"Interesting detail if you look very closely at Cloud's buster sword you'll notice that underneath the leather-wrapped grip you can still see the original red grip of the compilation buster sword." - u/throwwayftw
My personal spin on this theory is that Cloud straight up replaced the gold box with the riveted one, rather than just covering it. It'd be in line with all the other alterations he made to his standard SOLDIER uniform. Guess we won't know for sure until we see the Nibelheim flashback, or maybe not even until we see Zack.
I just read/skimmed through thid thread and loved it.
I'm on Tres' camp, SE might have modified the golden hilt to make it fit inside the metal box.
Why? Maybe to prevent someone trying to steal the sword? There were plenty of thief enemies on the OG that would steal items, gil or even pieces of equipment from you.
I admit, had there not been X-SOLDIER's images in the beginning of the thread, I'd call the hypothesis that Cloud covered the hilt nonsensical; that flat part looks so much narrower than the gold. Kudos on the pics, very convincing.
I agree that it fits thematically; Cloud and the metal bar are inferior to Zack the gold decoration; Cloud was never in SOLDIER. And a reveal right after the Lifestream sequence with Tifa would be one full of SYMBOLISM which I love.
My only gripe with this theory? This whole thing sounds waaaay too particular for a guy who was dragging the sword around along with his feet to Midgar, confused and with amnesia. Like, what did Cloud think? "My sword is too decorated, lemme cover it and blacken the rest?" It sounds too... purposeful and thoughtful for a guy whose brains were scrambled.
It makes more sense for the hanguard to be replaced than covered up. Firstly, it DOESN'T FIT UNDERNEATH the bolted one (unless for whatever silly reason they shrinked it). Secondly, there's little reason to cover it up, but a solid reason for replacement (it was stolen or they sold it, it's gold after all, probably).
They definitely didn't. They did post-processing to tweak the footage (blur, static, blow out the color of Aerith's water burial so you can't see the details) but it's clearly footage from ACC. And footage that is only seen for maybe a second, at that.
The Red XIII one is the most obvious, since his new design is clearly different from the old one.
Granted, even if the design changes are meant to be reflective of something, both the Cloud and Zack timelines are different from the original one.