|“||To be a hero, you need to have dreams...||„|
|~ Zack Fair|
Zack Fair is a minor character in Final Fantasy VII and the second wielder of the Buster Sword before Cloud Strife. Zack received the Buster Sword from his mentor, Angeal Hewley. Zack is a First Class SOLDIER and was Cloud's closest friend during their time working for the Shinra Electric Power Company.
His personality and backstory is expanded upon in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, appearing as the protagonist of Crisis Core, a supporting character in Before Crisis, and a minor character in Advent Children and the Remake.
Outside of the series' continuity, Zack appears as a playable character in Ehrgeiz and a minor character in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep.
Zack is tall, well-built, and has the iconic sky-blue "Mako eyes" many SOLDIER members have. Zack's appearance goes through a series of changes throughout Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-. He starts with spiky black hair and having several bangs framing the sides of his face. At first, he wears a dark blue SOLDIER uniform, gloves, boots, and is equipped with a standard SOLDIER sword, even if most 2nd Class members of SOLDIER wear red and magenta uniforms. Later, he is upgraded to a black 1st Class SOLDIER uniform. Later, Zack obtains the Buster Sword as well as an X-shaped scar on his lower left cheek and his spiky hair become longer and wilder with a lock of hair hanging down in front of his face. He has a silver earring in his left ear.
Zack has a positive attitude and is always ready for work. His energetic personality and low attention span earned the nickname "Zack the Puppy" from Angeal. He is loyal to SOLDIER and dreams of becoming a hero. He is sociable and easily befriends almost everyone. Angeal's words of valuing dreams and honor have had a great impact on Zack and he goes on to become SOLDIER's spiritual leader after his mentor.
Despite his loyalty to Shinra, Zack ultimately stays true to his morals and heart: He refuses to kill Genesis and Angeal despite Shinra's order, which earns him Sephiroth's respect and friendship, and tries to reach out to them and is devastated over having to kill Angeal with his own hands. Zack even continues to appeal to Genesis's SOLDIER pride and honor and is ultimately successful, earning Genesis's respect. Zack's courage and morality can at times make him more serious and even ruthless, as after Sephiroth destroyed Nibelheim, Zack lost all hope for Sephiroth and did not hesitate to confront and try to kill him, despite knowing fully well of Sephiroth's skill that could very well and did indeed outmatch his.
Years of experiment under Shinra finally broke Zack's loyalty. He is flirty with women and protective of his friends.
- Zack and Angeal: Angeal was impressed by Zack's talent and took him under his wing. Years spent under Angeal's mentorship has built in Zack a deep sense of admiration and respect for Angeal and strong bond with him. His compassion and trust for Angeal is shown by how he refused to believe Angeal would betray SOLDIER and despite being enraged when seeing Angeal seemingly murdering his mother and punching him down, continued to hold out to hope that Angeal was still a SOLDIER at heart. Alas, though Angeal also continued to deeply care for Zack, defending and helping him numerous times, their friendship came to a tragic end when Zack was forced by Angeal to kill him by Angeal transforming himself into Angeal Penance, with Angeal passing on the Buster Sword to Zack before his death, leaving Zack devastated but he was able to find the determination to continue on in order to live up to Angeal's dreams.
