Portrayal of Cloud's Mental State (and eventually Zack) in the Remake

X-SOLDIER

Harbinger O Great Justice
AKA
X
#1
So, I thought about adding this to a number of different threads, but it kind of felt like it needed its own space because I want to dig a little deeper than I could otherwise. We already know that they're changing how we perceive Cloud's hallucinations in the Remake with the ways that Cloud's experiencing minor Flashbacks to things, and he's even fumbling and dealing with things that he knows aren't real, and or they're making him fumble because of his reactions to them:


As well known as the Hot Tub scene is, I still vastly prefer this version of the Honeybee Inn scene because of it being one of my favourite music tracks and also it shows Cloud confronting the sort of persona of himself vs. his real self as a foreshadowing to the things that're going on with him:


This is one of those scenes that like the, "This isn't just a reactor" I'd expect it to be changed, but I'm very interested in HOW it's gonna be changed, and if it'll be our first hint about something to do with Zack, since it's likely that we won't cover him directly in this game, or even potentially in the next game either (since even part 2 could likely end around Meteofall). This is one of those interactions that with the reinterpretation of how straightforward they're being with certain things like Cloud seeing Sephiroth long before we actually encounter him in the OG, I'm wondering if this would be a hint to Cloud hallucinating Zack long before we actually find out who he really is in the Remake.

Because there's so much dialogue in this exchange, and while it won't be in this game (and maybe not even in the next one), I still wanted to bring up that I really have my fingers crossed for the new voice actors' deliveries of the Zack & Cloud's interactions. Since I'm really looking forward to the way that that crossover is all messed around with in Cloud's brain and memories and how we unpack that, having those interactions feel a lot more natural and human (both in the dialogue translations that they choose and the delivery of said lines) feels hyper important. After the way that they really nailed the Chocobros feeling a really close-knit group of friends that you care for who are actually more like real people than characters in FFXV, this part of the game's story has SO much possibility.

For me, the sort of pièce de résistance of that all is that I have a mighty mighty need to have the Cloud Scream come to be close as humanly possible to the Japanese Crisis Core version. The old English Crisis Core version is just, "crying from deep sadness" which isn't technically bad, but it doesn't even hold a damn candle to the blazing supernova of the Japanese Crisis Core version which is, "the most unparalleled deeply-harrowing, gut-wrenching, heart-rending, soul-shattering, sudden-confused-realization, anxiety-attack-triggering, panicked-helplessness scream ever recorded" I still remember the moment I heard it when I played through Crisis Core on release, and the way that when playing through it again in English I actually felt robbed of the gravity of the moment that Cloud really genuinely s h a t t e r s especially because of how that moment really sets up the vulnerability of all of the moments of loss that come to injure and haunt Cloud throughout the game.

The OG gives us a sort of The Last Jedi Holdo maneuver moment of absolute silence as we see what just transpired. This worked fantastically in a textbox game of not seeing Cloud's scream, but just f e e l i n g it when it happens instead. I think that Crisis Core (feel good Why flashback moments to make it feel more like a happy and optimistic ending notwithstanding) really set the bar for how Cloud's Mako-poisoned/addicted brain goes from being spaced out, and then his pupils dilate and then he snaps into pure 100% awareness, and just absolutely LOSES. HIS. MIND. followed by the carefully focused camerawork for that slow pan up shot and reveal that he also realized that they're literally JUST outside of Midgar as the final sickening kick to the guts of how it all fell apart so close to their goal. The execution of this is much more like the way that Mad Max Fury Road does this kind of scene with Furiosa when she meets the many mothers and learns the truth about the green place that they've just made this entire journey to reach.

Do me a favor and just watch through those moments:

OG cinematic delivery:

Remake cinematic delivery:

Now after that Fury Road one, go watch the Original Game clip again.

