Zack Fair is the main protagonist of Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- / Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion and a recurring character in the Final Fantasy VII series of games. First introduced through flashbacks in Final Fantasy VII, Zack also appears as a supporting character in Before Crisis -Final Fantasy VII-, Last Order -Final Fantasy VII-, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, and Final Fantasy VII Remake.
Born in the countryside of Gongaga, Zack was a member of SOLDIER First Class and the protege of Angeal Hewley. One of the strongest warriors in the division next to Sephiroth, Zack wields the powerful Buster Sword, which he later passes on to his best friend, Cloud Strife. Always optimistic and dedicated to his own morals, he finds his perfect match in his girlfriend Aerith Gainsborough during the events of Crisis Core.
Although only seen during flashbacks in the original title, Zack’s story is intrinsically linked to Cloud’s, making him a hugely important character in the lore of Final Fantasy VII.
Table Of Contents
Appearance and Personality
Zack has spiky black hair, similar in style to Cloud’s. He also has shining blue eyes, common for those in SOLDIER. Tall and lean, he wears a black uniform during his time as a SOLDIER First Class, sporting an X-shaped scar on his cheek and carrying the iconic Buster Sword. One lock of hair hangs into his face and he wears a silver stud earring in his left ear.
During his time as a SOLDIER 2nd Class, Zack has shorter hair and wears a dark blue uniform in contrast to the standard red uniform seen on other 2nd Class members. He also lacks his earring and facial scar.
While in Costa del Sol, Zack carries a parasol as a makeshift weapon and wears black shorts with a yellow pattern.
Energetic, kind, and cheerful, Zack is often restless and eager to be on the go. His short attention span sometimes gets him into trouble, though as the years pass and his circumstances become more difficult, he matures, becoming calmer while keeping his positive outlook. Able to befriend just about anyone and eager to see only the best in people, he’s also a flirt, easily charming any women that cross his path. He was also able to become close to Sephiroth and Tseng quickly, despite the two being much less affable and more wary when developing friendships.
At his core, Zack dreams of becoming a hero capable of upholding his honor: something extremely valuable to him. He is loyal and just, often attempting to avoid bloodshed if it isn’t absolutely necessary. Zack is the complete opposite of Genesis, who seeks fame and glory for his actions.
Zack’s mentor, Angeal, cared greatly for his protege, even mentioning him in letters home. Angeal taught Zack two important mantras—”Embrace your dreams” and “Protect your SOLDIER honor,” which Zack embodies until his last moments.
Weapons and Abilities
Highly skilled with a sword and similarly well-versed in hand-to-hand combat, Zack is also seen wielding magic granted to him by materia. He was able to defeat two of the most powerful members of SOLDIER, Genesis and Angeal, with relative ease, and fought an entire Shinra army alone during his last stand.
Additionally, Zack is sometimes seen wielding a sniper rifle, though he mentions that Shinra’s Auto-Assist System is the only reason he can hit his targets. He attributes his fearlessness in any terrain to his life growing up in the country, and he is also good with his hands, building Aerith’s flower cart.
One of Zack’s hobbies is squats, with many other Shinra soldiers deeming him “unbeatable.”
Despite his role in Final Fantasy VII being established early, Zack’s concrete creation came late during the game’s development process. Kazushige Nojima, the game’s Scenario Writer, had decided from the beginning that Cloud’s overconfident persona would be a farce. To make the final game more mysterious, he wanted to include a character whom Cloud based himself on, with Nojima later asking staff to add some foreshadowing to the game’s event scenes to tease the audience about Zack’s connection to Cloud.
Final Fantasy VII‘s director, Yoshinori Kitase, only found out about Zack’s connection to Cloud during a playtest. Zack was one of the last characters sketched by Tetsuya Nomura.
With his story already decided, Zack was chosen to serve as the main character in Crisis Core. Despite making only a few small appearances in Final Fantasy VII, Kitase mentioned that his story had “been cooking for 10 years.” The game was meant to include more scenes showing Cloud and Zack’s escape to Midgar, but due to UMD limitations, this wasn’t possible. Instead, the game focuses on Zack’s time as a soldier.
In Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-
Born in Gongaga in 1984, Zack had dreams of joining SOLDIER since he was a child. At the age of 13, he left for Midgar without telling his parents, immediately joining the Shinra military. Training under Angeal Hewley, a SOLDIER First Class, Zack made it to SOLDIER Second Class in only three years. During this time, he befriended SOLDIER Second Class Kunsel and worked under Director Lazard Deusericus.
During a digital training session with Angeal in the prologue of Crisis Core, Zack is easily defeated by a virtual Sephiroth, teaching him to be more humble. Despite this, Angeal recommends Zack for First Class during the young soldier’s first face-to-face meeting with Director Lazard in Chapter 1. The two are deployed to Fort Tamblin in Wutai, and on the way, the two learn that Genesis Rhapsodos, a SOLDIER First Class, had deserted Shinra, taking a number of soldiers with him. Angeal also tells Zack more about his childhood and his past friendship with Genesis, also mentioning the Buster Sword that had been passed down from generation to generation in his family.
Zack is somehow able to destroy all enemy forces on his own, after which he meets a very young Yuffie Kisaragi. Local Wutai warriors try to convince him that Shinra is evil, but Zack remains loyal to the cause despite some lingering reservations. After returning, Zack is attacked by numerous copies of Genesis and saved by Sephiroth. After Angeal vanishes, the First Class soldier mentions that the two may be working together, which Zack refuses to believe.
In Chapter 2, Zack travels with the Turk Tseng to Banora in an effort to find out more about Genesis and Angeal’s disappearance. There, he meets Gillian Hewley, a relative of Angeal who fails to give any helpful information. When Genesis appears, he injures Zack, but the two are saved by Angeal. Gillian is found dead after Tseng reveals that the village will be bombed to cover up any incidents, and Genesis sends Bahamut to put an end to Zack once and for all before sprouting a single black wing. Zack manages to escape on a Shinra helicopter, but his troubles only grow.
Zack is promoted to SOLDIER First Class at the start of Chapter 3, though he isn’t as thrilled as he thought he would be. He meets Cissnei as the Turks are deployed to meet Genesis’ army during its advancement on Midgar. Sephiroth tells Zack that Angeal had been sighted at Mako Reactor 5, where the two find documents for the mysterious Project G, also encountering Dr. Hollander: the professor behind it. After attempting to chase him down, Zack is stopped by Angeal, who had sprouted a white wing and referred to himself as a monster. Zack tries to convince his mentor that it isn’t true, but Angeal only responds by destroying the platform beneath Zack, causing him to fall into the Sector 5 slums below.
Upon waking up in the Sector 5 slums church, Zack meets Aerith, immediately offering to repay her kindness with a date. During their conversation, he also takes note of the flowers in the church, telling Aerith that she might want to try selling them for a profit. Visiting the market, Zack buys Aerith a pink ribbon for her hair.
The happy day is cut short when Zack is summoned to upper Midgar to attack Professor Hojo and halt Genesis. Angeal appears, offering to fight by Zack’s side. Sephiroth, Zack, and Angeal attempt to fight Genesis, but both Angeal and Genesis disappear during Zack’s battle with Bahamut Fury.
In Chapter 5, Zack is stopped by Tseng on his way to visit Aerith. Sent to Modeoheim alongside a group of Shinra infantrymen, Zack bonds with one of them—a young Cloud Strife. While infiltrating a mako excavation facility, Zack finds Genesis and Dr. Hollander. Genesis grows angry at Hollander’s inability to cure his genetic degradation, while Hollander reveals that Project G actually stands for “Project Gillian.” Angeal is revealed to be the perfect SOLDIER, equipped with Jenova’s power.
Zack successfully defeats Genesis and manages to find Angeal, who dubs himself the “perfect monster.” Zack defeats Angeal Penance, a fusion of Angeal copies, but gains a scar on his cheek in the process.