- Zack and Sephiroth: It remains unclear whether Zack and Sephiroth had interacted before, even though Zack was Angeal's student, who was in return Sephiroth's friend, but it's possible they may have met as Zack easily recognized Sephiroth when a data simulation of him attacked him. Nevertheless, Zack deeply admired and respected Sephiroth as the SOLDIER Hero and Sephiroth in return did save Zack from Ifrit and took over Angeal's role as Zack's mentor, teaching him how to emulate his Octaslash and take down enemies in one blow: Though showing professional and strict behavior, it supports the possibility that Sephiroth and Zack had met before and cared for one another as fellow SOLDIER even before Zack became SOLDIER 1ST Class. As their relationship developed, Zack eventually became Sephiroth's only friend left in SOLDIER: Zack shows no signs of being intimidated by Sephiroth, being fully willing to talk back to him, which clearly impresses Sephiroth, even making show fondness, but at the same time he does acknowledge Sephiroth as a superior SOLDIER, following his instructions diligently when they endeavored to save Angeal and Genesis. He also seems to try to have friendly interactions with Sephiroth and though Sephiroth is less than receptive, he does show kindness by reassuring Zack that he will remain a loyal SOLDIER and permitting him to visit Aerith in Midgar. Unfortunately, their relationship would be most viciously severed when Sephiroth went insane: Horrified and enraged by the betrayal of his last remaining fellow SOLDIER 1ST Class, Zack and Sephiroth fought brutally and viciously and though Zack put up a valiant and competent struggle, even forcing Sephiroth to fight seriously, he was eventually defeated but his earlier fight with Sephiroth gave Cloud the time and momentum needed to be able to defeat Sephiroth, with Zack having no qualms ordering Cloud to lethally deal with him. In Complete, he later serves as the primary reason Cloud was able to defeat Sephiroth, showing none of the respect he once had for Sephiroth and simply considering him as one of the foes Cloud had defeated. Indeed, in Opera Omnia, Zack showed none of his previous friendship towards Sephiroth, referring to him with contempt and dismissing him as unworthy of being a SOLDIER and a hero, which Sephiroth himself was more than happy to return, even exceeding his hatred of Cloud. Sephiroth's apparent personal spite towards Zack seems to come, in part, due to Zack having failed to save Angeal and himself: Although he may have become twisted, Sephiroth still remembers what he seems to perceive as a great failure and betrayal from Zack. Zack's personal anger of Sephiroth likewise appears to originate from the fact that Sephiroth, with Angeal gone, was the only remaining SOLDIER 1st Class left that he admired and his fall into insanity had left a personal impact on Zack. Oddly, however, in Remake, Sephiroth seemingly saved Zack from his fate, leaving the future of their relationship ambigious and whether he and Zack may interact or not.
- Zack and Cloud: Zack quickly took a shine to Cloud and proceeded to show a warm demeanor as he guided Cloud and taught him things about SOLDIER. He was sympathetic to Cloud's failure to become a SOLDIER but he knew that SOLDIER membership wouldn't be a good life for Cloud and encouraged him to find another way of life. Even as he had to run from Shinra, Zack continued to care for the comatose Cloud and eventually gave his life to protect Cloud, voluntarily passing on the Buster Sword and making Cloud his living legacy. Indeed, their bond was such that even when Cloud did not remember Zack, he was able to imprint Zack's fighting skills and memories into himself, which was the main reason why Cloud was able to survive and fight against Shinra and Sephiroth. Zack likewise showed no ill will towards Cloud for temporarily forgetting him and assured him freely that he was still worthy of being his legacy: He acknowledges that Cloud is not and may never be the SOLDIER Zack himself was in terms of martial prowess, but firmly believes he has the heart and mindset of a true SOLDIER anyway.
- Zack and Genesis: Zack and Genesis seems to have some sort of a relationship, likely as being Angeal's student, he would have been introduced to the other two SOLDIER 1ST Class. Zack clearly regarded Genesis as a loyal and powerful SOLDIER, expressing shock that he would betray Shinra. When they met in Banora, Zack treated Genesis with more caution than distaste while Genesis likewise seemed to have no personal enmity towards Zack and may even not wish to fight him at all, not bothering to fire a spell at him like he did with Tseng and even engaging in a conversation with him, albeit mockingly, even referring to Zack with the nickname Zack the Puppy, further supporting the fact that they had in fact knew each other before. Even when Zack prepared to fight him, Genesis showed no inclination to engage his fellow SOLDIER and simply left when Angeal defended Zack. Likewise, when he allows Angeal to leave, he only harmlessly trips him instead of attacking him lethally and after Zack wins against his summon, Genesis didn't bother to fight Zack but he did leave him behind with some cold words of the fact that he and Angeal are monsters unworthy of SOLDIER's honor. When they finally faced each other in battle, Zack proved himself to be more than a match for the degrading Genesis and bested him, with Genesis opting to risk falling to his death to escape. Despite everything, however, Zack did seem concerned when Genesis fell, showing he didn't want the former SOLDIER to die despite it all. Likewise, Genesis later didn't finish him off even when Zack had been surprised and incapacitated by his Firaga spell, which combined with his lack of interest in seriously engaging Zack prior hand showed that Genesis may actually like Zack or at least doesn't dislike him enough to engage him lethally. Zack eventually saved Genesis by defeating him, proving his worth to be SOLDIER 1ST Class, and Genesis was grateful to Zack's help.
- Zack and Gillian: Zack showed natural respect and concern towards Gillian as Angeal's mother and tried to assure her he'll bring Angeal back safely. He was enraged when Angeal seemingly killed her to the point where he proceeded to attack his mentor and lashed out to him, showing that despite their time being short, he cared for her considerably.