In Fury Road you have the normal music cut. You get silence of the real spoken interaction for a moment or two. Then the voices start to get distorted, they don't come from the right distances, they're too close as well as both muted & a little too loud – like they're closing in all around her. The dialogue almost runs over the top of itself, but there's no focus on anything else but her, and you get that rising musical cue that changes the tone as you realize that it's all been for nothing. You're watching the shock set in, and that moment just lingers on her, and we watch her shutting down and screaming helplessly into the abyss of the land itself that they fought so hard against and failed, and then it fades to black, and the scene intentionally cuts to and end. That's like the delivery of the OG scene to a T.

Now THAT is the kind of thing that I'm hoping for in the Remake. There are all sorts of little cues with the dialogue audio, cinematic framing, score, and performances that all make that scene what it is, and those little pieces are things that I'm expecting Cloud's hallucinations to start to establish to come in and REALLY deliver on them later on. While I've really liked the way that Maximillian Dood has been using cinematic language for talking about the end of the first part of the Remake as the end of Fellowship of the Ring, and the potential end of the second part of the Remake as The Empire Strikes Back, I think that looking at these kinda of subtle cinematic techniques of how they're tackling Cloud's mental state with little audio cues already is setting up for something like this. We know that they designed the entire battle system in Crisis Core all around eliciting the most emotional investment possible into Zack's death, and I have a feeling that the planning and groundwork for how we see this scene being delivered is being done in a similar way with what we're getting from Cloud in the Remake.

Anyhow, feel free to discuss any other sort of things about how the Remake is handling those sort of things, and not just all my tl;dr but yeah! :mon:




X :neo:
 
#2
I don't really disagree with anything you say. You can bet Zack will make an appearance somehow in Part 1. He's one of the most popular characters in this franchise. I personally am of the less-is-more school; if I hear the scream I don't need to imagine it, and it's when my imagination gets to work that I feel things most powerfully. That said, of course all this stuff is going to be vocalised in the Remake. Although one really should never underestimate the power of silence.
 

X-SOLDIER

Harbinger O Great Justice
AKA
X
#3
That's why there are definitely lots of ways that it could be executed, and all of them have different advantages. I feel like the pure silence approach is best when the last real sound is the gunfire – but that's only true when the MPs' dialogue is in text boxes. The silence only feels as strong as the last thing that's left echoing into that darkness as the rain starts up (granted, I'd still prefer silence to the original English Cloud crying).

This is one where I think that it'll be interesting to see how much we get to see of Zack fighting off the forces that he and Cloud are up against. They've clearly framed the members of SOLDIER as the incredible threat that Cloud makes them out to be in the game, and I think it'd be very much worth seeing some of that later in the game, while also showing that it's just the commander and the two MPs who manage to catch him off guard and gun him down.

Related note: I'd want the portrayal of the scene to be that the Commander and the two MPs being shown to have literally unloaded ALL of their ammunition into Zack's body until the guns are just clicking – thus the Commander saying to just leave Cloud, since otherwise they'd've had to just beat him to death with clubs, (which is decidedly less clean and detached, especially for someone who's already completely incoherent and helpless). Given the way that they're playing up how much of a threat it is to fight against a SOLDIER, it would make sense for them to get the jump on him and absolutely just gun him down until they're out of ammo.

Like with the scene of President Shinra being a hologram, this is one of those things that I think a little bit of context to, "Why didn't they just murder Cloud, too?" is really important to establish, especially when it comes to the survival of our main protagonist.

It also brings me back to the old PSX 2015 trailer, and makes me wonder if the MPs surrounding Cloud are why they chose to have a little flashback memory glitch occur, and if that's still preserved in the current version of the game:


Assuming that the only thing that they improved are the graphics (because hold GODS the game looks better now by just miles), seeding those kinds of triggers are something that would be really well-designed to start to establish those other framing devices for things to be used again later.

Because there are so many meaningful visual and auditory cues of what's happening in that final scene, I think that while killing the background music entirely is a really good option (which also makes for the slow start of the rain to be a potential audio cue for a glitch moment for Cloud), that his scream there plays into such an important catalyst for all of these other elements that we see directly that I can't see them forgoing the scream (especially since the Japanese version is already so good I can't see them ever omitting it, and I can't see the dub reworking that scene just to have to avoid matching it).





