, Hojo left the pair in the Shinra mansion for four years. Zack was only able to wake up due to a hallucination of Angeal. The experiments had almost no effect on Zack due to his previous exposure to Mako, but the same could not be said for Cloud.
Cloud’s body was enhanced by the Jenova cells, but his mind had been completely warped. This left Zack with the added hassle of trying to save Cloud. He decided to return to Midgar because he wanted to see Aerith. What sounded like an easy trip, got a lot harder when he realized the Turks were looking for him. Genesis was also looking for Zack, hoping that the Jenova cells that were used in Zack, could help cure his degradation.
Even with all of this, Zack wanted to stop by his home town on Gongaga and see his parents. This was not a well-thought out plan though because everyone was waiting for him there. He received warning from Cissnei from the Turks that Shinra was waiting for him inside the town, but she could not have expected Genesis to be looking for Zack as well.
He was able to best Genesis once and for all with the help of Lazard. Lazard had exposed himself to Angeal’s cells which made him into an Angeal copy. This also saw Angeal’s sense of honor come onto Lazard, which compelled him to help Zack.
Zack Fair’s Final Stand
With Genesis finally taken care of, Zack returned to Lazard. During Lazard’s passing, he revealed to Zack that Aerith had written him 89 letters, and the truth set in about him having been in that mansion for four years. This only made him that much more desperate to get back to Aerith.
Zack and Cloud talked on their way to Midgar and he shared with Cloud more of his hopes and dreams. Shortly after though, he spotted a Shinra army ambush and had to prepare for the fight. He knew it would likely be his last.
As a SOLDIER First Class, Zack held his own against impossible numbers, but ultimately became overwhelmed. Zack was defeated, and with his dying breath, he passed on the Buster Sword to Cloud, as Angeal did to Zack.
Once in the Lifestream, Zack was able to help Aerith as she called upon Holy. He was also a continuous voice of encouragement for Cloud. It meant that Zack died finally realizing his dream of becoming a SOLDIER First Class and a hero to the people.
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