- Zack and Tseng: Despite Tseng's aloof nature, he and Zack were able to become friends to where Zack would entrust Aerith to Tseng and Tseng not only was willing to show humor around Zack but even tried to save him by ordering the Turks to retrieve him, the failure and Zack's death continuing to be a source of regret for Tseng.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
Zack was born in the town of Gongaga, where he lived until he left to join Shinra's elite militant force, SOLDIER. Quickly proving himself exceptionally talented, Zack became SOLDIER 2nd Class swiftly and impressed Angeal Hewley, one of the three SOLDIER 1st Class, to where he was taken under Angeal's wing, where in addition to being trained extensively to refine his prodigious talents, he was also exposed to Angeal's words of honor and wisdom that left him with a deep sense of admiration for his mentor, wishing to follow his example.
Having joined during the Wutai War, Zack frequently participated in missions to attack Wutai. At one point, he engaged in a virtual training simulation where he defeats multiple Wutai troops disguised as Shinra infantryman and Bahamut but is easily defeated by Sephiroth, forcing Angeal to end the training to save him.
With Zack having nevertheless grown enough in skill, Angeal recommends him for SOLDIER 1st Class, much to his joy, and he participates in the mission to destroy Fort Tamblin. He also receives interesting news during the briefing: First Class SOLDIER Genesis Rhapsodos has deserted Shinra, taking an untold number of Second and Third Class soldiers with him.
Angeal and Zack arrive in Wutai and journey to Fort Tamblin. On the way, Angeal asks Zack if he knows about "dumbapples" and explains the origin of the Banora White apples and how he was poor growing up yet friends with the adopted son of the richest family in town: Genesis. They make their way to Fort Tamblin and Zack takes out the enemy forces single-handedly. After an encounter with the Crescent Unit, who he easily defeated after refusing their appeal to join their cause, and brushing off a nine-year-old Yuffie Kisaragi, Zack enters a room and is attacked by two anti-SOLDIER monsters. He defeats them both, but one of them launches a counterattack. He is saved by Angeal.
While heading back to meet with Lazard, who is highly impressed with Zack's performance, several unknown soldiers attack the two. Angeal stays behind to deal with them while Zack escorts Lazard to safety. When he returns he discovers Angeal has gone missing. Zack battles Ifrit and overwhelms it but lets his guard down and nearly falls to its counterattack, but Sephiroth saves him by defeating it with a single blow. The unknown soldiers' bodies are copies of Genesis, the missing SOLDIER member. Sephiroth concludes that Angeal has left with his long-time friend, but Zack refuses to believe his mentor would desert Shinra.
Zack is tasked with searching for Genesis, and is joined by Tseng of the Turks, Shinra's intelligence agency. In Angeal and Genesis's hometown, Banora, Zack and Tseng find Genesis's adoptive parents' recently dug grave. Zack heads into the village and finds only one person, Angeal's mother, Gillian Hewley, who asks for Angeal's whereabouts, but Zack doesn't know. At the local apple juice factory he learns from Tseng that Sephiroth had deferred the mission to him due to his friendship with both Angeal and Genesis. Genesis appears, taunts Zack and injures Tseng. Before Zack can fight Genesis, Angeal arrives and sends Genesis away, but soon pushes him away.
Tseng reveals Shinra planes are going to bomb Banora to cover up the incidents. Zack races to save Gillian, but finds her dead on the floor with Angeal standing over her. Infuriated over the possibility that Angeal had killed her, Zack punches him and questions his honor. Genesis allows Angeal's escape, and sends Bahamut after Zack, which he defeats before questioning Genesis's motives. Sprouting a black wing, Genesis states he is a monster and flies off. Zack evacuates on a Shinra helicon and witnesses the bombing of Banora.
With his worthiness proven and possibly with Shinra's SOLDIER First Class only being Sephiroth and in desperate need for more with Zack seemingly being the only viable candidate, Zack is promoted to SOLDIER First Class, he and Sephiroth being the only ones in Shinra now. Though he achieved his dream, Zack is not happy, still saddened and confused over Angeal and Genesis's betrayal. Genesis's army attacks Midgar and Zack fights them throughout the city. Along the way he saves Cissnei, a member of the Turks. Sephiroth and Zack head to the Sector 5 Reactor to find the rogue Dr. Hollander who is suspected of working with Genesis. They purposefully allow Angeal and Genesis to escape and find papers documenting Shinra's Project G, which they presume to stand for "Project Genesis", explaining his genetic abnormalities. Zack chases Hollander through the mako reactor until he runs into Angeal, who says that as a monster he only dreams of monstrous things: world domination and revenge. Sprouting wings, Angeal attacks Zack and knocks him back, but Zack refuses to fight his old friend and mentor. Angeal destroys the platform beneath Zack and sends him plummeting into the Midgar slums.