X :neo:
 

rimavelle

Pro Adventurer
AKA
rima
#4
Great write up, man! I totally agree with you, and love the examples provided.
Just memory of that scream sends chills down my spine. If they gonna have the scream in Remake too, then Sakurai gonna have to scream it again. Poor guy.
I would personally like the silence more, just focusing on Clouds expression (Man, facial expressions in this game are ridiculously amazing!). I also can't really imagine Cloud in that state having enough strenght to scream like that.
I like your reason for leaving Cloud alive too. It always bothered me.
 
AKA
The Engineer
#6
How badass Zack would have been is something I didn't think about when I first saw that new SOLDIER character, but now... SE seems to be going hard on just how OP SOLDIERs are. Weather that's Cloud, this new character, Sephiroth... SOLDIERs are not normal people by FFVII standards. The amount of people who would have had to go after Zack to actually kill him is going to be needed to be sold pretty hard by the time we see the Zack death scene. After all, our party will more then likely be fighting SOLDIERs by then. So however Zack ends up dying, it has to be something at least on par with our group.

Actually... what if that's part of this new SOLDIER character's role? I wonder if SE is going to go the route of other members of SOLDIER helping to hunt down Zack and this guy is going to be one of them. Zack can't exactly hide that he has Cloud with him after all (at least not all the time). So I wonder if other characters on Shin-Ra's side are going to start dropping hints around Cloud that reference Zack lugging him around or something. It would not do Cloud any favors in the mental department, that's for sure...
 

X-SOLDIER

Harbinger O Great Justice
AKA
X
#8
I also can't really imagine Cloud in that state having enough strength to scream like that.
This is one of those things where, having had a full-blown mental breakdown before, it's really strange but that scream in the Japanese version captures the sensation of it brilliantly. You feel like you have no strength and it's entirely unlike yelling. Somehow this uncontrollable scream just tears itself out of your psyche and forces its way up out through your lungs from the very core of your being and just unleashes itself into the emptiness all around you, and it's the lack of strength you have as why you can't stop it, as opposed to being unable to being unable to produce it.

Cloud having been in a numb haze of near-comatose awareness from the Mako Poisoning/Addiction, and crawling over to Zack's body and then suddenly gaining perfect awareness to his surroundings staring down at Zack's body breaking him is why everything about Crisis Core's delivery about that moment in Japanese is so important:
  1. The numb expression and pupil dilation responsible for his lack of emotive capability and washed-out vision suddenly shifting as his pupils contract and he starts to dart his eyes around because he can see, perceive, and understand all the details around him, and his face starts to react to the horrors in front of him.
  2. Then you hear his breath starting to catch in his chest and he starts panic breathing from all of the anxiety as any sense of being numb is replaced with an overwhelming burden of overstimulation and an inability to shut out what he's perceiving and understanding from flooding in all at once. He recalls details about Zack taking care of him, and some bits and pieces of what's just happened.
  3. Then the first attempts at vocalization hit as he exhales a few times, having been incapable of speech for months, but now that he could speak, there aren't any words that can distill what he's processing, and that all builds up to his mind just breaking under the deluge of trauma, and he snaps – just screaming uncontrollably.

Understanding and witnessing all of that is important to really informing the depth of how we see Cloud's character when we see the bits of him meeting Tifa, and the moments of him seeming like he's got everything together, but he really doesn't. Even when he's got the facade intact, it isn't really Cloud per se, and the way that you can understand that with this scene is a really big deal.

It would be interesting if the Remake played out Zack's death scene not from our POV but through Cloud's eyes. That would allow the player to see only what Cloud sees, and Cloud might never see how many Shinra troopers there are or how the whole battle goes down, objectively speaking.
I think that while we may not see it from Cloud's vision directly, that the Remake is definitely already employing "Cloud vision" during moments of hallucination for him seeing Sephiroth, which is also framing the camera shots in a way to help inform the focus to Cloud's perception, as opposed to doing PoV shots. As such, I'd expect this to frame the events the same way that the original game did with Zack carrying Cloud and letting him rest, and then Zack going off-screen to fight.

