I wasn’t really expected to enjoy Final Fantasy 7 even with everyone saying that its the greatest game ever made. Its a very bold statement to make a game that is almost 19 years old, but is it really that good like everyone says it is. After playing the game and I gotten say that I now I get “why people love this game so much”. Its the fact is that the characters in the game were complex, relate able, and memorable. But, out of all of the cast of well-freshet out characters, I found the main hero of the story himself, Cloud Strife. You might be thinking on the fact why I believe the hero of the story is considered one of the greatest video game characters of all time. Some may say “you mean the emo dude who is always moody and is a jerk to a lot of people”. But, if you took the time to play though the game yourself, you would discover that Cloud has a lot more depth into his character than you would think for the first time. Cloud Strife is one of the rare characters in games who has depth, complexity, and a surprisingly believable arc of character development that you could easily identify with.
At the beginning of the game, you were introduced to Cloud when he vaults out of a train and single-handedly defeated a group of Shira armed guards under the leadership of Barrett. He’s detached and impersonal, a sword for hire whose only priority is completing his job and getting paid. Cloud is set up as a masculine power fantasy. He’s an elite military specialist gone rogue against an oppressive “Ignore”, who is motivated not just by rugged individualism but also to protect the women that he encounters. He reacts to crisis with an aloof swish of his hair and a cocky slouch. For the first half of Final Fantasy VII, the player takes the role of this capable, slightly arrogant warrior figure, but we discover a fatal flaw in his character later on.
Most video game heroes resemble Cloud after the opening credits. They are outlets of the same male power fantasy. But halfway through the game, layers of Cloud’s façade were slowly peeling away. When he demands that Aeris or Tifa stay out of danger, he’s incapable of holding them back—and indeed both women prove well suited to dealing with danger and are even necessary to the quest. After all, Cloud is not hunting down Sephiroth, he is being led by him.
Cloud is not only less capable than he lets on, but his entire identity is false. The major reveal of Final Fantasy VII is that Cloud falsified his own memories. Thanks the effects of the mako poisoning that he inherited from Zack Fair. He was never a member of the elite military group Soldier, he did not become personal friends with the war hero Sephiroth, and he never made a living as a mercenary. In truth, Cloud was raised by a single mother, he had a lonely childhood, he failed to live up to his dreams. His entire background is mired with so much failure and disappointment that he represses it totally and adopts a new identity.
Cloud’s personality is based off two templates: one is Sephiroth and the other is Zack. Sephiroth is set up as a militaristic ubermensch, a famed war hero. The 14-year old Cloud boasts proudly to a young Tifa that he’s leaving for the big city to join Soldier and be like Sephiroth. Cloud adopts Sephiroth as a fatherly paragon of manhood. Similarly, Zack is a young wonderkind rocketed through the ranks of Soldier, a talented and respected man with the bright future that Cloud wants but is incapable of achieving. Both men are appropriately armed with signature phallic swords. When Cloud takes on Zack’s identity, he takes his sword (which in battle he holds upright between his legs) and buries his preteen self beneath this other man’s identity.
At the game’s halfway mark, after the party acquires the black materia in the Temple of the Ancients, Cloud’s mind betrays him. He lacks the will to resist Sephiroth, his father figure, and turns on Aeris. At this point Cloud is no longer the cocky, dispassionate warrior. He’s as likely to curl into a ball and pout as he is to charge into battle. The more of his false identity that is peeled away, the less there is that remains. Cloud’s self is so dependent on the virile masculine warrior illusion that there is nothing beneath it. When his illusion is stripped away entirely, Cloud is paralyzed and catatonic. Cloud’s only self is the fantasized version that he has created.
As Final Fantasy VII comes to a conclusion, a whole and real Cloud finally emerges. Cloud accepts his failures, he apologizes to his friends for being weak, for failing himself and the rest of the party. However he’s still accepted back, and they don’t hesitate to forgive him. He acknowledges his flaws and overcomes them. His personal acceptance is rewarded when his friends accepting him for who he is. He isn’t very masculine, but his peers still respect him. The Cloud at the beginning of Final Fantasy VII is starkly different than the Cloud at the end. He whines, he fails, and he is weak, but he is far better equipped to save the world than when he was deceiving himself.
By the end of the game, the government it toppled, the planet’s energy source is too dangerous to keep using, the world’s largest city is destroyed, but the planet still stands and there is still hope. The theme is echoed in Cloud’s progress as a character, for all his self-deception, his mistakes, and his weaknesses, he finds himself and ends up stronger after doing so.
Cloud is alone, he is afraid, and he doesn’t know who he is, a sentiment shared by many 21-year-olds, even those who aren’t burdened with saving the world. This idea is very similar to the phase that all young adults had gone. Which it’s finding of what we love to do and embrace it. This is the same exact phrase that I’m going through right now. I’m just like Cloud. I’m probably that I’m not the only one to admit it. I struggle with depression and anxiety for a long time. The depression comes from the fact that I can view myself as a weak individual at times. Because I have a difficult time in finding my own way with my autism being a huge obstacle in my life. However, I realize that I’m still “young” and learning more about my strengths as I go though college. Yet, I have a lot more to go.
As the story concludes, after the “real” cloud is rescued literally from deep within his psyche, he becomes a complete human being. He’s weak, and he’s sorry. He’ll do better next time. He may never be the man that he wanted to be. He may never be the Zack Fair or Sephiroth. However, Sephiroth was revealed that his mind was so wrapped once he discovered about the fate of his mother. He went so far in insanity Maybe, it might be a positive thing for Cloud. Cloud does become the hero that he wanted to be, but he done it in his own way. Even he wasn’t the prodigy that Zack was. However, in the long run, Cloud has becomes a stronger person in the process. He becomes his own living legacy. And that’s what makes Cloud Strife a unique character that we often don’t see in a lot of video game protagonists. He is a complete human being just like us. This is what makes Cloud a standout from all of the video game heroes that we have today.