If Cloud thought he was Zack, why did he act the way he did?

Jairus

Author of FFVII: Lifestream & FFVII: Reflections
#1
Something I've been wondering about recently is this: Early in the game, Cloud's persona is based off Zack. But Zack wasn't cold and uncaring as Cloud started out as. Zack was friendly, helpful, and loved to joke around. So why didn't Cloud act the way Zack actually was instead of doing the cold mercenary act that wasn't Zack at all? Sure, Zack wanted to be a merc, but his personality never changed. He was still as outgoing and caring as ever, right up to the end.
 

Ryvius

Seek Discomfort
#2
Maybe there is some textual/extratextual material I'm unaware of, but I've always looked at Cloud's Zack persona as being incomplete. I look at it as being a hodgepodge of both personalities (you can see Zack's cockiness, it's just more sardonic/silent in accordance with Cloud's base personality) + PTSD. I wonder if it was also colored by his perception of Zack, which may have involved an inflated focus on his status.
 
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#5
Zack's personality was heavily retconned for Crisis Core. CC Zack is friendly and helpful and loves to joke around. That wasn't his character in the OG. When he disappeared in the OG timeline, Aerith eventually came to the conclusion that he'd gone off to or with one or more other women; he was a guy who had a woman in every port. CC Aerith would never have come to that conclusion about CC Zack. In Nibelheim, CC Zack would have insisted on going to search for the trooper who was lost after the bridge broke. Of course, CC Zack was compelled to act out of character because his actions in that arc were already fixed. In CC, Zack was coming back to Midgar for Aerith and Aerith alone; OG Zack was heading back to Midgar for reasons we don't know, and thought of Aerith primarily as someone with a house where he might be able to couch-surf... Until he remembered she had a dragon-mother and so wouldn't do. In short, OG Zack was a selfish, roguish, silver-tongued charmer, not a puppy with a heart of gold. Saving Cloud might have been the one selfless, unambiguously moral thing he did in his entire life.

I'm sorry we didn't get a game about OG Zack.
 

Theozilla

Kaiju Member
#6
Zack's personality was heavily retconned for Crisis Core. CC Zack is friendly and helpful and loves to joke around. That wasn't his character in the OG. When he disappeared in the OG timeline, Aerith eventually came to the conclusion that he'd gone off to or with one or more other women; he was a guy who had a woman in every port. CC Aerith would never have come to that conclusion about CC Zack. In Nibelheim, CC Zack would have insisted on going to search for the trooper who was lost after the bridge broke. Of course, CC Zack was compelled to act out of character because his actions in that arc were already fixed. In CC, Zack was coming back to Midgar for Aerith and Aerith alone; OG Zack was heading back to Midgar for reasons we don't know, and thought of Aerith primarily as someone with a house where he might be able to couch-surf... Until he remembered she had a dragon-mother and so wouldn't do. In short, OG Zack was a selfish, roguish, silver-tongued charmer, not a puppy with a heart of gold. Saving Cloud might have been the one selfless, unambiguously moral thing he did in his entire life.

I'm sorry we didn't get a game about OG Zack.
That's a very narrowly specific and presumptuous interpretation of Zack's limited characterization in the OG (and IIRC I don't think it was ever said Zack had a "woman in every port"). It's also taking Aerith's descriptions at face value when one can easily interpret her mannerisms as rationalizations and avoiding facing the possibility that Zack is dead. Crisis Core did not really "retcon" OG Zack, it just expanded on what little characterization he had in the OG; Zack's characterization in the OG was limited enough/vaguely defined that any number of portrayals could have been gone with in Crisis Core (and Before Crisis) and IMO still qualify as consistent with the OG (e.g. while Zack taking care of a comatose Cloud for nearly a year doesn't automatically have to be taken as evidence for a naturally heroic disposition, but its also certainly not automatically evidence against Zack having a heroic characterization). Personally, I think what "fits" with the lineage of FFVII's storytelling to be rather flexible, though I can understand how that can be frustrating for individuals desiring more tight and defined storytelling.
 