Whether we get a proper cut to getting to see Zack fight is likely going to be a matter of how that whole Flashback sequence is handled, since I'd expect it to be a bit more like Crisis Core and cover some extra points along the way, and actually be somewhat interactive, rather than just being a cutscene. As such, I'd expect that everything up to him setting Cloud down is a cutscene that represent's Cloud's PoV, and then shifts to Zack's PoV when the combat kicks in.

I'd have this be something that you do a number of different times to showcase how Zack's a badass SOLDIER that let you understand who he was, but that also the big "final showdown" moment is one that comes suddenly. You establish a pattern of helping get Cloud put somewhere safe, fighting, getting Cloud and continuing. With the travel sequences, you don't have to always visually establish where they are on the horizon, and it's easy to obscure Midgar with the little plateau cliffs.

Then when you go to get Cloud again one of the times, the cutscene is just un-foreshadowed gunfire and the few troops breaking from their hiding place and just emptying their magazines into him point-blank until he's dead. Then the scene with Cloud. That way you can still get the scream, and the all-important last-second pan up reveal to show that they were literally just on the outskirts of Midgar.




X :neo:
 
#10
"Just leave him." is really important to me to be kept as it is. I read it as genuine benevolence, and I want that kept, because the people in Shinra uniforms are people, not empty disposable drones, and that matters to me. That commander can genuinely not want to bring a captive back to Hojo (he/she lies on the report on the wall in Nibelheim), I'd rather it wasn't just laziness or indifference.

Re the final fight, what would work best for me is a compromise. Cloud and Zack on the run, left behind, big battle offscreen, Zack comes back wounded, and then the final MPs chase him down, also wounded.

As awesome as the ending of CC was, I really didn't like Zack leaving a trail of corpses all the way from Nibelheim.

I'm not so keen on hologram Prez, to be honest, because I like the personal appearance, shows that President Shinra genuinely has guts. Not doing that sets up a contrast with the later confrontation with Rufus, where I like the simularity instead.
 

Ryvius

Pro Adventurer
#11
I liked the elements of mystery in the original game, so I hope they give us tastes of Sephiroth (aside from President Shinra's brief mention) only at the very end of this Midgar-only game. I also hope that they wait on revealing Zack, because that is a huge plot twist. When I played the OG for the first time and saw Cloud replaced by this rando with black spikey hair I was like "who the hell is that??" I don't know if I want to see him or have his name brought up before that moment.

I like both CC's and the OG's depiction of Zack's death scene. But I think I perfer the silent OG approach a little more. I would almost like to see this scene done semi-silently with the music stopping upon his realization, and no audible (just implied) screaming, just a maddening ringing noise, the noise you hear in real life when something terrible happens - when everything seems to slow down, your vision becomes high contrast, and all you can hear is that deafening ringing in your ears. As I said, I like both depictions, so I wouldn't mind if it was closer to CC.

I don't know about anyone else, but I think at the end of the day I need to let go of the idea of the remake being a high-definition version of the original game. It's a different game. If I want to experience the OG again I can do so with all the fancy mods available. Most of us, myself included, want to see this universe even more fleshed out, which is what this project is going to give us - but it may not be fleshed out in the ways we imagined it. Things will be altered as well, from character designs to those random ghost things that are being introduced into the story. I need to somehow figure out a way to go in with minimal baggage, but idk if I can do that. :monster:
 

rimavelle

Pro Adventurer
AKA
rima
#12
@Ryvius Unfotunately we see Seph in remake (tho Cloud's in-head version) early on. In 2020 you are not tricking anyone with mystery of who Sephiroth is*. But I 100% agree about Zack - this is something that, unlike Aerith's sad end, still is not a common knowledge. I don't think I know anyone who didn't play FFVII and yet knew the big twist.
Also I really like your version of Zack's death. Yeah, I wan't it this way.
*(I'm not saying I agree with showing Seph so early, but just understand why they are doing it).
 