Zack falls through the roof of the Sector 5 slums church where he meets Aerith Gainsborough, whom he offers to pay back her help with a date. Zack is impressed with the flowers that grow in the church, as flowers are a luxury item in the usually barren Midgar, and suggests Aerith sell them. They go to a local market where a child steals Zack's wallet and he discovers the child's own wallet had been eaten by a monster. Zack recovers the kid's wallet and buys Aerith a pink ribbon she will always wear from then on. He also inadvertently ends up naming the future 7th Heaven bar; when in the Sector 5 Slums Market Place, he talks to a man near a pile of wood who asks help in naming a new bar.
Zack and Aerith's date is cut short when he is recalled to the upper Midgar to defeat Genesis. En route Angeal appears and explains he and Zack must work together. Angeal flies him to the Shinra Building where Sephiroth explains Hollander is most likely after Professor Hojo who was given the position of heading Shinra's science department over Hollander. Zack, Genesis and Angeal arrive, and when Genesis flies out Angeal grabs Zack and flies him to face Bahamut Fury while Angeal deals with Genesis. After Zack defeats Bahamut Fury, Angeal and Genesis are nowhere to be seen.
Zack is then sent to the mountain town of Modeoheim with Tseng and several Shinra infantrymen, one of whom is Cloud Strife. Their helicopter is shot down by Genesis's troops and the team hikes across the snow. Zack and Cloud make headway, and when Zack comments that his companion can at least keep up after seeing how far behind Tseng and the other troops have fallen, they learn they are both "country boys" and become immediate friends. Cloud begins to look up to Zack as a hero and role model, not unlike Zack looking up to Angeal.
They discover a Mako Excavation Facility that Zack infiltrates while Tseng and the troops continue on to Modeoheim. Zack finds Genesis and Dr. Hollander arguing over Hollander not being able to cure Genesis's genetic degradation against his earlier promises. Zack confronts Genesis while Hollander squirms away. With Genesis weakened from degradation, Zack is able to defeat Genesis quickly and without suffering any injuries and tries to reach out to him but the former SOLDIER, realizing he cannot win against Zack, fall into the depths of the reactor. Assuming him dead, Zack hurries after Hollander.
Within a ruined bathhouse Zack finds Hollander and Angeal. As he counters Angeal's attacks while not retaliating, still unable to bring himself to kill his mentor, he learns Hollander used the late Gillian Hewley as a test subject for Project G, or "Project Gillian", and being Gillian's son, Angeal has gained the powers of Jenova as a result. Angeal did not kill his mother, but she killed herself, unable to live with her actions. Although Hollander refers to him as the perfect soldier, Angeal refuses the title, instead calling himself the "perfect monster". He fuses with several Angeal Copy monsters and becomes Angeal Penance. Horrified and enraged to see Angeal having effectively forsaken his honor, Zack fights Angeal Penance and easily defeats him, although not before his cheek is scarred. Angeal is left barely alive but proud of Zack's success, hands the Buster Sword to Zack, telling him to remember his dreams and honor to be a true member of SOLDIER. Distraught over the death of his mentor and friend, Zack finds comfort in the arms of Aerith, strengthening their relationship. As two of the last First Class SOLDIER members, and with Genesis War considered over, Zack succeeds Angeal's role as the emotional heart of the organization. He meets another SOLDIER member named Luxiere who looks up to him as a role model, inspired by Zack's speech to the Shinra troops he commands.
By early summer, Zack is sent to Costa del Sol to rest with Cissnei watching him. His vacation is interrupted by an attack by Genesis Copies, the first salvo of a new round of conflict. With the help of a secret traitor within SOLDIER, Director Lazard himself, the copies break Dr. Hollander out of imprisonment in Junon. Zack is sent there with a good number of Turks and Shinra troops to quell the threat of Genesis's copies and the stolen machines of the Shinra Company. Hollander escapes with the Genesis Copies' help, but Sephiroth, who arrives late, forgives him, and permits Zack to return to Midgar to see Aerith.
Midgar has been under attack from hordes of monsters that have escaped (or perhaps set free, according to Kunsel) from Hojo's lab, but an Angeal copy has protected Aerith until Zack's arrival. Although never fully stated, it is believed this single copy is what is left of Angeal's will on the planet, and is perhaps being controlled by Angeal from within the Lifestream.