Trainer Red

... ... ...▼
AKA
Climhazzard
#7
Mako poisoning is one hell of a drug. Not even once, people! :wacky:


I think the biggest mist opportunity about Crisis Core is that Zack didn't get much in terms of character development. Zack should have been a bit of a hotshot jerkass playboy who thought ShinRa was the greatest thing in the world since sliced bread, cheese and roast beef put together. Maybe he and Sephiroth would have had a one sided rivalry going on. Maybe he was a bit of an ass to Cloud in their first meeting. Maybe he'd flirt with any female within a 50 meter radius. Maybe Zack and Sephiroth work on multiple missions together and Zack comes to respect Sephiroth for who he is and Sephiroth starts to think of Zack as a friend. Maybe Zack and Cloud work together on missions together and there's a few close calls where Cloud saves Zack, and they both bond over the fact that they're from backwater towns and other things and become friends. Maybe Zack meets Aerith and falls for her hard and stops his skirt chasing (though the skirts won't stop chasing him). Maybe, aside from the Nibelheim incident, he learns that ShinRa isn't as great as he thought it was and starts to question why he works for ShinRa. Maybe he would have gotten a bit jaded and cynical about it.

Instead, we have Shounen Jump Hero Zack. Which is...fine, I guess. A safe option, because maybe we wouldn't get as emotionally attached to Zack if he was a jerkass hero in the first place. But I love me some character development, and Zack had the potential for it.
 

Theozilla

Kaiju Member
#8
Hmmm, personally I think Zack's development in Crisis Core was fine. And Zack and Cloud did bond over the fact they are both from backwater towns in CC. To quote a summation I read a couple days ago Zack's arc in CC was
Zack Fair used to perceive being a Hero as something grandiose and akin to a pop culture star but instead he became a hero by dying in the middle of nowhere for a nobody who didn’t mean anything to anyone but him.
 
#10
Not really, character arc traditionally does mean/imply character development.
Screen Shot 2019-12-14 at 12.03.01 AM.png

Now, if you personally felt that Zack's arc/development was lacking in CC, your well within your rights to feel that way. Same with how I personally feel quite satisfied/enjoy his arc/development in CC.
 
#11
Jairus' original question was why Cloud's adopted persona wasn't really like Zack. I pointed out that Zack's character in the OG was not defined by his friendliness and helpfulness, unlike the Zack in CC. Yes, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but the point is, Cloud's adopted persona does not actually contradict what little we know of OG Zack, whose limited characterisation could be (and has been) interpreted as 'charming arsehole'. Cloud can't really manage the charming, because charm is something you're born with, and he wasn't; but he can manage the arsehole bit.

Yeah of course you can interpret Zack's limited OG characterisation as being completely in line with his CC one, but that's the thing, you have to interpret it: you have to take what little we're given and fill in the blanks. And the blanks can be filled in with many different things.
 
#13
Jairus' original question was why Cloud's adopted persona wasn't really like Zack. I pointed out that Zack's character in the OG was not defined by his friendliness and helpfulness, unlike the Zack in CC. Yes, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but the point is, Cloud's adopted persona does not actually contradict what little we know of OG Zack, whose limited characterisation could be (and has been) interpreted as 'charming arsehole'. Cloud can't really manage the charming, because charm is something you're born with, and he wasn't; but he can manage the arsehole bit.
I never argued that Cloud's adopted persona wasn't really like Zack; though I think TresDias' Watsonian answer gives the best encompassing explanation that's compliant with both the OG and Compilation.
He didn't copy Zack 1-to-1. The personality Cloud exhibits on Disc 1 is a composite of bits of Zack, bits of Sephiroth's influence, and a whole lot of Cloud's power fantasizing/wish fulfillment notions of what a badass is like.
Yeah of course you can interpret Zack's limited OG characterisation as being completely in line with his CC one, but that's the thing, you have to interpret it: you have to take what little we're given and fill in the blanks. And the blanks can be filled in with many different things.
And exact same thing can said about the interpretation that Zack's limited OG characterisation is clashing with his CC characterization, that's something that has to be interpreted as well.
So I don't know what else we're saying, besides restating Zack's characterization in the OG is limited and is open to many different interpretations, and CC/BC decided to go with one such specific interpretation/path that some people liked and some people didn't (and many reactions in between).
 

pxp

Pro Adventurer
#14
The devs have said that the parts of Cloud’s persona which are cold and standoffish early in the game are actually parts of his true character, the stuff which got him into fights and so on as a kid. As @LicoriceAllsorts says this has combined with the brash and bravado of Zack and Cloud’s impression of what a SOLDIER 1st Class ought to be - and ta-da!
 

youffie

Pro Adventurer
#15
I agree that CC Zack could pass as an extension of what little that we saw in the OG, but would it have killed them to give him a slightly more nuanced characterization? I mean, I guess it’s probably a consequence of the fact that for some reason they decided to go down the route of very literal Heroes and Monsters.