NibelFire

Rookie Adventurer
AKA
Blaze
#13
I've been thinking about the new SOLDIER character for a while now, and I think you could possibly weave him in with the Zack/Cloud plotline without revealing Zack way too early. He could be one of the many SOLDIERs who are on a mission to hunt the "Ex-SOLDIER" Cloud throughout Midgar, further hammering the narrative of how badass and important of a target Cloud apparently was to us and to Cloud himself.

Furthermore, you could play with Cloud's more vivid hallucination episodes and have him sporadically relive Zack's final moments as if it was his (ala the way he remembered the Nibelheim incident). That way, you could have his version of that sequence first plays out in a more action-y, heroic, narrow escape from death style with all the kickass music and what have you. Because of that, he's still being chased down years later on in Midgar. But with each flashback that follows, the sequence takes a slight different turn, and you realize quickly that something doesn't quite add up.

Then... reality hit like a truck, and the actual event was a much more harrowing, somber tale, with not a single sound to be heard beside the gunfire and the clips emptying out. Just imagine playing as Zack, fighting a battle with no BGM, and see your screen slowly blinking red, then black, and then.. all that remain is Cloud's anguish scream echoing through the air.
 

jazzflower92

Pro Adventurer
AKA
The Girl With A Strong Opinion
#14
I've been thinking about the new SOLDIER character for a while now, and I think you could possibly weave him in with the Zack/Cloud plotline without revealing Zack way too early. He could be one of the many SOLDIERs who are on a mission to hunt the "Ex-SOLDIER" Cloud throughout Midgar, further hammering the narrative of how badass and important of a target Cloud apparently was to us and to Cloud himself.

Furthermore, you could play with Cloud's more vivid hallucination episodes and have him sporadically relive Zack's final moments as if it was his (ala the way he remembered the Nibelheim incident). That way, you could have his version of that sequence first plays out in a more action-y, heroic, narrow escape from death style with all the kickass music and what have you. Because of that, he's still being chased down years later on in Midgar. But with each flashback that follows, the sequence takes a slight different turn, and you realize quickly that something doesn't quite add up.

Then... reality hit like a truck, and the actual event was a much more harrowing, somber tale, with not a single sound to be heard beside the gunfire and the clips emptying out. Just imagine playing as Zack, fighting a battle with no BGM, and see your screen slowly blinking red, then black, and then.. all that remain is Cloud's anguish scream echoing through the air.
I would put that a little later int he story. Final Fantasy 7 fans know Zack was the true hero, but non-fans don't. In fact, some people think Cloud is a moody teenager based on faulty common knowledge, instead of what is shown in the games.
 
#23
Zack is almost too nice and so comes across as rather thick and naive. Maybe that's part of his charm, I don't know. In CC, at Nibelheim, the truth about Shinra seems to have started penetrating his big thick numb skull, but after he breaks out he forgets all about it. "Man, Shinra make the best stuff!" is like "Man, these Nazi Volkswagens are really the best!" I preferred his characteristion in the OG as a roguish and egocentric but charming ladies' man who nevertheless did this one good thing for Cloud. In CC he's a boy; in the OG, he was a man.
 
#24
He's actually an unbuilt trope of what we stereotypically think of as an average JRPG protagonist.
I agree.

He becomes a true hero by being himself and not trying to be some macho guy compensating for something.
"Man, these Nazi Volkswagens are really the best!"
A brainwashed soldier of the most unfriendly western inspired organisation on the planet (especially harmful to Wutaian/Shinto culture). A puppy that never accomplished anything great/useful. One that would try to contaminate Aerith with capitalistic ideas. A true hero ? I doubt it seriously.
What does Dreams and Honor really mean to you ?
 
Last edited:
#25
To the extent that CC has a point, isn't that the point? True heroism wasn't what he thought it was: fame, fortune, fan-clubs. True heroism involves sacrifice and maybe also an unmarked grave. Greater love hath no man than this: that he lay down his life for his brother. And so on....

I don't see how you can say he accomplished nothing useful. He who saves a life saves the world entire. And in Zack's case, he saved the life that literally saved the world.
 
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