While dying, Angeal gives Zack the Buster Sword and reminds him to always remember his honor. Aerith comforts Zack, and after Genesis is listed as dead, the Genesis War draws to a close.
In Chapter 6, Zack is seen relaxing in Costa del Sol along with Cissnei. Suddenly, a group of Genesis copies appear, and it is revealed that Director Lazard had betrayed SOLDIER to break Dr. Hollander out of prison in Junon. Zack fails to prevent this from happening. Upon Sephiroth’s late arrival, he forgives Zack for his failure, telling the SOLDIER to return to Aerith in Midgar. When he arrives in Chapter 7, he finds an Angeal copy protecting Aerith from monsters having escaped from Hojo’s lab.
Soon after, Zack is sent on a mission to Nibelheim alongside Cloud, Sephiroth, and two other infantrymen. Trusting Tseng to look after Aerith in his absence, he bids her farewell.
During Chapter 8, as the three travel to Nibelheim, Zack questions Sephiroth about his family. The First Class SOLDIER mentions that his mother’s name was Jenova, causing Zack to remember Genesis’s reference to her. Tifa Lockhart, a native of Nibelheim, guides the group to the Nibel Reactor within Mt. Nibel. During this excursion, Sephiroth learns that he had been created as part of the Jenova Project, which causes him to have a mental breakdown. Zack escorts Cloud and Tifa back to town after they are attacked.
Locking himself in the basement of the Shinra Manor for a week without sleep, Sephiroth refuses to talk to Zack when he approaches. Eventually, Sephiroth snaps, revealing his belief that he is the last of the Cetra and is now sporting a new hatred for humanity. After burning Nibelheim to the ground, Sephiroth heads towards the reactor in search of Jenova. He is pursued by Cloud, Tifa, and Zack, all of whom prove to be no match against him. Cloud manages to stab Sephiroth, pushing him into the lifestream. Although Tifa manages to escape, Cloud and Zack are taken by Professor Hojo for his Jenova Reunion Theory experiment. Both are injected with powerful Jenova cells and are forced to endure Hojo’s experimentation for four years.
Eventually, Hojo deemed his experiment a failure after Zack proved to have a tolerance to the Jenova Cells. Cloud, on the other hand, had no tolerance, falling victim to toxicosis.
Zack wakes up in Shinra Manor in December 0006. He immediately knocks out the researcher keeping watch and rescues Cloud, who is suffering from extreme mako poisoning and is nearly catatonic. Upon escaping, the two were deemed fugitives wanted by Shinra.
In Chapter 9, the two men leave Nibelheim, which has since been rebuilt. Although Cissnei was under orders to capture Zack and Cloud, she let them pass without complaint. They return to Zack’s hometown, Gongaga, despite the Turks having been deployed to search for them there. Zack finds Genesis copies searching for Cloud, believing that he possessed Jenova cells from Sephiroth that could cure their degradation. Managing to protect Cloud, Zack kills Hollander with the help of Lazard, who had become an Angeal copy to sap Angeal’s true strength. Apologizing for his past mistakes, Lazard promises to help stop Genesis and save mankind.
During Chapter 10, Zack, Cloud, and Lazard travel to the Banoa ruins to find Genesis, who has since learned to harness the power of the lifestream. Zack defeats him, though Lazard is killed. While eating an apple, Zack reads a letter from Aerith and decides to take the catatonic Cloud back to Midgar.
Zack’s Final Stand took place on the pair’s way back to Midgar. As they sat in the back of a pick-up truck, Zack formed a plan for himself and Cloud to become mercenaries, wondering if they could stay with Aerith. Upon reaching the city, an army of Shinra soldiers was waiting. They gunned Zack down while ignoring Cloud, and as he passed into the lifestream. He joined Angeal, telling Cloud to tell Aerith hello and wondering if he had truly become a hero.