Before Zack leaves on his next mission, he and Aerith build a wagon so she can sell flowers in Midgar. Zack accompanies her on her first day of business, but has to stop when he is called away for another mission. He entrusts Tseng with looking after Aerith before heading to Nibelheim, Cloud's hometown, with Sephiroth, Cloud, and two other Shinra troopers to inspect the emergence of monsters in the area and a possibly malfunctioning mako reactor. In a DMW scene, Zack tells Aerith that whenever they meet they should do something in particular. Zack's idea is for her to wear pink, but she finds the idea silly. However, after Zack leaves for Nibelheim Aerith takes up on wearing the color.
Zack, Sephiroth and Cloud enter Nibelheim on September 22nd, but Cloud hides his face out of fear of being spotted by his childhood friend, Tifa. When learning that Sephiroth doesn't have a hometown, Zack asks whether he had a family. Sephiroth's answer that Jenova was his mother piques Zack's curiosity and suspicion due to Genesis's earlier reference to her. Before the group climbs Mt. Nibel to reach the reactor, a villager snaps a picture of Sephiroth, Zack and Tifa (who is to be their guide) together.
The malfunctioning reactor is fixed, but within Zack and Sephiroth discover pods filled with makonoids, humans infused with massive amounts of mako and turned into monsters. When they find a chamber labeled "Jenova" Genesis appears and reveals Sephiroth's past as part of the Jenova Project. Sephiroth hides in the basement of the Shinra Manor reading files upon files of the project for seven sleepless days. When Zack tries to talk to him, he wants to be left alone.
On October 1st, Zack tries to talk to Sephiroth again only to discover he has gone insane. Believing himself to be the last Cetra and blaming humans for his people's extinction, Sephiroth emerges from the mansion and burns the village to the ground, slaughtering most of the townsfolk. He leaves for the reactor on the mountain, leaving Zack horrified over the state of Nibelheim and furious at Sephiroth. Zack makes haste to the reactor, but is too late to stop Tifa and her father from being cut down. When Zack approaches the wounded Tifa, she refuses help and proclaims to hate him as he is a SOLDIER.
Left infuriated and betrayed by the last SOLDIER friend he had, Zack battles Sephiroth outside Jenova's containment tube, realizing the man he once trusted is gone. However, Zack has finally met more than his match: Although he puts up a competent fight, to where Hojo claims that the amount of power Sephiroth was using was significant and may even be his full strength, Zack is eventually defeated and forced out of the reactor's core, too injured to continue fighting. Cloud arrives, furious over the death of his mother and seeing Tifa gravely wounded. He impales Sephiroth with Zack's Buster Sword, possibly because Zack probably had been able to injure Sephiroth before hand to weaken him for Cloud to be able to surprise him, but Sephiroth still survives. Zack, no longer capable of fighting, implores Cloud to deal the finishing blow to Sephiroth. Although Cloud hurls Sephiroth to the Lifestream below the reactor, he is left grievously injured, and Zack crawls to his friend to comfort him before falling unconscious.
Tifa is saved by her martial arts teacher Zangan while Cloud and Zack are taken by Shinra forces to be used in Professor Hojo's newest experiment: the Jenova Reunion Theory. Hojo predicts Jenova's parts, even on a cellular level, will strive to gather and become whole again. To test this theory Hojo exposes the survivors of the Nibelheim Incident, including Cloud and Zack, to mako, and injects them with Jenova cells. Zack and Cloud are held captive in the Shinra Mansion and experimented on for four years. Hojo deems the two as failures, places them in cryogenic sleep and leaves them in their pods. On December 19th, 0006, Zack hallucinates Angeal appearing before him in the Shinra Mansion basement. As he flies off, Zack's will to be free allows him to break out and he and Cloud escape. Due to Hojo's experiments both have become Sephiroth Clones (people susceptible to Sephiroth's will from within the Lifestream, not genetic clones of him). As a former SOLDIER member, Zack remains unaffected, but Cloud is left with severe mako poisoning and Zack is forced to take care of his catatonic friend while running from Shinra. Cissnei is ordered to take the escapees in, but betrays orders and allows Zack and Cloud to pass.
Zack and Cloud hide out from Shinra while trying to reach Midgar until early autumn 0007. A Genesis Copy eats a lock of Zack's hair to cure its degradation due to Zack's body possessing S Cells (being a Sephiroth Clone), but it turns into a monster as Zack's S cells have mutated and adapted to Zack's body. Zack defeats the creature and heads home to Gongaga where he runs into Genesis, now with a degrading Genesis Copy who was once Hollander. Hollander and Genesis try to take Cloud for his pure Sephiroth Cells, as Zack is worthless thanks to his body being resilient to mako as a former member of SOLDIER. Lazard—in the form of a degrading Angeal—and Zack fight the two and Zack kills Hollander once and for all.
