Final Fantasy VII Remake successfully brought the classic game into the modern era and introduced the beloved world and cast of characters to a whole new generation of players, and you couldn't have made that happen without Cody Christian. Christian took over the role of Cloud for the Remake and put his own spin on the fan-favorite, and ComicBook.com recently had the chance to talk to Christian all about the game, taking over from Steve Burton, and yes, even the Honeybee In dance sequence. First though we had to ask what inspired his take on Cloud and what appealed to him about the character most.
"In preparing for the audition, the first piece of reference material I used was the depiction of Cloud in Advent Children," Christian said. "Watching this and hearing Steve Burton’s interpretation of the character rooted a lot of my reimagining of the character tonally. Since Cloud has never officially been voiced in the original Final Fantasy VII before, I wanted to ensure my performance captured what fans were already accustomed to, while breathing a new essence into the character to both pay homage and pave a new way for fans moving forward. I never actually played the original game, but I have watched through the gameplay on YouTube. Cloud, as a character, is very rich and complex. There’s an abundance of emotional layers to explore and portray. We forget that this is still a kid, a human, with very human thoughts and experiences in this fantasy world. As an actor, it’s a joy to depict such a character."
Christian was stepping into some big shoes taking over for Burton, but Burton shared a sweet message on social media when it was announced in a true passing the torch moment.
"It was very much a symbolic passing of the torch," Christian said. "I have nothing but wonderful things to say about Mr. Burton and how much of a class act he is. This man let go of a character he essentially birthed and welcomed me with open arms. He vouched for me and encouraged the fanbase to trust me to carry on the legacy of Cloud Strife. I really hope I get the chance to meet him and personally thank him. He has no idea how much this meant to me or how much confidence he inadvertently gave me when I so desperately needed it."
As for his take on Cloud, much of what Burton built served as the foundation, though Christian also added his own flavor to certain aspects of the character.
"His portrayal of the character nailed so many things, therefore, a lot of what he did I used as inspiration," Christian said. "He captured a guarded hero plagued by his past trauma, scared to love and connect as he once did before, desperately, like most of us, seeking his own sense of self and identity. One major component I felt necessary to explore was vulnerability. I wanted to humanize Cloud a bit in this game and bring life to the very real feelings and emotions this young man experiences."
The cast didn't get a chance to interact much during the recording process, but despite that you can still see the chemistry between the characters, and that's all that matters at the end of the day.
"That’s true! We didn’t get to interact much directly, but if we were lucky, sometimes we got another character’s recorded lines to actually play off of. This cast did such a phenomenal job individually, that cut together, the chemistry between characters is inevitable," Christian said. "Some of my favorite interactions for Cloud are with Barret and Tifa."
One of the most memorable sequences from the Remake has to be the HoneyBee Inn, which has Cloud learning a dance and performing on stage in a delightful scene that is also ridiculously fun to play. Christian didn't get to contribute any dance moves, but he is itching to get the chance next time around.
"I saw a very early version of this spectacular HoneyBee Inn dance before the release! When we were recording they had an animation render for about 20 seconds of the dance," Christian said. "Seeing the more than 6-minute sequence come to life in the game was spectacular! They didn’t give me the opportunity to contribute any moves, but I’ll be fighting for that chance if there’s a next time."
Cloud is quite closed off and stand-offish at the beginning of the story, though he does open up quite a bit up as he interacts with everyone throughout the game. So, we had to ask if that type of character is more challenging to play as opposed to someone completely open from the start.
"Playing a character of complexity is any actor’s dream. I wanted to humanize Cloud as much as possible and create an empathetic dialogue/connection between him and the player," Christian said. "I wanted to emphasize that amidst saving the planet and being a badass 'soldier', Cloud is still a young man seeking his own identity. Burdened by trauma in the past, his 'stand-offish-ness' can be seen more as a defense mechanism. Often those that are closed off from the world have a reason to be, exploring this life in Cloud really shaped the character. Although a bit more challenging to depict, Cloud’s emotional journey throughout the game was one of the most fulfilling aspects. He has quite a story to tell and I’m humbled I was able to partake in telling it."
Cloud learns from all of the characters in some form or fashion, and by the end of the game, he's picked up some things from each. If Christian had to single out one person that had the greatest effect on Cloud though, it's an easy pick. "Personally, I believe Tifa had the biggest impact on Cloud’s journey," Christian said.
While Tifa might have had the greatest impact, Aerith is a huge part of Cloud's journey, and one of the classic scenes from the original is brought to life in stunning fashion in the Remake. That would be the conversation between Cloud and Aerith on the playground, and it's stunning to see this beloved moment brought to life with modern visuals, though it's the small things that really give the scene life.
"Again, with the detail! It’s truly incredible to see the difference between the original and the Remake," Christian said. "With the updated graphics and voice acting you’re able to be a part of the story in way like never before. Additionally, I feel there’s a much stronger emotional connection to the game due to these immersive qualities. In this scene, Aerith shares with Cloud who her first love was. This triggers a painful flashback of insight Cloud has been experiencing throughout the game. I feel this scene echoes a feeling of safety, understanding, and encouragement of vulnerability seen countless times between Aerith and Cloud."
Final Fantasy VII is pretty much iconic at this point, and as such expectations were high for the Remake. Thankfully the game met most of those expectations and even gave fans some surprises in the process, and the reaction from fans is mostly positive.
"I’ve seen an overwhelming response. Most positive, some negative," Christian said. "I imagine the creators and everyone involved in this Remake knew it would be impossible to please everyone. It is so difficult to remake a fan favorite and it’s a very thin line between doing too much and not doing enough. With that being said, it seems most have welcomed the game with open arms, it’s special to see such an iconic game take a new life."
Before we left we had to ask Christian to design his own Limit Break, and he already had the idea locked and loaded. "Hahaha! Crazy how I’ve already thought of this," Christian said. "My Limit Break would be called 'Now You See Me' and would involve Cloud dealing quick devastating blows in rapid succession, so fast it appears like he’s teleporting until he suddenly disappears. After a brief moment, he comes flying out of the sky for a final downward attack."
Now that he's taken on a character like Cloud, we had to ask if there's a hero or villain he would love to voice at some point and already had one in mind. "I grew up playing the Halo series. I still play Halo to this day. I would love to voice a younger Master Chief in his origin game," Christian said.
Oh, and as for live-action, that choice is easy. "And as far as live-action goes, I’d like first dibs to play Cloud in the Final Fantasy movie!"0comments
You can check out Christian's stellar work as Cloud in the Final Fantasy VII Remake, which is available on PlayStation 4 right now.
Let us know what you thought of the Remake's version of Cloud in the comments, and as always you can talk all things Final Fantasy with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!