In Final Fantasy VII
Cloud is traumatized by his mako poisoning, the Nibelheim Incident, and Zack’s death. His mind is broken and warped by the Jenova cells in his body, and over time, he begins to adopt Zack’s persona and memories as his own, crafting a false sense of self. Arriving in the Sector 7 slums, he finds Tifa, who notices the flaws in Cloud’s memories but says nothing. She convinced Cloud to work with her and Barret as part of Avalanche, and this is where Final Fantasy VII begins.
Over the course of the game’s events, Cloud has a number of mental breakdowns as a result of his false memories. Upon meeting Aerith in the church, she notices several similarities between Cloud and Zack, including their eye color and SOLDIER rank. When the party meets Zack’s parents, they claim to still be waiting for their son’s safe return—Aerith agrees, but Tifa keeps her memories of Zack a secret.
Sephiroth eventually shows Cloud what really happened on the day of the Nibelheim Incident, forcing Tifa to speak up. After she helps Cloud repair his mind, the SOLDIER reclaims his memories and true persona, no longer relying on one based on Zack.
In Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
Following Aerith’s death, she returns to the lifestream where she meets Zack. After being caught in Yazoo and Loz’s attack, Cloud hears Zack and Aerith calling out to him.
In the Complete version of the film, Zack encourages Cloud during his fight with Sephiroth, reminding him to remember his honor. He also mentions that, although Cloud couldn’t make it into SOLDIER, his heart was what counted, and he had proven time and time again to be the stronger one. At the end of the film, Zack and Aerith can be seen at the door to the Sector 5 church.
In time, yellow flowers began to bloom on the spot where Zack lost his life outside of Midgar. Denzen asks Cloud if they marked a grave, and Cloud responds by telling the boy that it was simply a place where a hero started his journey.
In Final Fantasy VII: Remake
During the “Destiny Crossroads” chapter, Zack’s Final Stand is shown when the party fights Sephiroth and the Whispers. Following their defeat, Zack’s fate is altered, and he is seen walking away from the battle with the Shinra army rather than being gunned down. After being knocked down by a sudden burst of light emitting from Midgar, he awakens to take an injured Cloud back to the city.
In Episode INTERmission, Zack visits the Sector 5 church hoping to find Aerith. Instead, he finds refugees from the topside of Midgar, with Aerith nowhere to be seen. It’s unclear whether this scene takes place in the same continuity as the rest of Remake.
Appearances in Other Titles
Zack has appeared in a number of other titles as a playable character or a summon.
- Pictlogica Final Fantasy
- Final Fantasy Airborne Brigade
- Final Fantasy Record Keeper
- Final Fantasy World Wide Words.
- World of Final Fantasy
- Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia
- Final Fantasy Tactics
- Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call
Zack also appears in the following games in card form:
- Final Fantasy Trading Card Game
- Triple Triad
- Final Fantasy Artniks
- Mobius Final Fantasy
Along with many other Final Fantasy VII characters, Zack made an appearance in the Kingdom Hearts series. He can be seen in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, a prequel to the original game released on the PlayStation Portable.
He also appears in Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring as a secret playable character. In the arcade fighting game, Zack fights using the Buster Sword and has a fighting style identical to Cloud’s.
- The Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu held a popularity poll in 2010 in which Zack ranked as the 37th most popular video game character in Japan.
- Tetsuya Nomura told Dengeki PlayStation that Zack’s last name, Fair, was meant to invoke thoughts of “fair weather.” This is meant to be in contrast with “Cloud Strife.”
- In the Japanese PlayStation release of Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring, Zack’s name reads ‘Zax.’ This is his original Japanese name, but it was changed in the West to a more realistic name. Since the release of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, ‘Zack’ has been used in all official Japanese material.
- In Final Fantasy XV, Gladio can be seen doing squats at the campsite as a reference to both Cloud and Zack.
- While Zack doesn’t actually appear in Dissidia Final Fantasy, Cloud references him a number of times throughout the game, even saying “I’ll live my life for you” during battle.
- Zack only appears in a few flashback sequences in Final Fantasy VII. Only two of these are mandatory.