Zack realizes Genesis has been working from Banora the whole time, the "dumbapples" he always carries being the clue. Zack leaves Cloud under Lazard's protection and ventures into Banora Underground. He faces Genesis who wields the power of the Lifestream, which cures the latter's degradation. Challenged once again for the title of SOLDIER First Class, Zack defeats Genesis, finally confirming he has surpassed him and Angeal and would only remain outclassed by Sephiroth and takes him up to the surface.
Together with a catatonic Cloud, a beaten Genesis, a dead Lazard and the final surviving Angeal copy that had lived in Aerith's church, Zack eats a dumbapple to appease Genesis's dream of re-enacting the epic poem LOVELESS. As the final Angeal Copy dies from degradation, Zack finds the 89th and final letter from Aerith it had been carrying, and realizes he had been contained in the Shinra Mansion for four years. Desperate to return to her, Zack leaves a now pacified Genesis behind while he and Cloud set off to Midgar. They hitch a ride on the back of a pick-up truck toward Midgar, Zack planning for him and Cloud to become mercenaries together, and ponders if he could have stayed with Aerith if her mother allowed.
At the end of September 0007, while Zack and Cloud approach Midgar, an army of Shinra troops awaits them. Despite Cissnei and Tseng's attempts to locate Zack first and save him, the Shinra army attacks. Zack notices the ambush, hides Cloud behind a rock formation and calmly goes to face the soldiers waiting for him. After remarking on the price of his freedom, Zack charges, and puts up a valiant fight, killing all but three remaining Shinra infantrymen, who finish him off, and survives long enough for Cloud to come to him. Having accepted his fate and content that he managed to protect Cloud, Zack bequeaths the Buster Sword to him like Angeal handed the Buster Sword to Zack years earlier, and tells Cloud to carry on his dreams and be his "living legacy". As Cloud wanders off towards Midgar, Zack looks up at the sky and sees Angeal descend. Taking Angeal's outstretched hand, Zack enters the Lifestream. Zack's voice tells Cloud to "say hi to Aerith" for him, and asks, "Hey, would you say I became a hero?"
Final Fantasy VII
Zack's existence is initially unknown to Cloud due to the mako poisoning Cloud suffered from the experiments in Nibelheim, but he nevertheless plays a huge role indirectly: With Cloud impressing Zack's fighting skills and Hojo's experiments enhancing him, Cloud became a formidable warrior, even if nowhere near Zack's level, and was able to come out victorious over the many foes he faces. Throughout much of the adventure, Cloud's personality, actions, and even memories replicate Zack's without any knowledge that he exists. However, when Sephiroth confronts Cloud and tells him that not only is he not Zack, he is actually a failed clone of Sephiroth. When Cloud becomes incapacitated by another poisoning of mako, he goes through sequences in his mind where he becomes aware of Zack's existence, as well as his true history. Cloud learns that Zack saved him from the experiments in Nibelheim, and sacrificed his life in order to protect Cloud from the Shinra Military. Cloud accepts this revelation and moves forward to continue his quest to stop Sephiroth from summoning Meteor.
Advent Children: Final Fantasy VII
Cloud, having regained his memories of Zack, is left haunted and broken with guilt and grief over his failure to save him and Aerith, especially as he forgot about Zack and didn't even get to save Zack's beloved. He has placed Zack's Buster Sword on a cliff outside of Midgar, the location where he was killed by the Shinra Military. At the end of the movie, Zack is shown standing at the doorway of the Sector 5 Slum's Church with Aeris, letting Cloud know that everything is alright now.
Zack plays a slightly larger role in the extended cut of the film known as Advent Children Complete. During the final battle with Sephiroth, which has been revised from its original version, Zack appears just as Cloud finds himself no match for Sephiroth in terms of combat skill, even with him having surpassed the level that he was on when he was only relying on Zack's skills, the gap in strength between him and SOLDIER 1st Class veterans like Sephiroth and Zack having not reduced to any significant level. Zack takes the situation in stride and warmly assures Cloud that he shouldn't give up, just as he didn't give up even when he knew he couldn't defeat Sephiroth and only stopped fighting him when he was too injured to fight back, and jokingly reminds him that he has beaten Sephiroth before. Zack firmly expresses his belief that though Cloud never made it into SOLDIER 1ST Class and his martial prowess isn't at his or Sephiroth's level, his heart and mindset makes him worthy anyway and assures Cloud that he is still worthy of being his legacy as Cloud in return promises Zack he won't forget that he is anymore, causing Zack to smile peacefully. This exchange gives Cloud the mindset to use his emotions to gain enough strength to ultilize a much more powerful version of Omnislash Version 5 to dispatch Sephiroth and Cloud later on fondly refers to Zack as a hero as he moves the Buster Sword, now fully polished, to Aerith's Church as flowers begins to grow where Zack fell.
