I appreciate you laying out your thoughts the way you did and I understand where you're coming from. And I think that an optional path could work, because we know there will be choices in the game, lots of them, and choices-dependent events and scenes. So having the affection mechanic like the OG could be possible, and Jessie as a third option - not everyone likes Aerith and Tifa, after all, and those people shouldn't be ignored - could also work in that regard. Yuffie's place as third in the OG was meant as a joke and to be comedic, but Jessie taking that slot in Part 1 doesn't have to serve the same purpose, and that's what I'm talking about - sorry for repeating it again. A third possible option that's not a joke or a half-measure but a viable path for the affection mechanic for Part 1.
To move on a bit, am I the only one who doesn't actually care for a reconstitution of the Affection Points? To be honest, I don't even want any "optional" aspects in the same vein as the original when it concerns romantic storytelling here. Just tell the damn story that is set by the characters feelings and agency, for what makes sense as a collective, cohesive theme between all of them (as it all inherently connects), and move the hell on. The 20+ years debate over the LTD, while inevitable I'm sure without the mechanic, was not helped by the aspect of "optional" pathing and representation of character feelings by that system, most notably when the story was also simultaneously trying to reinforce said feelings for all the characters outside of our control by the end of it anyway. This isn't how most games with the "optional" mechanic work, I believe. (Though there are exceptions, looking at you FE Three Houses)
"Exhaustingly circular", referred to as "dumb as hell" in my neck of the woods, is correct. Though, the LTD chaos is exactly what the developers wanted I bet, despite some showing disinterest in "who loves who". Sure kept people talking about the series, and they definitely won in that department if that's the case. I know that the "love triangle" aspect from that system is part of what made FFVII unique in the eyes of many, but looking back on it after the destruction left, we could've done without it. Though, as people have pointed out, it's rather creative and symbolic, actually, as part of the process of Cloud reaching his "true" self takes our hands off his emotional wheel. But, it also mucks shit up. For instance, by the time the Lifestream sequence happens, and the exposure of Cloud's feelings that he has carried even to that point come to light—it would be much more proficient for the HA Highwind Scene to be the "canonical" version here. Even if the LA Highwind Scene was initiated, then the ideal situation painted there would've still been that Cloud wasn't able to speak his mind about his true feelings yet, still indicating that, yes, Cloud still has very real feelings. This would happen regardless under the conditions that, say, if Cloud felt he couldn't say anything because of how the underdeveloped seeds of romance with Aerith also afflicted him. And, for whatever the mystery of that "could've been" goes, that should also be clear enough to even understand the extent in which Cloud foresaw the "could've been" in reflection of his own feelings in the first place. Some might say that mystery of his feelings is part of the charm of FFVII as well. Perhaps. But, when said emotions that scenario is referring to is substantially unclear by the end of it to the point that, to some, makes it seem unbalanced in the feelings within the possible relationship...I'd just rather not.
I might be alone here—and yeah, there are ways the mechanic can be fun and such—but, I'm hoping for something more concrete this time around in regard to how ultimately the characters feel and the why/how. Of course, let's keep, or have more, side stuff and interactions. Let me take everyone on a date, and throw in some photo booth antics too, damn it.