Body language

Someone in a NeoGAF thread about changes in character designs posted this image of Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII


…followed by this drawing of Cloud from Dissidia Final Fantasy.


Both are by the same illustrator, Tetsuya Nomura, and together they make a fascinating case study. Aside from some minor stylistic details in the rendering and finishing, the character looks almost completely unchanged over time; his costume remains almost completely consistent, same hair, same weapon. And yet the drawings almost appears to be two different characters due entirely to the change in posture. From bold confidence to a slump of defeat; from heroic to pitiful.

It’s really interesting to see how Cloud has been presented through the years. In the FFVII days, he was the bold hero of the game. Sometimes, he even smiled! Of course, Cloud had his ups and downs in FFVII, going from false swagger to near-comatose self-loathing before rebounding to genuine self-assurance… but over time, the Final Fantasy franchise has slowly wound him back to a waking version of his catatonic state. I can’t think of any other major character whose creators have said, “No, all that personal growth and epiphany was stupid. He’d be much cooler if he were mopey and miserable.”

I hope this doesn’t become a trend. I’d hate for Mark Hamill to play a 65-year-old whining farmboy in the new Star Wars movies, for instance.

12 thoughts on “Body language

  1. While this can best be represented physically with Cloud, he’s not alone in this. Nearly all the Dissidia portrayals are reverted to their most “iconic” state despite any development they’ve had.

    Squall is still mopey and of few words, Terra is still frail and scared, and Cecil is still fraught with constant conflict and doubt.

    While you could take the easy way out, and say that the Dissidia incarnations aren’t the “real” characters, or that their memories are erased or whatever the hell is going on in those games (I could never figure it out), the reason is that the people at Square-Enix have no idea how to continue characters. It winds up resembling sitcom writing because nobody involved in these games knows how to portray characters who have already worked out their issues and moved on to other things. It’s much easier to just hit the reset button every time so Cloud can learn to smile again and again.

  2. That is so interesting.

    I agree with the assessment of Cloud’s character and his relative worsening, I actually think the second drawing is more interesting – or at least it shows more. There’s an apparent world weariness in comparison to the FF7 art, which doesn’t really betray anything about Cloud’s personality.

    But then, maybe that is the point. He’s kind of a blank slate, isn’t he?

  3. Perhaps Cloud’s posture is a reflection of Nomura’s current mental state and his growing disenchantment with life.

  4. FFVII Cloud’s confident posture is partially based on his ability to hold his sword at an impossible angle, not even needing to close his fingers around the hilt. Meanwhile, Dissidia Cloud isn’t distraught but ready to relax after a long day of working at the butchery.

  5. While I find this flanderization distressing, it’s honestly not that uncommon at all in general across all forms of media. And TBH, it’s just what the people want. There’s maybe one piece of fan art of Cloud snowboarding or smiling for every hundred pieces of him doing something tragically romantic with Aeris. I hate to see this kind of character denegration, but it’s what the people want: they latch onto what they liked the most about a specific character and then kind of ignore the rest.

  6. I DO hope though that poor Luke FINALLY makes that trip out to Toshi Sation and picks up those damned power converters. . .

  7. I feel that people do this with both the narrator in Fight Club, and the overall theme and message.

  8. I think it takes more than a change in posture to account for the steep drop Cloud’s pants take in that Dissidia image. I wouldn’t go so far as to call FF7 Cloud Steve Urkel to Dissidia’s Stefón, but swap out his combat boots for clown shoes and the second picture might make more sense.

  9. I think that poster from NeoGAF might be stealing your material, Jeremy. You already made this observation over a year ago on The Grind blog. It’s a good observation, though!

    • You know, I felt like I had written something about this before, but I couldn’t find it in the archives here and assumed I was hallucinating. I guess the fact that I didn’t write it here explains it.

  10. I think we can all agree the best course of action is for Luke to go Sith an incoporate The Joker laugh.

  11. It’s not just limited to Dissidia either – he was mopey in every other appearance, including the KH games and (ugh) Advent Children.

    They really got him down right in Crisis Core, though, I’ll give them that.

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