Powers and Abilities
Having been trained by Angeal, one of the three most powerful SOLDIER members, Zack is an exceptionally accomplished combatant, proficient in both swordsmanship and hand-to-hand combat, and holding superhuman physical prowess from being enhanced by Mako, as well as being well-versed in the use of magic via Materia to be able to competently use all sorts of magic spells and also being capable of summoning some of the most powerful creatures in the series and having the unique ability Digital Mind Wave to be able to call upon his memories of others to use special attacks and empower himself. He is considered a cut above most Second Class SOLDIER members and secures a promotion to First Class and his skill only continued to grow over the years until he can be considered the second strongest character in the series, the only character who can be considered truly stronger being Sephiroth himself while maintaining an exemplary amount of dominance over other powerful characters of the series even long after his death to where even with Cloud imprinting Zack's fighting skills while inexperienced, he is still quite capable of dispatching other SOLDIER and Turks and even when Cloud had developed great skills on his own, Zack appears to be still much stronger than Cloud and he can even be considered to have might capable of challenging the party and possibly surpassing them during Advent Children.
Being the source of all of Cloud's initial combat skills, it is safe to assume that Zack is capable of wielding all of the techniques Cloud displayed and has far more in his disposal, being much more extensively trained and conditioned in stark comparison to both Cloud's initial and later power levels. He confirms that Cloud's Omnislash was one of his techniques and he displays a much more powerful version of the Meteorain and Cross Slash techniques Cloud wields: His Meteor Shot, a version of Cloud's Meteorain, is capable of firing far more projectiles than Cloud could, while his original sword technique, Chain Slash, delivers multiple swift and powerful sword slashes in a matter of moments, not only much swifter and accurate but also more numerous in quantity. From his training under Sephiroth, he can even wield Octaslash, replicating the powerful sword technique accurately to deliver 8 slashes in quick succession. His hand-to-hand combat prowess is sufficient to release multiple barrages of powerful unarmed attacks.
Capable of effortlessly making short work of multiple opponents, as displayed by his repeated victories over Genesis Copies, monsters, Wutai troopers, and Shinra infantryman, Zack's fighting prowess made him entrusted in handling important missions for SOLDIER such as supporting other departments over a crucial matter and representing SOLDIER against the Security Department, all which he completed succesfully, even astonishing the security captain who challenged SOLDIER over how far Zack surpassed the capabilities of the Security Department's best efforts. Indeed, even the arrogant and immoral Hojo was impressed with Zack's capability after he was able to defeat his initial experiments with ease to where he chose Zack to fight against his experiments, astonishing the other scientists to where they stated Zack is on a completely different level of inhuman ability even amongst SOLDIER, and as he repeatedly tested him, even admits that he cannot accurately measure Zack's fighting prowess yet already admits to believing that Zack would without a doubt prevail over even the most powerful of his scientific creations, going as far as to create things specially created for him to give Zack a greater challenge. A noteworthy display of Zack's fighting prowess was when he single-handedly destroyed Fort Tamblin while killing many Wutai soldiers in process in a display that greatly impressed Angeal and Lazard, overpowering even the elite Crescent Order with ease and continuing to best and destroy their efforts to attack Shinra single-handedly. In his last stand, Zack faces a massive horde of Shinra infantrymen and despite dying kills all but three soldiers who finish him off afterwards.
Zack has also been able to defeat some of the most powerful adveseries in the series: He could single-handedly outmatch summon creatures, a feat that took the combined might of Cloud and his allies to be able to replicate, in order for Shinra to obtain the materia to summon them: Though he could not kill Ifrit, he was able to overpower it until he dropped his guard but left it so weak Sephiroth was able to finish the summon off in one slash. He soon grew to where he can defeat Bahamut and even overpowers Bahamut Fury, the strongest of all incarnations of Bahamut, alone, whereas Cloud only defeated Bahamut SIN, a weaker incarnation of Bahamut, with help from his friends. Zack also easily made a fool out of a highly capable member of the Turks while not even trying to hurt them, simply defending himself from their attacks effortlessly, to where said individual even acknowledged Zack's immense strength and Zack outright declared they cannot hope to defeat him. He even proved himself more than capable of handling the Ravens, despite their power and modifications meaning even SOLDIERS have a hard time and can be outmatched by them: He was able to defend himself against and overcome both Sebastian and Essai while only trying to reason with them and afterwards easily killed Kyneugh.
