Created by NCZ on Apr 26 2020
If I could get personal for a second, FFVII is one of my favourite games of all time, and Cloud might possibly be my favourite fictional character of all time, so doing this VC gives me goosebumps a bit. It also lets you know what big shoes these actors have to fill. FFVII is a game rich with character and story, but had never been voiced. The debate over whether to stick with Steve or to start fresh is one that has surrounded the game and will probably never totally settle, but in a way, I honestly think that original lack of VO is what mentally prepared me for the principle of a blank slate.
So without further ado... Let's mosey!
I had mixed thoughts the first time I heard Steve Burton as Cloud. He has a very particular, clipped and direct way of talking, he hisses a little on his S noises, and he gives him a vague "country" feeling. I wasn't sure totally what to expect, so it took me a while to process, but funnily enough, it grew on me. I think, looking back, it actually is that distinct quality of his voice that drew me in. Maybe it's not always the most technically polished VO performance, but that rough nature is in such a way that suits Cloud's demeanour surprisingly well and might just be what gave him his charm.
Really though, the biggest problem Steve faced during his tenure as Cloud was inconsistent voice direction, which prevented him from really reaching his full potential at all times. Too often Cloud's outer stoicity would get interpreted as a performance that was too reserved, and the husky, smoky sound of his voice also meant you had to stretch your disbelief for Crisis Core, where Cloud is 14. (He does speak in his upper register, but that deep texture never totally goes away and you can tell they were squeezing the peg.) Writing was also an issue, as almost all his main outings as Cloud were in KH, the Compilation, and Dissidia, where Cloud's characterization was based more on the way fans perceive him as a stoic badass, rather than the Cloud he developed into over the course of FFVII. Actually, one of the times I think he got to stretch his wings most as Cloud was in World of Final Fantasy, where his performance was a lot looser and lighter. Obviously, it's because WOFF is a much more relaxed game, but it was one of the best chances we had to see him let his guard down more and it was really interesting to hear.
Still though, I didn't outright have a problem with Steve as Cloud on paper and grew attached to him. It probably said something that of all of KH1's FF stuntcasts, he's the only one SE stuck with, to the point I admit I had trouble picturing anyone else as him.
...And then Cody came along.
I can't really mince words. Cody wasn't my outright favourite performance in FFVII Remake, in part because we haven't gotten to dive into the real depths of Cloud's psyche and character as we do in the later section of FFVII, and also because John Eric Bentley is a goddamn genius. But that's that out of the way. The bottom line is - he was fantastic. FF has continued to set a high bar for protagonist voices, with performances like Ray Chase as Noctis being, in my humble opinion, some of the best voice acting of all time, and I am more than thrilled that Cody delivered.
Just straight up, listening to Cody, it's pretty hard for me to go back. His voice is much clearer. He has a wider range. And most importantly, he's more vulnerable. Cloud is the poster boy for imposter syndrome. He's cocky and taciturn because he thinks that's who he's supposed to be, when he's really anything but. This is something that so many people, including Square Enix themselves at times, forget about Cloud, and it's the key to his character. His performance so far is much richer, more well-rounded, and simply livelier. There's a sense of fun in his acting. It's so hard not to smile at how genuinely embarrassed Cloud seems when he sees Aerith in a dress or is asked to wear one himsef, the way he seems to search for a way to take up Jessie's offer to hang out while still being too cool to say yes, or the flustered way he gets specifically hung up on Johnny and Wedge calling him "bro". His performance simply exudes Cloud. One of the things I most truly loved about FFVII Remake was that it showed SE have a true understanding of FFVII's characters, and I am very happy that extended to Cloud's English casting and direction. His ball is one that could have easily been dropped, and instead we got a slam dunk.
I have much respect to Steve for laying the ground, but I am beyond happy with Cody and cannot wait to hear how he carries Cloud through the rest of the saga. I'm VERY curious to hear what everyone else has to say and what memories they have to share about Cloud.
P.S. In my heart, there is always room for Takahiro Sakurai.