I also disliked the whole “Be my living legacy” thing, though I guess I’m probably in the minority on that front. Given what happens next, it feels like he’s almost giving Cloud permission for kinda stealing his identity, or at least part of it. And one thing I always loved about Cloud’s whole “identity theft” of sorts is that there are so many subtle layers to it, and it’s not so clear-cut, which may also be why so many people are a bit confused about the whole thing: as others have pointed out, he doesn’t just replace and copy Zack, his fake persona is more like a clumsy hybrid that informs us of Cloud’s thoughts about the kind of man he aspired to be.

While Cloud is a completely blameless victim of it all, and while it’s something that is perfectly integrated in the game’s plot and lore thanks to Jenova and Sephiroth’s plan… Zack was exactly what Cloud always thought he wanted to be. Just a small town kid, who told everyone he was going to become a big badass SOLDIER because he was that special and then actually did it, someone who certainly had no problems with girls and that could speak to Sephiroth almost as an equal. I… always felt like Zack’s line removes some layer of ambiguity from this complex, extremely well-written web of subconscious thoughts and desires, but maybe that’s just me.
 

Maidenofwar

Pro Adventurer
#17
That's a very narrowly specific and presumptuous interpretation of Zack's limited characterization in the OG (and IIRC I don't think it was ever said Zack had a "woman in every port").
From the external materials, reference books, etc I think, it's touched on that Zack has/had multiple girlfriends, even in the CC Ultimania if I remembered right it's played up as to which "girlfriend" Zack would be taking Cloud to. I don't think it's fair to Aerith to assume or something that it's all just rationalization or that on Aerith's part either. She had her reasonings to think the way she did. Now while it's not impossible that she might have fell back on it to avoid thinking or addressing that Zack might be dead there is some truth in it. Also I can't find the quote right now about Aerith and other girls and not liking it/jealousy or something but I read a HC recently about Elmyra being some kind of slum overlord and that's why she and Aerith have the swell digs and I think the idea that Elmyra might have used connections to dig up proof/dirt on Zack and I think I might prefer that theory over CC Aerith knew things because she knew because ... powers! :pinkmonster:
 
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#18
While CC did play up his Shonen Jump-ness, I don't think your hardass view of him is less presumptuous, Lic. I mean...
Saving Cloud might have been the one selfless, unambiguously moral thing he did in his entire life.
The only selfless thing you do in your life is drag around a mostly-comatose nobody while you're being hunted by the world-spanning government? That's a hell of a first time being selfless. Extrapolating from this that he was a generally nice dude is a way smaller leap, in my opinion.

And I think CC could have played up his flirtiness with more than just Cissnei and that one secretary, but Aerith is hardly an objective party for us to take her line as gospel. It could be some rationalization, as people have said, or could just be that she'd hardly be the first person to think that their crush is more popular with the 'competition' than they really are. Him regarding Elmyra as a "dragon-mother" is a bit of a leap too. Not impossible, but I don't think that's less of a leap than CC made.

But yeah, on the topic for the thread, Tres summed it up nicely.
 
#21
Ah man, you guys want all these characters to be so nice.
I don't know that I want Zack to be anything. I'm just saying that your want for him to be a jerk requires the same leaps of logic that wanting him to be nice does. The fact of the matter is, the OG really just doesn't tell us all that much about him. So I don't think having gone either way with him could be considered a retcon.


And no, fancy, I never thought they were best friends. At most it was a one-sided thing that Cloud felt himself closer to him than the reverse. Except I guess by the end they were both each other's best (and worst) friends, on account of being their only friends :monster:
 

Roger

Triple Slash Enthusiast
AKA
Minato
#23
Cloud's Ultimania entry states Zack was his best friend, Zack's entry states that Cloud, Sephiroth and Angeal were close friends with Zack. Which I feel is accurate. Cloud and Zack were close, Cloud didn't have better friends then Zack, the reverse isn't neccesarily the case.
 
#25
That's one of the many places where I part company with canon.
YMMV of course, but for me the story of an arrogant and selfish dude who plumbs unsuspected depths of goodness when he realises his heroic but comatose cell-mate is depending on him for survival, is more compelling than the story of one best friend dying for another, which is kind of cliched, tbh. Probably my version is cliched too, but if I have to pick between clichés, then I plump for the former.
 
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