A true testament to Zack's prowess in combat was how he has fought all three of the first generation of SOLDIER First Class, proving he is truly worthy of being considered a SOLDIER 1st Class and showing the talent to close the gap in physical power between them afforded by their much greater source of power due to being the first byproducts of the Jenova Project with sheer training and improvement from the battles he faced over the years, defeating Genesis not only when he was degrading without suffering any noticable strain or injury despite the battle being long to where Genesis opted to risk dying by falling rather than continuing to fight, but even after Genesis was cured, Zack, after defeating him as Genesis Avatar, proceeded to once again overpower and injure a full-power Genesis to where he was left incapacitated, despite Genesis, now acknowledging Zack as a truly worthy SOLDIER 1ST Class member, was using his full strength. He also easily fended off Angeal's assault while not trying to kill him, even dodging his attacks without much effort despite being surprised, before proceeding to defeat Angeal Penance. Zack was even able to challenge Sephiroth himself, regarded widely as the strongest SOLDIER in history and unbeatable, to where even Hojo was surprised by the significant amount of strength Sephiroth used to defeat Zack to where he even pondered the possibility that Sephiroth went all-out against him, meaning Zack must have pushed Sephiroth to a level that not even Genesis and Angeal were able to replicate, and meant that Sephiroth considered Zack a genuine threat and worthy SOLDIER, and survived the fight despite being left incapacitated, possibly even weakening and injuring Sephiroth to where he was susceptible to Cloud's attack that lead to his defeat.
Outside the realm of battle, Zack has also displayed a fair amount of verstaility and skill. His physical conditioning makes him great at performing squats and has the potential to set a record for this within Shinra. Calling himself a "country boy," traversing a snowy mountainside will not slow him down compared to his more inexperienced companions. Despite his obnoxious personality, Zack has proven himself to be fairly intelligent, though not nearly as much as Sephiroth, but enough to be a good leader and strategist at times, having been able to lead SOLDIER effectively after Angeal's passing and being well-respected by the others even before he became a SOLDIER 1ST Class. He has also proven thorough knowledge and understanding of all forms of combat in addition to his own extreme fighting prowess: Cloud, with his memories, was able to accurately explain topics like Magic, the use of Materia, Limit Breaks, and measures for Elemental Attributes and Ailments. He displayed some handyman skill by building Aerith a flower cart.
Zack possessed an extraordinary amount of willpower and determination that easily surpasses Cloud when the man he chose as his legacy was not empowered by his emotions: Unlike Cloud, who would often be depressed and show hints of nearly succumbing to despair and sadness, despite experiencing far more tragic situations than Cloud's own, including the loss of Angeal and Sephiroth, both being close friends of Zack and his mentors, and Shinra's betrayal of him, and having doubts of his own, Zack was able to continue on with his life effectively and with the spirit of a true SOLDIER 1st Class, his morals incorruptible and his spirit indomitable to where even revelations that could shake Sephiroth and Genesis into falling to the dark side and those comparable to that which temporarily destroyed all of Cloud's spirit had little impact on him. His willpower also allows him to valiantly face incredibly powerful opponents without fear, as shown by how he was completely unfazed at fighting summon creatures and simply fought against them, even going as far as to nonchalantly talk to Aerith while faced with Bahamut Fury and his full willingness to engage Genesis, Angeal, and even Sephiroth, persisting until he defeated the former and holding the latter to the best of his ability while showing only anger when faced with Angeal Penance and having his left cheek scarred that Angeal had fully discarded his honor, only being stopped when Sephiroth defeated and injured him to where he was left incapacitated, but even then still mustering the strength to instruct Cloud to take care of Sephiroth, despite being emotionally hurt by Sephiroth's betrayal. Indeed, even in death, Zack's willpower continued to play a major role, with him showing none of the depressed demeanor of the spirits Aerith encountered in the Lifestream and able to will himself to not only find peace but also remain conscious without Aerith's help despite the many turmoils he had faced in his life whereas Dyne, Jessie, Biggs and Wedge only remained conscious because they had sinned and thus unable to enter the Lifestream without Aerith's help. He was also able to temporarily force himself into Cloud's subconcious in order to encourage him to muster the strength to defeat Sephiroth once and for all.